John Piper has been raising eyebrows this week. In an article, he argued that pride in a presidential candidate is as dangerous and likely to cause death as having a president with a liberal attitude to abortion laws. The surprising thing is that this in effect puts him at odds with his generation and his theological constituency. It also seems to be counter intuitive. Surely we should be more concerned about what a President will actually do than how they come across and the hubris they show. Surely, it is more important for America that socially conservative justices are appointed to the US Supreme Court than that Christians are comfortable with the morality and character of the leader of the Free World.
However, I think Piper is right, not just in terms of where his logic clearly takes him but in the logic itself. He is right because he is telling us what God’s Word tells us and then insisting that our assumptions line up with it rather than the other way round. Scripture is clear that God looks at the heart of leaders and that our heart attitudes of pride, bitterness and hatred are as much killers as physical violence. Piper has really just reminded us of the Sermon on the Mount.
General Elections and Presidential campaigns are not single issue referenda. Furthermore, as well as other issues being at stake, there are other means to dealing with those issues. In the US, this means “who controls Congress and The Senate matters as much as who is in The White House.
However, the character of the President matters because that will shape his agenda. If either candidate becomes captivated by narcissistic pride then actually, it matters very little what policy commitments they have made. They cannot be trusted to follow through in them. Pride risks conflict whether because it results in uprisings on your own streets or because it enflames conflict abroad. Egotism will lead to policies being pursued that benefit a few powerful people at the expense of the vulnerable.
Furthermore, the character of a leader will seep into the country’s culture. Elect a humble, generous minded president and you are more likely to see a humble and generous culture. The reverse is also true. Leaders as much as anything set the tone.
Like Piper, I am not going to tell people how to vote. I only know a few Americans anyway. I don’t have a vote in this election so I can’t even tell you how I will vote. Though I would remind you, if you are voting, that the rest of us do have an interest in who you chose. However, like Piper I want to encourage you to think deeply about the decision you make and who you ask to represent you.