Pastoral counsel on the 2016 elections

My Christian friends: I would offer you this pastoral counsel with regard to the elections next month. I’ll focus on the presidential race, but the same advice applies across the board. My purpose is not to tell you specifically for whom to vote. It is to emphasize how far your freedom, as Christians, extends, and also to warn you how far it does not extend.

You may have heard Christians urging other Christians to do “the right thing” in the upcoming election, and you may be struggling to determine just what “the right thing” is. As you are surely aware, it isn’t as simple as whether a person has a “D” or an “R” behind his or her name.

At the most basic level, the right thing for you Christians to do, in our democratic republic, is to choose rulers, at every level, who appear to be willing and able to perform the primary God-given role of government, namely, to protect the life and property of law-abiding citizens against bodily harm at the hand of evildoers (cf. Rom. 13:1-7). There may be important differences among candidates beyond that. They may be Christians or non-Christians. Some may be better qualified or offer better solutions than others. But at the end of the day, any of them who fulfill this basic requirement can be considered a “right choice,” and the Christian who votes for them, entrusting all things to God’s gracious care, does right.

The wrong thing to do would be to choose a ruler who does not fulfill this basic requirement. It’s one thing to submit to unjust secular authorities and tyrants whom God, in His wisdom and providence, has placed over us. Christians have always been called upon to submit to such rulers, as long as we are not commanded by them to disobey a command of God in the process. But it’s another thing for Christians to knowingly choose rulers who have indicated their intent to defy their God-given responsibilities as rulers. That would be the wrong thing to do.

Many policies can be considered wise or unwise, moral or immoral, just or unjust. Many policies have the *potential* of helping or harming the citizens of a nation. But few are so essentially wicked and so universally harmful as the support for the murder of children in the womb called “abortion.” A candidate’s support for this pure act of evil demonstrates a fundamentally deformed character and a perverted sense of justice that necessarily affects all other decisions that a person makes. Regardless of their other positions and policies, Hillary Clinton, Gary Johnson and Jill Stein (as well as all Democrats who embrace their own party’s platform) are ardent advocates for abortion, and therefore, fundamentally unqualified to carry out the most basic of the divinely instituted purposes of government. Those who support abortion cannot begin to fulfill their God-given task of protecting the innocent. Those who oppose it have at least the potential of fulfilling their God-given task. It is the wrong thing to do to choose pro-abortion candidates to rule over a nation. Indeed, if all of the candidates have indicated that they *refuse* to carry out their God-given task of protecting their most innocent subjects, then it would be the right thing to do to choose “none of the above.”

But such is not the case in the upcoming presidential election. For those who believe that Donald Trump is sincere in his rather recent switch from being “very pro-choice” to now opposing abortion, voting for him may be considered a right thing to do, in spite of his personal and public sins. I personally don’t believe him, based on his history and his record. I personally think his election would be harmful to the nation in other ways as well. But I cannot tell you in the name of Christ that you should not vote for him. If you are convinced that Trump is sincere, that he is indeed willing and able to fulfill his God-given tasks of protecting the person and property of the innocent against the evildoers, then voting for him would qualify as a right choice.

There are other right choices that can be made. Darrell Castle has made overturning abortion a primary plank in his party’s platform. Evan McMullin appears to espouse policies that would protect children from slaughter. Neither of these two appears to be overtly *refusing* to carry out his other basic God-given responsibilities, and both of them will be on the ballot in New Mexico. (I do not know enough about other candidates on the ballot to say anything about them.) Choosing either Castle or McMullin would, therefore, be another right thing to do. Their chances of winning the national election may be slim to none. But a right choice does not become a wrong choice simply because it is not approved by the majority. Whether or not your choice is supported by enough of your fellow citizens to get those people into office is not your concern.

We have nothing to fear from the wicked rulers who will inevitably be chosen by wicked people, either now or in the future. As St. Augustine once wrote, “Christ will reign forever among His saints. This God has promised. This God has declared. And if that were too little, God has also sworn it.” Christ will always reign for the good of His Church, which is His body (cf. Eph. 1). He will exercise His kingship through all the kings of the earth, whether they serve Him willingly or unwillingly. If that means that we Christians must suffer for the sake of Christ, then let us rejoice. If it means that we will bear a cross on this earth as we follow Christ, then we are blessed.

May God grant us all to live in peace with one another, in daily contrition and repentance. May the reality of the death, resurrection, ascension, and reign of Christ Jesus at God’s right hand bring us comfort and peace. May the many perils of this life drive us to hear the preaching of the Word in His Church and to receive the life-sustaining Sacraments. And may we be granted wisdom and sound judgment to make righteous choices as citizens of heaven who have been made temporary citizens of the passing kingdoms here below.

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