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.