We are less than a month away from this year’s presidential elections and I think it is a good time to debunk the notorious “lesser of two evils” fallacy. So let’s begin!
For my beloved Christians out there: Which of these sins is worst:
b) Deliberate termination of intrauterine life
g) None of the above
When it comes to scriptures we can refer to passages such as Matthew 11:22, Luke 10:12, John 19:11. There we will learn that although the punishment may vary, all sins separate us from the presence of God. Sure there is a mention of an “unpardonable” sin in Mark 3:28 and Matthew 12:22-32, but that should not lead us to conclude that some sins are less repugnant to God than others. If you need more evidence, please read Proverbs 6:16-19 and you will find that “haughty eyes and a lying tongue” are as detestable to God as the “hands that shed innocent blood”.
Therefore, we need to understand that at least for Christians, making hierarchical judgments on “evils” exhibited by two politicians is an ethical fallacy. Please think about it! Portraying ourselves as the ones in charge of assessing whether Trump’s sins are greater or lesser than Hillary’s is contrary to God’s character. That is because we assume we have the authority and/or the capacity to stratify wrongdoings. One thing is to say that a particular sin has greater repercussions than other wrongdoings. Another thing is to presume we possess the authority to grade offenses. By doing so, we usurp God’s place as the giver and enactor of the law.
I am not implying that Christians can’t judge the actions of others. I am arguing that Christians do not possess the authority to grade evils. That is a task appointed to a Supreme Judge. As a scripture seems to suggest, God does not keep a list of more permissible sins. Therefore, the “lesser of two evils” ideology so popular these days, is the characteristic response of individuals who think of themselves as the arbitrators of the moral universe. This is a classic example of post-modern anthropocentrism. This faulty ideology is the reason for the bickering you are witnessing in social media, particularly in Christian circles.
Have you noticed that regardless of what the candidates say or do, some Christians will find any excuse to condone the unethical behaviors exhibit by the candidate of their choice? That is because these “supporters” see themselves as the referees. These people get to decide whether something sinful is of a “greater” or “lesser” kind. How convenient!
Take for example theologians Wayne Grudem (Trump supporter) and Miroslav Volf (Clinton supporter) who have gone as far as stating that the candidate they support is the “morally right choice” and “the one in line with the Christian faith”, respectively. These are personal judgments derived from a self-appointed authority rather than from scriptural evidence.
The point for Christians and individuals of any other ethical leanings is that if this election were about picking the “lesser of two evils” we would be equally responsible for the “remaining evil” in the equation:
Greater evil – Lesser evil = “Remaining evil”
That makes us all evil, even if you abstain from voting. Those who vote would be evil because the picked the lesser of two evils. Those who abstain would be evil because they failed to attempt to stop the greater evil. This is how we ended up stuck in the current moral relativism quandary that we are experiencing.
Luckily for us, presidential elections are about something more mundane. Democratic processes respond to principles grounded on democratic ideals rather than on perceived notions of morality. I said “perceived” because one never knows the totality of a politician’s moral profile. These are individuals who portrait themselves in deliberate ways, (although I believe Trump’s character might be the exception to this rule).
That does not mean that morality does not play a role in our deliberations. We expect a certain level of ethical adherence of those who aspire to lead a nation. Nevertheless, democracy operates under the presumption of representation as means of governance.
In my case, I am not voting for Trump not because he is less Christian or eviler than Hillary but because he does not represent me. That’s it! In my opinion, Trump began his campaign violating the democratic principle of “representation”. He did so by relying on xenophobia and discriminatory rhetoric against immigrants, particularly Latinos. To his credit, he has tried to modify his rhetoric when addressing Latino voters, perhaps because he has changed. Maybe he realized it is impossible to win an election without the Latino vote. There is no real way to know. The point is that as a citizen of the United States people are warranted the right to vote for whom they believe can represent them.
Nonetheless, for Christians, the story is a little different. On one hand, we need to be mindful of the fact that as believers we are called to filter our decisions through the lenses of our faith. Perhaps as a testament of the “regeneration” we claim to have experienced through the power the Spirit in us. On the other hand, we need to argue that “democracy”, as a human system of governance is not the intended medium by which our faith and its implications are fully enacted. So, as a registered voter, I will select a candidate for President or any other public office. However, I don’t cease being a Christian when I enter the voting booth.
Nevertheless, my personal predilection for a candidate cannot be framed as the choice that best aligns with the Christian faith. That is because (1) the faith I profess is not of my own making, but a gift bestow upon me by unmerited salvific Grace, and (2) no political agenda/candidate can encompass the essence and the implications of such faith.
Now, in the political process, there will always be discrepancies among believers. As a solution to that reality, I am suggesting that we frame the “act of voting” as an act of “contention” against all political agendas. Certainly, one agenda will be more appealing to us than the others, (that’s why we end up voting for someone). Such “appeal” might be based on an infinite number of reasons, (I think many of these reasons are contextual in nature). However, for whatever reasons we chose to vote for someone, we should do so in a spirit of “dissension” against our fallible human systems of governance. When I say “dissension”, I am not advocating for “anarchy” but rather recognizing the limits of our human systems to carry out God’s will on earth.
I hope that the next time you hear a Christian using the “lesser of two evil ideology” you share the ethical connotations of such rationale. Blessings & happy voting!