Last week, famed author and pastor John Piper took to his website to write a lengthy piece on why he doesn’t feel comfortable voting for President Donald Trump in the upcoming election. This week, Piper’s fellow conservative evangelical Al Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, has written a piece arguing the opposite position: Why he, as a Christian, voted for Trump. “I sincerely hope that Donald Trump—and not Joe Biden—will be elected President of the United States on November 3,” writes Mohler.
Though neither of these pieces mention the other author by name, it’s hard not to see the two in conversation with each other.
Mohler’s argument boils down to “the end justifies the means.” He doesn’t pretend to like Trump, and says that the President’s “divisive comments and sub-presidential behavior are an embarrassment …Constantly.” But he also argues that “character” can’t be reduced to simple personality and principle, but also policy goals.
“If I am electing a neighbor, it would be Biden hands down,” Mohler says. “But I am not voting for who will be my neighbor, I am voting for who will be President of the United States.”
And in that calculus, Trump’s deliverables on things like abortion and religious liberty outweigh in apparent unneighborliness. “President Trump has gone far beyond what would have been politically necessary to secure his base,” Mohler says. “He has staked his place in history and has defied the accommodationist temptation and has given pro-life Americans more than any other president.”
I didn’t vote for Donald Trump in 2016. Repulsed by his character and unable to see him as a conservative, I voted for neither major party candidate. I made a symbolic vote. I had to hope that Hillary Clinton would not be elected president, but it seemed almost determined. As we know now, it was not. Having argued loudly for the resignation of President Bill Clinton on national television many times over in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky affair, I felt that I could not vote for Donald Trump without hypocrisy. I even went so far as to say that if I voted for Donald Trump I would have to apologize to Bill Clinton.
Well, I am voting for Donald Trump in 2020 and I make no apology to Bill Clinton. I do apologize, but my apology is for making a dumb statement that did not stand the test of time.
Mohler allows that some Christians may not be able to stomach a vote for Trump, a “predicament” he says he understands. But he says voting for Trump’s Democratic challenger Joe Biden is “beyond my moral imagination,” although he allows that Black Christians “regularly and predictably” vote for Democrats.
With my Black brothers and sisters, I make my best case for how I see the issues. They have every right to do the same. We each have a vote. Both of us will answer to God for that vote. We earnestly seek to persuade the other. We will likely vote differently in the end. We remain brothers and sisters in Christ.
On Monday, Amy Coney Barrett was sworn in as a Supreme Court Justice, delivering a hefty conservative tilt to the nation’s highest court. For many evangelicals, this amounts to Trump fulfilling his end of a bargain they made in 2016.
In his own piece, Piper wrote that conservative policy wins like this just don’t outweigh the existential cost to the nation. Piper argued that whatever gains may be made on the anti-abortion front, the evangelical capitulation to Trump was not pro-life. “When a leader models self-absorbed, self-exalting boastfulness, he models the most deadly behavior in the world,” Piper wrote. “He points his nation to destruction.”
You can read Mohler’s full piece here.