First, disclaimers. I know someone is going to tell me that missionaries shouldn't get political dirt on their hands by taking sides. However, the way I read the Bible, the prophets called into question the political leaders pretty frequently (see previous post).
Second, even though many of us are stunned and saddened by the South Carolina result, we should remember that 2/3 of even those that identify as republican and politically active enough to care about primaries still voted AGAINST Trump.
And third, this post isn't about Trump. It's about us.
Because I think the most disturbing thing going on in this season of rancor, accusation, posturing, consideration, shifting alliances, awakening opinions, is, at least for someone who is often outside, what it reveals about us as a nation. Why do we like a brash candidate, who is overconfident, a braggart, who promises we will all be winners with him? Why do we want to be inside a wall? To punish our neighbors economically to build it? Why do we want to trust someone because his main qualification is that he's rich? As I've thought about these questions and listened to what is being said, it seems to me that we want to define ourselves by being better than everyone else. We want to be stronger, wealthier, more intimidating, more secure. We want to be independent from, not interdependent with, with the rest of the globe. If our values can be summed up into one word, winning, then that clarifies a lot of the moral grey areas. It justifies our own lust for dominance and for comfort. In a year when we are pummeled by perceived terrorist risks, when we are strapped by financial anxiety, when we are confronted by racial tensions we'd rather pretend don't exist, and by strident voices deconstructing things like gender, well, a know-it-all no-holds-barred I'll-make-you-win attitude becomes appealing.
Appealing, but to the basest instincts of our nature.
Jesus dealt with the same crowd instincts. The people of Israel, like the people of America, saw themselves as special. Chosen. Blessed. Only their situation didn't quite fit their expectations of what God had promised them. So when the crowds began to sense that Jesus was the Messiah, they began to salivate over presumed perks that would soon come their way. They would be winners! They would defeat their enemies. They would be rich.
Only Jesus didn't quite go along with the program. He saw Israel's special role as not primarily being blessed, but being a conduit of blessing to all the nations. He refused to equate His Kingdom with any worldly one. Instead he said difficult things, like how he did not come to be served but to serve, and to lay down his life. He didn't seem to be creating a Christian Nation, but a movement of people who would embrace his values of being peacemakers, of comforting the suffering, of healing the sick and preaching the good news, to all the earth. He didn't abolish politics or militaries, but he admonished those involved to be honest, to serve their constituents, to remember the poor. He didn't promise to make any of us better than our neighbors, but enjoined us to use our gifts to bless each other.
So where does that leave us today? As Americans we can choose from any platform or system that restrains evil and promotes good. As a pluralistic society we will have to make some compromises along that way. But let's think twice, or a hundred times, and pray, about why we are voting for whom we choose. Is it to be winners? Or are there other values we might bring to the table, like justice, or love?
I'll end with two slightly random thoughts. First, a shout-out to a TV series we found in our library here (choices are pretty limited) and are totally enjoying. Foyle's War is a Masterpiece-Theatre type British drama set on the English coast during WW2, and each episode pits the perceptive and principled police detective against all the wrongs in society. He repeatedly chooses to do the right thing even at personal cost. That's leadership, and I'm not sure where we're seeing that today.
Second, being successful in business can happen for many reasons. It may mean a person is a competent manager. Or it may mean a person had a great inheritance, hired skilled advisors. Or it may mean someone cut corners, cheated, exploited workers, and destroyed the environment. Being successful in marriage might be a more robust measure of competence to lead a country.