Is It UnChristian to Vote for a Third Party Candidate?

“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.”

— tweet from conservative author and radio host Eric Metaxas on Oct. 16

Voting for a third party is throwing your vote.

Comedian and satirist John Oliver says so, Metaxas says so (in fairness he deleted the above tweet while still defending his premise) and theologian Wayne Grudem reversed his reversal and now agrees too. Here’s an excerpt from his recent post at townhall.com:

“Voting for Clinton and her ultraliberal policies is not an option for me as an evangelical Christian. Therefore I am left with two options: (1) vote for Trump, or (2) vote for a third-party candidate whose hopes of winning belong to fantasy, not reality. And if these are my only two options, then voting for a third-party candidate has the clear effect of helping to elect Clinton, because it is taking my vote away from Trump.”

I strongly disagree. Not only that, I find the theological implication of what Metaxas and Grudem are implying extremely problematic. Here’s the reason why: The Bible is silent on what it looks like for Christians to participate in a democracy, but clear on not pursuing a worldly definition of power.

Take for instance the time the disciples are jostling for position in Jesus’ kingdom, which they understand as being a literal governmental system soon to be established. Jesus rebukes them for this way of thinking and says in God’s kingdom the last are first. Their understanding of political power isn’t just wrong; it’s upside down. The foot washers are the truly blessed along with the poor in Spirit and meek, who inherit everything that matters.

Or look at the three temptations Satan uses to tempt Jesus. At one point Satan offers Jesus all the kingdoms of the world. It’s Satan’s twist on God’s plan. “You want to change the world?” Satan says, “here’s how you do it. I’ll give you all the political, economic and military power there is.” Satan’s temptation of Jesus is strategic, seductive and one he’s used again and again throughout church history. We haven’t done as well as Jesus at fighting it.

Read church history and you’ll see some of the worst atrocities in human history justified by people calling themselves followers of Jesus, but craving earthly kingdom power. It’s an easy compromise to make, incremental and justifiable. You can see small versions of this trade off happening in this electoral process.

Back when Ben Carson was campaigning for office, he said that unlike politicians who do what is politically expedient, he believes “you have to do what’s right. We’ve moved away from that model. We’ve moved toward the model of everything is relative and nobody gets to define right and wrong.” Now here is Carson last week defending Trump: “Sometimes you put your Christian values on pause to get the job done.”

Or how about longtime Trump supporter and Dallas megachurch pastor Richard Jeffress saying, “I don’t want some meek and mild leader or somebody who’s going to turn the other cheek. I’ve said I want the meanest, toughest SOB I can find to protect this nation.”

I’m sure both Carson and Jeffress mean well. I’m not questioning the sincerity of their faith or intentions, I’m just pointing out these two men of faith proudly admitted they don’t really believe what Jesus says is realistic. Sometimes you have to make a tiny deal with the devil to get things done.

It’s biblically indefensible.

So what does this have to do with third party candidates? To state unequivocally that Christians who vote for a third party are committing an unChristian act is to tie God’s kingdom to a political system that not only actively rejects its values but encourages Christians to do the same. When Metaxas compares Clinton’s campaign to the Holocaust and says we have to stop her at all costs, he buys into a way of thinking that says, “If we don’t have the power we lose, so say whatever you have to, no matter how extreme, to win.”

It’s making our archenemy a person instead of a spiritual predator seeking to devour us. It’s wrestling with flesh and blood instead of principalities and powers. And maybe the worst of all things: It’s using fear to persuade instead of faith. I hear so often from Christians on both political sides that if Candidate X is elected it will be the end of our country and so how could you ever vote for a third party when that clearly enables the wrong person to win? But decisions made from fear always take us out of the security of God’s love and lead us to find safety somewhere else. That path leads to destruction.

So vote third party if that’s your conviction. The same for Trump or Clinton. I’m not saying all candidates are morally equivalent, and I may very well strongly disagree with your choice, but any of those presidential options are preferable to the church believing our fate is contingent on a worldly kingdom.

This election isn’t what is going to make or break our country; it’s the health of the American church. And if the American church loses influence it won’t be because we elected the wrong President but because we sold out God’s kingdom for 30 pieces of silver.