Who would have thought we’d be here. There is already a great deal of digital ink being spilled about how it happened, what went wrong, what it means, and what the future holds, so I’ll leave that be. I think it would be good for America to set the smart phones down for awhile and reflect, rather than spit out all of our white-hot rage as fast as our fingers can type. Whether you voted for Trump or not, we can all agree that this race was soul-sucking for our nation – scorched-earth; acid in our veins; wrestling to the death in a mud pit. We all need some time to process this – whether you are ecstatic, or depressed.
But here is something that not too many people seem to be talking about. I hear frequently about ominous warnings that what is happening in our country and around the world is unprecedented. And in some ways, this is true. There hasn’t been any president in our history who fit the Trump mold. We have never had a presidential campaign this scandalous and so in-our-faces every minute of every day for 600 days before. We’ve also never had such ridiculously unpopular candidates representing our two major parties.
But, there still are many things we are seeing in 2016 that (believe it or not) are actually pretty familiar to America, and to the world. Let’s just think of a few:
Our nation has never been so divided!
In some ways – but, remember how we once literally started a war against one another? Not a Twitter war, not a Congress stalemate war – a musket, cannon, stab you with a bayonet war between the North and South. Our nation may be more ideologically divided between the Left and the Right than before, and those two poles seem to be moving further and further apart, but we have not yet passed the point of no return. And let’s not be too dismal here, friends – we have made some great strides towards unity. We won’t agree on everything, but we still have a choice speak to one another with respect, learn from people we disagree with, try to persuade each other, and just maybe learn to disagree with graciousness.
We’ve never had such an immoral president!
Well, that’s hard to measure, but it would be more accurate to say that we’ve never had a president who flaunts his immorality. Most of our presidents before just kept it hidden fairly well. I think candidate Trump was nauseatingly arrogant, pompous, incorrigible, rude, demeaning, oblivious, and hypocritical. But had Trump been raised in a different environment, gotten into politics as a young man and learned the game, he probably still would have been the same person, but would have been able to filter all of it through the “politician” front. Spend a few minutes on Google and you’ll find out that our nation’s previous leaders were far from being paragons of morality and virtue. I’m in no way condoning this, just saying that Trump and Hillary weren’t the first “out-there” candidates. (Also, if Kanye follows through with his 2020 promise, he will take first place in the immorality flaunting contest).
The world has never been so unstable!
Again, that’s only kinda true. Sure, ISIS is still around, Brexit happened, the Global economy is wobbling, Russia apparently has a missile the size of the Empire State building, and we just nominated Trump. *forehead smack*. But, let me recommend something to you: go to Netflix and find CNN’s special called “The Sixties” and watch the episode entitled “1968”. If you can finish that entire episode and think that the turmoil we are seeing in the news today is wholly unprecedented, I’ll buy you a cup of coffee. In many ways we are now reaping what was sown in the sixties, and they were reaping what was sown at the dawn of the 20th century, and they were reaping what was sown from the Enlightenment, and on and on this could go all the way back to Adam. The world is, and always has been, screwed up. The difference today is the little rectangle in your pocket. Communication technologies, social media, and the smart phone have enabled us to receive infinitely more information than previous generations, and to receive it instantly. So every scandal, every headline, every calamity, around the globe, unloads into our newsfeeds like water breaking through a dam.
I could keep going on, but my point is this: a good deal of our shell-shock in 2016 would be alleviated if we were better students of history. Where we are as a country makes total sense. Reading a history book might sober us up a bit. But that’s actually only kind of my point, my main point is this: we live in a fallen world, so don’t be shocked when you prick your finger on the thorns. This place isn’t our home, we are just passing through. This world is fraught with the curse of the Garden, so no matter who is in power, it will always be doomed to disappoint us. Perhaps you have seen this bouncing around already, but Calvin was famous for saying that when God wants to judge a nation, He gives them wicked rulers. I think that’s a pretty accurate assessment of our situation.
The Church has a remarkable opportunity now. Our culture as a whole is deeply disenfranchised with what they thought was going to be able to give them security and peace. The notion of “civil religion” has been tied to a big rock and shoved off the boat. We can be real salt and light today. To steal a line from Lewis, we can offer substantive “red beef and strong beer” religion to people, not just pragmatic fluff that teaches vague moral platitudes and prances around like Christianity, trying as hard as it can to win a popularity contest. As the world staggers, we can gently come by their side and point them to the resurrected Messiah who died to secure his Church a hope, a joy, a salvation, and a Kingdom that is not of this world. We can invite them to repent of their sins, bow their knee to their Lord, and find the other-worldly hope that Christ freely gives. And we can work and pray for our nation’s good, without it becoming our god. This means that Christians should be working harder than anyone else for the health and unity of our country, but simultaneously be the least anxious or apocalyptic about it. After all, we already know how the story ends, folks.