During the 2016 Presidential primary season it has become clear that the American electorate is fed up with government that doesn’t work, with insiders that do not respond, and with processes that self-perpetuate but fail to provide workable solutions to ongoing challenges facing us all. As a result, we have entered a season when outsiders have an advantage over insiders. None of the candidates, whatever their party, would claim to be establishment people or campaign on the strength of years of involvement in the current government, and those with experience are eager to show they would lead in strikingly different ways than the current status quo.
Hence on the Republican side is a candidate who has no experience in any government or political work, but is a multi-national, entrepreneurial business leader. He has no experience in governing but that is perceived wildly to his advantage. On the Democratic side is a candidate who has plenty of experience in political office but whose vision of government is to the far left, aptly called socialist in leaning, and for that very reason is capturing the imagination of many new and young voters. In both cases, the “outsider” commands growing, magnetic attraction to growing numbers of people.
I do not know whether either of these will prevail to secure their party’s nomination, and should they, whether one of them will win. But both are connecting with fears, angst, anger and outrage, frustration, and even desperation that “feels” almost primal. I am particularly fascinated and shocked over reports of a huge segment of so-called “evangelical” voters whose support is undeterred, to the contrary boosted, by some of the most outrageous behavior, language and proposals being made. I mean things like the prospect of rounding up Muslim people and … what? I refer to: plans to deal with immigration by building a wall that Mexico will supposedly fund; endorsing the use of torture, and doing so with pride as though it would be a return to jettisoned American values; engaging in invasive monitoring of cell and computer use to check for chatter that might be “useful;” preemptive military strikes of suspected terrorist agents or cells; referring to people in demeaning and dehumanizing words and ways; encouraging our citizens to arm themselves with even more guns; and the list goes on—all argued, ranted, and raved with multiple interruptions and shout-outs and shout-overs.
These positions are not really my primary point. Rather, that Bible-believing, born-again testifying, followers of Jesus would look past the rhetoric and manner, the outlandish and circus antics, as though they do not really see and hear, apparently to assuage the primal fear, anger and desperation surging within and among them.
Well, I have a better, simpler, more basic, not to mention more biblical, way to commend. When you are angry, or outraged, do not allow the evil one a foothold. You know deep down that this can, and often does happen. Be angry but do not sin. Recognize the fear and resulting fretful responses as anxiety and worry. Then, “do not fret,” “don’t give in to your anxiety,” as though you are without recourse and resource.
When you feel violated by outrageous goings-on of whatever nature in the environment around us, and most of us do to some extent, what we feel is just that a feeling—of outrage or frustration or anxiety or fear. I do not mean to minimize by saying “just a feeling,” but to name the reality. When you hear about terror threats or attacks, the hearing of the report creates a reaction and a feeling. This is especially the case when talking heads all around us are quick not only to report but then to interpret what has happened, and tell us how we ought to react. But the feeling we have is a feeling.
Surely the One we follow can help us, and wants to help us with that feeling and all the others. Surely, our desperation for someone from the outside to upset the status quo in good and positive ways is not to be found among those standing for election. Rather, that One has already come, and has remained, and chooses to embody his presence in a people, who are defined and qualified in their totality not by shifting winds, political, social, cultural or whatever, but by grace and truth, steadfast love, and the glory he reveals by his Spirit.
Surely, the One we confess has perspective on all of our lives, including how we respond when we feel this way or that. Candidates and talking heads, which sadly includes some Christians with high visibility, as well as some with high visibility who are not Christian, are no more qualified to tell us how to live, feel, respond, choose in these times than the degree to which what they say and how they say it corresponds to the person, teachings and ways of the One we follow. Let me say it another way, people who talk trash, slander others, shout more than they reason, use language that is demeaning and defaming, who are careless with the facts, who propose tactics and strategies that are contrary to the example of Jesus, who scare you, who promise things that not even Jesus promised (such as the possibility of a care-free life, or the security of a system that will guarantee all your needs, or the wisdom and power to kill all who oppose us, or the ability to wall off us from them, or …)—people who say and do such things in such ways simply fail to correspond to the person, teachings and ways of the One we follow. I am not suggesting they are not perfect or they have weaknesses or foibles—that goes without saying, I am suggesting that from all angles they look and sound and feel dangerously different from the One we follow, even if they profess or claim otherwise.
Therefore, as I often urge, by all means listen and consider and counsel together with fellow-followers, and also reasonable and serious non-followers, and vote. But bear in mind: Your hope will be neither found nor fueled there. Your hope is in the Lord, the One you follow. He commanded wind and wave to be still, he invites us to share the yoke that truly liberates and is easy as we allow him to do the really heavy lifting. Then also, your vote should not be with expectation to “fix” whatever concerns us in a final way, but to bring people and systems into closer alignment with the ways of One who will bring all that the world needs in full and final ways. He—not the one we would elect—is the One we follow. We do the best we can in response to the choices before us, seeking the fullest conformity to the One we follow, and then we trust.