Yet one more phrase we’re seeing more of lately is the “lesser of two evils” principle – the philosophy that says when faced with two wicked choices, we’re to choose the least wicked of the bunch.
Not to be confused with this classic maxim is a “Hobson’s Choice” – which is a “choice” of taking something or nothing at all. That term sprung up in the middle of the 17th century when Thomas Hobson, a British liveryman, insisted his customers “choose” the horse nearest to the barn door.
Of course, when it comes to navigating a political system dominated by two major parties, one of whose candidates in an election is going to be the ultimate winner, some might argue voters are faced with a choice that is both the lesser of two evils and a Hobson’s option.
Since we know the more things change, the more they remain the same, it won’t surprise you that even Aristotle confronted the conundrum of less-than-ideal choices. Here is how he squared it:
“For the lesser evil can be seen in comparison with the greater evil as a good, since this lesser evil is preferable to the greater one, and whatever preferable is good,” wrote the Greek philosopher.
Yet, from a Christian perspective, can we ever justify choosing any evil at all?
At this point, it might be helpful to clarify what is meant by evil. Merriam-Webster defines it as meaning “morally reprehensible, sinful, and wicked.” That can complicate things a bit for believers since we acknowledge everyone, even Christians, are sinners. Plus, even saved individuals don’t measure up. The apostle Paul wrote to the Church at Rome, “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23).
Moral evil, though, is behavior that dramatically contradicts God’s Word and wishes. It blatantly opposes Him. It’s heinous and destructive.
So, when people talk about choosing “the lesser of two evils” in an election year, they may or not be referring to moral evil. Instead, it’s possible they’re using it more loosely – or not. It’s a given that any man or woman running for office is sinful, but whether they and/or their policies are evil is a different standard.
There is no question that many of the hot button issues debated are moral in nature. Abortion is an evil act. So is the sexual mutilation of a child. The propagation of sexual confusion is wreaking incalculable damage in today’s culture. The usurpation of God-ordained parental authority is another manifestation of evil.
Christians must consider both a candidate’s character and positions on these moral issues. From a literal biblical standpoint, followers of Jesus Christ should not be voting for politicians who promote or codify policies that are morally evil.
In the end, the realm of politics has long been the realm of strategic compromise. That said, Christians must pray, search their conscience and act accordingly and then take heart and hope in God’s sovereign will. Nothing happens without His permission, even political elections.
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