I’m a humble pastor with a far more important message to communicate, so this doesn’t come easily to me. At the risk of sounding presumptuous and with the goading of some of the precious folks I’m blessed to serve, I’m gonna chime in on the long national nightmare that is this presidential election. In a word (and with apologies to the fictional Marty Huggins)…”It’s a mess!” That being said, it’s not the looming apocalypse that so many well meaning folk seem to believe. Is it important? Of course. Does it matter who wins the presidency next Tuesday? Of course. Is our future as a free and open republic in danger if we pick wrong? Of course not – at least not any more than many other previous elections. We’ve elected adulterers, murderers, coopted deists, drunken has-beens, and an assortment of scoundrels and cads throughout the illustrious history of our democracy, and yet here we stand (apparently ready to do it again).
If there’s any lesson to take from this maelstrom, it’s the glaring need to revisit the education of the next generation in civics and history. The adage that choices have consequences has rarely been better proven than in this current election season. Two generations ago our nation made a conscious choice to augment the traditional role of education with what can only be described as ‘formation’ – public schools became a laboratory for social engineering, complete with indoctrination in subjective truth and situational ethics. The church answered with a collective yawn. Whether intentional or not, by institutionalizing the impartation of values, morals, and ethics in the classroom rather than in the home, a communal and decidedly secular uber-ethos began to emerge. We have, as a people, moved from the traditional understanding of an individual and personal accountability for the pursuit and apprehension of actual truth toward a socially acceptable removal of those distinctions just short of any actual individuality. Like the RMS Titanic whose watertight bulkheads reached only up past what was thought to be the farthest flooding could possibly reach, we have, as a people, removed the safety of consenting absolute individuality in favor of allowing distinctions without any true differences. Diversity as strength became the catch phrase for the attempt to satisfy the self interested masses who considered themselves hyphenated Americans rather than part of a patriotic, distinctive whole, and in the offing our nation became more compartmentalized, less certain, and less secure. When an avuncular New England curmudgeon came on the scene this go round spouting what would have been laughed off the stage a generation earlier as disproven socialist drivel, the youth of this generation flocked to him in droves. What matters these days seems to be the corporate welfare — what happens on the visible upper-decks of my previous metaphor – rather than the sooty drudgery of what actually makes the engine work.
Opportunity for unfettered self-expression and unquestioned acceptance into the cultural identity of our nation trumps the defense of actual objective truth and righteous boundaries (in politics and in the church, it seems). In the mix, Christians (and all religions for that matter) are pressured into compromises that are diametrically opposed to the fundamental reason for their existence, and the attempt is to either marginalize their influence or co-opt their message to one ‘side’ or the other in the fight for supremacy of the ultimate secularized ideal. In such a society, the ultimate offense is to infringe on another person’s ‘license’ to do anything deemed central to one’s own perceived and professed identity, independent of an appeal to the now passe’ ‘objective truth’. After all, democracy means absolute freedom to live a life with minimal consequences and maximized opportunity to follow the dictates of one’s own ‘heart’, right?
Therein lies the rub, and the reason our republic has worked so dependably over the centuries – checks and balances. What used to be taught in the schools as built-in safeguards against a fundamentally obvious shortcoming in self-governance (the propensity for man to elevate rights over righteousness) has come under attack cyclically throughout our history, but the system has proven resilient and will continue to do so. Those checks and balances are rooted in the Christian understanding from Jeremiah 17:9 that “…The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” It is that tenet at the bedrock of our democracy that has continually come under attack and must be intentionally addressed in the only redemptive way available to man if we are to provide ultimate liberty to the citizenry, and the founders of our nation understood that premise well. That is why from the beginning the church’s message was given sturdy protection (along with every other religious message, no matter how aberrant in comparison) in the very first amendment to our constitution, and why we must continue to keep our eye on the ball these centuries later. The church simply MUST NOT follow the inclinations of the flesh and soil it’s influence in the vagueries of supporting one political candidate over another based on incomplete and filtered information. The influence of our message, though tarnished by the misconduct of it’s messengers throughout time, has stood and must continue to stand as a bulwark against the machinations of the human heart and the tides of social or political opinion. When we become a tool of political expedience for either ‘side’, we lose our legitimacy as a voice much as the once great German church did to the Nazi juggernaut.
The moral high ground is not a retreat from the issues of the day – on the contrary, it is the only place from which a redemptive message can be made available to people of both sides…all sides… of political and social disagreement. The world desperately needs fewer Chamberlains and more Bonhoeffers. Preserving the voice of the Supreme Court from liberalizing influence is a noble goal, but it should never be mistaken for the ultimate responsibility to maintain the voice of the Body of Christ.
VOTE! by all means inform yourself and vote. It’s the responsibility of every citizen to participate in the society in which they find themselves. Whether it’s the ‘vote’ of a lone protester facing down a column of type 59 Chinese tanks in Tiananmen square, or the ‘vote’ of an Annie Lee Cooper in Selma, the hunger strikes of a Bobby Sands in Northern Ireland or the quiet non-violence of an Indian South African lawyer, our voices should be included in the political conversation for the betterment of our neighbors and our nation. It is, however, absolutely essential that, should the Lord tarry until November 9th, we not find ourselves in the position of having squandered the legitimacy of our message in the eyes of half our countrymen and severely hampered the main thing for which we’ll be held to eternal account…what we have done with the blood of Jesus.
Ours is an inspired form of government – unique in the history of civilization as a matter of fact – and will survive this season of political uncertainty as surely as we survived the Civil War, presidential assassinations, generational corruption, and outright sedition in the past, as long as we remember to do our job while the hustings continue to hum.
In conclusion (with apologies for the length), America will be alright as long as the Body of Christ in America doesn’t abdicate it’s scripturally mandated and constitutionally protected role in preservation of that democracy – that of lifting up the message of redemption in Christ, forgiveness, and restoration for all who ask in faith. The call to righteousness must NOT be set aside in favor of the vanity of political acceptance and influence, and the church MUST continue to be the original voice to ‘speak truth to power’. My 2.5cents worth….blessings!!