I recently had an old friend from high school – one of my first evangelical childhood friends – comment on one of my election Facebook posts with the following: “the worst candidates we’ve ever had running…just shows where our country has gone…God giving us signs for the end times? Maybe…”
“God giving us signs for the end times.” Because of a presidential election. These words – LITERALLY – could only come out of the mouth (or pen) of a white, evangelical citizen of the U.S. of A. What other country would think that the world is ending because they only have corrupt candidates running for the highest office in the land? I can’t think of one. What brown-skinned citizen of the U.S. would think the world is ending because they don’t have a presidential candidate who truly represents their interests? Laughable.
The apocalyptic language on all sides of this election season has this in common: at root, a core belief that the future of the world stands or falls with the future of the United States.
It does not.
Yes, the U.S. plays an outsized influence in the global economy and global politics. Yes, the U.S. is looked to as a leader by many in these and other arenas. I am not saying there is nothing to worry about regarding the consequences of this election. What I am saying, to the U.S., and particularly to the privileged white class in the U.S.: you’re not as important as you think you are.
If Clinton or Trump is elected – yes, even Trump – the world will keep on spinning. And who knows? Perhaps this election will lessen the influence of the U.S. on the world in certain ways. Perhaps those who have looked to the U.S. as leader will begin to look elsewhere. Perhaps the U.S. will begin to regard itself with more humility and be less prone to take a holier-than-thou attitude toward the problems of other countries.
And none of that would be a bad thing.
Empires rise and fall, and history goes on. It may not be fun for those in the empire – and I, like others, particularly worry about those most vulnerable in our society – but let’s not fall into the trap of seeing the U.S. as the center of it all. This view is firmly rooted in the founding myths of our country – from the time of John Winthrop’s reference to the new colonies as a “city on a hill” (from Jesus’ words in Matt 5) down to Reagan’s 1980 address on the eve of the election, calling the U.S. “that shining city on a hill.” These men thought the U.S. was God’s ambassador to the world, representing what the Kingdom ought to look like. Winthrop went so far as to say that if the New England experiment failed, “we shall open the mouths of enemies to speak evil of the ways of God.”
Does God’s reputation depend on the success or failure of the United States? Certainly not. God has, however, tied God’s good name to a particular group of people. For better or for worse. That group of people is not the citizens of the United States, but is rather made up of the citizens of many nations. It is the church.
We cannot control the future of the United States. (No, not even with our votes.) What we can do is faithfully live out the Kingdom in the midst of a broken world, a brokenness to which the U.S. has contributed disproportionately (pre-Trump).
I close with the words of my favorite singer/songwriter/prophet Rich Mullins, as he paraphrases Psalm 2:
The Lord in Heaven laughs
He knows what is to come
While all the Chiefs Of State plan their big attacks
Against His anointed One
The Church of God she will not bend her knees
To the Gods of this world though they promise her peace
She stands her ground, stands firm on the Rock
Watch their walls tumble down when she lives out His love.*
*Rich Mullins, “While the Nations Rage,” Never Picture Perfect, 1993. Reunion Records.