Hey, y’all. I have a few reflections on the election.
I’m no journalist, but rather a counselor. My area of expertise is human psychology, so I tend to see world events through the psyche lens. I also play a kind of pastoral role, having preached and written on faith for decades. What I share comes from these two places and not a place of expertise on politics. I tend to keep my political opinions to myself, including who I voted for, but this election has been psychologically/spiritually impacting enough for me to want to offer something. So here goes.
The Associated Press has declared Joe Biden the winner of the presidential election. A great cry of rejoicing has ascended from his supporters. A few aspects of this win are noteworthy: An incumbent president rarely loses re-election. Kamala Harris has become the first woman vice president in U.S. history and is also a woman of color. A pandemic raged in the background of this election, still, the highest-ever number of voters participated. Truly, history has been made on many fronts.
Donald Trump will not go easy. And he has a right to challenge the results of the election if he believes they came about by fraud. Sore loser? Perhaps, but let him try to prove his case. Al Gore did so in 2000. Maybe something will be uncovered in those court proceedings. If they come to naught, Joe Biden will become president in January whether Trump concedes or not; presidential concession is a norm, not a law.
And life will go on. The U.S. won’t immediately turn into a socialist country, we will for the time being continue to be granted freedom of religion, abortion rates will likely continue to go down, medical authorities will keep trying to curtail Corona and the economy probably won’t instantly tank.
Candidly, I’m nervous no matter who is in charge. I couldn’t sleep when Trump won in 2016. I fear aspects of the Biden win, too. But what concerns me more than any temporal matter is the division, not of the nation, but of the church. The world is groaning under a curse; evil men and seducers will wax worse and worse. This is old news, and need not disrupt the peace of the children of the not-of-this-world kingdom. When the enemy successfully fractures us, however, he has won a victory, and my peace is gone.
I’ve been a citizen of Jesus’ kingdom for more than 40 years. I’ve never seen such a rift. Brothers on the left praising God that an era of peace has arrived, and that the party of compassion is here. Sisters on the right lamenting that God’s cause has suffered defeat in the loss of His appointed instrument of righteousness. FYI, the left is not necessarily compassionate, and the right is not necessarily righteous. The left abhors tearing immigrant children from their mother’s arms, but what about tearing unborn children from their mother’s wombs? How is that compassion? The right blames the current struggles of Black Americans on their failure to take responsibility, but then tends to evade responsibility for systemic racism. Sorry, but that’s not righteous. Neither party is consistently, wholly God-like and for us to expect that of a political entity comprised of flawed human beings is profoundly naïve.
I realize that I see the rift more plainly because of social media; but I wonder if social media actually facilitates it. Here’s what I believe occurs: The rapidity of the information delivery system means that content travels faster than ever. Add to this that the human brain tends to absorb familiar narratives more quickly. In order to compete for our attention, news sources pump out partial truths that fit easily-absorbed, emotionally-resonant narratives, holding back key facts that would challenge them. Cha-ching!
The good-guy-bad-guy narrative holds universal appeal and marketability. If you have monsterfied one candidate and idealized the other, you’ve probably fallen prey to media-induced bias, and have helped make partial-truth-tellers (a.k.a. liars), rich. For biblical reference: the first lie out of the serpent’s mouth was a partial truth. He said, “Did not God say you could eat from every tree in the garden?” I have been increasingly shocked at how naively believers buy these partial truths. And not only buy them, but fault those who don’t.
Which concerns me more than anything. The new judgmentalism is intensely ideological. We once judged people for their behaviors, now we judge them for their convictions. But judgmentalism on a different basis is judgmentalism still. And judgmentalism creates an environment of fear and suspicion in the family of God. I plead with us to hold our political opinions lightly and our faith in Jesus tenaciously. And I pray that in time, though we see through a darkened glass now, we will declare together that God will be true though every man a liar (Romans 3:4).