The last time I voted for a Democrat was in 1976 when I backed Jimmy Carter, because he was the born again candidate. He was unapologetically evangelical and he espoused the deepest Christian convictions.
In time, and with great regret, I became more of a faithful Republican than a faithful Christian. And after a while, it seemed the two were synonymous, and if I was to be Christian that meant I had to be Republican at the same time.
It took the Trump presidency for me to re-evaluate my stance. I came to the conclusion that while the Republican Party, and Donald Trump, came to promote the concerns evangelicals like me had (anti-abortion policies, religious liberty guarantees, suspicions about gay rights and same sex marriage), at the same time, all the other concerns (including the more important concerns) weren't acknowledged.
The party and the administration became more narrow. Take for example, their treatment of the stranger, the foreigner or the immigrant among us. It became extremely hostile, and toxic.
Eventually, I came to the conclusion that Joe Biden and the Democratic Party - even though not perfect, when it comes to Christian sensibilities - was the better choice.
I say to my fellow Christians, let's remember how Jesus taught us to pray. "Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven." That's what our Christian lives are all about - surrendering to the will of God. Sometimes, the will of God is not what we expect it to be, nor what we want it to be. But it is the will of God. So we need to pray for God's will be done in the election.
In casting our votes, I want to remind Christians of the greatest sermon ever preached: The Sermon on the Mount. Our value system should be found in those virtues. Thinking about the poor and thinking about those who suffer loss, particularly in these days of a pandemic. Those who thirst after righteousness, who really want to see right done, both in the temporal and the eternal.
Sadly, it's become a great advantage for a politician to co-opt religion in general, but specifically evangelical Christianity. There was a deal struck between Mr Trump and church leaders - many of whom I worked very closely with for 30+ years. They've told me privately how they sat together at the Republican National Convention in 2016, where Donald Trump would be nominated as the party's candidate for president. One said he was holding his nose because of the foul odor that Mr Trump emitted, but he was going to vote for him anyway. Another said he was going to vomit after he cast his ballot, but he thought it was worth it because Trump would get done what we've needed to get done for so long.
Our value system should be based on the virtues Jesus taught in his Sermon on the Mount
Donald Trump saw that. He knew that if he gave us what we demanded, we would give him what he demanded, which was full and unchallenged support. And it became a great advantage for him when 81 per cent of American evangelicals cast their vote for him. We have to be very wary of when politicians attempt to co-opt Christian faith, to use it and exploit it. That's what Trump has done.
John Wesley, the great British evangelist, said: “Do all the good you can, by all the means you can, in all the ways you can, in all the places you can, at all the times you can, to all the people you can, as long as you ever can.”
We should evaluate our decisions based on the great commandments, the virtues of the Sermon on the Mount, the admonition of Wesley and others. After that, we must ask, 'Which candidate and which party better reflects these principles?' I had to make that decision and it was very difficult to do. But I came to the conclusion that in this instance, in this moment of time, I think it's Joe Biden and the Democratic party.
Rev. Dr. Rob Schenck is an ordained evangelical minister, author of Costly Grace: An Evangelical Minister’s Rediscovery of Faith, Hope and Love (HarperCollins), and president of the Dietrich Bonhoeffer Institute, located in Washington, D.C. He was speaking to Premier's newsteam