Back in August I offered up a prayer for God’s guidance in this election season, trusting that, whatever the results may be, it would all work toward God’s Kingdom. Specifically, I wrote:
I meant that prayer, but I don’t think I fully accepted at the time how real that possibility may be. What has occurred between then and now would have appeared totally improbable to me. The presidential candidates that presumably stand before us today leave us with the choice of a serial liar or a serial narcissist (which is which is immaterial as the two seem pretty interchangeable). How did we get to this place?
I am not a sociologist, so I can’t break down to you the entire history of how we got here or present an in-depth statistical analysis of this development. I will admit that figuring out “who dun it” is complex and that when you ask, “Which came first, the chicken or egg?” you can sometimes only answer “Yes”. However, I would like to say something.
Looking at the choices before us, it is very tempting to blame the political system and the politicians who inhabit it for the mess we are in. Honestly, I get it. Where I’m from, politicians are the butt of a not a too few jokes. But getting real (which is what I’m all about here), the problem is not the political system or the politicians. The real problem is…(drum roll)
Yes. You, me, Christians, non-Christians, all of us in this country, we are the problem. Part of our sickness is that we do not realize this. As Americans, we eat, drink, and sleep individualism. We believe that we stand on our own two feet, that my problems are my problems and that the problems that guy is having over there are his own problems. Our idea of community is proximity rather than relationships. We all live in a “community” but hardly know our neighbors. This rampant individualism has led us to depend far more greatly on our political system and our politicians to provide the solutions to our problems than in our communities.
What’s the problem with this?
Well, we have individualistic people looking to individualistic politicians to provide corporate leadership. Being good individualists, most of our politicians are primarily concerned with staying politicians.
How do they do this?
They try to please the individualistic American people. Now if you would, just imagine how impossible that would be. We have compounded individualism, self-promoting politicians listening to the loudest self-promoters. This opens up the floodgates for accusations of self-interest to be sent back and forth between Democrats and Republicans alike.
This election is our notice: “The cancer has spread.” One candidate goes wherever the wind blows and the other is the greatest of self-promoters. They are two sides of the same individualistic coin, which is why it can be hard to tell which side is heads and which side is tails. They are the culmination of our culture; tossing them out of the race would not come close to cutting the root.
One of the great American lies has been that democracy is the hope of the world. We have seen it fail elsewhere, and we are seeing it fray here. I would not dare say that our country was “Christian” in the sense that the Gospel informed all of our practices (I don’t need to recite our sins). However, I believe the Judeo-Christian value system has been largely responsible for the success of our democracy. The Christian faith has been very influential in our nation's life and the the ethic of caring for your neighbor as you care for yourself has had wide, if not slow, implications.
An important, if not partial, response that Christians must offer to our cancerous culture is a determination to become peacemakers and community builders within the culture. We have to get back to being salt & light. You're not being salty just because you hold counter-cultural opinions that you like to discuss with your family around the dinner table. Do that, but also do more than that. Get involved in the political and social life of your town or city. Go eat with sinners at the local bar. Advocate for the needs and rights of others in your community just as much as you advocate for your own. Just give your neighbor a hand. This is not salvation but it is the pattern of the Kingdom of God. It is what we are being saved into. We need a grassroots revolution not a government program. We need people who will cross the lines and break the norms of our individualistic patterns of life. We need good Samaritans who won’t stay on their side of the road.