I don’t actually remember when I bought this book. It only reappeared to me by coincidence this past month while I was digging through bins of old books I intended to donate. I must have bought it back in high school at a garage sale because the cover is torn and there’s a blue sticker on the front cover for pricing. It struck me as a weird coincidence that this book would’ve happened to appear just before the 2020 election so I decided to add it to my reading stack.
Having poured over the short tract this week, there wasn’t much about the book that surprised me. I was already moderately familiar with the work of Dr. Tony Evans and took it as an opportunity to reflect and understand how the basic lessons the book suggests might be applicable in this election cycle.
If you’re not familiar with Dr. Evans, Tony is a black pastor from Texas who is generally considered to be one of the most popular and influential living preachers in the United States. Outside of his pastor duties, he’s served as a chaplain for the NFL and NBA, befriended major politicians like President George W. Bush and hosts the nationally syndicated radio show The Alternative with Dr. Tony Evans.
Tony released How Should Christians Vote? in the leadup to the contentious 2012 election between Mitt Romney and Barrack Obama. The short tract definitely reflects the politics of it’s time as some of it’s talking points are no longer relevant to modern political discourse. That said, the book does offer some bits of wisdom to practicing christians.
If there’s one central point in the book that Dr. Evans returns to again and again it’s the need to direct partisan politics in the direction of Godliness. Evans does not reveal his actual party affiliation in the book. He’s famously kept those cards close to the chest given how contentious and divisive politics can be.
He said as much when he produced a 2020 endorsement view with his son Jonathan Evans endorsing Godly voting habits in this year’s election.
That’s not to say he’s totally above the fray. Evans very specifically condemns abortion and the welfare state as anti-Christian policies that Christians ought not to support. At the same time though, he slams the complacency of Republicans on issues of racial justice and civil rights. He condemns the evils of far-leftist statism at the same time he condemns theocracy and far-right racism. He scolds the United State’s history of slavery while edifying it’s values as a unique experiment in human liberty that ought to be protected. His politics certainly aren’t clean cut.
“Many, if not most, Christians begin with the wrong question of who they should vote for rather than the more important question of how they should vote.”
The lack of total alignment though is part of Dr. Evan’s ultimate point. He makes a clear and affirmative case that the duty of the Christian is to carry his or her politics into their political ideology; not the other way around.
That’s certainly a very applicable lesson for both sides of the aisle in 2020. With the general public’s retreat from religion in public life, political ideology has become the backbone to many young people’s spiritual and material identities. People on both sides of the aisle pour their financial support, emotional investment and hopes into cult of personality candidates like Bernie Sanders or Donald Trump. People genuinely believe that the world will end if their candidate loses any given election.
Dr. Evans warns against the idolization of “civil religion”, partisan politics and blind nationalism as fundamentally anti-Christian concepts that draw the attention of the individual away from the will of God. Evans encourages his readers to “look at parties and issues from a kingdom perspective, so we can inject a kingdom agenda and consciousness into the political arena.”
“That does not mean that it is wrong to be a Democrat or that it is wrong to be a Republican. It just means that you may need to be – like the diet of soft drinks – Democrat Light or Republican Light. In other words, no group can have your total loyalty because you belong to another team.”
Dr. Evans doesn’t come out against partisan political figures so much as he does against the worship of politics as a source of goodness and finality in itself.
This of course leaves an open question: who should Christians vote for in 2020? Is it more “Christian” to vote for Joe Biden or Donald Trump? Should a Christian vote at all?
In a recent debate for Unbelievable, conservative activists David French and Eric Metaxas debated the efficacy of this question as to whether or not Christians ought to vote for Donald Trump. Metaxas, who is a full blown sycophantic supporter of Trump, completely defended the position on the grounds that the left presents a complete threat to religious freedom and American liberty at it’s face. He blew off valid criticisms of the president to claim that his presidency is a net positive for Christians and Republicans alike despite the negative consequences it’s having.
French’s opening remarks delivered a more measured deconstruction on the president for his years of moral hypocrisy, adultery, greed, casual cruelty, casual bigotry and the utter moral betrayal of conservative Christians who put their full stamp of endorsement on such a man after making full throated castigations of liberals like Bill Clinton for doing the same things. He even went as far as to claim that Trump’s presidency has been a net failure for anti-abortion advocates and a pointless defense of religious liberties he claims aren’t necessarily in as much danger as Christians think they are.
It’s hard not to watch a debate like this and come away with the conclusion that everyone listening to it is somehow was more wrong than everyone else.
I don’t think they ultimately came to any conclusion on the answer because both men spent the majority of the debate talking past one another’s talking points. Metaxas is so emotionally invested in Trump that he writes children’s books about how great he is while French is so deeply scornful of Trump that he can’t seem to function ideologically without falling into the dreaded and much discussed “Trump Derangement Syndrome”.
If anything, the debate serves as a good example of just how messy it is trying to be an honest Christian in modern politics without falling into ideological pitfalls at both extremes of an idea.
It’s an open question as to which candidate in the 2020 election is the more “Christian” candidate. Both Biden and Trump are deeply compromised and convenient Christians who mostly use their faith for political points. Biden is the less chaotic of the two candidates but he supports the far-left regime’s current talking points on abortion which includes late-term abortion and disgusting levels of feminist pride by “shout your abortion” types. Trump is an immoral womanizer who curates chaos all around him but he’s nominally pro-religion and anti-abortion.
Truthfully, I don’t blame Christians for taking strong stances against either of these two men or washing your hands completely of them.
Dr. Evans makes a clear argument against abstaining though. He makes a clear argument for the need for civil participation in modern life by Christians as a means of transforming the culture. This stands in defiance of many black-pilled young people who have made it their stated desire to “REJECT MODERNITY” by escaping society and building a new life as a farmer in the backwoods where the corruption of life can’t touch them.
Dr. Evans would call this naïve. Christians need to be participants within the culture who have the ability to shift discourse in a Godly direction regardless of party. As such, Dr. Evans encourages Godly people to try to work within their own parties to build influence within the Republican AND Democratic Parties.
“Every voting choice you exercise ought to be for the candidate, platform, party of policy that will best represent the values of the kingdom of God. The answer to how a Christian should vote is as simple, and as complicated, as that. I say that it is as complicated as that because no solitary party – Democratic, Republican or Libertarian- fully reflects the values of the kingdom of God.”
Living in the world but not being OF the world is a challenge for every practicing Christian. Dr. Evans doesn’t deny this reality and asks simply for humility and reluctance on the part of his readers. If they decide they must vote for Donald Trump or Joe Bidan, a Christian voter must do so with full forth thought, an understanding of the negative consequences it will produce and a willingness to use this opportunity as a chance to further the kingdom of God. The Christian must be prepared to stand before the thrown of God as well as their fellow many and say “I voted for this person because it was the best way I could use my limited power to advance the kingdom.”
“The problem is that none of the politics of men fully represents the kingdom of God, so you can never cast a truly pure vote. Your vote must be determined by the issues at hand. And you should vote for each issue according to your biblically informed conscience.”
That value is subjective and it’s something a deliberative Christian ought to be willing to approach through prayer and second guessing. What is most important at this very moment? Are we facing a moment where racial justice requires a president willing to address issues of equality head on? Are we facing a moment where the extremes of abortion advocates and collectivist socialists are a serious threat to the soul of the country?
Many both of these things are true at the same time and there’s no easy way to deliberate these questions without reducing one of these serious issues to a backburner for the next four years at minimum.
I won’t pretend to have a clean answer to these questions and Dr. Evans doesn’t pretend either. It’s not my place or his to tell you what the most important problem facing the country is at this moment. What’s most important in the moment, as a Christian, is to be the rare voice in the room that isn’t adding to the chaos. The Christian should not belligerently support Trump or belligerently support leftist candidates. We cannot treat our votes lightly and we shouldn’t run from the responsibility that the negative consequences of our voting will reflect on Christianity as a whole.
“As a Christian, it is your job to promote God’s kingdom values and stand in the divide without giving full allegiance to any one party. You are to model yourself after God – the consumate independent who always votes for himself. As such, you are to cast your votes according to that which most closely reflects, represents and promotes the principals, values and agenda of the kingdom of God.”