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Politics, Persons, and Paths to Ruin - another view

October 27, 2020

Recently, John Piper wrote an article entitled “Politics, Persons, and Paths to Ruin” relating to the upcoming presidential election.

His essential argument is that Trump’s character is at least as corruptive of American society (if not actually more so) than any of his policies, however beneficial. 

Piper, appropriately, reminds modern Christian leaders of the various sins of character, specifically as manifested (one assumes) in the president—pride, arrogance, narcissism, factiousness, boastfulness, etc.,—helping us along with the actual New Testament Greek word-meanings---and reminds us that their baleful influence, “if unrepented”, will send men and nations to hell.

Well taken. Which pastor (he was one for many years and is surely focusing on pastoral responsibilities here) does not know all this, and which mature pastor is not busily reminding himself and his congregation of the eternal judgment—not to mention the disastrous effects on his culture—against practitioners of such acts. 

Piper’s problem, he says, is that we all must realize that the power of a leader over a society is not only his policies, but his person. In fact, his personal behavior may well outweigh all the good his policies might produce. All of this has him in a quandary (he is “baffled”) as he faces the voting booth. Does he vote Biden, Trump, or Third Party? Or no one?

(1) When was this not the case, to some extent, in any presidential election? Which candidate, this side of Lincoln (although he was despised by millions, and labeled as an atheist by then-current democrats) lived a Christian life of true biblical distinction? Or at least manifested a commonly-accepted “natural revelational” morality? And which one does so in the coming election? Seriously: if Trump fails the test, which candidate does not?

(2) To state the obvious: We always have a binary choice in such settings. We don’t have six options. Neither St. Thomas Aquinas nor Mother Teresa is on the ballot.  

(3) It could be argued that the moral thing to do is not to vote at all, but that is simply a vote for the (perceived or actual) worst candidate. I repeat: who ever, in any American presidential election, has the choice of biblical worthies on the ballot?

(4) Piper mentions civic duty. When the cost to Americans for the right to vote, and the paucity of countries where such a right actually exists, some sort of idiocy is manifest if we make light of the privilege of voting. Perhaps we’ll feel differently when we lose that right. (I, personally, am little exercised about the morality of those who help America retain the right. I hope someone, a pure pagan if necessary, preserves it for my progeny. I have traveled the world.)

(5) If we “treat as minimal” (his words, his worry) Trump’s personal sins and overlook his (and our) obvious moral faults, and do not keep them before him and us, God help us! And if we have not preached, and lived, against every sin Piper lists, it is high time for distinctions between personal behavior and policies. For the president and for us. And high time for repentance.

But if we vote for another candidate who holds that it is acceptable to murder infants inside their mothers’ bodies—over 60 millions since Roe—we have no right to be labeled rational. Or religious. Maybe sane. 

Bill Anderson
Grapevine, Texas