Why should Christians vote for Joe Biden?
The overwhelming answer is because he’s not Donald Trump. There is a lot of truth in those “Any Functioning Adult” signs. As I make my case for Biden, the reality is my enthusiasm for Biden pales next to my disdain for Trump. The case for Biden is made by Trump.
As a Christian, it matters to me that Biden’s faith matters to him. Here’s an “inside” scoop: my daughter, who has spent the last several years working at a Jesuit school in D.C., knows a Jesuit who has served as Biden’s spiritual director. Only serious believers have spiritual directors. (This is a vastly different thing from “spiritual advisors.”) Biden’s faith is real.
Biden understands loss. He has experienced tremendous personal tragedy, from losing his first wife and infant daughter in a car accident to losing his adult son Beau. To use Frederick Buechner’s term, Biden has become a good steward of his pain. He has been broken, is able to be vulnerable, and radiates empathy and compassion. These are Christian virtues.
There are two things to say about taxes and Biden. First, he pays federal income tax. The recent revelations about Trump’s taxes show he is some combination of 1) a business fraud, 2) a tax cheat, and 3) a criminal. I wish there could be a question on the ballot that said, “Do you agree that Donald Trump should be allowed a $70,000 tax deduction for hair styling?” Would his staunchest supporters give him yet another pass? He is cheating the very country he swore to serve! (Lest you think the revelations about Trump’s taxes are old news, this came out a short while ago, but the daily chaos in Trump-world makes it seem passé. We should be outraged.)
The second thing to say about taxes is that the most significant legislative accomplishment of Trump’s term is the passage of a tax bill that gives 80% of its benefit to the wealthiest 20% of the population. What might the ancient prophets think of those economics? What do you imagine Jesus thinks? Do you hear Jesus saying, “You have heard it said that it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for the rich to enter the kingdom, but now I say that I wasn’t really serious about that and that the point of life is to accumulate wealth”? No, I didn’t think so. Biden’s economic plans start with raising taxes on people making over $400,000 a year. What’s wrong with that?
Then there’s the whole mail-in ballots, fraud, and the post office thing. How did we get here? To quote a point made recently by my brilliant friend Neil Carlson: instead of ranting about election fraud, a real leader would be warning anyone who attempts election fraud that they’ll face the full force of the American legal system. Biden is not seeking to sow chaos into the electoral system.
Biden has worn a mask since the beginning of the pandemic. Need I say more about that?
William Barr won’t be attorney general anymore. Not only him, but a whole slew of Trump acolytes, sycophants, and enablers will not be on the public payroll. Barr is the most egregious, but there are plenty of others.
Now onto the biggie for many Christians: abortion. You’ve read the arguments. The challenge here is to say something that is specific to this election. The arguments most often made would be the same if say, Marco Rubio, or any of the other Republican primary candidates had won in 2016. What’s unique about Biden vs. Trump?
I most often hear people pointing out that either Biden or Trump has flipped his stance on abortion in order to fit their parties. True, but I don’t find anything extraordinary in that. Politicians are notoriously pragmatic—just compare the 2016 versions of Mitch McConnell and Lindsey Graham to the 2020 versions on Merrick Garland and Amy Coney Barrett. They remind me of Groucho Marx saying, “Gentlemen, these are my principles . . . If you don’t like them, I’ve got others.”
What’s different in this election is not the Democratic stance or the Republican stance or even Biden but simply Trump. Trump’s disdain of life has made “pro-life” outrageous. Trump’s race-baiting, his support of white supremacy, and his signaling to his militia supporters to prepare for civil war is not pro-life. His certainty that he is smarter than the consensus of scientific opinion on climate change and his pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement is not pro-life. Building up defense spending while cutting education and services to the poor cannot be seen as pro-life. Attempting to scrap Obamacare without a plan to replace it in the midst of a global pandemic is not pro-life. Buddying up to the world’s most notorious dictators while alienating America’s allies is not pro-life. Automatically separating families at the border is not pro-life. And then, of course, Trump’s inane bungling of the pandemic and personal endangerment of the Secret Service and White House staff is not just not pro-life, it’s pro-death. (Did anyone really believe Trump’s encounter with COVID-19 would bring either wisdom or humility?)
The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ document “Forming Consciences for Faithful Citizenship” encourages Catholics not to be single issue voters. The Bishops list climate change, racial justice, a culture of violence, immigration and refugees, poverty, health care, and international relations as defining issues for this election, as well as the candidates’ integrity and character. Reformed Christians would also do well to consider that list. On every measure, Biden scores ahead of Trump.
I cast my vote for Biden last week. As always, further down the ballot, I voted for both Republicans and Democrats. I vote for people instead of parties, because neither party represents my Christian faith. My hope is Joe Biden will win and serve in a similar way that Gerald Ford did a few decades ago—restoring a sense of normalcy which helps us heal from the circus of the past four years.