Ambivalent Political Introspection Syndrome (APIS)

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Where is God in the US Presidential Election?

As a Christian and a pastor, I have often wondered about the future of Christianity in the US. With the presidential election drawing near, my concern gets stronger, especially due to the inclination and experiences of the presidential candidates representing the two major political parties. In the past elections, my considerations would be about taking a look at the parties and their presidential candidates and asking the question: who among them is likely to represent God and by implications the Christian values at the White House. Can we truly say today that any of the parties and their candidates better represent Godly values at the White House? A look at the character and history of the candidates and even how the parties have performed over the years would leave a careful observer wondering about this. Where is God in the upcoming US presidential election?

Recently I shared my conflicting thoughts on Facebook, about how my moral conscience tells me whom not to vote for but does not tell me whom to vote for, a condition that I called Ambivalent Political Introspection Syndrome (APIS). I wondered where my cure for this condition would come from. One pastor answered “Jesus”. I know that I need Jesus every moment of my life but will Jesus tell me whom to vote for in this election? And when He does, will I hear Him, in the midst of all the “noise” in the system? I am not sure what the answer to these questions is. Yet, another pastor who was a colleague at Calvin Theological Seminary, Mark Douglas took me to James 3. He advised me to read this text and let the Holy Spirit guide me to the anointed President.

James 3 warned the church that many of us should not be teachers with the indication that those of us who teach will be judged more harshly. It talked so much about the controlling power of the tongue over the whole body and how destructive it could be. Look at what it says in verses 9–12:

“With the tongue we praise our Lord and Father, and with it we curse human beings, who have been made in God’s likeness. 10 Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing. My brothers and sisters, this should not be. 11 Can both fresh water and salt water flow from the same spring? 12 My brothers and sisters, can a fig tree bear olives, or a grapevine bear figs? Neither can a salt spring produce fresh water.”

While I struggle to understand how this text helps me to discern who among the presidential candidates has been ordained to be President, I think that the words of James 3 must be taken seriously by the Christian community. James admonishes that we as the followers of Christ should not be part of the bitterness, acrimony, character assassination and use of foul language found in this election. “… this should not be” the word of God states.

The admonition from James is for me as well as for every Christian. In the last three weeks, I have found myself speaking harshly about one of the presidential candidates, using strong denouncing words to express my frustration with the crises around the world and the seemingly endless bloodshed. The word of God said “…this should not be.” James 3 has not helped me to decide whom to vote for but for sure, it has helped me to return to godly wisdom. In James 3:17, God explains this wisdom this way:

"But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere.”

With these in mind, the question that each Christian must ask is no more “Where is God in the US presidential election?” but “Where is God in my life as I participate in the US election?” As we participate in this election, may we not forget that the peace and unity that we sow in this election is what we will reap after the election. On the other hand, may we also remember that the divisions and hate that we sow in this electioneering campaign will not just disappear because our preferred candidate has won.

There is a lesson that the US can learn by looking at Nigerian Presidential election in 2015 and what has become of Nigeria since then. In that electioneering campaign in which David Axelrod (President Obama’s former Chief Strategist and political Adviser) was a paid strategist of the Muslim Presidential candidate- General Buhari; the incumbent President – Jonathan Azikiwe Goodluck a Christian was seeking re-election. President Azikiwe Goodluck was vilified and blackmailed by the opposition party. They used all kinds of derogatory words in the news and social media to insult him and demean him before the voting populace. They deployed every kind of divisive language to ensure that their candidate will win, in the hope that after his victory, they will re-unite the country.

Their candidate won but they are no longer able to unite their country. They have won the election but lost their country. The ruling party is now begging the people and even intimidating them to respect the office of the President but none is listening to them. The culture of disrespect and bigotry that they set during the election has become their post-election new normal. I pray that we learn from this and seek to promote a culture of civility in our polity.

When we as Christians participate in politics, we do so because we believe that humanity has fallen and our society is sick. We believe that since we are the salt of the world, we have a responsibility to pursue healing and inspire hope for the future. While we do this, may we never forget love; may we never forget that the goal is the glory of God and not the possession of earthly power. C.S Lewis was quoted to have said that

“A sick society must think much about politics, as a sick man must think much about his digestion; to ignore the subject may be fatal cowardice for one as for the other. But if either comes to regard it as the natural food of the mind—if either forgets that we think of such things only in order to be able to think of something else—then what was undertaken for the sake of health has become itself a new and deadly disease.”

May the concluding words of James 3: “Peacemakers who sow in peace reap a harvest of righteousness” redirect us to a God honoring political engagement.

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Thank you for this insightful post Joshua.  The problem you cite is one of the reason I promote more limited government at more centralized levels and more expanded government at less centralized levels.

Bottom line is that is is far more difficult to be so polarized and so hyper-strident when political decisions are made at the local level, where you can see the people you disagree with face to face, and when you realize they are neighbors or folks in the town or city near you.  And the opposite is true when the candidate are iconic figure from a far away place that you will never talk to, or if you do, in any way that goes beneath the superficial.

There is another reason decentralized government is good.  The more centralized governmental power is, the more it is vulnerable to corruption.  Big power structures want  to (need to in their opinion), and can, control a centralized government more than decentralized governmentS.

I can only hope that the race now underway of having the federal government become more pervasive and state/local governments become less and less meaningful (a perspective held by both primary candidates, even if more perhaps by one of them and that party) will expose itself as a bad mistake and that we will learn from that.

 

 

 

It is great to read a discussion about our present day election and especially the election of our next president of the USA. No doubt those who do the writing are far more educated than this person. However, one does not need a PHD or any other qualification behind her or his name, to understand the clear teaching of the Bible. The Bible plainly says :"You shall nor murder"

One of the candidate for president, promote abortion and even partial birth abortion.. That to me is plain murder. Our Church has a clear stand on the abortion issue. Only when the life of the mother is at stake is abortion allowed, However, life truly must be at stake.

How can any Christian support a candidate or party that supports the killing of an unborn baby. Yes, it may be just one issue. But the issue is important enough not to vote for candidates who openly support killing those babies who are created by our Good in His image.

Excellent thoughts!

We don't exactly have a choice between Buhari and Goodluck, but we know who Axelrod will be voting for (and maybe advising) in our own election.

In the end "God is the ruler, yet" and even though, "Indeed, Herod and Pontius Pilate met together with the Gentiles and the people of Israel in this city to conspire against your holy servant Jesus, whom you anointed.They did what your power and will had decided beforehand should happen." (Acts 4:27,28)

 

 Ron

I am not sure I understand what you are trying to say. The question is not . Who is the final Judge. There is no question who is Lords of lords and King of kings.

However, we were created in Gods image and in Christ we are new creatures.. We are the hands and feet of Christ to do His work here on earth. I believe this includes our responsibility as for who we  will vote.  As  Abraham Kuyper taught us, There is no square inch in the whole domain of our human existence  over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry,Mine! A difficult principle to live by, especially this year in the election of a new president.But that is our caller as ambassadors of Christ. Whether we are preachers, teachers, farmers, retired sar any other station in life. This our calling, to represent Christ where ever we live or whatever we do here on this earth.

 On second thought, I think I do know you and I can't believe we disagree with each other.

 

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