“The Lord is the strength of my life; whom shall I fear?” – Psalm 27:1
Another election year is upon us. A time to look forward to new beginnings, to experience some trepidation about the foreign and domestic policies of the upcoming president, and to either reminisce on the good times with current administration or to curse its inevitable missteps. That is, unless you’re a Christian. If you’re a Christian, each new election is another chance to slip from serene, faith-based rationality into frenetic, emotionally-charged panic.
Every four years, a notable percentage of the Christians I know (and many of those I don’t) forsake all semblance of reason to spread unsubstantiated rumors about the possible misdeeds of “the other candidate,” usually a Democrat. They spend the months leading up the election is a worried state not much different from mild dementia, their voices trembling slightly as they inform everyone they meet that the world is ending if the wrong person gets into the White House. This year, I’ve had people tell me they’d be surprised if we ever held another free election if Obama is elected. I’ve received countless email forward indicating Obama doesn’t salute the flag; he doesn’t support the troops; he’s a radical Muslim in disguise; and so on. I have yet to receive one that indicates that he is black, but I suspect it will be forthcoming before this election cycle is over.
This eleventh hour panic of the faithful seems very strange to me. Of all people, shouldn’t Christians be the ones least concerned with those in political power? Paul, writing during the time of the Roman Empire (a greater threat to Christians than even Obama and his pastor), had very little to say about the political climate. I can find in his letters no overexcited hyperbole urging Christians to hand out poorly-researched political pamphlets, lest another pagan be elected Caesar. Paul’s only nods toward politics seem to instruct Christians to obey the government as much possible and to focus on spreading the Gospel of Christ. “The king’s heart is in the hand of the Lord,” Proverbs says, but to hear my fellow Christians discuss politics, you might be forgiven for thinking they don’t have an Old Testament. Modern Christianity has transformed itself from a grassroots movement that sought to change society by changing lives, into a Political Action Committee trying to enforce morality through legislation, a plan that might change the nation’s actions but can never change its heart. Even if it succeeded, it would only create a nation of pretty tombs, gleaming rocks full of dead bones.
The notion of the apolitical Christian is anathema in modern Christianity, but historically the church’s greatest successes have always been those that started with the people and worked up, rather than starting with the government and working down. Unfortunately, many Christians have alienated the very people they are supposed to be reaching by focusing their considerable energies on opposing same-sex marriage, Roe vs. Wade, and gun control instead of building real, genuine relationships with those around them. Christians need to realize there is never going to be nationwide repentance just because we have a Conservative Supreme Court. True change comes only from knowing Jesus Himself, something no law can ever cause.
This year, instead of getting caught up in exactly which end-time prophecies Obama is fulfilling or making bullet-pointed lists of the ways the McCain resembles Hilary (I found 19 parallels!), I’m trying to keep a proper perspective. The hearts of kings are in the hand of the Lord–what do I have to be afraid of? Besides Muslim, gun control, and gays, that is.