The current presidential election contest is disturbing on a number of different levels. As far as I am concerned both of the candidates from the leading parties are profoundly disappointing irrespective of their political philosophies. Granted, with the proliferation of all kinds of media one can find “evidence” of just about any judgment already made. I put “evidence” in quotes because often what passes for evidence is imaginative speculation based on very sparse facts. That said, there seem to be enough substantive facts to show that both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are not the caliber of person I want leading my country. As some have noted, 320 million people in this country and they are the best we can do?
As a follower of Christ there are several things I want to say to those who claim the same. The first is that the United States of America is not a nation ruled by Biblical law and values. Though we have been closer to that in the past then we are now, we were never fully there as evidenced by the compromise built into the constitution to accommodate slavery and the political disenfranchisement of women. While a number of the founding fathers were indeed followers of Christ others were deists. Please don’t misunderstand, I believe the foundations of our government are as good as it gets. But perfect? No.
Let us settle once and for all that Christian hegemony is a thing of the past in America. It is not my purpose to debate the good or ill of that here (by the way I think there are arguments on both side of that ledger) but rather to urge us a Jesus’ followers to accept the political and social reality in which we live and stop longing for a return to the past. Deeply engrained in the Biblical message is that we are all moving toward a redemptive fulfillment of God’s intent with His creation. Let us hold fast to the faith, not Christian hegemony. Paul wrote that all things work together for good for those who love the Lord and are called according to His purpose. Does that stop being true because Donald or Hillary become president? If so then it is a very shallow promise indeed.
For as long as I can remember there have been the rumors about behind the scenes confessions and professions of faith that we’re going to make all the difference in the soon to be elected president. I have heard of prayer meetings, anointings, prophecies, and more. I am not even questioning that they really happened, but the fact that we so badly want them to be true says we are putting much more hope in the human purveyor of power than in the true source of all power over all, God. This ties into the point made in the previous paragraph. We don’t need a “Christianized” Donald or Hillary. They are what they are. God can work with either of them and as far as I can tell has quite a bit of work to do with either. My hope and faith is that He will, just in the same way that I have hope and faith that He is still working in me and you. No one is out of the reach of God’s hand. But let’s not make their conversion the source of our hope.
Right now, I trust you are not seeing what I am writing as fatalistic and without hope. I have a great deal of hope indeed, but let’s place it in the right place and not in a crumbling, ineffective political system. I am also not advocating that we give up on that system, but work for its betterment in every way that we can. We should be doing that in every system of which we are a part whether it be our neighborhoods, our places of employment or the civil government of the communities and country in which we live.
My thoughts are drawn to the book of Daniel in the Old Testament. It bears reminding ourselves of the context for this book. The nation of Israel had been conquered and taken into captivity by the Babylonians. That, in and of itself, was pretty bad. But this was a crushing psychological blow to the people of Israel because they were convinced that they were God’s chosen people and that something like Babylon could never happen to them. Daniel was a child of one of the leaders of Israel and very likely saw his parents killed along with most of the other ruling families of Israel. Recognizing something about him, he and three of his other Jewish teenaged captives were selected to serve in the king’s court. As the story unfolds we find Daniel time and again both serving the ungodly Nebuchadnezzar and finding favor with him. If you think Donald and Hillary are bad neither can hold a candle to Nebuchadnezzar. He had raw power with complete human authority and was completely above any limitations on the use of that power. In addition he was a massive megalomaniac going so far as to make a statue of himself that he required all in the land to worship. Take the worst things you have heard about Hillary and Donald and they all and more roll up into the reality of Nebuchadnezzar.
The drama hits a high pace in the third chapter of Daniel. Nebuchadnezzar made a stature that was about 90 feet tall and made of gold. Whenever the bell sounded every one was required to bow down and worship the image. Failure to do so was punishable by death resulting from being thrown into a fiery furnace. Daniel’s friends did not, were maliciously accused, enraged Nebuchadnezzar, were thrown into the fire and survived unscathed. We have all heard the story many times. I think that was the beginning of Nebuchadnezzar coming unhinged.
The next chapter is him relating his own story of having a disturbing dream which Daniel interpreted. The long and short of it was that because he had grown so full of himself he was going to go stark raving mad for seven seasons living like an animal out in the wild. And what was the purpose? “…till you know that the Most high rules the kingdom of men and gives it to whom he will.” (chapter 4, verse 25). This same phrase is repeated again in verse 32. The same phrase shows up again in another context in the next chapter in the 21st verse.
So this is where I am landing with the upcoming election.
Vote and participate in the election. Vote for Hillary, vote for Donald or for one of the off candidates. Make you best choice and vote accordingly. Voting is your responsibility as one of the stewards of American democracy. Do not bail out on the process.
Vote for congressional candidates and your local candidates as well. Talk to them if possible and get engaged to whatever level you can. It is your responsibility as a steward of American democracy.
Don’t put your faith in the political process. Jesus eschewed both political and ecclesiastical power. If we are His followers that should be a challenge to us. There are those who are called to serve in both those realms but neither have been pathways to the peace of God that passes all understanding.
If you call yourself a person of faith, then be one. Have faith in the one who is faithful. And add to that faith good works. Find the sphere in which you can bring love, life and service to others. Let there be a groundswell of people acting as Jesus Christ acted in caring for those around them. Work to redeem the system but don’t let the corruption of the system keep you from being redemptive in every possible human encounter, because that is where the rubber truly meets the road.
One final thought for now. Instead of looking at all the gloom and doom in the media, look around you. What do you see. I see mostly people genuinely trying to do the right thing and caring about each other. I see people in the corporate world trying to be responsible and create a work culture that is better for the customer and for those doing the work. I see parents loving their kids and being good neighbors.
I know there are some who live in far more troubled environments than do I. But, I am convinced there are far more examples of people caring for each other than there are of those who do not. Let’s let our experience of reality be stronger than what we are told about reality.
Another final thought came to me. If we believe that God is watching over all, working in the midst of it all to bring about peace (shalom) the let us believe that He can stitch together every effort that any of us make to create a fabric that will bring about his canopy of love over every human being on this planet.
I believe, Lord, help my unbelief.