Who do we really want to be?
While I’ve written quite a bit about the 2016 election, with only days to go, I feel like I haven’t been completely honest about how I truly feel about what this, the most contentious election in my lifetime, means for America, and could mean for the world.
Since the beginning, Donald Trump has been a loud-mouthed, lying, crude rude dude. He is definitely not the kind of person we should want as the next President of the United States. According to him, of course, he has the “best personality” and the “best temperament,” but anyone with half a brain can quite easily see that this isn’t true. Yes, he’s been (mostly) successful as a businessman. Yes, he’s been successful as a reality TV star. But while it would be nice to have a successful businessman in office – one who understands how free market capitalism is supposed to work – that in and of itself does not qualify anyone for public office, especially the office of President of the United States.
As for Hillary Clinton, I have often wondered why she is still relevant in the Democrat Party at all. Her entire political career has been defined by one scandal after another. She’s like that employee whose resume looks amazing, and she on a good day, she gives a good interview, but then she turns out to be incredibly incompetent, screws everything up, and then tries to blame all her failures on someone else. And now, despite being shackled with a record of exceptional levels of failure and corruption (and, according to the latest from WikiLeaks, a smattering of Satan worship sprinkled in just for good measure), she is the Democrats’ presidential nominee.
Why these two? The American political scene, all across the nation, is tearing itself apart. Relationships have been broken, the vitriol keeps on mounting. It just seems to get worse and worse the closer we get to election day.
Third-parties offer no refuge
And it gets even better once you realize that even the third-party candidates are no refuge. They all stink this time around.
While everyone goes apoplectic over Trump vs. Hillary, it all just makes me wonder, “Why?”
Why so much passion and energy wasted over two of the worst candidates in modern history? It’s become so bizarrely consuming that it’s difficult to get real news in the U.S. Seems like it’s all election coverage, all the time.
But when it gets right down to it, all of the blustering about how this is “the most important election of our lifetime” is just that: bluster. It doesn’t actually mean anything substantive. Until this election, the previous election was “the most important election of our lifetime.” The next election will, yet again, be “the most important election of our lifetime.” This type of hyperbole seems to be fairly effective at getting people riled up, but when we’re getting riled up over what, in the political realm, amounts to two piles of steaming excrement, it pays to step back and ask: “What in the world are we doing to ourselves?!?”
As a conservative, formerly a stalwart Republican, I am told with some frequency that by refusing to vote for Donald Trump, I am, in fact, voting for Hillary Clinton. It doesn’t seem to matter how much I agree with other conservatives/Republicans on the horrendous levels of corruption the Clintons have been involved in over the years. By refusing to toe the GOP party line, I have made myself the enemy. Over the past few months, I have been called various names.
But for me, the coup de gras, and the motivator for my finally putting this to paper, was when a friend from high school wrote a post on social media basically saying that if you aren’t voting for Trump in order to stop Hillary from becoming president, you’re siding with Satan.
This is a person that I like and respect, and one of my goals is to like and respect him after this election is over, no matter the outcome. But I’ve already had to ‘unfriend’ a few people I like and respect due to their constant vitriol over my continued insistence that both major candidates stink. People seem to have so fixated on the idea that they MUST support one bad candidate in order to stop the other bad candidate that they can no longer see their candidate is bad – in the relative world of politics, apparently, the other guy’s badness makes your guy good, no matter how bad he or she truly is.
For a while now, this election cycle has reminded me of certain periods in the Old Testament. The people of Israel had a covenant with God that dated back to Abraham. God had led them out of Egypt. They had crossed the Red Sea on dry land, and had seen Pharaoh’s army drown behind them. But when Moses went up on the mountain to speak with God, he took just a little bit too long, and the people went astray. They created their own god, and proceeded to worship it.
Manna from Heaven
It wasn’t much different after they finally made it to the Promised Land. Now, these were people who had been fed by God himself with Manna from Heaven. He had led them with a pillar of cloud by day, and a pillar of fire by night. He had stopped the flow of the Jordan River and allowed them to cross. He had caused the walls of Jericho to come tumbling down at the sound of rams’ horns and the shouts of His people.
But even with this rich history of God’s might and miracles, the Israelites struggled to stay faithful to God. It seemed that they were always looking to the ways of the world around them. It seems that they were constantly falling away from God to worship Asherah (a fertility goddess whose worship included the celebration of sex), and Baal, an Egyptian/Canaanite god. Throughout the Old Testament, it seems that His Chosen People went through phases: they turned to God, but as things went well for them, they turned away from Him and conformed to the ways of the surrounding nations. As they turned away from God, things went badly for them, and they ended up turning back to Him, and He rescued them.
I can only imagine the vitriol in ancient Israel:
“A vote for any god but Baal is a vote for Asherah!”
“A vote for any god but Asherah is a vote for Baal!”
Finally, the people of Israel had had enough. It wasn’t enough to temporarily take on the gods of the surrounding nations until things went bad for them; they wanted to be like those surrounding nations. They wanted to be a true political power in the region; to flex their muscles and see the neighboring nations cower.
They wanted a king.
Samuel, the prophet of God, had rescued Israel from the Philistines, and had basically kept the nation in line with God for many years, but after a while, the people of Israel decided that Samuel was too old to lead them. They wanted a king – they wanted to be like all of the other nations around them. They wanted to see what real political power was like.
“Listen to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them. Just as they have done to me, from the day I brought them up out of Egypt to this day, forsaking me and serving other gods, so also they are doing to you. Now then, listen to their voice; only—you shall solemnly warn them, and show them the ways of the king who shall reign over them.”
-1 Samuel 8:7-9
Every time I read this, I am dumbfounded. The people of Israel would have had an oral history that told of the great miracles God had done for them. They were being led by God himself, through the prophet Samuel, who made a circuit of the tribes of Israel every year (1 Samuel 7:15-17). Yet still, the people of Israel rejected God, because they wanted to be like the rest of the world.
This seems to be how it is for Republicans – while they have spent many years claiming to stand up for virtue, saying that “character matters,” now, all of a sudden, character doesn’t matter so much as it used to. What do things like ‘virtue’ or ‘principles’ matter if they don’t win elections? WINNING is what matters. Everything else can be set aside.
Eventually, the people of Israel turned had turned away from God so many times that their eventual return to God was more ceremonial than anything else – even their revivals lacked authenticity; they were just going through the motions, waiting for the next orgy to worship some foreign god. And finally, God allowed the nation of Israel to be destroyed.
That is how it feels with America these days. We have reached a point where even many of our churches don’t recognize God’s sovereignty. Christians claim that God is on our side, even as they actively reject him in their daily lives.
Throughout the Bible, God has been less concerned with the current political scene than he has been with the hearts of individual human beings. Ancestry doesn’t matter (Matthew 3:9). Rituals don’t matter (Mark 12:28-34).
In my mind, the real question is this: Why does it matter whether I choose Trump, or Clinton, or Johnson, or Stein, or McMullin? We seem much more concerned with claiming that God is on our side than we are of ensuring that we are on His side. We are so concerned with maintaining our own well-being that we have forgotten that Jesus did not “come to bring peace, but a sword,” (Matthew 10:34). If we truly stand for God, we will be rejected by the world. And while Christians in the Western world seem intent on bending God to their own definition of morality, God “is the same yesterday and today and forever,” (Hebrews 13:8).
As Christians in the modern world, we have taken our eye off of the ball. Like the Israelites of old, we look to worldly leaders to save us, when we should be looking to God. We point at the other guy’s candidate, expounding on the speck in his eye, rather than looking to the log in our own eye (Luke 6:41). We have set our hearts on earthly things, and not on things above (Colossians 3:1-4).
Christians in America should take a good, hard look at what it is we are supporting when we choose to back a Republican – any Republican – because we consider the other side of the political aisle to be that much worse. When I read through the Scriptures, Jesus never seems to be all that concerned with worldly governments. “People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
The freedom and security that we have enjoyed as Americans will be fleeting. While we should try to keep it, there is nothing we can do to stop its downfall, because men will always fail us. No matter how bad Hillary Clinton may seem, Donald Trump will not save our nation. No matter how bad Donald Trump may seem, Hillary Clinton will not save our nation.
Only God can save us, and He is less concerned about the collective nation as a whole as He is with what is in your heart, right now. Stop looking at the macro. Look inside yourself. Look to Him. Pray for the Peace that passes all understanding. Don’t let 2016 tear us apart. If each of us, today, sets petty politics aside and decides to work for the Eternal Kingdom, maybe then we can make a real difference. But as long as we focus on Us vs. Them, we are no better than the Israelites of old, focusing on the wrong thing because we want to be just like the other guy.