a lament for america

It always used to be one of the wonders of the (democratic) world.

Not any more.

As Election Day dawns here in India, my mind goes back thirty-five years to when I was a student in Chicago (yes - go, those Cubbies!). In those days I marveled at the way politics worked in the USA. Two things stood out for me. One was the respect for the office of the president. Once the president was elected, people tended to shut-up and be supportive because they honoured the office. The other was the spirit of bipartisanship in the Congress and the Senate. People 'crossed the aisle' regularly to make deals and create good policies on the way to effective government.

Not any more.

Respect for the office seemed to end in 2008, with the election of Barack Obama. You'll have to work hard to convince me that the colour of his skin had nothing to do with it. In addition to this, bipartisanship has given way to polarisation. The government has even shut-down on occasion because of the determination to be obstructive with the Obama administration. The outcome? No longer do we have one of the wonders of the (democratic) world.

The media has played its part. On the hint of a left-wing bias in the mainstream media, Fox TV (which I had a moan about six years ago) decided to occupy a trenchant position on the 'right' - which only served to push the mainstream out of the main stream, and even further to the left. And so now the media both leads and reflects the polarisation in politics and in people. If it wasn't so sad, it would be laughable - as we watch show after show dominated by so-called commentators who are but thinly disguised self-promoting, glossed and flossed, champions of the right, or the left.

It is sad. Earlier in the year I felt so angry with this Trump phenomenon. But now it is more a sadness that I feel. I've listened carefully and understand better now the anxieties hovering around Hillary. She seems incapable of functioning in a way that builds trust - and when you don't have trust, you don't have much. The hatred of Hillary must be immense, even irrational, for people to even consider a character like Trump. It is immense.

And so the questions multiply... How can a nation with so many good people produce such bad candidates? How can millions of self-proclaimed evangelicals, so wary of Romney's mere mormonism four years ago, now be found running into the embrace of a man like Trump? Is there not truth, lots of it, in Jimmy Carter's claim that America has become an oligarchy? How has lying become acceptable as the new normal - so much so that every debate has been accompanied by a 'fact-check' service? It takes me back to the opening salvo of the Psalms of Ascent: 'Save me, O Lord, from lying lips and from deceitful tongues' (120.2). This is one of the salvations needed because something is badly broken.

So, on the morning of Election Day, it is a time to lament. As I lament, I pray...

If Trump wins, my prayers will focus on the global church. I don't think American Christians realise just how much so many people around the world still identify Christianity with the USA. It is an instinct. It is a default setting. It is the Christian country in the world. And 'the USA' which they see most often tends to be shaped by Hollywood and the President. This image of Christianity ain't great - and it is about to get a whole lot worse ... and true believers around the world are going to feel some added heat. These believers are our brothers and sisters. This is the tie that should bind far closer than any nationalistic one. This 'added heat' must be of greater concern than 'Make America Great Again'. Such a slogan is an utter irrelevance in the mission of God around the world and genuine evangelicals have no business signing-up to it.

Yep, if Trump wins, I'll be renewing my persevering prayers for the global church.

If Clinton wins, my prayers will focus on the local church. Many Christians are open to voting for the despicable Trump on the basis of one single issue. They don't want Hillary anywhere near the appointment of Chief Justices to the Supreme Court. This is because the only ethics that matters to them is personal ethics, with abortion heading the list. How come social ethics - with racism heading the list - is less of a concern? I don't understand that and I don't think Amos or Micah would either. Furthermore, why this pre-occupation on having influence in the judiciary, with so much hope placed in securing its power? Haven't people been reading Revelation lately? Haven't people learned from the Christendom error? Haven't people been watching the progress of the church in countries with far worse judiciaries? This is not the power that matters. Hope for transformation lies far more with the power of a multitude of local churches in America shaking free from their blind idolatries and then moulding counter-cultural contrast communities, as salt and light, right where they work and worship.

Yep, if Clinton wins, I'll be renewing my persevering prayers for local churches.

nice chatting



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