This question should hardly require an essay, but let’s face it: We’re living in strange times. America is in trouble.
Over this past year many of Donald Trump’s comments have made me almost literally hopping mad. The hot-mic comments from 2005 are especially horrifying. Can there be any question we should denounce them with flailing arms and screeching volume? I must not hang out in the right locker rooms, because if anyone I know said such things I might assault him physically (and repent later). So yes, many see these comments as a deal breaker.
But we have a very knotty and larger problem. What if the other candidate also has deal breakers? Even a whole deplorable basketful? Suddenly things become horribly awkward. Would God want me simply not to vote? Is that a serious option?
What if not pulling the lever for Mr. Trump effectively means electing someone who has actively enabled sexual predation in her husband before—and while—he was president? Won’t God hold me responsible for that? What if she defended a man who raped a 12-year-old and in recalling the case laughed about getting away with it? Will I be excused from letting this person become president? What if she used her position as secretary of state to funnel hundreds of millions into her own foundation, much of it from nations that treat women and gay people worse than dogs? Since these things are true, can I escape responsibility for them by simply not voting?
Many say they won’t vote because choosing the lesser of two evils is still choosing evil. But this is sophistry. Neither candidate is pure evil. They are human beings. We cannot escape the uncomfortable obligation to soberly choose between them. Not voting—or voting for a third candidate who cannot win—is a rationalization designed more than anything to assuage our consciences. Yet people in America and abroad depend on voters to make this very difficult choice.
Children in the Middle East are forced to watch their fathers drowned in cages by ISIS. Kids in inner-city America are condemned to lives of poverty, hopelessness and increasing violence. Shall we sit on our hands and simply trust “the least of these” to God, as though that were our only option? Don’t we have an obligation to them?
Two heroes about whom I’ve written faced similar difficulties. William Wilberforce, who ended the slave trade in the British Empire, often worked with other parliamentarians he knew to be vile and immoral in their personal lives.
Why did he? First, because as a sincere Christian he knew he must extend grace and forgiveness to others, since he desperately needed them himself. Second, because he knew the main issue was not his moral purity, nor the moral impurity of his colleagues, but rather the injustices and horrors suffered by the African slaves whose cause he championed. He knew that before God his first obligation was to them, and he must do what he could to help them.
The anti-Nazi martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer also did things most Christians of his day were disgusted by. He most infamously joined a plot to kill the head of his government. He was horrified by it, but he did it nonetheless because he knew that to stay “morally pure” would allow the murder of millions to continue. Doing nothing or merely “praying” was not an option. He understood that God was merciful, and that even if his actions were wrong, God saw his heart and could forgive him. But he knew he must act.
Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer knew it was an audience of One to whom they would ultimately answer. And He asks, “What did you do to the least of these?”
It’s a fact that if Hillary Clinton is elected, the country’s chance to have a Supreme Court that values the Constitution—and the genuine liberty and self-government for which millions have died—is gone. Not for four years, or eight, but forever. Many say Mr. Trump can’t be trusted to deliver on this score, but Mrs. Clinton certainly can be trusted in the opposite direction. For our kids and grandkids, are we not obliged to take our best shot at this? Shall we sit on our hands and refuse to choose?
If imperiously flouting the rules by having a private server endangered American lives and secrets and may lead to more deaths, if she cynically deleted thousands of emails, and if her foreign-policy judgment led to the rise of Islamic State, won’t refusing to vote make me responsible for those suffering as a result of these things? How do I squirm out of this horrific conundrum? It’s unavoidable: We who can vote must answer to God for these people, whom He loves. We are indeed our brothers’ and sisters’ keepers.
We would be responsible for passively electing someone who champions the abomination of partial-birth abortion, someone who is celebrated by an organization that sells baby parts. We already live in a country where judges force bakers, florists and photographers to violate their consciences and faith—and Mrs. Clinton has zealously ratified this. If we believe this ends with bakers and photographers, we are horribly mistaken. No matter your faith or lack of faith, this statist view of America will dramatically affect you and your children.
For many of us, this is very painful, pulling the lever for someone many think odious. But please consider this: A vote for Donald Trump is not necessarily a vote for Donald Trump himself. It is a vote for those who will be affected by the results of this election. Not to vote is to vote. God will not hold us guiltless.
Mr. Metaxas, host of the nationally syndicated “Eric Metaxas Show,” is the author of “If You Can Keep It: The Forgotten Promise of American Liberty” (Viking, 2016).