Election 2016: Optical illusions, white flags
Harriet has said for forty-three years that I have rose-colored glasses. I think she means my deciphering mechanisms have more positive synapses than negative. With that in mind I suppose it should be a compliment. But, in most circumstances I think she means that I don't always see things as they really are, more of a personal liability than an asset. In retrospect she's probably right. There have been many times when my expectation of things and people has veered upward and, as a result, I've had to deal with the disappointments of reality. One of those involves the truth about the political landscape right now. In forty days we'll elect a new president. And, it looks like the evangelical Christian vote will be sharply divided this time around, perhaps more so than in any election cycle in my lifetime. Silly me. I've been praying for unity among people of faith. Maybe my rose colored glasses are broken, as pictured above.
That's a problem for me. And, it's been a dilemma for most Christians too, the divide between the #neverHillary crowd, the #neverTrump group, and the many others who're laboring over their decision. At first the voters favoring Trump were demonized as abandoning their Christian worldview, bending to cultural and political expediencies, or being fear mongers running from the known leanings of Mrs. Clinton. When a large number of well-known, visible Christian leaders joined the Trump camp the spiritual elites back-peddled somewhat, admitting that we'd all have to vote our consciences in this election. What a generous accommodation to the diversity of opinions regarding our vote this time around.
By voting our consciences I'm presuming they mean spiritual deliberation involving prayer for wisdom, Scriptural counsel, consultation with others, and seeking God's guidance for such an important consideration. But, there's a fine line running along side the decision to vote our consciences. I learned about it at Starbucks the other day when a young man at an adjoining table said he interpreted the ideal of voting his conscience to mean voting for the candidate that seemed best in his own eyes. Those words were a launch button for me. Doing what is best in our own eyes just isn't a valid biblical option.
It reminded me of a time in history when God's people didn't have a reliable spiritual leader to guide them, couldn't find common ground in decisions, and didn't seek God to provide his sure guidance in impacting their times. You know, when the people all did was was right in their own eyes. It was a hallmark of the time of the Judges---
In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in his own
Judges 17:6 and 21:25, ESV
The historian had defined it as a time when "the word of the Lord was rare in those days; there was no frequent vision" (1 Samuel 3:1). As a result the people did was most convenient and best for themselves. You know, what was best in their own eyes.
Solomon had also written about this kind of personal autonomy and self-absorbed decision making.
The way of a fool is right in his own eyes, but a wise man listens to advice.
Proverbs 12:15, ESV
Every way of a man is right in his own eyes, but the Lord weighs the heart.
Proverbs 21:2, ESV
Do you see a man who is wise in his own eyes? There is more hope for a fool than
Proverbs 26:12, ESV
Voting our own consciences sounds like a good and acceptable strategy as long as we are mature enough to discern the difference between voting our consciences and doing what is best in our own eyes. But, there's a more troubling angle in this approach. In sweeping fashion we seem resigned to the division that so characterizes the Christian landscape in our nation. With the danger of making self-motivated decisions shouldn't the prayer of God's people be for a unity of spirit in choosing who will lead our nation? Voting our own consciences or doing what is best in our own eyes seems like raising a white flag to the prayer and expectation that God would intervene by convicting a united spirit among his people.
To expect and pray for unity among the Christian population may seem like a pipe dream in these spiritually diverse times. Getting us on the same page about any issue seems distinctly improbable these days. Of the more than 200 established religious groups and denominations, not to mention the 30,000 sects and subsidiary religious affiliations, agreement in matters as clear as the sanctity of life or same sex marriage has proven difficult. We can't even find harmony about the nature of Scripture, the ways we should worship, the meaning of the ordinances, or the color of carpet that we install in the sanctuary, or, pardon me, the worship center. So, Mr. Rose Colored Glasses, what's new? It's not like there's been much unity in the Christian world since the Reformation.
What's new is that we're accepting this kind of separation and division as the new normal of a spiritually diverse church. What's new is an apparent underlying doubt that the God of the impossible could gather his people in one accord as was so obvious at other critical points in human history. To pray for one heart and mind would no doubt dispel our tendencies to do what is right in our own eyes if that prayer was lifted by humans who understood self-denial, submission, and the common good.
There's an Old Testament prayer that comes to mind. No, we're not the nation of Israel and we're not actually facing a vast army. But, the truth of the prayer still fits the circumstances, at least in my opinion. Jehoshaphat prayed...
We do not know what to do, but our eyes are on you.
2 Chronicles 20:12, ESV
To seek God's guidance in shaping our consciences in this important decision is certainly warranted. It must not devolve into doing what is right in our own eyes. Even more, perhaps we should be praying for a unity of spirit so that God's people can once again rightly influence these times.
Pictured in addition to my broken rose-colored glasses are three optical illusions and an eyeball. You see, we all see things differently. There's also a white flag. it's there to remind me that we've settled for being apart and have surrendered our belief that God can make us one.