Sitting in a faculty meeting today (one of my highlight moments of the month), our Old Testament prof read from Psalm 51. There’s usually some reading and a prayer to begin things. But this was different. There was more of a pause. Prayers were more intestinal. There is something about this penitential psalm that stirs the soul to grief. We became freshly aware of our fallenness.
This psalm also drew us to pray more intently for our nation and its leadership. The times call us to grief. Like the psalmist, who ends by saying, “May it please You to prosper Zion,” we wanted to ask God to do the same for our nation. But it is hard to do this when we feel a certain shame.
I am pretty sure there is no more relevant psalm for today, for something is deeply wrong in this country. It is disheartening, even mind numbing to watch the news. How is it we have settled on two candidates whose ethics are so lacking, whose values are so despicable? I find a certain revulsion–a deep embarrassment. The last debate amounted to a “meltdown of the political process.” How could we have so descended to this point?
What’s more troublesome is to find all too many evangelicals arguing for the lesser of two evils, but too few speaking out against the evil itself. This psalm serves as a fresh call to confession and repentance. And it must begin with us, the church. We need to spend less time arguing positions and more time renewing our vows to God. We need to take our stand–not for a candidate–but for God’s holiness. And we need to ask for God’s mercy–to somehow bring this elective process to some good end–and show us the way forward.
Still, amongst many of my peers, voting in this election creates a huge conundrum. Either way, it feels like a violation of conscience, a deal with the devil. In the latest Wall Street Journal, Eric Metaxas poses the question, “Should Christians Vote for Trump?” Metaxas has written one of the best biographies I have ever read(Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy). In the article, he makes the case that examples like Dietrich Bonhoeffer and William Wilberforce compel us to act. Merely praying is not an option.
So do I choose a man who is a thrice married, foul mouthed casino mogul whose character is closer to godless than godly, and whose global thinking and domestic policies are incredibly thin–or do I choose a candidate whose religious roots and adherence to Scriptural authority seem to count for little, who is often dishonest and cruel, who champions partial birth abortion and gay marriage, as well as stands committed to social issues that could take away some of our religious freedoms? Perhaps if the candidates told us who would surround their lives and form their cabinet and influence their judgments–this might help. Perhaps God will hear our prayers (mine anyways) and change the options before November.
In all of this perplexity, I find myself asking what Jesus would say. Would it even be a topic of conversation? My guess is that He would tell us to get re-centered and become less distracted by the noise. It is about His kingdom and its advancement–not this world’s. He never seemed to be concerned with what went on in Rome–and I am pretty sure what happens in Washington isn’t much of an issue either. No matter which Caesar, which Governor, or politically appointed priest was in power, these things were largely irrelevant to Him when He walked this earth. I imagine Him today expressing a certain sadness, while also shrugging His shoulders. As He reminded Pilate, all authority belongs to God and He gives it to whomever He wills (John 19:11). He alone is the King.
Maybe the wisdom here is to remember that no matter who we elect, this one only has the influence and power God chooses to give. The nations are a drop in the bucket, a speck on the scales. He reduces princes to nothing–they are barely planted and He blows them away. A fresh reading of Isaiah 40 gives the perspective most needed in these days.