Monday, October 10, 2016

Making the best of a bad poker hand

These evangelical leaders have said that, for the sake of the “lesser of two evils,” one should stand with someone who not only characterizes sexual decadence and misogyny, brokers in cruelty and nativism, and displays a crazed public and private temperament — but who glories in these things. Some of the very people who warned us about moral relativism and situational ethics now ask us to become moral relativists for the sake of an election.

I doubt Russell Moore has the slightest idea what "moral relativism" and "situational ethics" really mean. So often, those labels are bandied as terms of abuse, without any effort to properly define what they mean. 

The 2016 presidential election will be remembered as the last spasm of energy from the Religious Right before its overdue death. 
To the older evangelicals planning to vote for Trump: You can try to explain the difference in electing a president and hiring a 23-year-old college graduate to evangelize students. 
But woe to the hypocrites who hold the most powerful leader in the world to a lower standard than they do the searching young believer who desires to serve God and neighbor.

Look, I'm a NeverTrumper. I've repeatedly explained why I won't vote for him. But there are good arguments and bad arguments. Russell Moore and Collin Hansen are using bad arguments that obscure moral discrimination, and reinforce simplistic approaches to ethical evaluations and moral comparisons:

i) Certainly the Trump candidacy brought some Evangelical leaders into disrepute. It is, however, invalid and unjust to extrapolate from their conspicuous failures to smear the entire religious right. The religious right isn't any one thing. It's a huge social movement with millions of players. Many of them have done wonderful work. 

ii) There's a distinction between the primaries and the general election. Does Hansen have any reliable polling data to show that most members of the religious right supported Trump during the primaries? 

iii) The general election is a different dynamic. Once you force voters into a binary choice between the only two variable candidates, then it's natural for them, however, grudgingly, to select the candidate whom they perceive to be the least worst option. We can question their evaluation, but the system itself has narrowed the options at that juncture, so that's what prospective voters are considering. We have conscientious conservatives who are struggling to make the best of a bad poker hand. They didn't ask for that. They resent that. 

iii) Hansen's comparison is muddleheaded. A Christian organization has many job applicants to choose from. And a Christian organization naturally has Christian standards for its employees. If it didn't, it wouldn't be a Christian organization.

That's hardly comparable to the general election in which we are struck with a binary choice between two viable candidates. And unlike a private Christian association, we don't have the same power in hiring and firing. 

iii) In a choice between two morally atrocious candidates, it's not "hypocritical" to vote for the candidate you guess will have less harmful policies. Now, that can be criticized on other grounds. We can debate whether one candidate really is a lesser evil. We can debate whether the lesser-evil principle has a threshold below which we shouldn't go. But that's not an issue of "hypocrisy". That's the wrong category. You can't be morally serious if you refuse to use intellectually serious arguments. 

iv) It's a problem when spokesmen like Hansen and Moore allow themselves to become tools of the liberal media. 

v) Notice that in their Washington Post op-eds, Hansen and Moore denounce Trump, but have nothing to say about Hillary. Why the selective, one-sided disapproval? 

1 comment:

  1. Off topic Steve but, I was wondering if you could do a review on the new NIV Cultural background commentary (Walton was involved) or comment on the idea of cultural background knowledge for the Bible.
    I read some super short reviews (like one from Enns)and surprise surprise, it seems there are liberal leanings.