Purists, Politics, Presidents, Pharisees – And Dead Babies
OK, so a bit of alliteration has left you dazed and confused as to what is going on here. But there actually is a reason for all this. It is election time, and whenever that occurs, we get purists and Pharisees coming out of the woodwork, working overtime to ensure that the worst possible candidate gets elected.
We see this happening time and time again and it burns me up to be honest. Their insistence on a perfect candidate or perfect policies means that the other side always gets in. These guys think that unless a faultless candidate comes on the scene, they will just avoid voting – to somehow keep themselves “pure” and “principled” and ‘not compromised’.
Earth calling purists: there is no perfect candidate or perfect policy in a fallen world, and what you are looking for will only come when Christ returns. Thus your refusal to vote for an imperfect yet superior candidate ensures that you are simply aiding and abetting the enemy, and allowing them to win. Thanks for that.
The simple truth is, until the new heaven and new earth arrive, we must deal with what we have. And that means dealing with imperfections all around. No perfect candidate with a perfect set of policies will ever emerge, so in a fallen world the one that comes closest to our ideals will have to do. That is called living in a real world.
But when it comes to various hot potato issues, especially like abortion, the purists demand perfection – or nothing. They demand an immediate end to all abortion, or they will simply pull out. Well I got some news for these purists: when you demand all or nothing you will get nothing every single time.
You can pat yourselves on the back all you like with your self-righteous purity, mumbling about how you did not compromise your principles etc., but when abortion continues just as before, or in fact gets worse, you do not have a lousy thing to be proud of. Indeed you should hang your heads in shame and repent of making things worse.
It all boils down to this: we have a choice between
-running with the purists who hate abortion and want to see it all eliminated, but because of their ridiculous all-or-nothing approach, generally end up with abortion as usual, or
-running with the realists who hate abortion and want to see it all eliminated, but actually will see abortions reduced because they are willing to be sensible and realistic here.
I know which one I will run with, and heaps of saved babies also know which one they prefer. But the self-righteous purists will have none of this: We either have zero abortions today, or we keep on with open slather. So millions of babies keep being slaughtered, but these Pharisees are so very proud of themselves because they did not “contaminate” themselves.
Lesser of two evils
Related to all this is the oft-heard phrase about two evils being both evil, and therefore we should run with neither. This is applied routinely by the purists to political candidates, especially for POTUS. They want a perfect candidate or they will refuse to vote.
Of course refusing to vote when you have a God-given responsibility to do so not only means you are being disobedient to God, but you simply allow the other side – the real bad guys – to get in. Thanks a lot purists. This is exactly what happened at the last election.
The purists refused to vote for Romney because he was not perfect: he was not conservative enough for them or pro-life enough or because he was a Mormon. So they sat on their pure bottoms and did nothing, allowing the fully evil Obama to waltz right back in, resulting in much more evil, plenty more abortions, etc. Yet these guys felt real good about themselves!
I wrote about this plenty four years ago. Sure, Romney was a moderate Republican and certainly not my preferred conservative candidate, but compared to Obama he was light years better. He was pro-family and pro-life for the most part, while Obama had never been either.
But because he was not perfect, the purists allowed greater evil to get in. Thus back then I really do feel there was a clear choice and clear differences between the two candidates. Let me say however that this time around, if it gets down to Trump vs Clinton, then yes I will suggest we have two evils – end of story.
I have made the case elsewhere as to why these two characters are both deplorable: two New York lifelong lefties who only care about themselves. That is no real choice. So this time around we can certainly talk about two evils. But this will certainly not be the case if we run with a genuine constitutional conservative like Cruz.
Yes, he too is not perfect, but he is far, far superior to either Donald or Hillary. And I need to keep reminding these guys of one simple truth: Jesus Christ is not running for office this time around. So all we are left with are imperfect candidates, some of whom are much better than others.
And for the biblical Christian, we have to ask: who isn’t evil? We all are. We are all evil sinners, some who have been saved by grace, and some who have not. So we deal with evil choices every moment of our lives. We only have faulty, imperfect and messed up people to choose from when it comes to everything, whether a marriage partner, a business associate, or the POTUS.
Writing just before the last US election Nathaniel Davidson said this about the ‘Out of two evils, reject both’ myth:
But our voting system doesn’t give us a chance to do that. Rather, we vote only for a candidate, not against one. So our actual vote is an expression of preference, not endorsement. Or what if the trite saying was “… chose neither evil”? Once again, a non-vote (or third party vote, but I repeat myself), is not saying “neither”, but “either”! That is, “I am not voting, so whatever the rest of you decide is OK by me.” As the classic saying goes, Qui tacet consentire videtur (“he who is silent is taken to agree”). Only votes count – not non-votes!
And back in 2007 Gregory Koukl wrote a great piece about the 2008 US elections entitled “When Compromising Is not a Compromise”. It is worth quoting from here. Concerning the ‘all or nothing’ approach of the purists on abortion he says this:
Since there is no middle ground on abortion – “choice” always means a dead child – then it’s critically important we make decisions at the polls that go beyond token moral gestures (something that looks right, but has no impact). We must make choices that have the greatest chance of actually saving children.
The possible question we’re faced with is this: If we were forced to choose between feeling or looking virtuous but having no actual effect, or appearing ignoble but accomplishing some good, which path should we take? When we must choose one or the other, are we obliged by God to make a moral statement or to have a moral impact?
Goodness requires more than making a moral statement. Rather, it requires having a moral impact. Jesus condemned Jews who abused the practice of Corban (Mark 7:11), a pledge to God that appeared righteousness, but helped no one. Let me be clear: The motives of pro-lifers voting “consistently pro-life” are different from those who used the practice of Corban as a religious cloak for avarice. However, the result is the same: moral statements with no moral impact….
In other words, it’s better to choose someone who is committed to eliminating some of the evil, than contributing to the victory of one who is not committed to eliminating any of the evil but, on the contrary, will promote it. This is not a compromise. This is good moral thinking.
Father Peter West with Priests for Life adds this:
Before the Civil War, if your goal was racial equality, the most prudent thing to do would have been to vote for Lincoln even though he said he wouldn’t overturn slavery if that would save the Union. He also held some racist views, but he was far better than the alternative. Abolitionists kept pressure on Lincoln to free the slaves. Lincoln signed the Emancipation Proclamation which freed only some slaves. Later, the Fourteenth Amendment was passed to recognize the personhood of African-Americans. The battle to achieve racial equality would go on, but the victory of Lincoln was a major step toward that goal despite his flaws.
In the same vein, Lincoln scholar Harry Jaffa has said, “The wise statesman will act to achieve the greatest measure of justice that the world in which he is acting admits.”
Let me state it plainly: If you are pro-life and intend on casting a “conscience vote” for a third party candidate, you might as well be voting for the “pro-choice party.” It will have the same ultimate impact on the safety of the unborn. Voting pro-life principles isn’t always voting for a pro-life candidate; a principled vote might mean voting for the viable option that will either advance the pro-life cause better or hurt it the least.
If you sleep more comfortably at night because you’ve voted your principles, then I believe your conscience is well-intended, though misinformed. You’ve chosen to make a moral statement instead of choosing to have a moral impact.
As one pundit put it, it’s better to have a second class fireman than a first class arsonist. There is no victory or honor in voting for the first-class fireman who had no chance of winning when, in the end, your “conscience vote” actually allowed the arsonist to get elected.
The primary election is the place to vote for our first-class fireman, a pro-lifer who can win the general election. But if a second-class fireman is nominated, a principled pro-life vote isn’t compromised by voting for him over the first-class arsonist.
Yes exactly right. Let me say it again, using this other – but similar – situation: If no candidate was running who both promised and was able to win an election and eliminate all slavery instantly, then of course I would go with a candidate who could win and could do as much as possible to end slavery over time.
But the purists do not think this way. By their convoluted pharisaical way of thinking, it is better to always have slaves than to have slavery eliminated substantially and over a period of time. By their distorted ‘reasoning’ they will just sit elections out, or vote for those with zero chances of winning, thus allowing slavery – or abortion – to go on, business as usual.
Yep, makes perfect sense to me: so-called pro-lifers who will actually end up supporting the status quo on abortion, and/or making it even worse, but feeling oh so smug about themselves because they were “pure” and “uncontaminated” in their choices.
Well guess what? I think their choices stink, as would all the dead babies who will result for these deluded and misguided purists.
11 Replies to “Purists, Politics, Presidents, Pharisees – And Dead Babies”
Every one of the twelve apostles Jesus chose after much prayer was imperfect, flawed, unfit. In fact all God’s elect chosen from the foundation of the world are imperfect, flawed and unfit.
I’ve just been thinking about this from Michael Hill’s book and an ethics workshop I’m facilitating:
What you’re describing could be called a “retrieval ethic” which “declare[s] that some ‘goods’ will not be achievable in certain contexts… the goal is then to retrieve as much good as one can in the situation and limit as much harm as is possible.” (The How & Why of Love Ethics, Michael Hill, p133)
The lesser of two evils might be OK for the political business but it is not OK for the workers in the Kingdom. The Catholic church has made this mistake with deadly results. It is true that the lesser of two evils gets a mention but that doesn’t apply to all situations. Some people are not eligible to be chosen – pedophiles and homosexuals – for example are excluded from the Kingdom by God – at least according to St. Paul. Yesterday I confronted a priest as to his sermon and the fact that after listing various terrible things that were happening in the world, he failed to mention the rise of militant homosexuality. He said he could have mentioned 50 things, I said that my only regret was the one he didn’t mention one – the cause of homosexual marriage. As an aside he also did not mention the rise of militant Islam. My wife thought his talk a non event. These priests need to go to the nursery and get some ‘ball seeds’. Or we need to go to somewhere and realize we are pixxxxx into the wind if we continue to rely on them to preach the truth.
Some good points, Bill. Although there are problems with Koukl suggestion that “… a ‘conscience vote’ for a third party candidate …” is effectively harmful or a waste of a vote.
Because if we have this attitude in Australia and choose either Liberal or Labor for our primary vote, then we will never get another party up. For example, the Party for Freedom in the Netherlands is a viable alternative party now, and growing (needless to say it is far from being perfect). However, like any party it needed support and time to grow. The godless leftist Greens, is an example here in Australia, as it started initially with a mere 1.5% of the senate votes in Tasmania. So voting for one of the two major parties in Australia, especially as they are becoming identical in policies, would be rather short-sighted and not wise as Christians.
Thanks Trevor. Koukl is of course an American writing about the American political scene, which is rather different from ours, and he would likely not be very familiar with Australian politics.
Will you be a purist if Ted Cruz doesn’t become the nominee?
Thanks Ian. As I have said often, if it gets down to Don vs Hil then I will need to write another article! It will then become not a matter of purity but simply having two New York liberals running, thus leaving us with no real choice at all.
But as I also keep saying, there is no need for us to get to that dark place, since we still have a genuine conservative running who is doing quite well at the moment.
Who is the lesser of the two evils in the Australian election? I am torn because I don’t want either party to be in government based on what has happened the past decade, but which one is worse is the issue I am having since I hardly see much difference, especially socially. The same goes for my electorate since I have one of the members who is part of the gang who voted for MT, but the Labor person isn’t someone who I want either, being Anne Aly. My first vote will go towards the CDP, but i know it will need flowed to someone, since far too many people vote either for the two big parties, without looking properly.
Thanks Ian. For the most part I answer your questions here:
And here: https://billmuehlenberg.com/2016/03/20/homosexualisation-conservative-political-parties/
As I state in all three articles, a choice between Turnbull and Shorten is hardly a choice. But the truth is, Labor has as official party policy things like abortion on demand and homosexual marriage. The Coalition does not – at least not yet. So that would be just one example of some real differences which remain.
And there are the smaller parties to vote for, along with preferenicng deals as I discuss in these articles. So it is not an easy choice admittedly, but one which we must wisely, carefully and prayerfully make.
Some people are thinking the nuclear option is the best option with this election, that being that they know how bad a Shorten government will be, but the primary purpose is to show the Liberal party that it is meant to be for those on the right, not another leftist party and some feel that the best way is to not vote liberal and vote with their noses closed. But one problem I see with that option is that Liberal governments of the past haven’t undone much of the damage, so in trying to reform the Liberal Party the damage could be worse, but a slow gradual descent into the left i just as bad.
The purpose of government is to make it possible and easy to be good, not difficult or impossible to be good, nor easy to do evil.
The purpose of voting is to make it possible for good to be done, not difficult for good to be done, nor impossible for good to be done.