In eight days, America will have a new president. For some, that’s a terrifying thought.
What if Trump gets behind the most powerful desk in the country and starts making good on his boasts? What happens when he starts building a wall, knocking down mosques, ignoring the environment, cutting the Department of Education, restricting abortions, supporting anti-vaxxers, and ignoring any and all forms of sensitivity or inclusivity? Will we become the most hated country in the world, inviting the threat of war to a trigger-happy political hack? Is a vote for Trump a vote for mumps?
What about Hillary? Sure, we’d have the novelty of a woman president, showing how far our society has come, but at what cost? Will we have a lying, manipulative, heartless criminal running the country, driving us even further into debt and disgrace? Will we continue to open our arms to Muslims while demonizing our law enforcement? Will health care costs continue to skyrocket, destroying the middle class that she claims is so important?
I write a theological blog. That means I’m supposed to say, “Calm down, believers. Take a deep breath. Turn your eyes to the skies. You serve the King of kings (or queens). Accept his choice for America.”
But if you’ve read my recent posts, you know I’m not going to say that. I do believe that God is sovereign. No one can tell him what to do, or how to do it. However, I think Scripture is pretty clear that within that sovereignty we have the freedom and responsibility to make choices, and to face the consequences of those choices.
But I’m not here to talk about responsibility. I’m here to talk about fear.
Did Jesus ever promise that his people would be spared from wicked rulers? Did he ever promise safety or security? Did he ever promise prosperity?
A servant is not greater than his master. If they persecuted me, they will persecute you also. If they obeyed my teaching, they will obey yours also. They will treat you this way because of my name, for they do not know the one who sent me. John 15:20-21
Many American Christians wear a symbol of suffering and scorn around their necks, but when persecution actually comes, even mild persecution, they tend to react with surprise or offense or even fear.
About fifteen years ago, I traveled with Dr. Gary Bonner to Spain to help train choral conductors. The night after I arrived, I sat with my host family as they led a small Bible study in their living room. Everyone was very serious. They kept their voices down. It wasn’t until after the meeting that I learned that the Protestant Church in Spain was being persecuted by the Roman Catholic government.
On Sunday, we attended a church service in a non-descript building with about fifty others. Through interpreters, I learned that many in the congregation had been kicked out of their families because of their Protestant views. They had denied the concept of Purgatory, refusing to pray or give penance for their deceased relatives. They had rejected the intercessory priesthood of the bishops. They had denied the authority of the Pope.
As a person who took religious freedom for granted, I had a hard time believing that any government could tell a person how to interpret the Bible. But for many of the believers in Spain, they lived that reality every day. Their beliefs came at a cost, and they were willing to pay it.
Others pay an even higher price. We’ve seen the pictures. We’ve heard the stories. Our brothers and sisters all around the world are laying down their lives while many of us are crying about things like prayer in schools, or the government changing the Biblical definition of marriage.
I realize that America is a democracy, and we have a unique opportunity to shape the morals of our society from the top down. But I also want to encourage a little perspective.
Jesus was clear—the system of the world and the system of his kingdom would always be at odds. They are incompatible. However, in the midst of this incompatibility, Paul encourages the church to submit to their governing authorities, and to strive for peace with all men.
Sometimes peace is impossible. In our efforts to be true to the faith, we might lose friends. We might lose our families. We might even lose our lives. Are we willing to take that risk?
Jesus told his disciples to take up their crosses and follow him. He wasn’t just doing it for them. They were called to share in his sufferings, and they were eager to do it. Suffering was always part of the package, a natural consequence of being in the world, but not of it.
Considering the state of our American Church, I think it might be a good thing for us to get a little shaken up. And this election and its aftermath might be just what we need to renew our focus.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not hoping for an economic meltdown or another world war. I’m not masochistic. I have kids. But thinking about what Jesus did, and the suffering of my brothers and sisters around the world, I want to face these current challenges with courage and hope.
Let’s not move to Canada.