There are significant minorities of die-hard Clinton and Trump supporters and, perhaps, a greater number who prefer neither. What we can all agree on is that we are not electing Jesus Christ to the oval office. This is not a swipe at the candidates for persistent shadiness, but rather a comforting fact. Neither of these candidates will part the clouds and wipe every tear from our eyes.
This acknowledgement might seem obvious, but consider how closely we as Americans have tied our faith to political parties and politicians over the years. We constantly expect them to perform amazing feats—that is why they pledge as much on the campaign trail. The cruel realities of governance in a broken world soon shatter such idealism and lead to disappointment.
Most people are not as explicit in admitting to political idol-worship as Barbara Walters, but our expectations have grown grandiose. We constantly look to our leaders to accomplish sweeping reforms—not merely of the political system but of society and human nature itself. That is why vacuous phrases like “change” and “forward” can resonate so profoundly with the people. By leaving those terms undefined, every person can fill them with their own content—racial reconciliation, economic prosperity, a beautified earth, etc.
In such a vein, our politicians can also speak in hyperbole and be taken seriously. No politician will end inner city poverty, murky military engagements, abortion, or economic stagnation on his or her watch. While we desire improvement in these areas, there is a baseline to brokenness that will remain unaffected. If we take the effects of sin seriously (and we should), then we will recognize that our civil leaders can help sustain and stabilize a healthy society to a certain degree, but they cannot save men from themselves.
In a sense, the political profession is like the medical profession—their work is a valuable and even necessary one, but it is a stall. Politicians cannot ultimately save lives or societies, but they can set the conditions to allow for human flourishing and, as Dr. Cox would say, “keep the game going.”
It is unreasonable and unfair for politicians to present themselves as more than they are or for us to demand it of them. And it is a pity when our horizon of hope extends only to bleak landscape of political change.
How will you react when your cause has reached some relative degree of success or is continually mired in failure? If your cause du jour is gay rights, will you finally attain happiness once all couples in our society can get married, regardless of sexual preference? Will your joy be complete? Is your life goal to stop global warming? Will you despair of life as the emerging world economies pump greater amounts of pollutants into our atmosphere?
Perhaps we should temper our idealism. People who live in repressive, war-torn, impoverished societies must find reasons to persevere despite their circumstances. We live in a broken world and our greatest earthly causes will often be our greatest causes of disappointment. Yet there is a silver lining. When earthly idols falter, heavenly realities come into view.
While important, the civic responsibilities of Election Day pale in comparison to the glorious reminder on Christmas Day—“For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Hope is not born in the ballot box. Jesus Christ, the very Son of God, was born in lowly manger and borne upon an accursed cross. He traded his crown of glory for a crown of thorns, providing not only a pathway of hope through faith in his completed work, but a pattern of humble living that looks beyond the bleak earthly landscape to a heavenly horizon.
Are you allowing this election season to dictate the tone of your well-being? Are you left feeling angry, depressed, resentful, or hopeless? Perhaps you are seeking a political salvation that can never satisfy. Instead, follow the prescription of this simple hymn and look to God who alone can satisfy:
Turn your eyes upon Jesus. Look full in his wonderful face. And the things of earth will grow strangely dim in the light of his glory and grace.