I’ve always admired William Wilberforce for a number of reasons. I think it was particularly impressive that he realized one could not change the law without also changing the hearts and minds of the people. The evil of the slave trade would continue under protection of the law until both the people’s opinions and the law was changed. It’s a principle that we would do well to take note of when it comes to American politics.
We’ve convinced ourselves that the most important event in American politics is choosing what amounts to the hood ornament on our car. The president can’t do that much without the approval of congress though. If he goes outside of the limited authority he’s assigned, then congress has plenty of options for dealing with that. If both congress and the president over-reach in the creation of an un-constitutional law, then the courts can nip that in the bud too. The problem is not that we’ve had bad presidents. (Well, it’s not only that we’ve had bad presidents…) The problem is that we have bad senators and representatives. We have bad judges. We have bad governors. We have bad representation in our state legislatures. You get the idea. The true brilliance of the American government system was the number of checks and balances in place to keep any single rouge element from derailing things too badly. This all breaks down though when faced with a population who are apathetic at best, and completely devoid of morals and ethics at worst. The people we choose to lead us, are a reflection of us. The government that we have today, is a reflection of the character of We the People.
It’s true, the choices before us in the presidential election are unbelievably bad. Why should we expect ethics and polite behavior from them though when we fail to expect it in ourselves?
I’m neither a Republican nor a Democrat, but I am going to take a minute to discuss the Republican candidate specifically because so many Christians have thrown their support behind him. Is Trump different from the typical Republican fare? Somewhat. Is he better? Not at all. For one thing, his business practices do not speak well of his character. Is he successful? Sure, but he hasn’t gotten there by being ethical. He has a reputation of being a bully, which is evident from the campaign coverage. He says things that are rude, vulgar, lewd, and completely unacceptable. You can argue that everyone talks like that, but it’s a flat-out lie. It doesn’t matter how many people speak that way in any case, it’s simply not acceptable. Ever. Some evangelical leaders have even been bold enough to insult our intelligence by trying to convince us that Mr. Trump is, in fact, a devoted follower of Christ. The hallmarks of the redeemed are repentance and a spirit of humility. I have yet to see any evidence of such attitudes from him. If he has experienced the life-changing grace of Jesus Christ, why is he more vocal about excusing his bad behavior than he is in proclaiming what God has done in his life?
Truth is, Donald Trump would fit in OK in an awful lot of churches in America. In our quest to become “relevant” in the current culture, we’ve lost anything that sets us apart. We seek edginess over holiness. We seek what benefits us personally over sacrifice and service to others. The hard reality is that the Republican candidates are a pretty good reflection of the church. I couldn’t understand why the church would continue to endorse terrible candidates year after year until I realized this. We have no one to blame but ourselves. We’ve gotten exactly what we deserve.
Our “lesser of two evils” voting strategy has brought us to this point. Stop justifying bad candidates and bad behavior. Refuse to be mean and nasty to people on social media just because you disagree with them. Quit thinking that only the president matters and get involved in politics on the municipal and state level. Live your life consistently even when it’s really hard — especially when it’s really hard! Things like faith and ethics mean little when they evaporate at the first sign of difficulty. Our kids are watching us. The behavior we model and the caliber of people we align ourselves with will speak far louder than the pithy platitudes we spout to them.
Sure, things do look pretty bad right now. Yet I’m not overcome with despair. There are local candidates who I’m happy to be voting for this year, even if there’s literally no one worth my vote at the federal level. Maybe I can help make things a little better in my community. Maybe change doesn’t come from a president, but rather from the people. If indeed the choices before us are what we deserve, let us repent and commit ourselves to being worthy of someone better four years from now. If the candidates are a reflection of us, then shall we humble ourselves before God and ask Him to make us more a reflection of Him? Imagine the change that could bring…