Yesterday Christian writer Eric Metaxas took to Facebook to explain a tweet (now deleted) that, said “Evan McMullin is a good man, but in this election he is a fig-leaf, there to assuage the consciences of religious people. God is not fooled.” After Jonah’s post in response, Metaxas said this:
The following article in @NRO by the estimable Jonah Goldberg misunderstands what I meant in my tweet — but that is more than half my fault because I can now see how the tweet might be confusing. I was making a perhaps obscure theological point having to do with the idea that fig leaves in Eden were used for a good reason, but ultimately they didn’t do the job. Not in God’s eyes. In other words, Adam and Eve knew they were naked, so they made aprons of fig leaves — but God made clear that was not sufficient. Blood needed to be shed. (Which, incidentally, prefigures Jesus’s death on the Cross.) So He supplied them with the skin of animals, innocent animals that were killed. So I OF COURSE support people following their consciences, but I’m implying — ineffectively, I realize now — that the fig leaves of voting for a third party candidate SEEM to do the job, but fail. And as in Eden, God is not fooled. But I realize this came across as though I was saying these people were TRYING to fool God. On some level Adam and Eve were, but I don’t think people voting for Evan MacMullen are, so my tweet really failed to do the job — as tweets seem rather often to fail — and I’m sorry about that. Also, using a fig leaf is a kind of fussy religious act that fails, because it implies that we can do something that we cannot. God has to do that something. And I was implying that religious people were voting for Evan MacMullin to feel good about themselves, which I do think in many cases is true. But that’s a far cry from them trying to fool God. I’m sure this has failed to explain my dumb tweet, but I thought I owed Jonah and all the others who were baffled by it some kind of explanation. My apologies for the confusion. Blesssings!
This is fundamentally wrong. When I vote for a candidate who actually reflects my values, I’m not trying to “cover” myself, I’m trying to advance a particular point of view — even if it’s a minority point of view. And when that candidate is a third-party candidate or independent, it’s quite obvious that I might just be playing the long game — trying to build something from small beginnings. I can’t speak for everyone on the Never Trump/Never Hillary side, but I haven’t been exposed to much “fussy” religiosity but rather real anguish, combined with a genuine search for a candidate with better and more decent values and convictions.
Let me break this down very simply. I’m not voting for Trump because I believe he is unfit for the presidency. I’m not voting for Hillary because she is unfit for the presidency. I’m not choosing the “lesser of two evils” not because I’m “fussy” but in part because I don’t want to contribute to either person’s power but rather to their ultimate removal four years from now. Moreover, no one has explained to me with any particularity or sufficiency which one of the candidates is, in fact, the “lesser” evil.
Instead, like many Trump supporters, he lapses into the kind of “doom is upon us” rhetoric that is frankly, tiresome. For example, in a much-shared Wall Street Journal piece arguing that Christians should follow the example of Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce and ally with disgraceful politicians to accomplish virtuous political goals, he says this:
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.
All we know for certain is that she’s going to have a chance to appoint a single Supreme Court justice – and that’s contingent on the Senate resisting Merrick Garland before Hillary’s inauguration. We don’t know about any others. If she’s a one-term president, the next eight years will likely be far more crucial for the Court than her four. But to him it’s a fact that the court is gone forever if she wins but one term?
Then he moves on to national security, with this outlandish statement:
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?
No sir, the fact that I refuse to vote for Trump does not make me responsible for those suffering because of ISIS – especially when your preferred option is a man who explicitly and intentionally threatens our core alliances, has no real strategy for opposing jihadists, has advanced policies that range from the criminal (targeting terrorists’ families), to the nonsensical (Exxon will fix things), to the purely and destructively idiotic (let’s take the oil). Some of this man’s other brilliant policy ideas include more nuclear proliferation, including permitting the Saudis to gain the bomb. Indeed, I’ve been in briefings in years past where the precise ideas Trump has advanced in this campaign are mentioned as the exact American policies that our own intelligence services believe could trigger horrific military conflict.
Metaxas is a capable guy, a great writer, and a person who’s done much good in this world. He’s not a constitutional scholar. He’s not a national security expert. He doesn’t have a special window into Donald Trump’s soul. Yet he’s purporting to tell Christians that Trump is so clearly better than Clinton that you’re like Adam and Eve covering themselves with fig leaves if you vote for a different candidate who actually reflects your values. Objection, counselor. You’re assuming facts not in evidence.
When Metaxas votes for Trump, and when I write in my choice, we’ll both be voting for losing candidates. The difference is that my choice will be fit for the presidency and possess the character and temperament to lead the greatest nation in the world. His choice will not. I’ll be calling on Christians to support a candidate who possesses real integrity. He will not. He’s throwing away his vote on a corrupt, opportunistic demagogue. I am not.