TownHall.com has posted an article by Christian theologian Wayne Grudem under the title, Why Voting for Donald Trump Is a Morally Good Choice. To put it bluntly, the article’s logic is lousy. Let me count the ways.
Grudem’s thesis statement is this:
(I think) voting for Trump is a morally good choice.
That’s his conclusion, and he claims that those who say otherwise are “incorrect”. He specifically addresses those who say “when faced with a choice between ‘the lesser of two evils,’ the morally right thing is to choose neither one.” And so now it is up to Mr. Grudem to prove his case. Here’s his first argument (emphasis added):
I do not think that voting for Donald Trump is a morally evil choice because there is nothing morally wrong with voting for a flawed candidate if you think he will do more good for the nation than his opponent. In fact, it is the morally right thing to do.
Now, Mr. Grudem does not support this assertion—the one that holds that as long as you think your candidate is better, there is “nothing morally wrong” with voting for him or her. He does not offer any evidence to demonstrate to us that he is right. And it’s probably best that he did not try. By this logic, Judas Iscariot would have been a fine candidate choice because at least he’s not as bad as Beelzebub (the lord of evil spirits). And by the same logic, Beelzebub would have been a fine candidate because he was not as bad as Satan. And lest you think I’m waxing ridiculous with these particular examples, let me point out that by this same reasoning, Hillary Clinton would be a justifiable choice for president if she were running against Putin or Ahmadinejad.
Right away, we see that Mr. Grudem employs relativistic reasoning in defense of the idea that voting for a “lesser-of-two-evils” candidate is a morally good action. This, of course, is not only a logical no-no, but is quite contrary to certain paradigms found in the Bible. Here are a few passages for your consideration, each followed by my thoughts on their relevance.
Ephesians 5:11 Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them.
Is this statement a fair representation of Paul’s paradigm on taking part in evil? If so, we see that they were to take “no part” in it. It doesn’t say “take the smaller part in it”, but “take no part”. Interestingly, this is from the ESV, a translation that Mr. Grudem oversaw, so there’s little room here for bickering about translations; Mr. Grudem should accept this at face value, yet he seems to make an exception when it comes to this election.
1 Timothy 5:22 Do not be hasty in the laying on of hands, nor take part in the sins of others; keep yourself pure.
Again I ask whether this one-liner from Paul is typical of his paradigm about whether Christians should ever participate in wrongdoing. If a candidate is expected to be a wrongdoer—and Mr. Trump is—then what would Paul have said about actively supporting Mr. Trump’s campaign by voting for him?
So, would voting Trump into office be bad for the USA? Does he have any bad qualities and/or habits that would likely have a bad effect on the nation? Well, for that, let’s turn to the opinion of Mr. Grudem. Here are his exact words regarding Trump’s faults:
He is egotistical, bombastic, and brash. He often lacks nuance in his statements. Sometimes he blurts out mistaken ideas (such as bombing the families of terrorists) that he later must abandon. He insults people. He can be vindictive when people attack him. He has been slow to disown and rebuke the wrongful words and actions of some angry fringe supporters. He has been married three times and claims to have been unfaithful in his marriages.
If nothing else, the “brash” behavior is quite a scary trait for a President. It is from a lack of judgment—from foolishness—which is never once spoken well of in the scriptures. Consider these passages:
Proverbs 10:14 The wise lay up knowledge, but the mouth of a fool brings ruin near.
Proverbs 14:16 One who is wise is cautious and turns away from evil, but a fool is reckless and careless.
Proverbs 26:1 Like snow in summer or rain in harvest, so honor is not fitting for a fool.
Do we really want to “bring ruin near” with a foolish president? Do we really want a “reckless and careless” administration? Do we really want to “honor” a man for whom “honor is not fitting”? As my son would enthusiastically interject (humorously), “What would possibly go wrong with THAT?!”
Yes, these are just a few of the things the Bible says about fools, but does Mr. Grudem think they should be taken into consideration in this present matter of Trump 2016? Well, apparently not. Pay close attention to Grudem’s sentence that closes the paragraph from above that detailed what is wrong with Mr. Trump (emphasis added):
These are certainly flaws, but I don’t think they are disqualifying flaws in this election.
Again, these are very serious flaws, but Grudem is careful to stipulate “in this election”. And that brings us back to his relativism. Yes, they are terrible flaws, but Grudem thinks that there’s some sort of good cause in play that trumps (no pun intended, though one is quite appropriate here) normal Christian morality.
Grudem continues with a completely irrelevant argument:
On the other hand, I think some of the accusations hurled against him are unjustified.
It’s not the inaccurate accusations that should keep someone from voting for Mr. Trump. To bring it up here amounts to saying “Look, he’s not as bad as people make out.” Well, actually, Trump is worse than most Americans realize. I say that because most Americans are not very keen on the Constitution and the Rule of Law, else they would squirm at hearing many of Trump’s plans to undermine both.
In his penultimate grasp at straws, Grudem writes:
He has been an unusually successful problem solver in business. He has raised remarkable children. Many who have known him personally speak highly of his kindness, thoughtfulness, and generosity.
The suggestion here is that a guy with these qualities must be a good choice for President. Such notion, however, is false. Having good qualities does not erase or offset bad qualities. It does not make them any less bad. If it did, Joseph Stalin could not have been so bad since he had a very warm relationship with his daughter, Svetlana, yet we know him still as the “Butcher”.
And that brings us to Grudem’s parting argument (emphasis added):
But the main reason I call him “a good candidate with flaws” is that I think most of the policies he supports are those that will do the most good for the nation.
“The most good”? The most good of what? The most good of all possible choices for president? Or is it “the most good” between Trump and Clinton? Surely, Grudem means the latter. In other words Grudem might as well be arguing that our only two choices are Trump and Clinton, and that no other option for America is possible at this time. And there’s your problem, Mr. Grudem.
This “two-party system” that is nowhere authorized in the Constitution, and that has a stranglehold on our politics—Grudem’s advice seems to be to run with it, as if it were not our right to overthrow it for the abomination that it is. This exemplifies a cognitive error that cognitive scientist Daniel Kahneman might classify as a WYSIATI problem. (What You See Is All There Is.) That is, Grudem does not have in mind fixing anything. He does not have in mind the philosophical origins of our Union. He does not have in mind principle and righteousness, but merely that the one bad choice seems better than the other bad choice. He’s not searching for solutions, but for what are commonly called “justifications”. And no doubt, what he has conjured up here will be quite satisfying to Christians who identify as Republicans.
One wonders whether Grudem would find this altered verse to be logically compelling:
For God so loved the world that he gave flawed Peter, since at least Peter, even with his flaws, wasn’t as bad as Satan.
Grudem’s piece is quite troubling once its logical foundation is uncovered for the relativistic mess that it is. Even more troubling is the fact that arguments of this (low) quality should find an audience in this culture. But they do—even at TownHall.com—where part of the plan is to manipulate the religious voters into voting a certain way, whether God likes it or not.
Remember, according to Grudem’s relativist logic, Hillary Clinton would be a justifiable candidate, as long as someone worse than here were running, too. So really, how impressive is it that such a reasoner as Grudem tauts Trump as the “moral” choice? This is not morality, but foolishness.
For the record, I support neither candidate and neither party. It is never a good idea to do the wrong thing—not even “for a good cause”. Self correction is the rightful duty of all humans and of all human cultures.