What can we learn from the 2016 Presidential election?
By the time this is published, we theoretically should know who our next president will be. Your candidate won, your candidate lost, you didn’t vote, you wrote in Chuck Norris - regardless, as a nation we have a great deal to learn from the last 12 months. Never before has there been an election so filled with cringe-worthy rhetoric from almost every angle. How did we get to the point where these were our best options? It seems almost laughable or terrifying depending on how you look at it. I wanted to pause from my current mini series about worship and prayer to share some thoughts on the election. My intention is to explore the question, “What can we learn from the 2016 Presidential election?”
First, we have learned that we are a divided nation. How divided we are is open to interpretation, but the elective process has revealed a stark division. For me, the most striking thing of the never-ending campaign season was not our candidates, but the abhorrent hatred that individual supporters seemed to have for others on the other side of the fence. Facebook and other forms of social media have become a minefield for venomous pontification. Whether discussing issues of politics, racism, social struggles, or any number of modern day issues, it seems as though we have lost our capacity to have an intelligent, adult conversation. The internet has granted us anonymity and distance, which has degraded many of our communicative skills into that of a troglodyte.
Second, in our own insecurities, we lash out at other people. Last week, the Herald published an article that I wrote answering the question, “What is worship?” Within that article, I discussed how, for good or for bad, the things that we worship transform us. From a Christian perspective, we either worship God or we worship idols. The impact of idolatry is almost always demonizing other things. For example, if you idolize your race, you will demonize other races. If you idolize your country, you will demonize other countries. If you idolize your political ideology, you will demonize everyone who disagrees with you. This process of demonizing leads to a dehumanization. Those who disagree with us become, somehow, subhuman. Behaviors that would be unacceptable toward someone within our camp suddenly are fully encouraged and even justified. This is just one of the nasty side effects of idolatry. As I have observed it, the idolatry and dehumanization from every corner (every corner, not just Republicans and Democrats) was loud and apparent this season. We are a divided nation because we are a confused bunch of people, and, as such, we build for ourselves towers made of cards from which we wage war against one another - desperate to defend our own crumbling kingdoms.
This leads to the third observation: as fallen people, we tend to put our hope in fallen people. About a month ago, I preached about a book in the Old Testament called the Book of Judges (you can listen online if you are so inclined). Judges describes the early tribal leadership that was prevalent in the fledgling nation of Israel before the monarchy came to be. Many people grew up hearing about Samson and Gideon as Old Testament heroes, but I explained how these men and women were simply shadows of true leadership. Israel continually put their hope in temporary, sinful saviors rather than in the God who created them. I explained how one of the applications of the narrative was the reality that, at the end of the day, there is no true human savior in whom we should place the entirety of our hope. We need more, much more, than the vacant promises that are offered on campaign trails - promises that so many people fall for hook, line, and sinker.
These observations listed above, however, are not the real problem. If our actions and words are the rotten fruit falling off of the tree, then the problem is much deeper. We need to get to the root of the issue, and the root is this: idolatry. We don’t worship God in Spirit and in Truth, which the Bible teaches is the only way to actually worship God. Because we don’t worship God, we turn to broken people for our hope. Because we turn to broken people for our hope, we - as broken people - have much skin in the game. Because we have much at stake, we lash out like a cornered animal at anyone and everyone who disagrees with us. Because we lash out individually, collectively, we are divided as a nation.
What can we learn from this election? Ultimately, we need to change where we place our hope. Your candidate, whether he or she won or lost, won’t be the hero you may have been hoping for because the reality is that they are broken people too - just like you and me. A personal and corporate need for repentance - to stop running from God and instead turn to him - is, ultimately, what we can learn from the 2016 Presidential election. Trust in God. Place your hope in him. Everything else is cloud and shade slowly fading away.