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Campaign furor prompts advice from pastors, leaders

WASHINGTON (BP) — Southern Baptist pastors and leaders are weighing in with advice on the divisive presidential election in the wake of the latest disturbing revelations about the major parties’ candidates.

[QUOTE@right@180=“At the end of the day . . . our confession as Christians will still be the same: ‘Jesus Christ is Lord.'”
— Nathan Finn]Columns and posts received by Baptist Press reflect what has been true for months among evangelical Christians — a division between those who have grave reservations about voting for either major party candidate and those who have determined they cannot do so.

Many Southern Baptists and other evangelicals oppose Hillary Clinton not only because of her ethical problems but her policy positions, particularly her advocacy for unfettered abortion rights. Others refuse to support Donald Trump because of what they describe as his autocratic inclinations, abusive rhetoric, immoral lifestyle and untrustworthiness on moral and religious liberty issues.

The opinion pieces by Southern Baptists followed the Oct. 7 release of a 2005 video in which Trump described in objectifying and lewd terms women other than his wife and his efforts to make sexual advances toward them. On the same day, WikiLeaks dumped more emails that showed Clinton and her staff in a poor light during her time as secretary of state. More revelations have followed in both stories.

In a column published Thursday (Oct. 13) in Baptist Press, Mark Ballard, president of Northeastern Baptist College in Bennington, Vt., encouraged Christians to approach the election in light of their citizenship in both earthly and heavenly kingdoms. Ballard, a member of the Southern Baptist Convention’s Executive Committee, proposed 10 principles for fulfilling “dual citizenship responsibilities,” including recognizing “the only hope for America is Jesus” and refraining from defending sin.

Here are summaries of various columns submitted by Southern Baptists to BP:

— John Yeats, executive director of the Missouri Baptist Convention and recording secretary of the Southern Baptist Convention, called for Christians not to be “naïve with our duty to vote” but to recognize the 2016 election is “about which ideology will govern our nation.”

In a column published by The Pathway, the Missouri convention’s newsjournal, Yeats urged voters to remember the 5 million unborn children who will be aborted in the next four years. “One candidate represents an ideology exalting a woman’s right to choose and, if elected, is on record to appoint justices and staff administrators/regulators to perpetuate the slaughter of little children all the way through the third trimester of a pregnancy,” he said of Clinton.

While Trump’s “style and life history create heightened levels of insecurity,” the hope exists he “will somewhat adhere to his own party’s [pro-life] platform with his appointments,” Yeats wrote.

— Robin Hadaway, professor of missions and dean of students at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Kansas City, Mo., said in an election with “no good candidates” voters have basically five choices — not voting, Gary Johnson of the Libertarian Party, Jill Stein of the Green Party, Clinton or Trump.

Regarding the major-party candidates, Hadaway said in a column published by the Christian Index, the Georgia Baptist Convention’s newspaper, “Evangelicals are in the unenviable position of either supporting a candidate whose views they despise but whose demeanor they like (or can tolerate) or supporting a candidate whose conduct they abhor but whose political and social views they basically share.”

Hadaway, in voting on Nov. 8, wrote that he would decide: “[W]hich candidate supports my pro-life, pro-marriage and fiscally conservative values? Therefore, in this year’s election I will reluctantly choose, not the ‘lesser of two evils,’ but the best of the five available choices.”

— Barry Fields, pastor of Hawesville (Ky.) Baptist Church, indicated he could not support Trump or Clinton.

“I’ve never voted for someone who supports abortion in my life and never will as long as God gives me breath,” Fields wrote, “but if I’m truly going to be pro-life in every area of life, neither can I endorse someone who condones sexual assault, who openly boasts of his sexual conquests and rates women on scales of 1-10, who consistently makes racist, homophobic, and misogynistic remarks….”

Those who say, “‘[W]e cannot afford to sit this election out,’ had better be prepared to consider just how many principles they are willing to sacrifice in order to ‘win,’ principles for which our forefathers died,” Fields wrote. “There are some things worse than losing an election, and that is sinning against one’s conscience. My ultimate referendum is not standing before an independent ballot box, but standing before the judgment seat of Christ.”

— Nathan Finn, dean of the school of theology and missions and professor of Christian thought and tradition at Union University in Jackson, Tenn., encouraged Southern Baptists “to show neighbor love to those with whom you disagree. God forbid that any of us see our favored candidates elected but also see our testimony compromised along the way because of our failure to love those with whom we disagree.”

“We cannot allow our political passions to cause us to demonize others, even as we make thoughtful (and hopefully winsome) arguments for our views,” he wrote.

Finn offered seven principles to guide Southern Baptists’ political discourse, including remembering those with whom they disagree are image bearers of God “whose opinions are worthy of respect” and: “At the end of the day, regardless of which candidate is elected, our confession as Christians will still be the same: ‘Jesus Christ is Lord.'”

— Doug Mize, interim pastor of Greer (S.C.) First Baptist Church, also urged Christians to display grace during the election season.

Christians “now have a unique opportunity to display grace for one another, seasoning our speech with salt, in a manner attracting others to the Gospel,” Mize wrote.

“One commonality on both of the extreme sides of the Trump issue is that both camps say, ‘Look at what is at stake,'” Mize wrote. “When it comes to the everyday world we live in, what is vitally at stake is the witness we are living in front of others.

“For those of you who have settled this voting issue, now is the time to show graceful empathy to those undecided. It is especially needed as you encounter others who also love Jesus but are voting different than you. I know that is hard but please don’t vilify them, especially in a public forum like social media. It hurts our collective witness,” Mize wrote.