On Monday, The New York Times released a brilliant piece showing that only 9% of Americans voted for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton in this year’s primaries. No wonder the other 91% of us are a little upset. Although, I do have to say that if you didn’t even bother to vote, Mark Zuckerberg should find a way to prevent you from posting about politics on Facebook until the election is over! Nonetheless, voter apathy isn’t really my point for today. Except that it kind of is because I want to write about despair.
It’s not hard to come by in this election. Bad candidates. Bad coverage. Bad policies. Bad voters. Bad, bad, bad… It’s left many of us wondering if there’s any hope to be found. I know because I’ve been there. I’ve been dismayed by how things are going in our country and in this election. I’ve feared for the world my kids will inherit. I’ve wanted to throw my hands up in futility. Cynicism is so convenient at times like this.
But I’ve gotten to the point where I really do believe there is hope in the mess. Light is breaking through. But we’ll never see it until we’re able to correctly diagnose the problem and the solution.
Let’s get one thing clear. Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are not the problem. They are a symptom of America’s problem. We need to stop being surprised that a country with a weak moral compass has nominated two leaders with seemingly weak moral compasses. When we look in the national mirror, we see Hillary and Donald. Being appalled at them is useless. Dealing honestly with the fact that they reflect our broader culture will actually get us somewhere. It’s a hard pill to swallow. It’s far easier to mock, grumble and whine.
If I’m right, the solution isn’t getting better candidates – there were plenty of other qualified men and women who ran this year and plenty of qualified men and women who made the decision not to run. The solution is a cultural resurgence in America – the restoration of a shared morality, a shared civility and commitment to the common good.
This is where we need to have a hard conversation as the church. In recent decades, Christians have looked for the government to do what God looks for the church to do. This is why so many followers of Jesus are feeling so much despair in this election – it’s the despair that comes when an idol is exposed in our heart. And for far too long, far too many evangelical leaders have turned right wing politics into a functional idol as if the well being of the church rests on the Supreme Court or the hope of the world is in the halls of Congress. Don’t get me wrong, government is a good and noble calling. We need more Christ honoring, gospel shaped public servants. But we also need to repent of our political idolatry.
There is hope in our country. It’s the same hope that’s been transforming lives for thousands of years. It’s the hope that echoes from an empty tomb outside of Jerusalem. It’s the hope that reverberates in every church that loves Jesus and preaches His gospel. It’s the hope that changes us at the heart level. It’s a hope unhindered by laws, politicians or even persecution. It’s a hope so real and so eternal that can hold it back.
So, I’m tired of grumbling that the government isn’t doing a better job with what the church should have been doing all along. We’re the ones called to shine light in dark places. We’re the ones who offer hope to refugees, immigrants, the poor, the homeless, the addicted, the lonely. You want to do something truly worthwhile with your life? Devote yourself to knowing Jesus and making Him known. Find a local church that loves its city and then roll up your sleeves and get involved. Don’t settle for the life of an armchair political pundit – make your life count. Do it for the glory of Christ and the good of our country.