From the blog

Before You Congratulate Yourself on Your “Prophetic Witness”… Another Thought Experiment

In my last post, I tried using the Trolley Problem to show the moral consequences of evangelicals who support Trump. Today, I want to tease out more ethical consequences with another hypothetical. Because I was pretty rough on Trump-voting evangelicals last time, I thought I’d frame this one in terms more applicable to my brand of evangelical. Here it goes:

The Setup

It’s election night, 2020. Donald Trump is in a tight three-way race against Democrat Elizabeth Warren, and your dream candidate: third party independent John Kasich.1 Because you’re working in a voting precinct in Colorado, you’ve had an opportunity to witness the race firsthand. As the night unfolds, two things become clear. First, all three candidates are so close in electoral votes that whoever wins Colorado wins the entire election.2 Second, the Colorado race itself has a razor-thin margin. In fact, your precinct is the last one in the state to finish its recount. And when it does, you’re thrilled to realize that Kasich has edged out Trump by a mere fifty votes! Trump has been defeated! A reasonable moderate has become President! Huzzah!

Your jubilation is cut short when you notice an unopened box of absentee ballots in the corner. There are thousands of votes in there, and they all come from a town that is heavily pro-Trump.

How would you respond?

Response 1:

You hide this last box of votes in a storage closet, thereby ensuring that they aren’t counted and Kasich becomes president.

Response 2:

You look the other way as another pro-Kasich co-worker carries the box toward the storage closet.

Response 3:

You say nothing about the boxes, watching your co-workers pass by it ambivalently.

Response 4:

You count the votes in the box, even though this means Trump gets reelected.

I’m confident that the moral decision is Response 4, and I like to think that’s what I’d choose. But it’s easy to justify other responses. I mean, think of the damage Trump is doing to immigrants and their families. To poor and oppressed people across the country. Heck, think of the damage Trump has done to the church in this country. Surely one mild indiscretion on your part is worth all the good that would come. After all, for Response 3 you’re literally just sitting there.

Or how about if we raise the stakes? Let’s suppose that Trump ran on a platform of imposing even crueler border policies, having police crackdown on poor neighborhoods, and antagonizing North Korea to the point where most experts believe nuclear war is imminent. Surely that warrants at least Response 3–maybe even Response 2. Think about all the families at the border who were separated because of Trump. Heck, think of a whole city that could be destroyed by a Korean missile because of Trump. You’re going to let all those people suffer just because you won’t get your hands dirty?

So what’s the point of this hypothetical? A couple things:

  1. It’s easy to rationalize. As I was writing this post, I was amazed at how easy it was to justify hiding the vote box. It’s almost as if making excuses for sin comes naturally to us humans.
  2. We should all be careful. It’s easy for we non-Trump types to congratulate ourselves on our “prophetic” witness. Instead, we should be sobered by how many Christian leaders compromised their integrity for victory. Any of us could make the same mistake. Instead of being haughty, we should be vigilant.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I need to get back to my other blog,…


1  Yes, this is my dream candidate for 2020. In related news, I have boring political dreams.

2  Okay, nerds, I know this scenario is impossible. Because an overall majority of electoral votes is required to win the presidency, if there really was this close of a three-way split the matter would go to the House of Representatives. We get it, you know civics. Now shut up and go along with the hypothetical.


Photo by Municipality of Anchorage

Leave a Reply