The 2016 presidential campaign has got me thinking of the potential fallout. If I were the type to worry, I think I’d have a lot to worry about. For instance:
- I’d worry that we have lost the once sacred concept of the secret ballot. I don’t have any political bumper stickers on my car. There are no candidate signs on my lawn. I don’t use my Facebook page to declare my allegiance to this candidate, or my steadfast opposition to that one. I’m going to walk into a voting booth, pull the curtain behind me, and exercise my right to vote in secret. I’m not going to tell you for whom I voted. If I were the worrying type, I’d worry that people have forgotten that keeping one’s mouth shut is always an option, and a great way to avoid a nasty political argument.
- I’d worry that churches will lose their moral authority and distinctiveness. By throwing themselves mind, body, and soul into the political process, churches and church leaders of every stripe have allowed themselves to become more identified with political candidates and party platforms than with the gospel message. The church is not supposed to be the spiritual arm of any political party. Paul was determined to become “all things to all men, that by all means I might save some.” That’s harder to do when the church has practically hung Democrat or Republican signs over the pulpit. Likewise, Paul warned Timothy that a spiritual warrior does not “entangle himself in the affairs of this life.” Today’s church is about as politically entangled as I have ever seen it.
- I’d worry that we have forgotten one of the key lessons of The Holocaust. Jean Francois Steiner’s book Treblinka details how the camp guards would sometimes select a Jew at random and force him or her to make a brutal choice: the inmate was to choose ten people to be killed. If the inmate refused to pick the ten victims, then the guards would kill one hundred people instead. By forcing them to choose what seemed “the lesser of two evils,” the Nazis tried to make the prisoners complicit in the murder of their fellows. But it was a false choice. Everyone imprisoned in those camps was there to be murdered. An inmate’s choice of ten victims did not “save” ninety. Believing there was a lesser of two evils was delusion; the whole system was irredeemably evil. Likewise, I reject as a false choice the idea that it is my duty to vote for whomever I perceive to be the lesser of two evils in this election. By voting for evil, I become complicit in it. Evil never turns out good, and the idea that Evil #1 will turn out better than Evil #2 cannot be verified or proven. I imagine there were people in Pre-War Germany who supported the Nazis only because, compared to the Communists, they seemed the lesser of two evils.
- I’d worry that the division, the rancor, and the scapegoating that have characterized this season will continue unabated after the election. The fabric of civil society is being rent in pieces, and it may never be mended. And I’d worry that otherwise spiritual people will fail to see the spiritual forces at work in all of this. Remember the scene in The Fellowship of the Ring when the big argument breaks out at the Council of Elrond? Did you see and hear what the One Ring was doing while the people bickered and fought? Real life is something like that. Ephesians 6:12 says, “For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly ”
- I’d worry that no matter who gets elected, America’s best days may be behind it.
Of course, all of that is only if I were the worrying type. I’m not. I refuse to worry, because worrying accomplishes nothing. Worry is just fear dialed down to simmer rather than dialed up to boil. It is destructive to mind, body, and spirit. So I’m going to put on some Chopin nocturnes, plan my work week, and plan next weekend’s teaching. Maybe I’ll write a sentence or two in my second novel. I’ve got a dozen cool things on my to-do list. Don’t you? Truth be told, we’ve all got better things to do than to worry.