This has been an exhausting year in politics. We have two deplorable candidates before us, and I think we ended up with them because they accurately represent what our country has come to value:
Will to Power
And sometimes, I think I can hear Augustine’s words of Rome echoing through the noise in our present age:
Decency is veiled from sight; indecency is exposed to view. Scenes of evil attract packed audiences; good works scarcely find any listeners.
-City of God
I’ve hesitated to write on this election because the unpopular truth is: America deserves the candidates with which we’ve been left.
We are after all the ones who consume television and movies that are thinly veiled as entertainment but are really just scattered scenes of sexual perversity and gratuitous violence, and we think they don’t affect us as our sense of right is deadened; and yet we stand, jaw agape when another man acts on these same principles.
We are the ones who watched uncomfortably as refugees flooded shores, desperately looking for safety, and maybe we shed a tear for a boy who drowned, but then we turned away, only to forget them when a celebrity did something scandalous.
We are the ones who have treated children as assets to fulfill our desires: little conduits for our own happiness, doing nothing as 54 million of them have been murdered on our soil for the last 40 years.
We are the ones who walk by the un-showered, jobless, and red-eyed man on the street, only to look away and silently thank our gods that we are not like him, maybe patting ourselves on the back for tossing him a dollar.
We have watched in confusion as racial tensions erupt all over the country, choosing sides with simplistic answers that require nothing more from us than a hashtag and a wrinkle on our forehead.
We are the ones who cling to our pocketbooks like they will save us, hoarding our precious treasures in homes we have built up like a wall against the world, with our greatest question being, “where should we vacation this year?” And then we curse God for our own emptiness.
We have consumed, demanded, and reveled in our own comfort, and yet we are shocked as we face two candidates who epitomize exactly what we’ve been living our lives for: power, money, sexuality, and self-actualization.
I wrote once that I Hold No Hope in Democracy, and the reason is because I have no faith in Humanity. Our supposed “progressed” country has only exchanged one crime for another. Despite our very best efforts we are still plagued with racism, sexism, murder, poverty, and a new version of slavery hidden behind the walls of our sexual industry. It seems obvious that we are doomed to failure.
We can respond to this reality in a few ways:
We could close our eyes to it, maybe focus on fluffy stories, and keep distracting ourselves with beauty products, alcohol, entertainment, recreation, or whatever our numbing agent of choice may be. Despite the evidence we could keep saying “we’ve progressed, look at all the good things humans have accomplished!” while shoving the ugliness back under the proverbial rug.
Maybe we could decide to hate Humanity, sharing e.e. cummings sentiments
Humanity i love you
because you would rather black the boots of
success than enquire whose sole dangles from his
watch-chain which would be embarrassing for both
parties and because you
unflinchingly applaud all
songs containing the word country home and
mother when sung at the old howard
Humanity i love you because
when you’re hard up you pawn
your intelligence to buy a drink and when
you’re flush pride keeps
you from the pawn shop and
because you are continually committing
nuisances but more
especially in your own house
Humanity i love you because you
are perpetually putting the secret of
life in your pants and forgetting
it’s there and sitting down
and because you are
forever making poems in the lap
of death Humanity
i hate you
But how can we hate that which God has loved? This wretched Humanity we belong to is the very same for which he hung bleeding and with his last breath, proclaimed, “forgive them, they don’t know what they’re doing.” And we don’t know what we’re doing, do we? We are the ones who have exchanged the God of goodness for our own methods that always result in failure. Yet, despite this, and because of this, he entered Humanity to offer us an alternative. And with him we can look at the world through new eyes:
The believer can be neither a pessimist nor optimist. To be either is illusory. The believer sees reality not in a certain light but he sees it as it is and believes only in God and his power towards all and over all that he sees.
We can look at the world, and our broken Humanity—ourselves—not with hopeless fatalism, or blind optimism, but through the eyes of the one who hung bleeding for our wretchedness. Because he alone offers lasting:
And until he returns in the flesh, we can stand in the midst of whatever the world may become, offering our hand to comfort the afflicted, to listen to the oppressed, to pursue justice for those who have no voice, and to enter into the complexity of a broken world; not with empty promises, but with the certain hope that he offers.
As this election approaches, we can vote with a certain kind of confidence, even as we labor over the ethic of our choice. Because, if our decision is made ultimately by leaning not on our own ethical systems, Democracy, nor Humanity, but on him, then there is hope. We can have confidence in the One who holds all things in his hands—those hands that crafted the stars, and that were torn with nails for us—we can face this messy election and any uncertain future with peace, not because Humanity is good, but because God is. He has always been at work whether good or evil reigns, and he will continue until he fully remakes the messes we’ve made. One day he will restore order, he will lift up the oppressed, and he will bring justice. We can look forward with hope, not in ourselves, but in the God whose powerful, scarred hands, will tenderly wipe away every tear forever.
Humanity, we deserve this election, but God doesn’t leave us with what we deserve, instead he gives us himself.