Friends and family have asked me my thoughts on the election that took place last Tuesday. While I posted an immediate reaction that called for Christians to be a light to the the lost, those sentiments were not necessarily a reaction to the fact that Donald J. Trump became our President-elect last Tuesday/early Wednesday.
As an analytical thinker, I’ve been taking a long time to process the fact that Trump won. It certainly was not the outcome that I wanted. To be clear, however, neither would a Clinton victory have been the outcome I was hoping for. In a political season that has been nothing short of extraordinary, my desire was for Evan McMullin to pull off the last second Hail Mary pass, win Utah, prevent a majority in the electoral college, and send the presidential election race to Congress.
That was my hope, not my expectation. In full disclosure, I actually voted for Trump in my home state of Georgia because I reasoned that, if McMullin was going to have any shot, Trump was going to have to win certain states, Georgia being one of them. So, in a close race, voting for McMullin may have actually impeded his one shot at pulling the upset. I decided to vote for Trump.
The electoral college tally, of course, wound up not being close at all.
The Still-Inflated Balloon
Many of my friends, I remember, mentioned that they could not wait until this election season was over. They expected the fervor to die down and for life to return to a sense of normalcy. They could not wait for the conversation to turn away from the politics of the 2016 election.
Yet, in the week since, large protests have been staged in some of the biggest cities in the U.S. My social media feeds have still been filled with people, on both sides of the issue, tweeting and posting stories about the lunacy of their opposition, either the racism of Trump’s America or the hypocrisy and whininess of those protesting.
While it has only been a week, the balloon of emotion surrounding this election is still quite full, and with the amount of heat generated, I would not expect the controversy to just go away in a couple of weeks (though our extremely short attention spans as a society could surprise me yet again).
The tumultuous election season revealed an extraordinary problem at the heart of our nation. Whether the protests continue or quiet, the aftermath has done nothing but confirm some of my suspicions.
The Real Problem
The week before the election, I had a conversation with a friend of mine here in south Georgia on his podcast. In that conversation, I stumbled through my attempt at explaining the state of our country as it relates to our recent political season. I argued that our electoral situation was comparable to a runaway bus headed toward a cliff. I compared electing Clinton to deciding to go straight off the cliff and electing Trump as a jerk of the wheel into a large boulder. To go off the cliff would mean a one-hundred percent chance of death while the collision into the boulder would mitigate our chances of dying by a mere fifteen percent.
It’s a somewhat crude allegory, but I do believe the United States is in a dire place. We truly did not have a good choice, and the “lesser of two evils” argument often obscured that truth. In Clinton, we had a corrupt bureaucrat who represented everything that is wrong with our political system. In Trump, we had an egotistical American-style aristocrat who represented everything wrong with the moral fabric of our country. To be sure, those two lines (between the problems with our politics and our morality) blurred and mingled within each candidate’s campaign, but the broader distinction between the two holds.
With such terrible options, the question, in my mind, becomes: why did we have the candidates that we had? How did we wind up in this situation where our country was choosing between two morally flawed presidential candidates? The only answer to those questions, I believe, is that “we the people” had become morally bankrupt ourselves.
Of course, such a claim will not be popular, but I would argue that our moral degradation has been taking place on multiple levels, with each one fueling and driving the other. The culture makers from the top-down and the culture consumers from the bottom-up have sent us on a possibly interminable downward spiral, and no one, not even those in the church, should think of themselves as exempt.
Pinpointing a starting point for when this spiral started is extremely difficult, but this election season has highlighted the hypocrisy of the media rather demonstrably. Now, when I say media, I mean to include both the entertainment and the news media. Many within either of these two fields have a Left-leaning worldview. What’s funny is that those who say “there’s no such thing as a good Trump voter” represent the same milieu that has allowed and even encouraged his womanizing, brash personality.
When Donald Trump meant publicity and revenue streams, the media loved him. Trump is who he has been for the last 20-30 years. Where has the outcry been from the Left? For 11 years, a tape wherein Donald Trump pronounced his sexually predatory ethic rested safely tucked away within the Access Hollywood archives. That video only saw the light of day when Trump became a formidable political adversary of the Left’s political aspirations. If the media really cared about ethics more than they care about pocketbooks, then Trump would have been dethroned years ago.
That “hot mic” video revealed a conversation where Trump and Billy Bush were both speaking in tones that horribly demeaned women. The fact that it was not a Donald diatribe exposes the possibility that such a sexually predatory mindset might be fairly prevalent in Hollywood’s culture.
For example, just this past weekend I noticed the advertisement for American Crew below while I was getting a haircut:
When the allure of sexual conquest is so entrenched within a worldview that it is used to sell hair products, then it might be time for those who hold to that worldview to do some serious self-reflection.
Unfortunately, when the media started selling these messages to us, we rather readily bought in. While the liberalized sectors of Hollywood and New York City may have been the ones dangling the carrot, we the people have been the ones to eat it and demand more. With porn sites reportedly accruing more monthly visitors than Netflix, Amazon, and Twitter combined, the evidence for our moral degradation becomes fairly compelling.
We have allowed our consciences to become numb to highly destructive behavioral patterns. This plays a major part in explaining why Trump became a serious presidential candidate, then the Republican nominee, and then the President-elect. We, as a people, do not peel back the layers of our own lives and discover ourselves to be men and women of integrity. So, why should it matter whether or not our political leaders have any moral fortitude?
For decades, the Christian church has been decrying the liberalization of our culture, from sexuality to drug use to issues relating to marriage. When Bill Clinton’s sexual indiscretions came to light, many suggested that the then-President should resign. Yet, when the political winds turned and the candidate with the bad sexual history was the Republican nominee, many balked on the matter (or worse). Of course, some remained adamantly opposed.
This year’s presidential election put many people in a difficult spot. For many Christians, the vote for Trump was more a vote against Hillary Clinton than anything else. Earlier in this post, I described how my own vote for Trump was a prayer that third party candidate, Evan McMullin, would be able to create some noise by winning Utah. So, I clearly cannot begrudge any Christian who voted for Trump.
But one thing is clear, the moral hypocrisy within our country has clearly tainted the Religious Right. Far too many evangelical leaders have compromised Christian and biblical values in their support of Donald Trump. Even in the difficult political climate, they were not as clear as they could have or should have been.
The Only Solution
There are many in our country today who fear what a Trump presidency might mean for their livelihood, but there were also many in America who voted for Trump out of fear for their own livelihood. We can argue in circles as to whether either of these sets of fears will be or would have been realized. We can also argue over the legitimacy behind either sets of those fears. Regardless of who is right or wrong about what was and is at stake, there really is only one, genuine solution.
When sin so obviously starts to emanate from both the Right and from the Left, I pray that we as a people start to realize the need to start looking up–up toward Heaven from where a Savior descended and up toward a cross where that Savior died to redeem people from all political stripes.
While this may sound trite, only the Gospel of Christ’s salvation and the sanctifying power of His Word has any chance of mending within the American people what this year’s election has revealed as broken (not what this election broke, mind you).
My hope is that the wretched stink of the last several months will lead a large number of people to stop looking for salvation to come from a political candidate and start considering the fact that maybe, just maybe, there exists a divine Incumbent whose salvation remains on offer for all who would listen and respond.