Election 2016: Evangelicals Face a “Hagar Moment”

Evangelicals risk sacrificing their Christian witness by taking matters in their own hands for political expediency.

Christians must be careful not make an idol out of winning at politics. It is better to lose an election than to destroy the credibility of our social witness, especially when it is not clear the candidate Evangelicals seem to be backing is either more competent or “Christian” than the alternative.

 

The 2016 presidential elections present a “Hagar Moment” for white self-identified Evangelicals. By that I mean we face a similar conundrum faced by Abraham, who undermined God’s will because he lacked faith that God would provide for him in a challenging situation. Similarly, Evangelicals risk sacrificing their Christian witness by taking matters in their own hands for political expediency.

Pew Research Center released a poll on July 13 that showed white Evangelicals currently support Republican candidate Donald Trump even more strongly than they did Mitt Romney in 2012. Whether the candidate openly embraces misogyny and racism or Christian ethics fails to matter. If anything, making this tradeoff seems to increase popularity with Evangelicals.

Yes, it’s true that electing a liberal like Hillary Clinton may have consequences for America in the future. It could mean a more liberal U.S. Supreme Court and the White House promoting liberal policies for another four years. But as people of faith, Evangelicals know that God can redeem even the most dire situation.

Christians must be careful not make an idol out of winning at politics. It is better to lose an election than to destroy the credibility of our social witness, especially when it is not clear the candidate Evangelicals seem to be backing is either more competent or “Christian” than the alternative.

Moreover, turning Donald Trump, or any candidate, into a political savior demonstrates a lack of faith in God to work His will in history for the good of His people. Whatever happens in the next four years, America will survive. Christianity and the Church will outlast the next American president. There are no easy answers, except that followers of Christ must maintain their faith in God to accomplish His purposes.

The 2016 presidential election hearkens back to a dilemma confronting the biblical patriarch Abraham. God promised to provide Abraham an heir. Yet faced with years of infertility, Israel’s forefather took matters into his own hands. He had a son named Ishmael through his wife’s servant Hagar in an effort to expedite God’s plan (see Genesis 16). The Lord eventually delivered on His promise by providing Isaac in His own time. But Abraham’s ill-advised decision created all kinds of problems, since the Ishmaelites and Israelites endured centuries of strife.

During the 2016 presidential election, Evangelicals, white Evangelicals in particular, face their own “Hagar Moment” similar to Abraham. It remains hard to see how God will work His ways in the future, and we experience temptation to accept a bad option instead of an ostensibly terrible one. But history proves that God provides.

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