Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Brief Post-Election Thoughts

Running up to this presidential election, I was struck by how many people - including both Democrats and Republicans - were basically in agreement with this apocalyptic proposition: "If my candidate does not win, the world will come to an end."  Some put matters like this: "The other candidate hates America, and if he wins, everything we value will crash and burn.  Our whole way of life will be thrown under the bus."  Now that we know the winner, some on the losing side continue to say the same things.  I note, for example, the rhetoric of "the day America died."  And then there's this title of an American Spectator essay: "Doomed Beyond All Hope of Redemption."

Many Christians are among those joining this chorus of hopelessness, doom, and gloom.  It's almost as if we've been deluded into believing that a mere mortal who gets elected into a particular position of power is somehow a Savior (or the Antichrist).  I don't deny that there are critical issues at stake in our political life.  Nor do I want to suggest that as Christians we should not act on our deepest values in the public square.  And I'm not saying that it doesn't matter who gets elected President.  But some of the hand-wringing, doom-and-gloom rhetoric has, quite frankly, struck me as idolatrous.

I'm reminded that many Christians have lived and practiced the faith under far more dire conditions than anything a Republican or a Democratic Presidential administration can dish out.  Indeed, many of them were imprisoned, tortured, and died for the faith.  And that tragic scenario continues to unfold in many parts of the world today (see, for example, the website The Voice of the Martyrs).  Even if one grants the argument that some conservative Christians today are making - that we'll see in the near future persecution and imprisonment for Christians who dare to publicly speak in favor of traditional biblical values against the current of "progressive" change - I'm not comfortable equating that possible scenario with what confessors and martyrs have and are experiencing.

Election day fell this year on the Feast Day of William Temple, the 98th Archbishop of Canterbury.  While taking another look at his life and legacy, I came across the following quote from a sermon he delivered at the Lambeth Conference in 1930.  It strikes me as appropriate for American Christians who may be tempted to take a turn to henotheism in the midst of our deeply polarized politics:

While we deliberate, he reigns; when we decide, he reigns; when we decide foolishly, he reigns; when we serve him in humble loyalty, he reigns; when we serve him self-assertively, he reigns; when we rebel and seek to withhold our service, he reigns - the Alpha and the Omega, which is, and which was, and which is to come, the Almighty.


Please note: ad hominem slams against Republicans, Democrats, or anyone else will not be published!


Tregonsee said...

Two comments. First, because both sides make similar remarks does not mean that both sides are equally deluded. There is an underlying reality.

Second, as you mentioned, Jesus said he would be with us always, not that things would always be pleasant.

Bryan Owen said...

Good points on both counts, Tregonsee.

Anonymous said...

I personally wasn't looking for a president-savior, but rather someone competent and who isn't interested in fundamentally transforming the country, but rather just presiding over it.

Eight years ago, when I still was in the TEC, our parish priest seriously believed George Bush would institute some sort of right wing theocratic government if he could. The priest obviously was spending way too many hours listening to DemocracyNow and reading the Theocracywatch website. Such views are laughable now. I guess if you get all your news from Fox, Drudge, and talk radio, you can be equally prone to believing equivalent nonsense on the right.

I hope all the hand-wringing about Obama wishing to transform American society into some secular left wing idea of a government run utopia is as much nonsense as George Bush's would be theocracy, but my gut is telling me that this probability is far higher. I doubt Obama would be able to accomplish such a transformation, but he can do a lot of damage that could take several generations to undo. He may only have four more years to go, but his upcoming Supreme Court picks could have twenty.