When I was younger I worked in party politics, and chaired a Young Republicans club. I listened to talk radio and read political journals. I fantasized of one day seeking political office.
Soon I became the editor of a newsletter for the county party. At one point I prepared to publish an editorial critical of one of the president’s positions. Party leaders told me to cut the article. We weren’t going to say anything negative about one of our own on the eve of an election. This was one of my first exposures to the idea of “party over principle.”
This election seems to be the apex of that idea. Our next president is going to be one of two very flawed people. Should I tell my daughter I voted for a man that treats women as the toys of the wealthy? Or should I tell her I supported a corrupt individual that will be the template for all young women aspiring to high office?
Neither is fit to lead the country. But people are defending each of them, and campaigning as if the fate of their souls depends on the outcome.
If my Facebook news feed is any indication, this is the most important election of our lifetimes. At least since the last one. Every four years, it seems America is at a crisis point from which only Candidate A can save us. Or is it Candidate B? I’m not sure anymore.
What I am sure of is that we as a country have placed far too much emphasis on winning elections. Of course elections are important. This one likely represents a shift in the country’s governance that will echo for a generation. But at what cost are we staking our lives and our sanity on the outcome?
Bread and circuses
Politics continues to turn into reality TV. The line between entertainment and governance disappear completely. There are shades of the Roman Empire in our current climate. We’re distracted by bread and circuses as the barbarians mass outside the city walls.
I’m also reminded of a passage from C.S. Lewis’ brilliant The Screwtape Letters. In it, senior devil Screwtape instructs his protegé and nephew Wormwood in the art of tormenting Man through a series of letters:
UPDATE: Many thanks to the readers who pointed out that this quote is actually not from Screwtape; it’s merely written in that style and falsely attributed to Lewis. I fell for it, ironically enough, because I saw it on Facebook. I’ll leave this quote up not only because it’s still a pretty good passage, but because it points out how easily social media tells us what we want to hear. – Tony
My Dear Wormwood,
Be sure that the patient remains completely fixated on politics. Arguments, political gossip, and obsessing on the faults of people they have never met serves as an excellent distraction from advancing in personal virtue, character, and the things the patient can control. Make sure to keep the patient in a constant state of angst, frustration and general disdain towards the rest of the human race in order to avoid any kind of charity or inner peace from further developing. Ensure that the patient continues to believe that the problem is “out there” in the “broken system” rather than recognizing there is a problem with himself.
Keep up the good work,
Take a break
Let’s try an experiment today. Stay off of social media today as much as possible. Don’t read any political articles. You’ve likely made up your mind already anyway. Everything at this point is confirmation bias.
Instead, spend the day in prayer. I’m not suggesting hiding in your closet and beseeching the Lord on behalf of the country. I’m asking you to try praying the Jesus Prayer over and over throughout the day.
Pray for everyone around you, even those you think are your enemies. Pray that you will not cause sin in anyone else through your own words or actions. And pray for God’s mercy on your family, yourself, and our country.
This election season will soon be over. We will then hear about the next crisis that requires immediate action. And the next. And the next.
Electing the right person will not save this country. Party politics will not remove the rot within our moral fiber. Each of us must allow God’s mercy to overcome our own personal sin, and be a light to a fallen world.
Lord have mercy.
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