Last weekend a powerful earthquake shook Italy, sparing lives but destroying several beautiful landmarks, including the 14th century Basilica of St. Benedict, built on the traditional birthplace of St. Benedict.
It seems a fitting metaphor for what is happening right now on this side of the ocean.
While lives are going on as normal, we are losing the foundation under our feet.
President John Adams, one of the Founding Fathers, once said,
Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.
Unfortunately, he is being proven correct.
After previous elections, I have often awoken the next day despondent. How can people not see? How can they choose so wrongly? What will become of us?
I will not feel that way this year. No matter who wins, I will simply be sad. Not despondent, as if we have lost a chance at something great. Simply sad, because there can be no victory here, no real upside.
Let’s be honest: Hillary Clinton represents the end of the rule of law as we know it. Donald Trump represents the end of decency as we know it.
The both are unfit for office, and they both have real cultural costs associated with them.
In my opinion, to try to defend either one is to compromise one’s fundamental moral compass.
As some of my regular readers know, over the last few years I’ve finally managed to solidify my American citizenship and get my American passport (even though I’m also Canadian). I was born in the U.S., but have never lived there. So I was looking forward to getting to vote for the first time in 2016!
Earlier this year as I investigated the process of registering, though, it turns out it’s far more complicated than I thought. I would have to register in the only state in which I ever lived (I was there for three months as a baby), and that would open me up to paying state taxes. It’s not a swing state, either, so my vote wouldn’t really make a difference.
I didn’t go through the hassle.
I’m almost glad.
If I could vote, though, I would. However, I would not vote FOR either candidate, because neither candidate is fit to be president. Thus, I would have to vote on other criteria.
To me, it comes down to this: losing the rule of law is worse than losing decency.
To quote John Adams again,
When legislature is corrupted, the people are undone.
The Magna Carta is commonly thought as the first democratic document in the western world. Signed in 1215, its main purpose was to limit the power of the king. Laws could not apply to some and not to others. This was the most fundamental thing that we had to get right before we could even start to set up a proper democracy, and so to me, the rule of law can’t be compromised.
And yet I don’t like just voting against something, so I would have to find SOMETHING to vote FOR. And that would come down to voting for a platform, or voting for the other people who would also be in office. After all, a president brings with him or her a Vice President, a Secretary of State, a Head of Homeland Security, a Secretary of National Defense, a Head of the Treasury, etc. etc. And those people, too, will wield tremendous power, let alone the Supreme Court Justices. And so, even though I could not vote for either candidate for president, I would vote for the one who would bring with him (and it is a him, in this case), the better people for those jobs.
But I would not be happy about it.
And you will never, ever hear me defending Donald Trump (especially since I just heard that like Bill Clinton he has been accused of child rape. Really? I can’t take any more. I really can’t).
In fact, let me offer a plea to all Christians reading this: Please, please stop defending Trump.
When Christians do that, it is as if we are giving the impression that Jesus doesn’t mind sexual harrassment and sexual assault; that Jesus laughs at misogynistic and racist jokes; that Jesus is okay with people insulting others for fun. And He is not. He wants us to be kind to one another and to respect one another, and Trump does not do that. The man is a pig.
When I see people holding up “Jesus” signs while at a Trump rally, I feel sick.
And yet…for the first time in a long time, I feel a lightness about the political process.
Up until now, politics has been a burden to me. It’s as if I have to figure out what to do to convince people to see the world the way that I do, so that we can actually start fixing some of the very serious problems our society faces. And when the solutions seem so obvious to me (or at least the direction seems obvious), it’s so frustrating when others don’t seem to see it.
I think I’m honestly at peace with the fact that things are only going to get worse.
Maybe that’s a horrible thing to say, but I don’t think so.
I believe that I used to put too much faith in politics and in government and in the political process. If only we had good government, if only we had certain policies, if only people voted the right way, we could start to fix these problems.
I’ve now realized that people are never going to vote the right way.
Like John Adams said, a functioning democracy depends upon a moral foundation, and we no longer have that.
Our education system is so bad and our moral foundation is so far gone that we will never again raise people in large numbers who can discern well and make good choices.
And so we’re back to the position the early church was in.
They knew that their citizenship was not here and that government could not save them. They knew that the solution to racism, to poverty, to fatherlessness, to crime lay with them, not with government.
Perhaps God is calling us back to that again. We cannot change this country by government fiat. It’s too broken because the voters are too broken.
While I believe that we must still vote for good government, and stand up for the rights of the oppressed, and try to make a difference in the political sphere, I also realize that this is a battle that we will fundamentally lose, and that’s the way it’s supposed to be. We’re told that in Scripture. We’re not supposed to look for our salvation here. We’re simply supposed to shine the light, and love our neighbours, and do what we can while we wait for the real solutions that only God can bring.
My mom and I were talking last night, and I said, “You have to believe that God is over this whole election and doing something really interesting, but there’s no way we could have had two such absolutely reprehensible candidates by accident.” I’ve been reading the prophet Jeremiah lately, and it’s amazing the parallels with corrupt governments and years in captivity and in the wilderness.
God is over this. He is doing something. And maybe one of the things He’s doing is to teach us, as Christians, not to rely on government to fix the problems around us, because government was never going to do it anyway. In the last few decades I think the church has gotten off track by tying itself too much to politics and not enough to just loving our neighbours. We need to find the right balance again. And I think, in the end, it will be a balance that is much easier to live with.
This week at To Love, Honor and Vacuum I want to talk about the legacy that we are leaving our children.
Yesterday I told you about my 25th anniversary party. My daughter Rebecca gave a speech there, and talked about how the biggest stability in her life has always been her dad and me. Knowing that we would always be together, that we would always be sickeningly in love, gave her a foundation even when she was anxious. And it taught her to see God as stable, too.
That is something that will be with her no matter who is Prime Minister (or President). It is something that will tide her over when Canadians vote almost solely based on someone’s hair and last name (am I letting my biases show?). It is something that will keep her grounded even if the economy collapses and people are in chaos again.
So to my American friends, please vote, because it’s a tremendous gift.
I’ve told you who I prefer, but honestly–I completely understand not being able to vote that way, and I will not judge you for it at all (and I hope that you will not judge me for my opinion!). But to all of us, let’s never, ever put our faith in government again. And let’s take this episode as a reminder that this world is not our home, but we have been given the task of caring for it until Jesus returns. Let’s take that task seriously, rather than pawning it off as “the government’s job.”
What do you think? Has this election caused you to reconsider how you see politics and our role as Christians? (And please, let’s not get nasty in the comments about who to vote for! They both really are terrible, and deciding that one just can’t support him or her is a perfectly legitimate viewpoint.