In 1858, Abraham Lincoln gave a speech at the Illinois Republican State convention known has the “house divided” speech. It was referencing a concept that Jesus spoke of in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke: “If a house is divided against itself, that house will not be able to stand.” (Mark 3:25 ESV). That to me isn’t the standout line from Lincoln’s speech, though. It’s this:
“If we could first know where we are, and whither we are tending, we could then better judge what to do, and how to do it.”
I think that when I look at my country right now, I ask one major question:
Where the hell are we?
I’m 22 years old. This is the first election that I’m registered to vote in (I could’ve voted in 2012, but I registered too late). This has been by far the nastiest election cycle I’ve ever witnessed. I spent this morning looking up polls and surveys on the election, mainly because my Netflix keeps cutting in and out. Priorities, right? Here are some interesting stats I found from Pew:
· Less than half of voters say they know “a lot” about where Trump and Clinton stand on important issues (41% for Trump, 48% for Clinton)
· 36% of Republican-registered voters and 35% of Democrat-registered voters say they are satisfied with their candidate.
· 33% of Trump supporters say the main reason for supporting Trump is that “He is not Clinton.” 32% of Hillary supporters like that “She is not Trump.”
· 64% of voters say the campaign is not focused on important policy debates.
· 71% of voters say this campaign is too negative.
How did we get this way?
Why have we settled for such mediocrity?
This election has been particularly troubling for me as someone who professes to be a believer in Jesus. Christians have been placed in a weird spot this year. We’ve lost any ability to claim to be the “moral majority”, at least in my opinion. Many who supported Trump early on simply because they could not ethically support a Clinton presidency have been faced with two choices: attempt to justify the abhorrent things Trump has said about women, minorities, Muslims, etc. (which is a rather amusing song and dance to watch), or somehow ignore these things altogether for “the greater good” (the greater good meaning keeping Clinton out of office). Many are taking sides in the election specifically on the issue of the Supreme Court and the unique position we are in right now with the amount of vacancies. It’s a complicated issue, one which I still don’t fully know where I stand.
What I do know is that so many of my fellow Christians have sacrificed their witness in pursuit of politics. I’ve seen more hurtful things on Facebook in the last two years than ever before…MOST of them coming from fellow believers. Whether it’s subtle (or not so subtle) racism, the Black/All/Blue lives arguments, the hateful comments made towards the gay community/Muslim community/non-right community, or even the harsh words spoken to me over simple statements, it’s a freaking mess.
This country is hurting. It’s hurting badly. So many acknowledge that the status quo has to change, but are unwilling to do so. And I see the hurt from all sides. I see communities of color who feel marginalized and attacked by their government, their law enforcement, and even the church. I see police officers and police families who I respect and admire and who have suffered needless violence and vitriol in the last few years. I see non-straight friends who have been hurt by the church and are struggling to find a place to belong. I see poor families who don’t know how to break a cycle of poverty and despair, and I see middle to upper-middle class families who feel strangled and suffocated by an overbearing government. I’ve watched countless friends walk away from their faith in God not necessarily because of intellectual debate, but many who simply don’t want to be associated with a religion that has been represented poorly by so many. I also see close followers of Jesus who desperately want to see this world change and who genuinely love and care for their brothers and sisters, but who are really starting to understand what Paul meant when he said that we are aliens and foreigners in this world.
I hate the polarization. The divide has become so wide, and yet so many of these issues are not black and white. We’ve become so quick to generalize the “other side” that it becomes easy to demonize them. It’s easier to respond All Lives Matter than to acknowledge the hurting in the Black community. It’s easier to fiercely claim to be pro-life than to love the women who may have made the life-altering choice of abortion. It’s easier to try and vote for “the lesser of two evils” than it is to reform an inherently evil system. It’s easier to come up with stock answers for the issues of this day and age than to realize that things are far more nuanced than they seem.
Paul spoke in his letter to the Corinthians about how in our freedom, we are to serve all for the sake of the Gospel:
“For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings.”
1 Corinthians 9:19-23 ESV
A servant of all.
As Christians of all races, ages, genders, and statuses, are we willing to become servants of all?
Are we willing to be the servants of our black and other minority brothers and sisters?
Are we willing to be the servants of our law enforcement communities?
Are we willing to be the servants of the LGBT community?
Are we willing to be the servants of our Muslim neighbors?
Are we willing to be the servants of liberals?
Are we willing to be the servants of conservatives?
Are we willing to do all of these things for the sake of the Gospel? It’s hard. It’s uncomfortable at times, and it’s downright painful and messy at times. I don’t think there’s an easy answer. Are we willing to be wrong? I hope so. I hope I’m willing to be wrong. I hope that I remember that the sovereignty of God is much bigger than the sovereignty of the United States, and that someday this country might fall like every country before it but God will still reign. I hope I remember that if Trump wins, God is still God, and if Clinton wins, God is still God. No matter who is on the Supreme Court, or what laws pass and don’t pass, or who can marry who, or what I can or cannot do in this country, God is still God. America is not God’s chosen nation. It is a great nation. But my allegiance is to God and God alone. I could be dead wrong in everything I wrote here, but God is still God. And I have to believe that if the Gospel is our number one mandate, it has to come before America, or before an election, or before our security and safety, or before “religious liberty”, or before anything else we think matters.
Hebrews 13:8 reminds us that “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” I don’t know who I am going to vote for next week. I know that God’s will doesn’t depend on who I vote for. I know that God’s will is to show love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control towards those I don’t agree with. Even online. And for the sake of the Gospel, let’s try and figure this one out.