By Shane Kastler
As primary season moves closer, fear has ratcheted up the rhetoric coming from all corners of the American spectrum. Several evangelical Christian leaders have come out strongly against Donald Trump for not having the “moral standards” to lead America. Typically, this criticism of Trump is coupled with an endorsement (either overtly or implied) of a leader with greater moral standards. While there is no denying that some aspects of Trump's character are disturbing, a legitimate question that could be asked is: Are the other candidates any more religiously “moral” then Trump? And an even deeper question to ask is: How important should a candidate's religious “moral standards” be when determining who to vote for?
Many Christians are incensed that I would even offer the question. Because most Christians don't really want a Commander-in-Chief to lead the government, they want a Pastor-in-Chief to set the moral tone of the nation. But is this meant to be the President's role? Should the nation look to the oval office for their moral standards? Or is this the role of religious leaders? Let me further explain.
Christians (indeed all Americans) should desire a President who promises to safeguard liberty, and otherwise stay out of their lives. In fact, often times the more religiously “moral” a President promises to be, the more likely he is to push laws infringing upon the freedoms of the citizenry. Sadly, most Christians would applaud this. In all the clamoring for a “godly” president, Christians seldom stop to think about which “god” their President might REALLY serve; or which denominational distinctives he might want to impose if given the opportunity. We should remember that a President's job is not to be a beacon of religion, but rather a defender of liberty. And his personal beliefs might fuel or hinder these goals. Let's be honest, most people want a President who looks like them, acts like them, talks like them, and punishes anyone who is different from them. All the dictatorial qualities that they despise in their opponent, they applaud in their “golden boy.” By and large, neither Republicans nor Democrats are fans of liberty but both sides seek a dictator to enforce their way of life and squelch any opposition. The idea of government leaving people alone is not only a foreign concept in practice, it is usually a foreign thought in the minds of the people, who long for liberty.....but only for themselves. Not for their opponents.
If strict adherence to some form of “godliness” is the requirement, then Christians might wish to support a devout Muslim. Of course they would never do this because they fear a Muslim's concept of “god” and the potential ramifications of his beliefs. They don't want sharia law enforced upon them, and rightly so. But as a Baptist Christian, I might also oppose a Presbyterian who wished to enforce infant baptism upon me (as some of the American founders wanted to do). My point is this: Longing for a morally religious leader can sometimes backfire on evangelicals and indeed it often does. If evangelical Christians want a President who is a white, rural, friendly, Southern Baptist with a nice smile and a likable personality they might be surprised to know he was already elected...... twice. His name was Bill Clinton. And hopefully, that painful example makes my point. Looks can be deceiving. Not just in Democrats, but in Republicans as well.
When Christians denounce Trump's lack of morals, they typically put forth a more attractive option (Cruz, Rubio, etc.). When they see candidates such as these wrap themselves in the American flag, talk about mom, guns, and apple pie; and constantly drop the name “Jesus” they assume they're dealing with a “godly man” and maybe they are. But they don't seem to consider the fact that they are also dealing with professional politicians who know exactly what they need to say to gain the accolades (and the votes) of whichever constituency they happen to be talking to at the time. If they're talking to “economic” types they'll constantly drop the word “capitalism” even though they may not really be capitalists. When talking to gun types they'll constantly drop the phrase “2nd amendment” even though they might actually favor restrictions. And when they're talking to Christians they'll constantly drop the name “Jesus” regardless of whether or not they're truly believers. And the evangelicals will lap it up like thirsty dogs, seemingly unaware that they might very well be listening to a silver-tongued devil, with a nice smile, pearly teeth, and just enough religious jargon in their literary arsenal to fool them. Christians have historically been duped by such “Elmer Gantrys” who see them as a necessary voting bloc to appease. Candidates use them as useful idiots to garner votes, then they do whatever the heck they please.
So with all of this in mind, I make the following statement: I would rather vote for an atheist who has a proven track record of defending liberty, than a “Christian” who would seek to suppress it. Many Christians say, “Wouldn't it be great to have a godly person as President?” Perhaps. But “godly” doesn't guarantee “good” in terms of governance. I know many people who are “godly” that I would never want to be in a position of authority over me. While “godly” would be great; it isn't the primary qualification for the job. For example, if you need to hire a mechanic, what matters most is whether or not he knows how to fix a car. If you have a choice between a godly mechanic who doesn't know how to use a screwdriver, or an atheist who's a master technician, which one do you hire? Unless you are a fool, you hire the man who knows how to do the job. If you can find a godly mechanic who also happens to be highly skilled, then more power to you. Such an option, however, might not exist. Which means your options are to waste money on incompetence, hire a heathen, or get used to walking.
So who am I suggesting Christians vote for? I'm not suggesting anyone. But simply pointing out that looks can often be deceiving and that Christians (indeed all Americans) should assume the worst when analyzing the candidates. In all likelihood, they are all corrupt on some level. And the deeper involved in politics they are, the more corrupt they are likely to be. Am I overly cynical? Maybe. But the cautious person will try to discern who they are dealing with, while all too many dupes will fawn over wolves just because they wear sheep's clothing and make a claim of “godliness.” Vote for whomever you wish. Or don't vote at all. But whatever route you choose to take, be aware that the openly “godly” are sometimes fakes; and the rightful role of government isn't to suppress your enemies but to protect your liberties.
Shane Kastler is Pastor at the Heritage Baptist Church, Lake Charles, LA and Co-Host; "Church & State" KELB Radio, 100.5 FM. He blogs at The Narrow Road.