Of “Stolen Elections” and Christian Witness
A few weeks back, I surprised my wife with a trip to New Orleans, a trip made even more exciting by the arrival, from Colorado, of her sister and brother-in-law. The Big Easy was fun; been there now, done that, no need to really go back. I had engaged in this small conspiracy for a matter of weeks; when I say, “small”, the co-conspirators were Karen’s sister and myself, in the main (as in, the only people who might accidentally spill the beans in a conversation with her; she just doesn’t text or call Bill all that often, and the other few folks I had told were sufficiently removed from the situation such that I felt safe letting them in on the secret). As much as I was determined to keep things a secret–and I did succeed in the end–there were at least a couple of times over the course of a few weeks of suspense when I thought about saying something which would have given away the game, only to catch myself prior to opening my big mouth. Conspiracies are not easy things to pull off.
And this brings me to today’s topic, which is two-fold: one, despite the fact that, apparently, a significant percentage of my fellow Christians believe in some way that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen”, I not only do not believe that, but more importantly, I simply am literally unable to believe it; more on this later. Two, and even more importantly, I want to talk about the tremendous importance of loving God with our minds, what that entails (using this narrative to illustrate), and how believers in Jesus need to be careful thinkers if we would have a needy world take our witness for Jesus seriously.
It’s pretty easy to say, “the election was stolen”, particularly if you are a Republican. In fact, if the polling is accurate, a little shy of twice as many Republicans believe that Donald Trump won the election as believe Joe Biden did. Now to be sure, it’s likely that within this group, there is a range of belief levels, from those who say (and believe) so rather casually, to those who support insurrections against the Constitution in order to “stop the steal”. Nonetheless, to say, “I believe the election was stolen” will assumedly still get a person more approval points from GOP-types than saying the opposite.
Now, if this had no ramifications beyond this, though I would consider it misguided, I likely wouldn’t take the time to write this piece. But for the follower of Jesus, it doesn’t end here; rather, any time a follower of Jesus publicly professes to believe things which are not true, the testimony of Christ suffers a bit. And thus my concern: I wouldn’t be particularly bothered by this position–people take positions with which I disagree all the time, and many of them are “no skin off my nose”–were it not for what I believe to be the problem of giving scoffers just one more reason not to take Christian faith seriously.
Christianity is a historically-grounded faith. Despite those who would misrepresent the idea of “faith” as “believing without evidence” or even “believing despite evidence”, this is not at all the Bible’s picture of faith. A few weeks past Easter, the pinnacle event of the Christian religion, believers have only recently been reminded of this fact: if Jesus Christ did not literally, bodily rise from the grave after dying a brutal death, then Christianity is a phony faith and we are fools. There’s really no middle ground on this; our faith rises or falls on the historicity and truthfulness of the Bible’s claims. And the fact that Christianity is a historically-rooted faith, making claims to absolute truths, demands that we provide reasons to believe, intellectually-valid arguments that can stand up to close scrutiny. I am an evangelical Christian for just that reason: I believe that truth matters, and that the Bible is true.
This is why Christian apologetics is an important field, one highly-regarded by most evangelical believers. Prior to his spectacular fall and being exposed as a hypocrite, most evangelicals admired and trusted the work of Ravi Zacharias (and in fact, while I would no longer recommend them, the books he has written are filled with good arguments for the faith). William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, Greg Koukl, and many other evangelical thinkers are highly thought-of, precisely because they offer intellectually-robust arguments for faith. But here is the irony for me: there must be a reasonably-high percentage of professing evangelical Christians who believe in the importance of apologetics, on the one hand, and yet do not employ intellectual rigor in other areas of their lives, with the result being, I believe, harm done to Christian witness.
But I’ve already said that.
So with that as prologue, let me explain why I cannot believe that the election was “stolen”, and then wrap up by urging upon all of my readers a serious consideration of the questions I raise, not so I can win a few folks over to my way of thinking, but so I can encourage upon all my evangelical friends an approach to truth and faith that digs deeper than the surface, that concerns itself with following the truth wherever it might lead, and that ultimately offers to a lost world a credible witness for the gospel.
I go back to the beginning of this piece: conspiracies are hard, even when they only involve a couple of folks for a few weeks. And thus I say that not only am I not convinced by the “evidence” that has been brought forward attempting to prove a conspiracy to steal the election (I will spend only a few words on that alleged evidence), but given what a conspiracy to steal a presidential election would entail, I simply cannot believe that it could happen; I find this implausible to the point of being impossible.
Alleged problems with Dominion Voting Systems. Fishy-looking moves being made by poll workers. Witnesses being kept from watching the ballots being counted. Election officials lying. A math equation which proved the statistical impossibility of a Biden win. Low turnouts at Biden shindigs coupled with SRO crowds at MAGA rallies. Other things. These and more were alleged to prove that the rightful winner of the election was Donald Trump. We have now known for some time that so many of these allegations have been debunked by media sources spanning the political spectrum. We have seen the Trump legal team fail miserably to convince judges that there was something amiss (sure, some of the lawsuits were thrown out on procedural grounds, from lack of standing to the doctrine of laches, but in other cases, Trump’s own attorneys admitted that they couldn’t produce evidence to back up their claims). These things are established matters of fact, and while it would be incorrect to suggest that no election fraud took place–a little bit always does, whether intentional fraud or, often, unintentional–the evidence seems clear enough for those willing to see it.
The lack of convincing evidence is why I do not believe the election was stolen, but sixty years of living and observing human behavior lead me to the conclusion that I simply cannot believe that it was. And here is where I invite intellectually-honest readers to consider the following issues that must be faced and answered if one is to continue to hold to the stolen election narrative.
- First, consider the sheer magnitude of the conspiracy. The first damning reality involves the size and scope of the conspiracy necessary to actually steal an election. In a word, it would have to be massive. It would have to involve officials at various different levels, from both major political parties, and across many states (not only the six contested states which Trump lost, but likely also at least a couple of states (say, North Carolina and Florida, for instance) in which the conspiracy failed. It would involve people at the ground level of counting votes. It would involve election officials, both elected and appointed. It would involve judges. It would involve politicians at various levels, rising to governorships at the state level, as well as (likely) members of Congress. With his refusal to do what he could not constitutionally, was Mike Pence even somehow a participant in this conspiracy? It’s hard to estimate the sheer number of people that a conspiracy of this magnitude would have to entail, but it would have to be numbered in the hundreds, and possibly the thousands. Does it seem plausible to you that a conspiracy this large could have been put together and maintained (even until now? More on that later…).
- Further, there is the question of motive. Let’s take just one individual, the much-maligned Georgia Secretary of State, Brad Raffensperger. This man voted for Donald Trump, contributed to Trump’s campaign, and was vocally supportive, even following the certification of the election results, when he said that he wished the former president had won. Why would a man like Brad Raffensperger–a professing Christian with reported higher ambitions–sabotage his own party’s presidential election? Then ask the same question of every Republican partisan who was “in on it”.The question, then, is not only whether or not you consider it plausible that hundreds of GOP partisans would actively sabotage their own candidate, but why?
- Here’s another question about the scope of the conspiracy: when it was being constructed, was there 100% sign-on? In other words, did every single person (at whatever level, from either party) willingly agree to be in on the conspiracy? Is that plausible? Assumedly, we would all agree that this is not believable, and so we are left with the question: what about those (Republicans or Democrats) who refused to be involved in what would be, in many cases, felonies (with the promise of prison time)? Why have we heard from no person who was approached to be on the inside of the conspiracy, who refused? Is there any plausible explanation for this? Perhaps the organizers of this conspiracy offered prodigious sums of money to such folks, but the taking of this would be considered bribery and would surely result in prosecution if found out. Or perhaps the conspirators issued threats to each of these non-conspirators sufficient to secure their silence. Do you find it plausible that one of these explanations (or some other of which I haven’t thought) would suffice to silence every one of these individuals?
- Now consider the march of time. I write in late April; it has been nearly six months since the election, and who knows how many more months since the conception of this alleged conspiracy and the beginning of its implementation. During this time period, not one conspirator has had an attack of conscience and come clean about her role in the conspiracy. No conspirator has had a falling-out with the organizers and spilled the beans. Nobody has offered to turn state’s evidence in exchange for a reduced charge. There is no one who has written a book (a sure-fire best-seller, of course) with details from the inside of the conspiracy. None of the right-wing news outlets have found evidence such as I am suggesting here would be necessary. Charles Colson famously testified that it was the failure of the Watergate conspirators–a small band of conspirators sworn to secrecy, who would each pay a tremendous price if they squealed–to conceal their conspiracy more than a few weeks, that convinced him that the resurrection of Christ could not possibly have been a conspiracy concocted by zealous disciples, given that they each were martyred; no one knowingly gives their lives to protect a lie. Do you honestly find it plausible that there has been no crack in this vast, diverse conspiracy of hundreds, yea thousands, in this many months’ time?
- Then there is the dysfunctionality of Washington, our elected officials, and the system. As one commentator put it, no one who has spent any significant time in D.C., seeing and understanding how it works (or better put, doesn’t) would believe such a thing as a conspiracy of this magnitude possible.
- Finally, there is the overwhelming disbelief of the Republican congressional caucus. Yes, there are plenty of representatives who have offered varying degrees of defense of this “stolen election” narrative, but I have heard more than one Washington insider estimate that the number of Republican congresspeople who actually believe that the election was stolen–based upon private conversations–to be in the single digits, maybe up to a dozen. Granting that this is certainly a bit weaker point than most of the others, I put it last, but do you find it plausible that, if the overwhelming majority of Trump’s Congressional supporters disbelieve in this conspiracy, it is actually true?
As I said earlier, it’s relatively easy to claim to believe that the election was stolen, but in order to argue honestly for that premise, these questions (and likely some I failed to consider) must be answered, at least with a plausible possibility of how such things could take place. If someone has attempted this project, I am not aware of it; I would welcome the reader to direct me to such an attempt.
Fellow Christian, in one very real sense, I don’t care and it doesn’t matter what you believe about this subject; I accept people as brothers and sisters in Christ who believe all manner of things with which I disagree, sometimes vehemently and including this one. But I urge you, for the sake of the gospel, to love God with your mind, to be a rigorous thinker, to follow the truth where it leads, regardless of whose ox is gored thereby. It would seem to be the least we should do.