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Of Two Evils, Choose Neither



In fact, I firmly believe that we have a moral obligation to choose the lesser evil (assuming all other options have been exhausted) as a means of preserving the greater populous who would have otherwise perished.

"Of two evils, choose neither." –Charles Spurgeon

This has been a prominent slogan for Christians who are refusing to vote for Trump or Hillary in the upcoming election. Their argument holds that since both viable candidates reflect a form of evil, neither should be endorsed: otherwise, the voter is guilty of willfully condoning said forms of evil. But there are several issues wrong with this line of thinking:

The "lesser evil" argument is not referring to literal evil.

As a foundational flaw in this argument, the use of Spurgeon's quote to defend non-voters is juxtaposing apples and oranges. Spurgeon's use of the word "evil" is literal (sin) while the "lesser evil" argument's use of "evil" is figurative. The context of Spurgeon's usage of the term is to guide Christians to choose neither evil when they are trying to justify one sin over a different more severe sin. For example, a Christian who is tempted to steal a pack of gum may attempt to minimize this sin by contrasting it to stealing an expensive watch. One is more severe than the other, but both are still evil. When in this deliberation, choose neither. These acts of thievery are not necessary, nor are they inevitable. I'll elaborate on my point of inevitability later in this piece.

The context of the "lesser evil" approach's of "evil" is akin to an unfortunate but necessary option. The classic example is the Trolley Problem:

There is a runaway trolley barreling down the railroad tracks. Ahead, on the tracks, there are five people tied up and unable to move. You are standing next to a lever. If you pull this lever, the trolley will switch to a different set of tracks, which has one person tied up and unable to move.

You have two options:

1. Do nothing, and the trolley kills the five people on the main track.

2. Pull the lever, diverting the trolley onto the side track where it will kill one person.

Option two is a necessary action that will inevitably end the life of a human being at the discretion of the lever switcher...but it is not evil. It is simply one of two inevitable options, and the one that carried the least destruction. Remember, option 1 killed more people than option 2, and option 1, in itself, was a choice to do nothing.

When presented with the option to act, to "not act" is to act.

In fact, I firmly believe that we have a moral obligation to choose the lesser evil (assuming all other options have been exhausted) as a means of preserving the greater populous who would have otherwise perished.

But what if Spurgeon's statement DID apply to voting?

"For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God." –Romans 3:23

If Spurgeon's statement were intended to be applied to voting, then we would never be able to vote. Given our sin nature, even the most morally astute option with political inclinations straight in-line with Scripture would still be a lesser-evil, and would thus be intangible for our vote.

So why are so many people abusing the context?

I'm sure there are many answers to this question. Perhaps they are manipulating the context to comfort themselves, given the immorality that is seemingly reflected in each of our candidates. Perhaps they feel such a strong duty to vote that the idea of not voting is burdensome, but validation from someone of Spurgeon's notoriety is comforting. But this behavior is fatalistic because, no matter how you spin the logic, it cannot conclude as sound if one of the premises are inaccurate, which is exactly what is happening here. The faulty premise is that Spurgeon's quote (which actually wasn't his– he was quoted quoting someone else and Spurgeon was elaborating on their point but I digress...) is being applied in a completely separate context, argument, and application.

Statement on inevitability

It is important to note that neither of the examples from above, regarding stealing the gum or watch, are inevitable. Meaning that if the Christian refused to steal either product, the products would remain as they were.

That is not the case with an election.

One of the candidates, Trump or Hillary, will be the next president of the United States. If both options cause damage, such as in the Trolley Problem above, we have a moral responsibility to do our part to ensure the greatest good comes out of it.

Also, sin is self-centered and self-gratifying. Voting should be done selflessly for the well-being of everyone, or at least for the majority.

Vote your conscience, but do so informed.

For the gospel //

JWR

#donaldtrump #hillaryclinton #lesseroftwoevils

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