+
upworthy

catholic church

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

We've heard that character is on the ballot this election—but also that policy matters more than personality. We've heard that integrity and honesty matter—but also that we're electing the leader of a nation, not the leader of a Boy Scout troop.

How much a candidate's character matters has been a matter of debate for decades. But one of the odd juxtapositions of the Trump era is that arguably the most historically immoral, character-deficient candidate has been embraced by the evangelical Christian right, who tout morality more than most. Trump won the right's "moral majority" vote by pushing conservative policies, and there is a not-so-small percentage of "one issue" voters—the issue being abortion—who are willing to overlook any and all manner of sin for someone who says they want to "protect the unborn."

So when a prominent, staunchly pro-life, conservative Christian pastor comes out with a biblical argument that basically says "Yeah, no, the benefit doesn't outweigh the cost," it makes people sit up and listen.



John Piper is the founder of desiringgod.org and the chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. He spent 33 years as a Baptist minister and is the author of dozens of books on Christian theology, including a handful of best-sellers. And he recently published a post that, while certainly not endorsing Biden, makes a biblical argument for rejecting Trump.

In what he called a "long-overdue article," Piper pointed out the sins of "unrepentant sexual immorality," "unrepentant boastfulness," "unrepentant vulgarity," and "unrepentant factiousness," and questioned why so many Christians only consider such sins toxic instead of deadly.

"These are sins mentioned in the New Testament," he wrote. "To be more specific, they are sins that destroy people. They are not just deadly. They are deadly forever. They lead to eternal destruction..."

Piper added that such sins don't just destroy people, but nations as well.

"I think it is a drastic mistake to think that the deadly influences of a leader come only through his policies and not also through his person," he wrote.

"This is true not only because flagrant boastfulness, vulgarity, immorality, and factiousness are self-incriminating, but also because they are nation-corrupting. They move out from centers of influence to infect whole cultures. The last five years bear vivid witness to this infection at almost every level of society."

Piper even gave a biblical example of precisely what he means by the character of a leader leading to death for a nation.

"There is a character connection between rulers and subjects," he wrote. "When the Bible describes a king by saying, 'He sinned and made Israel to sin' (1 Kings 14:16), it does not mean he twisted their arm. It means his influence shaped the people. That's the calling of a leader. Take the lead in giving shape to the character of your people. So it happens. For good or for ill."

He also explains how Christian arguments along the lines of "policy over personality" ignore the real damage done by having a leadership position filled with a person whose character is destructive:

"Christians communicate a falsehood to unbelievers (who are also baffled!) when we act as if policies and laws that protect life and freedom are more precious than being a certain kind of person. The church is paying dearly, and will continue to pay, for our communicating this falsehood year after year.

The justifications for ranking the destructive effects of persons below the destructive effects of policies ring hollow.

I find it bewildering that Christians can be so sure that greater damage will be done by bad judges, bad laws, and bad policies than is being done by the culture-infecting spread of the gangrene of sinful self-exaltation, and boasting, and strife-stirring...

How do they know this? Seriously! Where do they get the sure knowledge that judges, laws, and policies are less destructive than boastful factiousness in high places?"

Piper then specifically addressed the "But what about abortion?" question, articulating both his strict abortion-is-baby-murder stance and his belief that abortion deaths don't outweigh the broader death and destruction caused by a selfish, braggadocious leader.

"I think Roe is an evil decision. I think Planned Parenthood is a code name for baby-killing and (historically at least) ethnic cleansing. And I think it is baffling and presumptuous to assume that pro-abortion policies kill more people than a culture-saturating, pro-self pride," he wrote.

"When a leader models self-absorbed, self-exalting boastfulness, he models the most deadly behavior in the world. He points his nation to destruction. Destruction of more kinds than we can imagine."

Piper made it clear that his purpose in writing the post was not to convince anyone to vote a specific way (an editor's note indicates that he won't be voting for Biden or Trump), but rather hoped that Christians would "be given pause" by examining the consequences of choosing a leader with "a pattern of public behaviors that lead to death."

It's a serious statement from a serious Christian leader, which Christians might want to seriously consider. You can read the full article here.

It's not a stretch to say that Pope Francis has been a bit of a surprise.

Photo by Franco Origlia/Getty Images.

Let's see. First, there was the fact that the previous pope, Benedict XVI, stepped down — the first resignation since 1415. So that was already a pretty big deal.


Then the Vatican elected, of all people, this guy — a Jesuit, which had never happened before; a person from the Western Hemisphere, which had never happened before; and a non-European, which hadn't happened since the 700s!

Then the surprises continued, with his remarkably tolerant statements about gay priests and atheists (although he's still pretty conservative on other topics, like birth control and trans people).

One very pleasant surprise, at least for me, has been just how much Pope Francis seems to care about the environment.

Pope Francis addressing the United Nations in 2015. Part of his message was confronting climate change and ecological degradation. Photo from Bryan Thomas/Getty Images.

Science and religion haven't always gotten along. But when it comes to the environment, Pope Francis has been an outspoken supporter. On Sept. 1, the Catholic Church's World Day of Prayer for the Care of Creation (which he started, by the way), Pope Francis said: "We must not be indifferent or resigned to the loss of biodiversity and the destruction of ecosystems, often caused by our irresponsible and selfish behaviour."

When we take care of the Earth, we're taking care of each other too.

"Human beings are deeply connected with all of creation. When we mistreat nature, we also mistreat human beings," the pope said.

Environmental degradation, pollution, and climate change affect people all across the world, and Francis pointed out that it's disproportionately people who are already suffering — such as the poor or refugees — who bear the brunt of it.

Droughts and other natural disasters are likely to become more severe and common as climate change worsens. Photo by Brent Stirton/Getty Images.

Thus, fixing the environment goes hand in hand with addressing other problems.

"To give polluted water to someone who is thirsty doesn't make sense," Vatican panelist and author Terrence Ward said. "You have to clean it up first."

Pope Francis even gave examples of what we can do to make the world a better place.

He suggested consuming less, showing care for other living things, and planting trees, for example. He also highlighted the 2015 Paris Agreement as a step forward and advocated for citizens to push for "even more ambitious goals."

Pope Francis even suggested that caring for the planet should be added to the seven Corporal Works of Mercy, which would put taking care of the Earth on the same level as charitable actions like feeding the hungry and giving alms to the poor.

It's tremendous to see this marriage of mercy, responsibility, and environmental stewardship broadcast to such a large audience.

After all, there are more than a billion Catholics in the world.

Although maybe we shouldn't betoo surprised that the pope's so concerned with the environment. After all, he did take his papal name from St. Francis of Assisi. And while the pope said it was because of St. Francis' care of the poor, St. Francis does just so happen to be the patron saint of animals and ecology, too. Just saying.