There are many people (particularly those of a Calvinist mindset) who dislike the idea of choosing between two (or more) evils. We have no choice in the matter, though. Since no one is perfect, by definition every option of human authority we have to choose from will be a choice between different mixtures of good and evil. Mankind chose at the beginning of human history, and has consistently chosen since then, that it does not want to be accountable to God’s standards. Even most people who consider themselves to be devout Christians shrink in horror from the biblical legal standard. Even those who consider themselves theonomists and claim to support God’s law shrink in horror from giving Sabbath rest to their employees, forgiving debts, and restoring property every 50 years to prevent the establishment from any permanent aristocracies. It scarcely matters whether our sins are personal or economic, any thought, conversation, or conduct that falls short of God’s perfect standard is evil, and as we all struggle (or fail to struggle) against some evil, no choice between options this side of paradise can avoid being a choice between the lesser of the evils.
Therefore, leaving aside the hope of a secular messiah, or a system of government that can get rid of all of our earthly flaws as people, an entirely vain and futile hope, we must simply deal with the imperfections within ourselves and in those around us. To say that we cannot make a choice between the lesser of the evils and then to support anyone for authority is to be a liar and a hypocrite given the fact that all sin and fall short of God’s glorious standard of perfection. If we claim that there are no choices that we can support because they cannot be distinguished, we admit that we lack moral discernment and the ability to weigh and balance between options, failing to meet our moral standard as people capable of judging the matters of this world in preparation to handle more serious matters in the world to come. If we claim that one or more options are unacceptable but that a different option is acceptable, then we are placing a standard by which we judge options and that we choose between those based on different criteria.
Often those criteria are man-made, often that each of us decide ourselves based on what we know to be true and what we believe to be true. Again, if we judge according to the biblical standard (assuming we know it, of course), all will fall short of that standard, but different people will fall short in different ways and degrees. Some will fail in justice, others in mercy. Some will fail in defending godly standards of personal morality, others will fail to defend justice and equity for the stranger, the orphan, the widow, and those who are poor and vulnerable. Some people will fail in terms of anarchy, and others will fail in terms of tyranny. When it comes time to make choices between options, we have no perfect options, and we may often feel that the choices we have our unacceptable. If that is the case, choosing between fascists and communists, we can simply refuse to choose, for not choosing is itself an option that claims that the options are unacceptable.
Unless we are searching for a platonic ideal (because granting legitimacy and requiring respect for any human authority in any institution requires a prudential concern for desiring the best option among alternatives, which means accepting the least of the evils that exist), we believe at least some leaders are acceptable, even given their flaws. And if we are displeased by our options at the end of an election cycle, we have to do better work either persuading others (rather than, say, insulting them) to our views, or better work at choosing between better options in a primary. And if we do not like the options that are available in a primary, we have to do a better job in other, lesser elections, to help better options receive the experience and seasoning that is required to be a good leader of men (and women).
In order for someone to be qualified to be a president, a successful nominee usually comes from the Senate or (more commonly) from some Governor’s mansion, unless they are a famous general from a successful conflict. Unless people come in having made a lot of money, it is most common for people to become Senators or Governors after having worked their way up lesser offices like state representative or as state cabinet officers. Local business leaders and active precinct officers tend to be considered as local leaders for those positions that tend to lead to increased visibility and responsibility, climbing the ladder to political success. Therefore, if we want better leaders, we need to pay attention to making sure there are ethical leaders in lesser positions who can rise to higher offices. If we feel so inclined, we may seek to eventually become such people ourselves, but at any rate, we have no right to complain about having poor choices if we have not done the work of supporting (or becoming) leaders capable of eventually rising to high office over time.
If all of this sounds like it is a long-term process, you would be right. It takes decades of public service for someone to be truly qualified for the office of President. It probably takes a decade of public service before someone is qualified for high office at all. That time cannot be rushed; it is unacceptable (and unbiblical) to select novices to high office because they will be puffed up and will be a prey to temptation. If we want a better society, it is going to have to take a lot of work and a lot of time, and it is going to start from the bottom up. It is going to take coalitions as well as patience and deep involvement. Many people would think such involvement an unacceptable level of engagement with the “world,” but again, if you are unhappy with the way the world is, the only way you make things better is by doing something about it.
That leads, of course, to dilemmas between what it means to be in the world but not of it. What does it mean to be of the world? Does that mean that any aspect of human behavior (like positions of authority) is a place where Christians are ‘off limits’ or does it simply mean that a Christian must act as a model of godly behavior in all aspects of human existence, whether the family, businesses, institutions, or civil service? It is a question of definition and interpretation, and whatever we believe we must be consistent with those beliefs, in the knowledge that we are ultimately accountable to God for what we believe. But in order to have the credibility to show dissatisfaction with the status quo, we must accept our responsibility in doing something about it, and that requires involvement, weighing and balancing options, and a long-term view in helping nurture godly leadership within the political sphere. Things are as bad as they are because we have not done a good job ourselves in developing leaders and holding them accountable to God’s whole standards. And we have no one to blame for that other than ourselves.