Where to Go From Here?
It’s beyond cliché at this point to say the country is divided. Those of us who narrowly lost the White House and Senate find that no consolation.
Lament the Outcome
The longest book of the Bible is filled with poetry, much of which expresses sadness, anger and deep loss. As God’s image-bearers, we’re not merely rational creatures. Our intellect is entwined with our emotions, our bodies and our souls. It’s why lack of sleep can lead to depression — and depression to lack of sleep. It’s why anger can lead to ulcers. It’s why relational harmony promotes physical health and mental clarity. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones” (Proverbs 17:22).
Is your spirit crushed? What we see in the Psalms is that it’s okay to grieve, and to offer that grief to God. He works all things for good. His ways are higher than ours. Only He truly knows what He’s up to.
Acknowledge Frustration, But Move Forward
Many of us are frustrated with fellow Christians who saw things differently. An argumentwas circulated by some highly respected Christians that a vote for Trump would be a poor witness to non-Christians; that Trump was something of a moral cancer contributing to societal rot. While deeply felt, this view was poorly reasoned. As Wayne Grudem observed, yes, there is too much hostility in our day, and Trump bears some responsibility. But it’s the political Left that first stoked these flames, and to a much greater degree.
Do you remember when Congresswoman Maxine Waters encouraged supporters to harass Trump administration officials in public places and to tell them “they’re not welcome anymore, anywhere”? When have elected officials ever spoken that way about those working for an opposing party’s President? It was Nancy Pelosi who tweeted, six months after Trump’s 2016 victory, that the election was “hijacked” and that Congress had a duty to “protect our democracy.” (If an elected Republican said this today, how long would it take for them to be erased on social media?)
Yet Trump’s Fall 2019 impeachment and the subsequent Christianity Today editorial arguing for Trump’s removal may have laid the groundwork for other prominent evangelical non-support. Newsweek ran a story about a billboard ad campaign targeted to evangelicals in the Midwest, with data suggesting it was effective. It’s frustrating to see the “character matters” argument applied only one way — with no consideration, for example, of the Biden family’s business dealings with China. It’s also frustrating that the “character matters” folks gave little consideration to Trump’s many policy achievements — which is the overwhelming reason so many Americans supported him in spite of, not because of, his tweets.
Acknowledge the frustration, but don’t wallow in it. Get up and move forward.
Pray for Religious Liberty
In 1 Timothy 2:1-2 we’re told to pray for our leaders so that “we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” But then Paul connects this to God’s desire to save sinners (vs. 4). By implication: God desires governments to create a context that allows for the gospel to freely advance. The state can’t mandate conversion. We wouldn’t want them to try. Salvation is about an internal transformation. But the state shouldn’t hinder people, either.
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Do you remember Chinese pastor Wang Yi, imprisoned in 2018, and now serving a 9-year sentence? His church released a letter he’d written in the event of his arrest. Yi observed that the communist persecution of Christians was also a sin against non-Christians. Why? Because “the government is brutally and ruthlessly threatening them and hindering them from coming to Jesus.”
Yeah, but that’s China. Couldn’t happen here, right? Cultural observers have been sounding the alarm on the rise of soft totalitarianism for years, with the axis of big media, big business and progressive ideology now neatly aligned, each ready to support the others. In the wake of the senseless violence at the Capitol, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez opined that “we’re going to have to figure out how we rein in our media environment so that you can’t just spew disinformation and misinformation.” The problem, of course, is who decides what’s not allowed?
Cherish Our First Freedoms
It reminds me of a tendency, more common among younger adults like Ocasio-Cortez, to seek protection from competing ideas. Surveys show that between 40-50% of Americans between the ages of 18 and 30 think the First Amendment is extreme. Why? Because you could use your freedom of speech to say things that might hurt someone else’s feelings. (Sasse, p. 249)
We’re not talking about the censorship of pornography, violence or profanity. We’re talking about ideas. Will it be okay to tell our neighbors that Jesus is the only way to God, and that God calls us to follow biblical sexual ethics? It’s not hard to imagine our cultural elites regarding this as offensive, narrow, even intolerable.
The inclination to limit ideas may not be just an AOC or young adult thing. A friend of mine posted on social media when YouTube first announced that they were going to take down all videos alleging election fraud. This was December 9, before the electoral college had even met to vote. I remarked, “Even if you think it’s bogus, why not leave the videos up there and let folks think for themselves? It’s not like there isn’t a lot of kookier stuff out there.” An older gentleman I respect responded, “But we know it’s not true.” Kind of proves my point: Are we going to have a society where the Intelligentsia tells us what we’re allowed to see, read and think? Or one where people have the freedom to hear competing claims?
We need to winsomely explain why the First Amendment is so special, how it safeguards us from tyranny. We need to pray that God would raise up more leaders who will govern with righteous judgment and who will respect our first freedoms.
More could be said, but let’s start there.
Dr. Alex Chediak (Ph.D., U.C. Berkeley) is a professor and the author of Thriving at College, a roadmap for how students can best navigate the challenges of their college years. His latest book is Beating the College Debt Trap. Learn more about him at www.alexchediak.com or follow him on Twitter (@chediak).