As the schedule would have it, election day in the U.S. coincides with my turn here on The Twelve. I spent a long while Monday morning staring into space, wondering what to write. It would be great to bracket and ignore the political situation. But on this particular day that feels odd. It feels like sharing with you a recipe for a good lasagna even as I know my kitchen is actually on fire. True, not everyone is caught up in this moment. Those of us who care deeply about such things are not necessarily typical. There are plenty of people who are not absorbing every Op-Ed, poll, or cable news show they can. Still, it seems that far more are invested in all things political just now, a fact that may be proven by this day’s end in terms of voter turnout. Midterms rarely generate crowds at polling places. This year may be somewhat different.
And so as election day dawns and then unspools as you read this blog, I’d like to be able to say that now it’s all over except for the shouting. But alas, I doubt that. We live in shouting times. We live in a perpetual election cycle when the next campaign for President starts about two minutes after a new President is sworn in. Today’s midterm election comes 21 months since Trump was sworn in. But I well remember that countdowns to this day were heralded early on and ever since. “Good evening,” Anderson Cooper or some other news show host might say, “Well, it’s Tuesday and it is exactly 20 months until the midterms and . . .” If it feels like we are forever on the cusp of a critical election, it’s because that is how we have been made to feel.
We live in shouting times. In the main a lot of churches are contributing to this in various ways. This past weekend the New York Times ran an article on what it calls “God’s Army.” I know that I and other writers here on The Twelve have often been criticized for being “too political.” Usually here that also means too political in a leftward direction because when the politics runs rightward–as the Times article shows–most evangelicals are just fine with that. Indeed, one pastor quoted in the article said that for Christians the only thing more important than getting the Supreme Court right is the “Supreme Christ.” If I had to think about it long and hard in terms of making a priority list of things Christians should care about, I cannot imagine any human institution coming in a close second to Jesus. In fact, I would hope such institutions would not even make the cut on a list of Christian priorities. It could certainly change your average creed if you actually believed that. “I believe in God the Father Almighty and in Jesus Christ, our Lord. And I believe in the Supreme Court and in its Justices . . .”
But that is where things are at for many in the American church. Exit polling two years ago showed that the reason most Christians voted for the otherwise morally odious Donald Trump was control of the high court. Everything else–and it does now seem to be most everything–got sacrificed on that particular altar. Every morally objectionable or flat out immoral (and amoral) thing this President does or says is worth it to get us a Gorsuch and a Kavanaugh and maybe one more before it’s over.
All of us Christians have to navigate complex and perilous waters when it comes to figuring out how to think and act and also vote in all things secular. There is and never has been and never will be one clear set of Christian boxes to check when you step into a voting booth. We all make compromises, we all put up with some things we dislike to get at other things we deem important. I am probably as inconsistent historically as anyone you could name. I do not wish to try to claim some moral high ground on this election day or ever.
But I could wish the church in this land could make it clear on a more consistent basis that there is much about which to be passionate, that more issues, not fewer (and not just one) matter a great deal. I know that “church” is a broad term but here I am referring to one of the largest segments of one of the more visible parts of the church in the U.S. and that is the evangelical church writ large. Maybe the church does not want to contribute to the shouting in these shouting times but insofar as we have a voice to lend and a message to proclaim, surely we can validate that welcoming the stranger, generating compassion for the suffering, standing up for the abused, advocating for justice, caring for creation, having keen eyesight with which to spy the marginalized are all deeply Christ-like traits we wish to embody individually and corporately as the Body of Christ. Surely it is also Christ-like to stand against falsehood, to rebuke fearmongering of “the other,” to call racism and anti-Semitism and white nationalism what they are: evil, signs of a fallen creation that are decidedly not characteristics of the renewing work of Christ in our hearts.
I could wish that on this day we as a church could send also those messages in how we vote. But as it stands, that seems unlikely.
We are fast getting to the dreary part of Autumn, the part where trees are more bare than colorful, where the leaves that have fallen become sodden piles on sidewalks and in streets. That matches the mood of at least some of us just now. Even so, in Christ there is always hope, there is always resurrection, there is always the restless Spirit who will keep trying to lead all of us to lives of both grace and truth. My hopes in all that are not dependent on election returns tonight or any night. All of any of us can do is keep witnessing to the truth as best we can see that truth even as we follow the One who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.