09 November 2022

Bummed your candidate lost?

Yesterday was Election Day in the United States, and since elections take time to tabulate (and people whose candidate lost will sometimes refuse to accept the tabulations, and demand they run ’em again, and even then insist something went wrong in the counting process, and sue, and bear false witness against the tabulators for years afterward), the results are still up in the air. It agitates the impatient. But eventually we’ll know who won… and one side or the other is gonna mope about it.

And, same as in every election, the losing side is gonna put on a brave face, say the usual platitudes—“God’s will be done,” and “God is in control,” and “God works out everything for our good,” et cetera, ad nauseam. God’s on the throne, even though their candidate won’t be. They’re very bummed, and sometimes there’s even weeping and gnashing of teeth and rage.

But they put their trust in Jesus. So they say… now. They weren’t before. This “God’s in charge” stuff is what people say after they’ve been putting their trust in an idol, and God just smashed that idol. As he does.

But not all of ’em will accept the idea God’s in charge. A number of them are plotting violence, and justify it by claiming God’s will has been frustrated. What comes next? God’s wrath… which looks suspiciously like their wrath.

I heard quite a lot of rightists talk about wrath during the Barack Obama years. Yeah, it’s projection; they’re angry, and covet power, and dream of sweet vengeance. Broken idol or not, they’re still idolaters—coveting and worshiping power.

Some of us are just that dense. I sure was.

Confession time.

You might already know I used to be Republican. It’s how I was raised. Christian mom, atheist dad, but both are still Republican. We went to a Christian Right church, so I was taught the Republican party was the only one Christians could vote for, since the Democrats were so very pro-abortion. So that’s how I voted in my teens and twenties.

The first presidential election where I didn’t get my way was 1992: George H.W. Bush lost to Bill Clinton. The conservative vote had been split between Bush and independent candidate H. Ross Perot, which meant Clinton had the plurality and secured the Electoral College. So I was horrified: What the hell was wrong with Americans? Now this hippie was president.

(Amusing since a lot of people now presume I’m a hippie. Must be the long hair, beard, and all the tie-dye shirts. And yeah, I used to wear sandals all the time. And yeah, I’m not Republican anymore; I switched parties in 2005. But real hippies figure I’m way too conservative for them. Anyway let’s hop off this tangent.)

In both parties there’s an element which firmly believes if the other candidate wins, it triggers the End Times. So in ’92 the Christian Right was convinced the very day Clinton took the oath of office, he’d immediately implement some freakish amalgam of Leninist Communism and Nazi Germany. Nevermind the fact Nazis and Commies are entirely opposed to one another; any boogeyman would do. When you’re trying to terrify people, thinking only gets in the way.

One of Ronald Reagan’s favorite lines was that government isn’t the solution but the problem. We rightists believed him. Margaret Thatcher had stated you can’t tax your way to prosperity, and since Americans knew nothing about geography and all the countries which had built a great infrastructure through an activist government (i.e. Canada, France, Sweden, Israel, Singapore, the Netherlands, Denmark, West Germany, Italy, or even Thatcher’s own United Kingdom) we believed her; that settled it. So any plans Clinton made to help people through government means? Communism! Or Nazism. Either. Both. Whatever. Clinton bad.

So once Clinton won, part of me expected those dire Republican predictions to come true: He’d usher in a new Orwellian dark age. I was depressed. It didn’t just feel like the Christian Right had lost; it felt like Christianity had, and America was now going to hell. We Republicans were good moral people—the prolife party, who kept the queers in the closet and got 7-Eleven to quit stocking nasty porn in their magazine racks. We were the good guys! Yet we lost. America was doomed.

Somehow it never sunk in: The reason my hopes were dashed, was ’cause my hopes were put in the wrong thing. I’m supposed to put ’em in Jesus, not Republicans. Not a party platform. Not the plans our politicians had for America… which they somehow never get round to implementing once we actually give them power.

And it took a few elections, a few more bummers, and then a few victories, before it finally did sink in: I was a civic idolater. I have no business putting my hopes in anything or anyone other than Christ Jesus. Neither do you.

So if you’re bummed out ’cause your candidate lost—whether it’s Bob Dole, Al Gore, John Kerry, Mitt Romney, John McCain, or Hillary Clinton—that’s precisely what you’ve been doing too.

Gotta fight the denial.

Now I know you’re gonna have a buttload of excuses why your post-election blues have nothing whatsoever to do with civic idolatry.

  • You’re really bothered by the plans the other party’s candidate has for our country. Different worldviews. Different priorities. Different theories of governance, diplomacy, human rights, economics, or justice. Plus you don’t care for their personal character—although y’notice character doesn’t matter at all to certain partisans.
  • You were hoping to retain this or that, or overturn this or that. Now you gotta wait two to four years for another shot at change. Or not.
  • You’re convinced their beliefs are immoral: They don’t see the weak and innocent as worth defending. (They have wholly different definitions of what comprises “weak and innocent.”) They’re willing to make vast moral compromises in the pursuit of power. Jesus can’t approve.
  • And you believe if Jesus can’t approve, America might come under a divine curse and lose its status, wealth, might, or position as an outpost of God’s kingdom. (Which, I remind you, it never was. Jesus is still gonna overthrow it.)

Each of these things is a form of idolatry. Clinging to them means we’ve not wholly put our trust in Christ Jesus. And all of them will totally pass away once Jesus returns and takes over. If anything shares that characteristic—if it’s gonna pass away—it’s the wrong thing to worry about.

So be honest with yourself.

Once I was, I stopped worrying about elections. If I still had that mindset, I’d be just as bummed—or outraged—as the partisans on the losing side. ’Cause my hope would be in this world, not God’s kingdom.