Politics has generally been more about popularity than policy. The political landscape is littered with examples – Dwight Eisenhower versus Adlai Stevenson. John F. Kennedy over Richard Nixon.
Unlike the parliamentary system in Great Britain, where people vote for the party that best reflects their views, and the party then selects the nation’s leader, in the United States, we vote directly (for the most part) for the individual who will be President.
Party politics still play a role in our country, but not nearly as great a one as in the past. In the South, for example, following the period of “Reconstruction” after the Civil War, Republicans were generally loathed. The “Yellow Dog Democrats” proudly proclaimed that they would vote for a yellow dog before they would vote for a Republican. Among the few exceptions would be an elderly relative of mine during the FDR administration, who so hated the Democrat President that he refused to recognize Roosevelt’s institution of Daylight Savings Time and when asked, would give you the “Republican” time of day.
Other politicians were so popular, like governor of Georgia Eugene “Gene” Talmadge, that they could publicly announce “Sure I stole, but I stole for you” and get re-elected three times. Robert Penn Warren’s Pulitzer prize winning novel “All The King’s Men” was based on the life and career of Louisiana governor Huey Long.
Politicians have been adored and hated. Some, like Washington, Lincoln, and Jefferson have had memorials erected in their honor in our nation’s capitol. Others, like Lincoln, McKinley, and Kennedy, have been assassinated. But, never, in recent memory have they been given near god-like status.
During the last election, the alt-right, neo-Nazi groups proclaimed Trump as their “God-Emperor” with ridiculous drawings of him dressed on Roman regalia on horseback leading their army into battle. But even more disturbing were the pictures of Trump sitting in the Oval Office with an image of Jesus standing behind him and guiding him. As a Christian, I found this image sickening and blasphemous.
Of course, I pray for the leaders of our country. Of course, I hope that our President would seek divine guidance, whether he or she be Christian, Jewish, or Muslim. But the notion that someone like Donald Trump was elected President because he was somehow “chosen by God” to lead our country goes completely against the principle of free will espoused by nearly all Christians.
Those who parse Scripture to say that Christians are obligated to support the government leaders are using the same argument that justified the “divine right of kings” for centuries. Instead, this is dangerous and contorted attempt by far right evangelicals to justify voting for a twice-divorced, thrice married known adulterer with no moral scruples. A man who not only is not a Christian, but barely has a grasp of what being a Christian means.
If Trump was “chosen by God”, wouldn’t the same argument apply to President Obama?
Anyone who is the least bit familiar with the Bible knows that God allows us to make our own choices, and to endure the consequences of these choices. Read Genesis and the story of Eve and the apple. Read the entire Book of Judges. Read 1 Samuel where the people clamored for a king, despite the warnings of the prophet.
Politicians are people, just like the rest of us. Some are good people, others not so much. Some are smart. Some are pretty dumb. You may support someone because you like their policies or you like the person. But keep in mind they are really not that different from your next-door neighbor other than the fact that they usually have pretty big egos. It takes a strong ego to run for public office.
Politicians may be leaders or statesmen, but they are not our saviors. If you believe “only ________” can save our country, then you have abdicated your right as a citizen to make informed choices. If you put your faith in a man/woman rather than God, then you have also elevated that person to a status that nobody is entitled to. No one person, not matter who it is, can save our country.
The people of our country are the only ones who can save ourselves.
During the height of Watergate, the following joke made the rounds in Washington, D.C. According to the joke, Billy Graham pays a visit to Richard Nixon. Graham says, “Mr. President, I’ve got some good news and some bad news.” Nixon responds, “Billy, things have been so bad lately, I really need to hear some good news right now.” Rev. Graham tells him, “Mr. President, I have it on the highest authority that Jesus Christ is returning to earth, just to see you personally.” An ecstatic Nixon replies, “Oh my goodness. That’s the most wonderful news I’ve ever gotten. That’s amazing. Wonderful. How could there possibly be any bad news?” Rev. Graham told him, “Well, I understand that He’s mighty pissed off.”
Don’t blame God for the choices that you have made. Don’t look on ANY politician as the “anointed one” sent to save you or me or anyone. No candidate is perfect. No candidate is the next George Washington or Joan of Arc. The next time you hear someone say that Donald Trump or any other politician was chosen by God, remember the following inscription carved in stone over the door of a Christian church in Iran:
“Where Jesus lives, the great-hearted gather.
We are a door that’s never locked.
If you are suffering any kind of pain,
stay near the door. Open it.”
These beautiful words were written in the 13th century by a poet born in Afghanistan. His name was Rumi. He was a Muslim.
Noted suffragette Susan B. Anthony said the following about people who claim to speak for God:
“I distrust those people who know so well what God wants them to do, because I notice it always coincides with their own desires.”
Abraham Lincoln never said, as Sarah Palin claimed, “let us not pray that God is on our side, in a war, or any other time. But let us pray that we are on God’s side.” He did, however, have quite a bit to say on religion and politics.
“That I am not a member of any Christian Church is true, but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures, and I have never spoke with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or any denomination of Christians in particular.”
He then went on to say the following words that the evangelical right would do well to pay heed to:
“I do not think I could myself, be brought to support a man for office, whom I knew to be an open enemy of, and scoffer at, religion.”
In ancient Biblical times, the idea of an atheist, as we commonly consider one today, was unheard of. Nobody then publicly denied that God existed. Instead, they acted as though there were no God.
Psalm 14:1 “The food has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt. They have done abominable works. There is none who does good.”
You can wave your Bible at rallies and allow pastors to pray over you. But if your words and deeds, the way you conduct your business, your family, and your life, demonstrate that in your heart there is no God, then you are indeed a fool. You are corrupt. You have done abominable works. And so are the people who believe in you.
Would God chose someone who regularly refuses to pay the workman for his hire? Would God chose someone who breaks his marriage vows, not once, but on numerous occasions? Would God chose someone who lies, without shame, and without remorse?
Pope Francis recently said, in essence, that it was better to be an atheist than a bad Christian. As reported by CNN and other outlets, he defined a “bad Christian” as someone who exploits people, leads a double life or manages a “dirty” business. Examples of such sins abound, the Pope said, from money launderers to business owners who take beach vacations while stiffing their employees.
The hypocrisy of “bad Christians” is what creates atheists.
Can there be any doubt to whom he was referring?
Be careful when you attribute the blessing of God to a mere mortal. Be wary if you choose someone who loves money, but not the poor. Your “messiah” may have feet of clay. Recall the words of the poet Percy Bysshe Shelley in his poem “Ozymandius”
“My name is Ozymandius, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair.”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.”
And ponder the words in Psalm 116:8-9 [NKJV]
“It is better to trust in the Lord
Than to put trust in man.
It is better to trust in the Lord
Than to put confidence in princes.”
This is the word of the Lord. Thanks be to God