As we move beyond the heat of a divisive political contest in which we had two presidential candidates who were extremely disliked and not trusted by most people, with opposite halves of the citizens having to opt for one of the candidates, we now find the character of our nation being tested. Prior to the election, it was the characters of Clinton and Trump that were in the spotlight. Now it is the character of the USA that the world is watching. Will we prove to be a nation of civility and sensibility, or will we show ourselves to be the very things we disliked about the two candidates?
People may seem to be very interested in what the candidates say, but we forget that the soul of our nation is revealed more by what we say about them and how we say it. Moral mudslinging and cruel caricatures badly sullied the campaigning and diminished respect for the office of president.
Politics is a highly polished art form which is waged like battle; offensive verbal volleys are flung at enemies with the expectation that a discredited foe is a defeated foe. In days past, however, the one discredited in the public eye was the mudslinger. In today’s “new dark ages” (Alasdair MacIntyre’s phrase) civility and sensibility have given way to smearing and slinging. And all too often politically active Christians contribute to the nasty noises, thereby undermining our credibility as thinkers and as followers of Christ. We may think we know how Jesus would have voted and justify our triumphalism or our vindictiveness accordingly, but, really, do we really have the arrogance to assume we know the mind or purposes of the Almighty?
In the summer of 1995 the people of the United States were gripped by the O. J. Simpson trial. When the jury found him not guilty, our nation was polarized by the different responses of whites and blacks. On the college campus where I served, the responses were rather typical. Black students were greatly pleased and celebrated the verdict, while white students were shocked and dismayed. Sensing that this could cause a very unfortunate polarization on campus, I spoke to the students the next day in chapel, reminding them that only God and O. J. Simpson knew whether or not he committed the murders. Then I exhorted them to rejoice with those who were rejoicing, like Simpson’s God-fearing mother, and to weep with those who were weeping, like the parents of the Simpson’s wife.
The main point here is that followers of Christ are to seek first Christ’s kingdom, which has a platform of rejoicing with those who rejoice and weeping with those who weep, according to Romans l2:15, which goes on to admonish us to “Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind,” and “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.” Some people are truly fearful of what President Trump will do to their civil liberties. Others are relieved that he will halt the erosion of conservative values. As Christians, I believe we have a pastoral mandate to love and care for all our neighbors. Remember, there is another option besides Democratic and Republican; it’s called the Kingdom of God, ruled by One whose perfections we are called to emulate.