I’m not really a politics junkie, but I found the extraordinary divisiveness of the recent presidential campaign mesmerizing (not to mention deeply disturbing). For Christians, the danger of becoming so engrossed in an election like the one we just experienced is that it’s easy easy to lose perspective. Unaware, we can gradually forget what we claim to believe about the sovereignty of God as we agonize over the triumph of this candidate or the failure of that one. This is one reason I called your attention recently to Vince Bacote’s book The Political Disciple. It is filled with reminders of Biblical truths that will keep us grounded if we cling to them.
Before I forget about it, I thought I would also call attention to another voice that I needed to hear in the aftermath of election day. Michael Gerson is one of my favorite writers on public life. A graduate of Wheaton and a former speechwriter for President George W. Bush, his op-ed column in the Washington Post is regularly engaging and insightful. And for those who doubt that a “mainstream media” source like the Post could possibly feature a substantive Christian perspective, Gerson’s editorials consistently prove otherwise.
A case in point was his November 21 piece, “Pushing Back Against the Mortal Risk of Politics.” With candid humility, Gerson reflects on the ways that, in our fallenness, we so regularly take on the attributes of those we criticize. The “mortal risk of politics is becoming what you condemn,” he writes, and it’s a danger “not limited to one side of our political divide.” Gerson goes on to confess, “I have found myself angry at how [pro-Trump evangelicals] have endorsed the politics of anger; bitter about the bitter political spirit they have encouraged; feeling a bit hypocritical in my zeal to point out their hypocrisy.”
But then Gerson preaches the gospel to himself–and to us–by recalling that “an attitude of fuming, prickly anxiety” should be foreign to followers of Jesus for at least two reasons. First. “Christian belief relativizes politics.” He elaborates,
The pursuit of social justice and the maintenance of public order are vital work. But these tasks are temporary, and, in an ultimate sense, secondary. If Christianity is true, C. S. Lewis noted, then “the individual person will outlive the universe.” All our anger and worry about politics should not blind us to the priority and value of the human beings placed in our lives, whatever their background or beliefs.
The practical implications of this truth are clear and convicting: “‘Those people’ are also ‘our people.’ . . . No change of president or shift in the composition of the Supreme Court can result in a repeal of the Golden Rule.”
Second, “Christians are instructed not to be anxious.” In his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught us not to worry about tomorrow, trusting by faith that God is good and that He is in control. The atheist may see the universe as “indifferent to the lives and dreams of jumped-up primates crawling on an unremarkable blue ball,” but our faith assures us that “that blue ball was touched by God in a manner and form that Homo Sapiens might understand. And the vast, cold universe is really a sheltering sky.”
Gerson ends with words of encouragement:
After a dismal and divisive campaign season, many of us need the timely reminders of the Advent season: That people matter more than all our political certainties. That God is in control, despite our best efforts. And that some conflicts can’t be won by force or votes–only by grace.