This divisive presidential election has brought forth a discussion that has all too often not been as productive as it should be: the issue of what is principled and what is pragmatic and whether there is a line that should not be crossed.
In my courses, I give a definition of principle as follows:
The source or origin of anything; a general truth from which one can deduce many subordinate truths.
Principled people believe in foundational truths that span all ages and circumstances. To be principled is to think and act consistently with those truths and to be willing to stand alone for them, if necessary.
Of course, one must have a proper understanding of what is a foundational truth and what is not:
Then there is pragmatism, which is defined in this way:
Truth is based on the usefulness of ideas (whatever works is true); truth is a process, constantly changing according to time, place, or personal experience.
Pragmatic people are willing to dismiss foundational truths in order to do whatever seems expedient to achieve some goal.
And then there’s someone like this:
There is the crux of the problem, in my view.
This election has brought out a lot of pragmatism on the part of those who have decided to go with Donald Trump. Those who have made that decision will say that it is a principled one because it keeps the obvious wrong choice out of power. However, my question is what has been sacrificed by making that decision.
Here’s my rule of thumb:
A compromised principle leads to unrighteousness, but a principled compromise is a step closer to the principle’s ideal.
In supporting Trump, are we led closer to our principles or are we instead pulled down into unrighteousness? Some have answered that by keeping Hillary Clinton out of the White House, we maintain our principles. While I understand that reasoning to some extent, I cannot accept it.
For me, putting Donald Trump into the White House rather than Hillary Clinton only gives us another model of unrighteousness in the highest office in the land. By supporting him, I believe I am compromising a principle of Christian character.
Now, those who disagree with me respond that I am promoting unrighteousness by allowing Hillary to take the reins of power. No, I see both options as unacceptable; both are deplorable, despicable, corrupt individuals who should never be in any position of authority.
Consequently, supporting either one would be, in my opinion, a compromise with principle.
There is no Biblical mandate saying I have to vote for one of those two. The Biblical mandate is to stand up for righteousness. That’s what I believe I am doing.
I will never question the genuineness of anyone’s Christian convictions if they decide to vote for Trump. I will critique that decision as unwise, but I will not challenge their Christianity.
It would be nice if those who question my decision would do the same for me.
Let’s keep our attitudes right toward one another. This election will soon be over and we will have to move forward together without sacrificing Biblical principles. I only hope we can agree on how to do that.