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Men and women don’t defend ideals anymore. We don’t. We’re pragmatists of the worst sort, selling out the higher ideals of life for the practical expedients of political “wins” and “advances.”

Not even Christian men and women zealously contend for high ideals. We don’t defend ideals in our churches, and we don’t do it in politics. Perhaps there’s a connection. For surely if we applied the grace of God in loving church correction and celebration of Christian character in our churches, we might be inclined to call for moral excellence and consistency of character in our political leaders. But if we don’t do it at home, how can we expect to do it in the public square.

With Wednesday’s post, “W.E.B. Would Not Vote in This Election,” a fair number of honest, zealous, and I take it politically active Christians expressed alarm at the thought of DuBois and my not voting. If memory serves, I don’t think one of these folks took me to task for failing to live up to a higher ideal. Nearly every one of the arguments were rooted in the very real likelihood that the election would have consequences either for the unborn, for marriage, or for gays and lesbians. These are extremely important issues, and I cast my lot with all those who understand abortion to be the greatest social evil of our time, to be opposed and fought in nearly every way we can.

But there’s a “but.” We should oppose evil on every front but without compromising grand and lofty ideals, ideals that define the ‘good life,’ that define true manhood and womanhood, that define virtue in civic life, that define and call for righteousness in the highest places. I find that too many people are ready to plunge headlong into important political issues without first setting the compass of ideals and charting the course.

I’m sure someone will want to dismiss me as an “idealist,” someone with his head in the clouds and out of touch with the urgent nature of the times. I’m sure someone will insist that the time for ideals are long past; what we need are “practical” men and women who “know how to get things done.” I’d simply ask: How is that working for us? Isn’t that how we decided to vote four years ago? And four years before that? And four years before that? When’s the last time you cast a vote for someone you actually believed in and trusted? Do you even remember what that feels like? Do we remember the certitude that comes from observed character? The strength that’s born of solid conviction? The courage that’s conjured by someone taking a principled stand without regard for its unpopularity or social backlash or the latest favorability ratings? Do we even remember that kind of political leader? Do we remember a political leader who lived for ideals?

Jim Gibson is a venerable veteran of Civil Rights struggle. In his late 80s he has the look and vigor of someone in their late 40s. I worked with Jim in public policy and community revitalization. Jim has been disenchanted with public leadership since the 1960s, specifically since Martin King’s assassination. With King’s death died something else for Jim: idealism. And not just for Jim. So many people of Jim’s generation and the generations since the 1960s have written “R.I.P.” over the grave of ideals.

But not me.

Why ‘the Lesser of Two Evils’ Doesn’t Lead to Righteousness

A fair number of very sharp Christian brothers and sisters have written that we’re always choosing between the lesser of two evils. Really? Really? Has it come to that?

I reject that. I reject that there’s no righteous man or woman in the land–only evil and less evil. The assertion depends on a category mistake. There is no one who is righteous in the salvific sense. But the scripture tells us repeatedly of men and women who were righteous in the everyday practical sense. To say there is only evil and lesser evil is to obliterate practical righteousness and view every man only in terms of saving righteousness. Moreover, that man who believes that all men are evil is not only a pragmatist but also a pessimist. He’s the one without hope and without courage. I believe in not only the imputed righteousness of Christ but also the practical righteousness of holy living. I believe there are men and women who do what’s right for right’s sake. I believe there are men and women who lead with the courage of conviction, forged in the fires of struggle and fanned with the winds of passion. I believe there are men and women who see what’s right–not just on one glaring issue but also on more subtle and less dramatic issues. I want to vote for someone who stands for righteousness, not someone who tolerates it. I want to vote for someone who fights for righteousness, not someone who talks about it while quietly weakening it.

If one truly believes that we’re always facing two evils, how could we ever hope that evil would lead to righteousness?

I believe the prophet’s call to “Let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an everflowing stream” (Amos 5:24) is not only beautiful and biblical but also believable and necessary. I want to hear a King sound once more the trumpet of Zion and stand once more against an entire country for the benefit of not just the vulnerable minority but the redemption of the entire nation. I want to join ranks with a King who would look at one party and say, “You still need to repent and extend justice to all,” and look at the other party and say, “Son, I marched to save the very lives you’re giving people permission to kill.” I want to follow someone who gathers up every just cause into his arms and marches one steady step at a time toward ‘the beloved community.’ I want to see a man or woman seek to rescue the very soul of the country not just the stuff of the country.

Surely there are righteous and spiritual men and women among us who can judge in these matters. Surely the Lord has a people in this pilgrim land who have not bowed the knee to the political Baals–idols of political and social power that have eyes but don’t see, ears but don’t hear, mouths but don’t speak, and hands but don’t work. Surely the Lord has a people who do not dance around the Asherah poles and engage in the bacchanal of partisan drunkennes. Surely the Lord God Almighty has a people in this land who sat down with Israel to eat but refused to rise up in revelry with the masses. I believe there is a real and sizable remnant belonging to the Lord and that we need to call them to stand!

We don’t need to settle for the lesser of two evils. Not only is that to in fact settle for evil but also to subvert the very idea of a righteous public square. Oh, I know we can’t expect unbelievers to act like Christians. But can we no longer expect Christians to act like Christians and to live for something beyond this election? Can we no longer as Christians hold out hope for a more thorough-going righteousness in our leaders? I do. I’m tired of playing the game that elects a man with the expectation that he’ll break his word within days or weeks of taking office then accept that there’s nothing we can do about it except vote differently next time. That rat wheel is old.

I’m told that settling for the lesser evil and working inside the party system is the sure way to get incremental change. I’m told that people outside the system, refusing to vote, can not effect change. I laugh. The largest sea changes in American political history–and even in our present times–have come not from presidents and party loyalists but from footsoldiers outside the system. King wasn’t a party insider and the Lord used him to change not only the laws but also the heart of the country. Advocates of gay marriage aren’t party insiders, and they’re effectively using public opinion and courts to advance their agenda. About the only way to change the country is outside the party machinery.

We wonder why there are no Kings in our day. It’s because there are too few men willing to embrace an ideal as deeply and passionately as King did and have that ideal animate his every thought and action. But we can be Kings. Each of us. And that’s why holding out isn’t hopelessness.

Caring About Abortion and More Than Abortion

Some dear brothers and sisters in the Lord took my previous post to be immoral or at least irresponsible. They took that view in large part because they believe there’s a clear difference on abortion between one candidate and the other. They care about the lives–millions of lives!–of the unborn. They passionately care and they’re completely right to do so. I join you. I’m with you. I hate the murder of innocent children along with you, and I do see something of a difference between the candidates. Not as much as we’d like to imagine, but a difference nonetheless.

We dare not care about less than abortion as an issue. But can I ask you: Ought we to care about more? Can we care about the vulnerable lives of unborn children in the womb and the lives of living children vulnerable from the womb? Can we not fight to see children into the world and fight to see them well in the world? Doesn’t righteousness call us to protect the unborn and to feed the born? Doesn’t righteousness call us to work for a child’s safety in the womb and work for their safe housing outside? For me, the ideal begins with protecting the unborn but it continues with providing a just life for the young child. I’m with you for an end to abortion. Can you not be with me for more? Are we to work for the end of abortion only to abandon children to high-poverty, high-crime, low-resource, educationally-broken neighborhoods? Shouldn’t we close abortion clinics but keep open health care clinics? Shouldn’t we end abortion coverage and extend child insurance coverage?

Ideals call us to more, not less. Ideals stubbornly refuse to allow us to settle. Here’s the problem with settling: We only settle into mire, not mirth. Settling is always downward, always dirty, always muddy, always ignoble. Ideals always propel upwards, always inspire, always enliven. The country can’t afford the righteous to settle. The future of the country does not hang on these two candidates but on God’s people consistently standing for righteousness on every issue before us. Oh, I know the future belongs to our God and King. But doesn’t He normally work through His people? If His people set their sights so low as to vote for the lesser evil rather than stand for the greater justice, He’ll either judge us for the hypocrites we are or be forced to accomplish His will without us–or both.

The Fruit of the Struggle

One honest young man wrote to express his disappointment. He, like some others, I’m sure, considers not voting a betrayal of the freedom struggle so long endured by African Americans and symbolized by the right to vote. I understand the sentiment, and I’d be lying if I said there wasn’t some twinge of that sentiment in my own heart, some wondering to myself if not voting betrays much that’s dear.

But then I remember: The full exercise of freedoms earned for us is not a betrayal to those who earned them. The full exercise of freedom is the fulfillment of freedom’s wish and promise. The freedom struggle not only opens opportunities once denied, but ironically open opportunities to act contrary even to the freedom fighters. That’s the difference between a dictator’s revolution and a democratic revolution. Dictators oppress the people they “free;” democracies may be opposed by the people they liberate. It’s not freedom to say, “We want African Americans to have the right to vote, only they must vote or must vote a certain way.” Isn’t that to exchange one master for another?

Freedom, in the American civic context, means you and I have one master: our own conscience. In the spiritual context, which matters most, there too we have but one Master: the Lord Jesus Christ. And Christ has not bound us to vote a particular way or to vote at all. It is a great gift that we have the privilege. But is it not also the case that the Christian teaching on freedom often requires us not to use the freedom for greater gains? So, should I choose not to vote, am I not both expressing the fullest possibilities of the freedom struggle and doing something entirely within my liberty as a Christian enslaved to the Lord?

What do you do when you live in a time when you can judge a man by the content of his character and find both men lacking in character? Do you vote for the lowly in character or do you demand character? At least some people with high ideals ought to demand character.


It’s not rhetoric I want in my candidate, or invented lives and embellished pasts, faux images and focus-group-tailored soundbites. I want to elect a free man, someone who stands flat-footed and leans into the cross-current of moral drift with conviction and courage. If he’s out there, he has my vote. And if a two-party system denies a righteous man opportunity to stand for justice then the system itself is the evil we need to oppose.

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78 thoughts on “Martin Luther King, Jr. Would Stand for Ideals Rather Than Settle for Evil in This Election”

  1. Terry says:

    I’m not sure about your reasons for not voting in this election, but I agree with you that we must follow our consciences. By the way, I often leave blanks on my ballot because I cannot vote for any of the candidates running for some offices in good conscience (and sometimes I leave it blank when I feel too uninformed about certain state and local questions on the ballot). You may still vote in an election (at least in my state) even when you leave a few slots blank on the ballot.

  2. Ken Davis says:

    Thank you Thabiti for what you have been writing lately. My heart soared as I read your stuff this week. The combination of evangelical biblical conviction and broad social conscience seems to be rare. Your writings this week alone have been a great encouragement. Many thanks.

  3. Mark Nenadov says:

    Amen, brother! The last two posts on voting have been fantastic! (from a Canadian friend :>)

  4. Tom says:


    In commenting that “Christ has not bound us to vote a particular way or to vote at all. It is a great gift that we have the privilege.” I wonder if that is true given Christ’s teaching on stewardship. If God has given us both the privilege and the responsibility as Americans to elect our leaders, and we refuse this responsibility, are we not exercising poor stewardship and in violation of Christ’s teaching?

    You may respond that not voting is a proper exercise of stewardship in that you refuse to vote for someone who lacks character or conviction. Or, you may eventually realize that to be a presidential contender in American politics requires a certain malleability that disqualifies one from your lofty ideals of character and conviction. Thus, you exercise stewardship in voting for the better of the two individuals whom God in His sovereignty has ordained to be the presidential contenders.

    I think it is instructive to realize that even those former leaders whom we look to as examples of character and conviction today (MLK, Jr and WEB included), would not survive the onslaught of scrutiny which is part and parcel of presidential politics today. MLK’s personal failures would be fodder for late night comedians, MSNBC, and FoxNews. His words would be broken into soundbites and distorted in a million ways. Then what would be left of your King of high ideals and courage? He’d be another Obama; he’d be another Romney.

    Think I’m wrong? Ask Jessie Jackson…

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Tom,

      Thanks for the comment and the questions.

      First, a reply to the comments about King’s flaws. He certainly had flaws. I’m not denying that, or suggesting that there’s anyone that’s flawless. But here’s the difference: You could see King–despite his personal flaws–consistently fighting to do what was right and in the public’s best interest. You could see him championing the cause of African Americans without vilifying white Americans. You could see him living and teaching others to love their enemies–even when their enemies brutally mistreats you. King is not Jesus. We know that. But I’d take another “King of high ideals and courage” any day. What he have a relentless media always in his face and snooping about? Sure. I wasn’t there, but from what I could tell he had a great deal of that in the 1960s as televisions were coming into every home. Journalism then isn’t “journalism” today, but I suspect he would have done alright.

      As for the question about stewardship, I think you anticipated my response. I think not voting or leaving partially blank ballots or even writing in a candidate is exercising the stewardship. But I don’t want to settle for the notion that “American politics requires a certain malleability.” In plain speech we call that lying. And when it isn’t lying, it looks so much like lying that now we have to employ a legion of “fact checkers” to get through a political ad or debate. Surely you can see that such “malleability” is actually destroying virtue in American civic life. Why would we leave leadership of our country (and to some extent the world) in the hands of “malleable” men and women? The greater Christian stewardship would be for people of character to run for office themselves–even if they lost a million times.


      1. Tom says:


        Thank you for your response. I would challenge you to find a pristine time in American presidential politics. Every man who has entered into that office has had to be somewhat malleable, Washington and Lincoln included.

        Again, I think if we could resurrect our political / social heroes from the past they would not be able to withstand the scrutiny so prevalent today before their fatal flaws were exposed. And, you would be here wringing your hands about their hypocrisy and malleability.

        Therefore, I would challenge you to exercise proper stewardship by voting for the better of the candidates whom God in His sovereignty has provided to us, realizing the inherent malleability within our political system.

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Dear Tom,

          I don’t think you’re understanding me, brother. The post is not an argument for a “pristine time in American presidential politics.” It’s not about a pure time. It’s about people being courageous in evil times. It’s about ordinary, broken, flawed men and women consistently saying and doing what’s right in the presence of wickedness. I still believe that’s possible and worth fighting for. “It’s always right to do what is right,” to quote a flawed but courageous leader.

          Honestly, to return a challenge for a challenge: Isn’t it evident that in settling for what you call “malleability” you’re proving the degeneracy in expectations for character that I’m talking about? We’re stewarding more than our vote, brother. We’re also stewarding our conscience and the moral integrity of our political process and leaders.


          1. Aaron says:

            I’m not sure he’s proving the degeneracy as much as just begging the question of “who”. Who are the ordinary, flawed, broken men and women who would run for President? If there is a righteous man in the land. . who is it? Abraham prayed for 10, and none was found.

            It’s a good point that none of our previous righteous men would survive the onslaught and vetting of the current press and party witch hunters. I would humbly submit that perhaps you’ve been swayed by an over-analysis of these two men, . .an analysis that no man could come out of “above reproach”.

          2. Tom says:


            I appreciate your willingness to interact with me again. You wrote: “Isn’t it evident that in settling for what you call ‘malleability’ you’re proving the degeneracy in expectations for character that I’m talking about?”

            The word degeneracy implies a process of degenerating. So, from what historical ideal has the process degenerated? Where in American history has this uber presidential candidate existed or been elected? Where is this man of practical righteousness found in the historical record?

            My point is that there has never been a time when presidential politics and the electable candidates were void of a certain malleability. Those individuals from the past whom we love to celebrate today as paradigms of character and courage would be eviscerated today for their personal flaws, just like the current crop of presidential candidates. I dare say that even if you or I were to take a demotion and run for presidential office, we too would find our past sins and failings dredged up in short order, our words would be misconstrued in the worst possible ways, and many would lament our hypocrisy and lack of moral character.

            So, it is with this knowledge of the American political process, that I must choose which is the better candidate. If you want to ride the pine and bemoan the sad state of presidential politics, then that’s up to you. Or, you can get in the game, as it were, and do the best with whom God in His sovereignty has given.

            Biblical stewardship doesn’t bemoan the fact that we’ve only been given one talent to invest (instead of the ideal number). Biblical stewardship goes out and makes the best investment possible with that one talent.


            1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

              Hey brother,

              I’m grateful for your willingness to interact as well. With your last comment, I’ll leave you the last very eloquent word.


  5. Derek says:

    I have always found your posts to be a breath of fresh air and i have found your recent posts on voting to be very thoughtful and thought provoking. Most people I know, know why they shouldn’t vote for Obama morally, but they do not understand why voting for a Mormon could be wrong also. Instead they get angry at me and say that any vote that isn’t for Romney is a vote for Obama. They use all the tired old cliches I have heard for months:
    I am not voting for pastor.
    You wouldn’t choose your doctor based on their religion.
    I can see the doctor one somewhat, but feel it is a misplaced analogy. A doctor is there to do a specific job, but these same people choose the President with moral ideas in mind usually. As for the pastor part, no he won’t be your pastor but again we choose the President with a moral ideas in mind. Rom 13 seems to say that leaders are “ministers” or “servants” of God, so shouldn’t we apply the same rules as picking them as we do to electing elders and deacons?
    I just don’t see the point of picking a President because you believe he will be moral and fight against abortion while not honoring the God that says “Thou Shalt not kill.”
    I have had a hard time explaining this to my christian friends.
    I have had a hard time explaining this to

  6. Jon C says:

    Good morning Thabiti,

    So, I’m tracking with you for the most part. I share much of your sentiment, but I do have two questions…

    Why wouldn’t you vote for Mitt Romney?
    What does your ideal candidate look like (does he have to be a Christian)?

    In your post you begin to describe your candidate, but I’d like to see you flesh that out.

    Thank, Jon

  7. Speak_Life says:


    Another terrific article. Kudos to you for using such a great example of MLK Jr. For those of us familiar with is work – we know that although both parties like to claim him that he was pointed in his conviction of never “selling-out” to party affiliation. He knew it would inevitably lead to sacrificing principle for party. He remained non-partisan so that he could speak prophetic truths to both parties.

    I applaud you sir, for doing the same. Even though, I understand that not strictly walking the conservative line is probably seen within your evangelical circle as a no-no. I also applaud you for highlighting the aspects of the gospel that are very much social. King and others fought for us all to uphold the words of prophets like Isaiah. That is so important.

    Some of my favorite work by King was the stand that he took for sanitation workers in Memphis. The deaths from the compactor mechansms, the unpaid sewer workers and so on….

    Before I close, can I ask you one simple question. What do you think causes this incredible divide in this country even amongst Christians over the social aspects of the gospel. Why is it such a taboo amongst so many Christians? Why is it viewed as liberal theology rather than just a scriptural mandate? I respect your opinion and would be interested in getting your thoughts on why this issue has such a tortuous history in America?

    God bless you brother, and keep up the good work ;-)

  8. Doug says:

    “I want to elect a free man, someone who stands flat-footed and leans into the cross-current of moral drift with conviction and courage. If he’s out there, he has my vote.”

    We all want good things. But what has God provided? Is there no one in your eyes worthy of even a write in vote?

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Doug,

      Yes, of course, there are persons in the country worthy of a write-in vote. In fact, that would be another way of describing the post. I believe there are men and women of righteousness out there who should be written in or receiving their party’s nomination.


      1. Doug says:


        Thanks for the response. I love your blog. Please keep it up (I know you were considering whether to continue or not recently). Like you I don’t usually traffic in political discussions… this one got me to bite, however. You are definitely getting people talking and thinking.

        Lord bless brother,
        ~ Doug

  9. Douglas Belardi says:

    the myth of King

    and please don’t express any concerns about the government
    you may have right to complain but not the moral standing

  10. To me, the most discouraging aspect of this whole situation has been the extremely uncharitable, ungracious, and dare-I-say unChristian responses of other bloggers. For a prime example, check out Be forewarned, however, because if you’re someone who is contemplating not voting, your “self-indulgent, irresponsible, and contemptible” and permissive of your wife being beaten in front of you.

  11. Aaron says:


    I categorically disagree that there are times we’re not choosing between the lesser of two evils. The book of Ecclesiastes comes to mind. And, if you’re saying that we should hold leaders to a Christian standard (i.e. the end of Ecclesiastes “fear God and keep his commandments”) then we’re taking about a Christian nation, a kind of theocracy, which is not what America is. I agree with the above post that there isn’t a President in American history that didn’t have serious flaws, (which you agree with), so who are we talking about here? What Righteous man are we referring to?

    If you’re saying that these two gentlemen (Romney and Obama) just aren’t good enough, and you’ll be writing in someone else or not voting, that is your prerogative, and I support you in that. Many would agree with you, that this just isn’t a great choice. I disagree, and don’t see the lack of virtue in Romney that you see. I don’t think he’s perfect or a savior of any kind, . . but that gets back to my first point.

    So, I celebrate your right to judge these men as not worthy of the task and not good enough. I would ask whom you think might be a “righteous” man for the job. I realize your hesitancy to endorse anyone, but I think your post begs for such an option. . . . or else you’re kind of saying what you don’t want to say. . that there isn’t a good enough option out there.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Aaron,

      Thanks for reading and for leaving this comment. I appreciate both and I think we benefit, by God’s grace, from brethren drawing clear lines of distinction in discussion. Thank you.

      I think one place we may see things differently has to do with how we define “righteous.” Some people are using the word as a synonym for “perfect,” some kind of flawless savior. But I think that’s a strawman. We all agree there are no perfect men. And, as Christians, we all agree that the only perfect righteousness comes from Christ our Lord. Where we seem to be struggling is on whether or not the Bible admits of any practical righteousness in life. I think so. Proverbs is filled with it. Consider the stunning statement of Ezek. 14:14, 20. A righteous man is not a flawless man, but a man of consistent virtue. One virtue would even be to admit his flaws and failures, to ask forgiveness when wrong, and to help others learn from his mistake. Righteousness responds to flaws with transparency and humility, not with spin, evasions, excuses, and the like.

      So, no one is waiting on a perfect man. He doesn’t exist. But, yes, I do believe we can pray for, encourage, and look for a more righteous man then either of the two presidential candidates.

      Grace and peace to you,

      1. Aaron says:

        Thanks Thabiti,

        I respect your courage and clarity on this issue.


  12. Denny says:

    Good morning. This is another thought-provoking post. I was just wondering, did you support Obama in 08? If so, how did he satisfy the criteria in your conclusion back then? Or have your criteria for a candidate changed?


  13. John Bruner says:


    Who is the last candidate that was practically righteous? Also, you imply that since there is something other than the “lesser of two evils” then both Obama and Romney are “evil”. What about the two would you say is “evil” or “unrighteous” as far as a presidential candidate goes?


  14. Melissa Yakes says:


    I read your post yesterday, and didn’t quite know how to take it. I asked my pastor about it, and this was his response, for what it’s worth:
    “In this life, many things are not black and white. It is a reality that we have to sometimes choose between shades of grey. Nevertheless, we are still responsible to choose whatever best reflects the righteousness of God. In this election, there is a clear choice related to views on marriage and abortion amongst other things. Therefore, I would consider it both foolish and irresponsible not to vote. Unborn children are being murdered today because professing Christians didn’t vote in prior elections. Please vote and tell your friends to vote for Life.”

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Melissa,

      Thanks for (1) seeking your pastor’s counsel–a model everyone should follow, and (2) caring enough to think about this and hopefully vote. that’s just an awesome example on both counts! I hope more people are doing that as well.

      Listen: I’m not opposed to anyone voting or asking anyone to take my position.

      I would say, however, I think the statement that “unborn children are being murdered today because professing Christians didn’t vote in prior elections” seems baseless to me. TONS of Christians have been voting in prior elections–and most of them energetically motivated by a righteous pro-life cause. But what of those votes? The truth, it seems to me, is that genuine evangelical Christians are a minority in this country with waning influence. Moreover, we’ve elected pro-life candidates like Bush, and we’ve seen pro-choice presidents like Clinton and Obama. Here’s the sobering question: Has electoral politics changed the game on abortion?

      I’ll leave each person to answer that question for themselves. And I won’t judge or blast the answers they settle upon. But for me, I don’t think the game we’re playing is netting the results we’re seeking. We need a real game changer, imo. We need new or additional strategies. Casting all our hopes on a presidential ballot confuses the symbol power of voting with the real power of social action.

      I’m glad you’re voting and will tell your friends to vote as well. Voters are not an enemy to me. But the best voters are those who know why they’re voting the way they vote and leave the voting booth with a more substantive plan for action on the issues they care about.


  15. Jeff says:


    First off brother, thank you for your excellent posts here at Pure Church. Your stand for the truth during the Elephant Room 2 debacle was a breath of fresh air. Keep on the good work!!!

    However, with all due respect, I must say “Who cares what MLK Jr. or WEB DuBois would’ve done???” MLK Jr. admirably fought against racism and the Jim Crow laws, true. But the quotation in your image of him, “The curse of poverty has no justification in our age…” amply demonstrates his thoughts on socialism and entitlements are completely unbiblical (to name just one area of glaring problems with the man). DuBois was worse, having directly visited and sympathized with the Soviet Union and even writing a glowing eulogy for Joseph Stalin of all people!

    Brother, I fear your African American heritage is clouding your ability to see that neither King nor DuBois are worthy rolemodels for believers.

    I admire your desire to be an idealist during this election season, but please, cut the nonsense that these men’s opinions should somehow matter to us.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear Jeff,

      With respect, if my African American heritage were clouding my ability to see, I would likely cast an unthinking vote for Obama. I’m certain I have things blinding me, but that’s not it.

      Honestly, I think your comments tell us more about how your heritage might be blinding you than they do about anything in my heart or mind.

      Whatever you think about DuBois or King, I’m fairly confident of this: both men were greater than I could possibly ever be and gave themselves tirelessly and more faithfully to the cause of justice than I am. Attacking them or labeling their comments “socialist”, etc., just isn’t convincing or loving.

      Grace, mercy and peace to you,

      1. Jeff says:


        Thanks for the reply. You’re right that I have things clouding my vision as well. We all bring our presuppositions and inherited opinions into any discussion. This one is certainly no different.

        I think you’re selling yourself short by saying “Both [King and DuBois] were greater than I could possibly ever be…” As a minister of the TRUE gospel of Jesus Christ, you are fulfilling the greatest office on the face of the planet. Sure, you may never lead a march to protest a corrupt system or help to establish an organization like the NAACP. But you present the beauty of Christ to men and women week in and week out and, I imagine, as a result of your labors there are going to be more men and women rejoicing around the throne for eternity.

        In my defense, I don’t believe I was attacking anyone or “labelling” them unfairly. I was simply pointing out that these men, nobel as their efforts may have been, do not necessarily qualify as rolemodels for believers.

        Thanks for the push-back. These are important issues.

  16. Charles says:

    I do believe that some of the comments here are warranted in questioning Thabiti’s premise. In that, in both articles he has been careful not to list too much detail behind why he considers both presidential options unrighteous or evil.

    Since, it’s directly in relation to why he’s not voting, I think it would have served the readers more fairly to state why you see both as unrighteous or the shortcomings of each political platform.

    For Obama: Is it strictly related to gay marriage and abortion, or is it also related to things like unauthorized Drone strikes?

    For Romney: Is it his inability to commit to issues without changing based on popular polling, or is it the fact that he’s a Mormon?

    I can understand why he’s remaining out of bounds on more heated political topics. However, I do think that it’s slightly unfair to the reader to explain why one isn’t voting without specifically addressing the political issues more clearly regarding each candidate.

    In that regard, I can understand some of the commenters criticisms.

    Is that fair?

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Charles,

      Thanks for your comment, friend, and the very gracious tone you use.

      I don’t know if your comment is “fair,” but if it were fair it would be better than this sinner deserves.

      I’ve not written any details about Romney and Obama for two reasons:

      1. I don’t want the thread to turn into a melee where everybody is doing the usual job of stumping for their candidate and vilifying the other guy; and

      2. I’m not the source from which folks should get their specific information and details about candidates.

      So, I’ve stuck with my opinion pieces and tried to write about the notion of higher ideals in the election. I think we’re better off if we keep our discussions and disagreements on the ideals rather than the particulars of candidates, which would be spun and re-spun ad infinitum.

      Again, I’m grateful for your question and your tone, brother.


  17. Peterson Onyeukwu says:

    “These are extremely important issues, and I cast my lot with all those who understand abortion to be the greatest social evil of our time, to be opposed and fought in nearly every way we can.”

    Really? Not sure when all of Christendom came to this consensus. I sure wasn’t included in on this decision to make abortion the greatest social evil of our time.

    I’m not impressed with the arguments and those who think a legislative approach will solve this problem are being just plain lazy. Consider some of the possible causes: poverty, inadequate resources or just plain sin. Until single-issue voters present plans to address all of these potential causes then the decision to make this election a single issue choice will just be plain illegitimate.

    This intellectual laziness only serves to put a band aid on a deeper problem.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear Peterson,

      Did you read the post, friend? I only ask because you seem to be calling for more than a focus on abortion in this election. That’s precisely what a third of this post calls for. You seem to have latched onto one sentence and ignored the whole.


      1. Peterson Onyeukwu says:

        You are right. I did presume that the weight of your blog post this morning would view abortion as the only issue we should consider in this race. And that even before reading the whole post.

        It seems I’m guilty myself of the intellectual laziness in my previous comment.

        Sincerest apologies,

        1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

          Wow. I’m grateful for your humility, brother! Thank you for that example of honest, simple confession. The Lord’s grace be multiplied to you!

  18. Peterson Onyeukwu says:

    This rewriting of history just to as a way of defending rather indefensible positions has to stop!

    Please brother do you not see what you are doing? You are resurrecting men and presupposing their positions when they are not here to defend themselves. That’s not cool…

    Can we conjecture about the positions of these two today when we don’t even know how they would respond to the many advancements that have been made today? No we cannot, nor can you stand behind a position raising Dubois and King as proponents of your argument.

    So please… stop!

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Hi Peterson,

      Thanks for your comment. Respectfully, I disagree that I am “resurrecting men and presupposing their positions….”

      With DuBois, I quoted him at length from an address entitled, “Why I Will Not Vote.” The principles came from his own mouth/pen. As you’re probably aware, DuBois left the country altogether and lived out his later years in West Africa. I think I’m on good ground, though I’d welcome a counter-argument about what DuBois might have done if you have one.

      With King, I don’t think I said anything in the post about whether or how he might have voted. Instead, I focused on his idealism, which no one with even a faint knowledge of King could credibly deny. I focused on his concern for justice in every area, which only grew as he grew. I don’t see how that’s conjecture about his position, but would welcome your insight. For we would probably both agree that it’s tiring to hear men say, “If King were here, he would ______.”

      Again, I welcome some specific insight or guidance from you. And if you can receive it from me, I’d like to suggest that you’re eloquent enough to write forcefully without writing offensively.

      Our skill with words can be manifest. But perhaps we all need greater skill with our hearts which give rise to our words.

      Grace, mercy, and peace to you,

      1. Peterson Onyeukwu says:

        Thanks to your measured response to my admittedly angry comment. Though I would be willing to debate that different tones are needed at different times, you are right when you say I need to exercise restraint.

        After reading your full post (which I did not do before) it seems you not only answered the issue I brought up in my previous comment but you mentioned my comment from yesterday. Particularly the one about disappointment. (Which I also just learned you responded to you yesterday…)

        Your last comment about “skill with our hearts” is spot on. I would say that my heart has been greatly wounded by those in the faith whom I greatly admire. There are a whole host of issues that the American church has completely written off, and along with these issues many brothers and sisters who may have a contrasting worldview. I percieved incorrectly that your post yesterday and today was more of the same.

        In a lot of ways I feel the American church is once again in danger of being complicit to great national sin because of an unwillingness to deeply question their assumptions. One assumption that I an extremely difficult time with is the idea that Christian = conservative.

        A possible solution to this problem is more discussion, not less. We need more reasoned debate about the issues which would lead to a greater awareness about their causes. We as Christians will then be able to deal with issues with single-mindedness and great resolve as opposed to the divisiveness that exists today.

        I viewed your post yesterday as perhaps giving up on more discussion. And with your post today I admit I was wrong. But don’t you agree that more discussion is the way to go?

        I believe that when we delve into the issues more we will then see that voting is just one of the many ways we can affect our society and at times may not the most important.

        Thank you for your response. I think in a lot of ways I needed to know that those I admired for their faithfulness to the scriptures were at the very least willing to listen to the merit of my concerns. You have helped me greatly.

        Again, I apologize for the harshness of my words.

  19. Chris says:

    This is healthy conversation. Just recently, I had a great conversation with a few believers about having “issues” and “idols”. For a long-time, I didn’t believe that a saint could be a racist – until I saw how Peter was extremely anointed and used by God despite being rebuked by Jesus, a dream, and Paul! – it took time. Peter was an excellent theologian, an apostle, miracle worker, and a racist – he had issues that lead to idolatry, like all of us. I think politics brings out a lot of hidden idols evidenced in these posts. Thabiti has called out both parties as evil and people are still asking – What is wrong with Romney…because obviously our current President (which I know we have been praying for publicly as scripture commands) is definitely evil in this “camp” of thought – a no- brainer right? NO! If you have more problem with Obama being associated with Jeremiah Wright than the Mitt Romney being a Mormon Pastor – it is because you don’t see clearly that evil is evil – there is no lesser – at least acknowledge it.

    Take- aways: I see that most people are less willing to speak about the flaws of their political affiliation than the evil of their opponents. True change will come from the outside of the political parties as Thabiti presented clearly. We are not praying like we should for those who are already in office and are quick to speak about these matters, instead of quick to listen. With ties to neither party – I am most bothered by Christians who obviously LOVE one and HATE the other – love your local church, your local community, and your God – you kill that when you speak more passionately about political candidates than the gospel.

  20. Elizabeth says:

    I think you must have courage to have written this, Sir, and I want to thank you for giving us all a different way of looking at things.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      That’s kind of you, Elizabeth. Thank you. The Lord make His face to shine upon you,

  21. Josh says:

    Brave post Thabiti. Thanks for making us think in the light of Jesus.

    I’m a little confused and clarification would help me. When you talk about ideals, are you simply wanting to vote for someone who is a Christian and has high character? Is that the issue in this election for you?

    If character is either moving you to vote or not, how do we judge if someone’s character is up to par when all of our character, christian or non, is fallen and skewed? How do we even know what is ideal in relation to figuring out how to alleviate poverty and poor education, etc?

    Thanks for any response.

  22. Brent says:

    Not to put words into Thabiti’s mouth as Mark Dever would (9Marks conf joke ;-) ), but isn’t Thabiti’s point one of “Why are we not demanding and commanding our public officials to be righteous?” Ok, great…you got your pro-life candidate into office. Great! Now what? Do we just sit quietly and let them drift into the abyss of political power? No! We need to be in their dreams at night screaming into their ears and pointing our fingers at him goading him toward more and more righteousness. The American voter has no staying power when it comes to important issues, and the politicians know this. They do what needs to be done to get into office, but when the pressure and call of the righteous wanes, he feels free to exercise his own will instead of God’s.

    Just my take. Thanks, Thabiti. I love the way you praise our Savior, and I love the Savior of your praise.

    1. Tom says:


      Righteousness isn’t worth much in American politics. If you don’t assuage your constituencies, you don’t long remain in office. You may not like that fact, but that’s the way American politics has been run since 1787.

      Thabiti commented that the political influence of evangelical Christians is waning. If that is true, then it shouldn’t surprise us when we’re left with men like Romney and Obama to chose from. There is a time to lament this situation, and I appreciate and respect Thabiti’s concerns and ideals, but I don’t find them very helpful in addressing the situation at hand.


  23. Matthew says:

    “Do we remember the certitude that comes from observed character? The strength that’s born of solid conviction? The courage that’s conjured by someone taking a principled stand without regard for its unpopularity or social backlash or the latest favorability ratings? Do we even remember that kind of political leader? Do we remember a political leader who lived for ideals?”

    Ron Paul

    1. Jeremy says:

      Thank you Matthew. I just saw this post today and as soon as I read that quote in the article, I immediately thought of Ron Paul. I wondered how long it would take to find his name in the comments. It is unfortunate that I had to read way too many comments before I found yours. Dr. Paul isn’t perfect, but he is by far the most principled and moral politician I have ever come across. (Even Jack Abramoff said that it was useless to lobby Dr. Paul because he knew that Dr. Paul was a man of conviction and he would NEVER convince Dr. Paul to change his vote). I am still amazed that such a moral man was discarded (and booed in the S.C. debate) by Christians. So while I completely agree with Pastor Anyabwile regarding the obligation to not vote for the lesser of two evils, I believe that the man he is looking for was right before our eyes, and we chose to ignore him. So yes, I am writing in Dr. Paul on my ballot.

  24. Rachael Starke says:

    Hi Thabiti,

    Your previous post was the main topic of my husband’s and my dinner date last night. Two blessings resulted – our conversation was elevated above the too-frequent topics of work, kids stuff and house remodelling, and I convinced my usually non-blog reading husband to read your writings for himself. (It started when I asked what he thought about us choosing the Cayman Islands for an upcoming trip away together we’ve been planning). :)

    While my husband disagrees pretty strongly with you on this issue (and I’m still thinking on it), you’ve given us a great new avenue of conversation. And you continue to teach me a lot about how to think out loud about important things in a spirit of grace and truth. Thanks brother.

  25. Chad Damewood says:

    Thank you so much for posting these topics. Honestly, I’ve been wondering how a black pastor friend of mine would be voting but was too much of a coward to ask him.

    I do have a question for you though. Please don’t take it as a gotcha question. It’s a sincere attempt understand.

    Would this even be a discussion if the incumbent President was Barry O’Reilly, the liberal former Irish-American Senator from Chicago?

    I haven’t seen that question asked and am wondering about it. This is coming from a really pasty white guy. I just don’t understand.

    As a side note, I don’t find the argument that most conservatives are only against abortion while fetuses are in the womb but don’t care for kids very compelling. My home has three little people that started off life as abandoned drug babies that we are privileged to raise for the Glory of God.

    Keep up the great work and when we decide to vacation your way we’ll be sure to stop in to see you.

  26. Steve Martin says:

    We ALWAYS have to settle for the lesser of the evils because that is all that we have in this broken world.

    We should vote. The quality of our neighbors lives (for better or worse) depend on the votes of all Americans. And that includes Christians.

  27. Andrew Faris says:

    At this point I’m surprised no one else in any of the comments on either post (unless I missed it) has brought up a more obvious reason not to vote: voting (at least for president) is a waste of your time.

    It’s easy to see for me in California. In the last election I voted for Bob Barr, the Libertarian candidate. Some friends mocked me for throwing away my vote. Barr lost by 20 millionish votes, if I remember correctly. It’s really a spectacular failure. Should I really waste my vote for a candidate who had no chance of winning?

    But then I responded: who did you vote for? If the answer was Obama, then I said, “Well, then your candidate won by 2 million. Sounds like he didn’t need your vote either.” If it was McCain, the response was the opposite: “Sure, my candidate lost by 20 million, but yours lost by 2 million. 2 million. That’s a huge number. So huge that it seems like you wasted your time too.”

    Ok, so what if I worked so hard that I convinced 10,000 people (say, through a blog) to vote for McCain? Well, then he still loses by roughly 2 million. Those 10,000 votes are so minuscule that we don’t even bother changing the estimate. It’s not significant.

    Of course, in some states the votes are much closer, but never so close that your vote matters. If you want to vote because you enjoy it, then by all means, go for it. But if the main way you are able to effect the political landscape of America is to vote for your candidate, well, then all the radio-listening and newspaper-reading and debate-watching is just a huge waste of your time.

    You shouldn’t vote because ultimately, your vote doesn’t really count.


    P.S. That’s not to say your post is a waste of time, Thabiti, because what you are going after here is not ultimately voting, but how we think about thinks like race, religion, culture, and politics. That is worth the time. But the voting itself doesn’t matter.

    P.P.S. For more detail on how your vote doesn’t count, check out this brief NYT article by Steven Dubner.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      Dear Andrew,

      Thanks for the comments and the link. I think we should elect our next president Hunger Games style! ;-)


  28. Aaron Wojnicki says:

    Thabiti, I sincerely appreciate you and your ministry. Thank you for your commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. I really mean that =)

    However, I must be very honest with you and say that I find this blog post both near-sighted and destructive to the Christian community. I believe it is nearsighted in that we have Christian brethren in communistic and Islamic nations who would rightly condemn those who willfully choose to abstain from exercising their right to vote. To be given a voice for good and not use it is to let evil win by default. And the reason given why not to vote is because no “ideal candidate” was running?

    Perhaps there have been more ideal candidates in the primaries. However, due to the results of those primaries, we now just have the present two candidates to choose from. Please don’t take your ball and go home. Let your voice be heard.

    Second, I also find this post destructive because it fails to recognize the important worldview issues that the platforms of the two representative parties stand for.

    You have the Republican platform, which shares two concerns for Bible believing Christians – a defense of life and marriage. Then you have the Democrat platform, which unabashedly promotes the unrestrained destruction of human life in the womb (a great percentage of which are black children) and would even dare re-define marriage to include couples of the same gender. To not cast your vote concerning these two critically important issues as a Christian is irresponsible…even if neither candidate is your ideal guy.

    All that it takes for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing. Please Thabiti (and other Christians who are thinking about not voting this election), don’t sit out on the opportunity to make your voice heard this November.

    1. Jeremy says:

      Aaron, unfortunately the Republican platform is only anti-abortion. It is not in favor of defense of life after birth. Take Iraq for instance. The United States military, led by a Republican, Christian, Conservative President, entered into a pre-emptive war, toppled a dictator, causing the death and murder of 1 million + people. In addition, the majority of Iraqi Christians had to flee Iraq after “democracy” was established by the Americans. Many Christians were murdered by their militant muslim neighbors, now that the secular muslim dictator was out of power. So I would like to ask you, do you think that those Christians commend us for exercising our right to vote to elect a President that directly caused their death, pain, suffering and complete end to their way of life and has turned their nation into a muslim theocracy? I believe that the lesser of two evils is still evil and for good men to vote for the lesser of two evils, is for evil to triumph.

  29. Bentley says:

    This is indeed worthy of thought.

    I do have a few thoughts:

    1. In all seriousness could someone inform me to specific sources or specific problems with Romney that would categorize him as an unrighteous man or one of two basically evil choices? This post is obviously based on the assumption that we have no good option. My opinion would be that the abortion issue is a deal-breaker (among others) with Obama. However, I am less clear on what supremely disqualifies Romney. Could someone help me?

    2. I would disagree concerning the comment about evangelical’s waning influence and the idea that since we haven’t made progress on abortion in past candidates that it’s time to realize that we won’t. It seems like over the past decade the pro-life movement has made significant strides that has impacted public opinion. And given that fact, that the pro-life cause could be on the edge of effecting significant change if pro-life sypathizers are elected to public office. So, my opinion would be that the pro-life wave is rising not shrinking and it could actually make a difference this time.

    Thanks for helping us all to think hard about these things!

  30. Nell says:


    I am grateful for your last few posts. They are challenging and thoughtful. I think many of us, including myself, have mistakenly incorporated party politics into our thinking. We believe one party is “more righteous” over the other party.

    Jesus said that his kingdom is not of this world yet there are many who are trying to usher that kingdom in on the backs of the political system. Years ago, I used to be more involved in the political scene. Not so, any longer.

    I want to thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for challenging me on the issues of racism, hero worship, and politics. I see much in my heart that needs to change and grow.

    1. Thabiti Anyabwile says:

      And much in my heart, too, Nell. The Lord give us grace!

  31. jcubed says:


    How does impassivity perpetuate the greater good and repel evil? Isn’t doing nothing in opposition of evil, just as evil? We all know this famous quote:

    “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”
    ― Edmund Burke

    We really only have two viable choices and apparently you think both are evil. What is more evil; not voting and allowing evil to continue unabated or voting and diminishing the evil to some degree providing some relief and a greater good.

    These are two different Christian apologists with opposing views concerning voting for Mitt Romney for President (I guess this gives away my persuasion);

    Eric Holmberg founder of The Apologetics Group and Reel to Real Ministries, answers the question: Should Christians vote for a Mormon?

    Why This Conservative Evangelical Counter-Cult Expert Will Vote for Romney
    It’s best for principled, Bible-believing evangelicals to put aside their qualms and prevent another term for Obama.
    By Douglas Groothuis, May 13, 2012

  32. David Eicher says:

    Have you considered voting third party. I’m told that is like not voting at all, only worse. It is what I generally end up doing. There are still some principled people in third party candidates, which is why I have taken the step of becoming a member of the constitution party. I wish to uphold the original contract with America, the U. S. Constitution.

  33. Dennis Hulick says:


    First off, I visited Church On The Rock today after meeting with Peter Rochelle in his office a few weeks ago. I was blessed to be with what appeared to be a very loving family. As to your post’s theme, does it matter at all that we don’t actually vote for the President but for a slate of people who vote for whoever they want to (in most states). Should we look at their character? And just out of curiosity, since you live and work in a British Territory would you have voted through Washington DC, North Carolina, or someplace else? Do you hold your position for all elected offices? Lastly, I have been most impressed with your kindness and pastorly demeanor in dealing with people in the blogosphere. Thank you for the example you set for all those you read and comment here.

  34. Joe Rucker says:

    Thank you for a very thoughtful and thought provoking article. As far as voting for a Mormon I was going to quote Calvin and state that it is better to be ruled by a competent Turk than an incompetent Christian but of course Calvin could be wrong. Someone in this thread of comments gave a very good argument for not voting for Romney because he was a Mormon. I am very concerned whenever Romney talks about God. especially his comment in the last debate about how we all serve or love the same God. One of my fears about electing a Mormon as president is that this cult we gain legitimacy as a result.

  35. Trey Harris says:

    Yo!! Thabiti!! You got me standing to my feet in ovation brother!! Give me righteousness all day!! Even if it comes at the cost of peril. I’ll stake my life on that.

  36. Seth Fuller says:

    Thank you Thabiti for talking about this issue as an influential Christian leader. So many Christian leaders I see talking about this in vague cryptic messages that I find difficult to apply practically. I can’t tell you how much I appreciate you tackling these emotional yet important issues head on in a sincere Christ-like way, with thoughtfulness and grace. You set a great example for us all.

  37. Justin Lonas says:

    Thanks for taking a courageous stand. May God bless your words here and use them to encourage more believers to pursue Christ and godliness with more zeal than they pursue political victories.

    I can’t tell you how encouraged I am to see some serious writing on this topic from someone with evangelical and Reformed “street cred”.

  38. Luka Aleksandrovich Nevskeyev says:

    Christ said that “the poor will always be with you.” I don’t seek to abolish poverty; I seek to love the impoverished, because until the end of time there will be those who are impoverished.

  39. Danhy G. says:

    While I agree with the general sentiment of not giving up ideals and understand the principle of not choosing the lesser of two evils, I do not agree with the premise. Nor do I understand this insistence of using King as a role model to this end.

    Particularly when King actually was on board with Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger (the mother of modern abortion), accepted the Margaret Sanger award, and praised Sanger in a speech for committing crimes. Here it is on the Planned Parenthood website in his own words:|utmccn=%28organic%29|utmcmd=organic|utmctr=%28not%20provided%29&__utmv=-&__utmk=90892954

  40. Harlan Brown says:

    I agree that the lesser of two evils doesn’t lead to righteousness. Are you aware of the Presidential candidates besides those in the two main parties? Not all of them are evil. See

  41. Sam says:

    Thank you so very much for this article. I plan to vote, but I emphatically reject the notion that Christians are spiritually obligated to choose a party this November. I find the values of the Democrats and the GOP to be grossly inconsistent with Scripture, especially the former.

  42. Ian Manahan says:

    This article is pessimistic and prideful. Who is too good to vote?? It’s not like that’s the only thing the church is doing is voting. It’s doing so much and there’s always more to be done.

  43. SCH says:

    This is excellent, brother. I can’t tell you how much it’s saddened me to see so many believers take a utilitarian approach to political involvement as if there’s no greater ideal. It’s a great reminder that we live under heaven, not the sun.

  44. Molly says:

    It’s not just the President that has all the influence. When voting we can also keep in mind who will become Vice President. God used Joseph as number 2 in Egypt to have a huge impact during the famine. God sometimes uses leaders in the number 2 spot to impact a nation. It’s biblical.

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Thabiti Anyabwile

Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor for Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, DC and a council member of The Gospel Coalition.

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