I have read opinion pieces, listened to commentary on the cable news networks, and had personal conversations about why Christians should vote for Donald Trump. It is basically summed up as, “It’s all about the Supreme Court, stupid.” O.K., I embellished the “stupid” part, but that seems to capture the sentiment, even if the word isn’t employed.
The evangelical case for Trump appears to have been reduced to this single issue for many voters of faith, probably because one is hard pressed to find positive reasons to vote for him. But I don’t want to focus on that. What I want to suggest is that if you feel like you are compelled to hold your nose and vote for a candidate simply because you think the moral destiny of the country is in the hands of the next few Supreme Court appointments, then I would like you to consider a couple of reasons why that thinking might be misguided.
First, if true, biblical Christian moral reform is going to take place in our country, it is unlikely to happen through the Supreme Court. We know that the court is charged with interpretation and application of the law and the Constitution. When our local laws and lower courts fall into disagreement and contradictions, then the Supreme Court steps in and makes a ruling. I believe that by the time such divisive issues reach this point, the culture has already shifted.
It is disconcerting to see the court overrule state laws, mandating the legal killing of the unborn and legitimizing same-sex marriage across the land. But these decisions only became realities because of the cultural momentum that carried the debate to that level. These decisions do not mark the beginning of moral decline, they represent the inevitable result of such decline.
Many, believe that if we just get conservative justices on the court, then these decisions could be reversed, or at very least prevent future poor decisions. However, this is not the solution within our political system. Reversal of such decisions might be a moral victory of such, but it would simply send the issue back into the states, where possibly not much would end up changing. Some states may revert back to making abortion illegal and not recognizing same-sex marriage, but it probably wouldn’t happen as easily or enthusiastically as we might imagine.
To arrive at real corporate repentance, resulting, for example, in the protection the unborn and upholding of biblical marriage through the civil government, it will have to happen through the legislature. Whereas SCOTUS makes rulings about the proper application of the law and the Constitution, the congress of our country has the ability to amend the Constitution and create the law that the court would then be compelled to uphold. It is the senators and representatives that most directly represent the people, and they are the ones that, according to our Constitution, can amend the Constitution.
It takes an enormous amount of consensus and cooperation to amend the Constitution. I don’t think we would want it otherwise. But it has happened (27 times to be exact, the first 10 all at the same time), and it could happen again if the will of the people and their representatives had enough conviction about the importance of any given issue.
To hang your vote solely on the hope of SCOTUS being the function of government that will execute real moral change is misplaced. You and I might want to focus more on who we send to congress, and then lobby for them truly to represent us and do what is congruent with biblical principles.
Second, for real moral reform to occur an ideological shift must take place in the citizens that would then be represented and reflected in our government. How could that happen? It has to come from the impact of the churches in America. It must emanate from the people of God submitting to the Word of God. It can only come through the power of the Gospel genuinely transforming lives one by one until the ideas of biblical Christianity begin to get infused into our thinking and actions.
Real moral change can only come to pass when churches are revived to greater and greater faithfulness and move away from compromise and worldliness. When enough of this happens, then the conscience of a nation may begin to be affected. When that begins to happen, then laws and policies may begin to change that reflect that new reality.
We need to admit that our government and leaders reflect the nature of the people as a whole who elect them. We tend to think that a real moral course correction can come from the top down, but I believe that is wrong. Such change must flow from the bottom up. It starts with us and our families. It happens first in our local churches and hometowns. It builds through having the conviction to send the right kind of representatives to state capitols and Washington D.C.
It has taken some time for the Christian underpinnings in our country to erode to where we are today. It may take some time to see a spiritually renewed and awakened country. But I believe it can happen. It starts right where you are, not in D.C., and certainly not with SCOTUS. (WR)
Daryl Cornett is pastor of First Baptist Church, Hazard.