An image the Trump campaign used in an ad to mock
former Vice President Joe Biden for praying.
The 2020 election will be by far the most consequential in my lifetime. I have watched our country transform drastically over the past nearly forty years- from the AIDS crisis, the digital revolution of the ’90s, 9/11, the subsequent war on terrorism, the financial collapse of 2008, to the election of our first black President. The past forty years of American history have been anything but smooth sailing, yet the moment we’re facing as we approach Tuesday’s election feels unlike any other that I’ve lived through. The future of American democracy seems to be in jeopardy, and our country's moral heart feels as if it is on life-support.
Over the past four years, the Trump administration has proven to be as fraught with scandal and immorality as one should have expected when electing a reality-TV star to lead the most powerful nation in the world. And with every scandal, every racist tweet, every regressive executive order, many in the United States have grown accustomed to spending five minutes in outrage before moving on to the next unbelievably ignorant utterance to come out of the President’s mouth. Not all of us forget the harm Trump has done to our country. None of us should have had to get used to the constant misdeeds of a president. Not being shocked as Trump continues to be more despicable and outrageous every day should trouble all of us deeply. If this trend continues, I fear that our national conscience will cease to exist, allowing for the worst of our nature to flourish.
For better or for worse, the American President is not only the leader of the executive branch of government but is the figurehead of our nation. In theory, the President is supposed to embody the best of America on the world stage and be a figure that all of the country, regardless of their political affiliation, can get behind. They’re meant to be a leader that can set aside their own self-interest to represent the whole country, especially in moments of tragedy and turmoil. This role has proven to be essential in keeping the social cohesion of our country in our most fragile moments. And Donald Trump and his cronies have shown us what happens when a President doesn’t act in this capacity.
The United States is teetering on the edge of a race war. Federal law enforcement officers in unmarked vehicles were sent in to disrupt and discourage protestors in Portland. Transgender rights continue to be rolled back. A pandemic continues to ravage the most medically advanced nation on earth because our leader has yet again put profit over people. Our economy is on the verge of total collapse. Our allies worldwide now see us as an enemy, and our enemies now see us as an ally. It is not an overstatement to suggest that America in 2020 is beginning to look like a scene out of a dystopian fantasy novel. But friends, this is far from fantasy. This is our new reality under Trumpism.
As a Christian, I resisted at first to put politics in my Sunday posts, and I tried to focus on how we can be better people. However, as election day draws near and the pandemic is worsening, I do think we are fighting for the very soul of our nation. Trump is backed by religious fanatics who want to impose their twisted morality on others. So, I had to ask myself, what would God want me to do with the space I have to communicate with the readers of my blog? By and large, I have tried to use my blog to help make us all better people, seeking to use my voice and meager resources to help make the lives of others better. We have a moral and spiritual obligation to hold our elected officials accountable to doing what is right and just.
I have also become convinced that it is my moral and spiritual duty to encourage others to vote in the 2020 election because it has never been more apparent just how much damage can be done by a single ill-intentioned, unqualified individual in elected office. The majority of the Trump administration has been filled with such people, and they have done irreparable damage to some of the most sacred institutions of our democracy in just four (long) years. Our votes matter, this election matters, and the candidates we support matter, so we must vote our conscience and vote out the man currently in the White House and all the Republicans who have enabled him. Back during the Bush administration, I heard John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, and George W. Bush referred to as the “Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.” We couldn’t imagine anything worse at the time, but the current administration puts to shame Ashcroft, Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Bush. As a side note, I find it interesting that on the George W. Bush Presidential Center website, the Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse are referred to as Populism, Nativism, Isolationism, and Protectionism. It took us eight years to rid ourselves of all of them. Sadly, the United States is currently experiencing the true Four Horsemen: War, Famine, Pestilence, and Death.
As a Christian, I have been reminded that looking for candidates who believe in the universal moral ideals that Jesus embodied is not only a good thing to do but what we must do. We also have to keep in mind that no candidate will perfectly embody the way of Jesus. We need candidates who believe that loving our neighbors is a core moral goal. They must resist evildoers while realizing that turning the other cheek is a better path forward than retribution and retaliation. We need politicians who will provide and care for the poor because it is the obligation of every society. He or she must believe in creating a future of equity and justice for everyone (even those we disagree with). These traits are precisely what we need to continue to move this country in a direction of true progress.
One of the core texts that summarizes the values embodied by Jesus comes from Luke 4, where He steps into a Synagogue and reads from the prophetic words of Isaiah, declaring that these words embody His mission and calling. The words Jesus read are as follows:
“The Spirit of the Lord is on me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight for the blind, to set the oppressed free, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s liberation for all.”
If you read that text and then look at the two candidates’ platforms, Joe Biden is clearly the singular candidate that embodies these values best by far. When holding up Biden’s values and record with that of Donald Trump, there can be not even a hint of doubt over which candidate best represents the values of Jesus. Biden’s platform and record stand for economic justice for the poor, fighting systemic racism, demanding reform for those in prison, arguing for universal healthcare even for those with pre-existing conditions, promoting the value of respectful debate in American discourse, valuing empathy and diplomacy, and protecting first amendment rights. On the other hand, Trump seeks to make the poor invisible, threatens his opponents with prison, is working to kill the Affordable Care Act amid a global pandemic, supports memorializing racists and slave owners, praises authoritarian dictators, and continually threatens the First Amendment rights of Americans.
There is no contest here. Anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ and allows the values of Jesus to inform their values and morals should have no question as to which candidate represents the better future for our nation. Joe Biden is not perfect, nor has he always made perfect choices in his career, but by and large, his life reflects the way and wisdom of Jesus. On the other hand, Donald Trump has a life-long record of willful, unrepentant sin, greed, and destructive behavior that he has brought with him into the Oval Office and normalized on the world stage.
As followers of Christ, we should care about the morality of our elected officials, especially the President, not just for the benefit of our own self-interests or those of our country but for the good of the whole world. The election is almost upon us. Tuesday is just two days away, and we should understand the gravity of the responsibility we hold and the moral weight of our vote. Matthew 12:36 tells us that we will be accountable to God for “every careless word” we speak. How much more will we be held accountable for a vote cast that promotes everything opposed to the way of Jesus? On Tuesday, it is imperative that every American vote. And from where I stand as a Christian, there is only one candidate with a record and platform deserving of my vote: Joe Biden.
This post was adapted from an essay written by Rev. Brandan Robertson.