My Republican friends have been moping about the election results. They’ve been putting on a brave face—they’ve been saying the usual platitudes about how God is still in control, even though Mitt Romney won’t be; how very bummed they are, but how they’re gonna put their trust in Jesus.
Hopefully some of them recognize that these are the things you say when you’ve been putting your faith in an idol, and God just smashed that idol. But probably not. It took me quite a few years before I got to that point.
The first presidential election where I didn’t get my way was the 1992 election. I had voted for George H.W. Bush. Most of my fellow Republicans had as well—but a significant minority had instead voted for independent candidate H. Ross Perot, which meant Bill Clinton had the most votes, and secured the Electoral College. I was, at the time, horrified. What the hell was wrong with Americans? Now this hippie was president.
…Okay, I know, most of the Republicans who know me nowadays assume I’m a hippie. It’s the long hair, the bare feet, and the fact I’m now a Democrat. Real hippies know better: I’m far too conservative for them. But I digress.
I had been drinking deeply from the Republican Kool-Aid. There’s always an element, in either party, which tells you that if the other guy wins, the Apocalypse is soon to follow. The Republicans I knew were convinced that the very day Clinton took the oath of office, he’d immediately begin to implement some freakish cross between Leninist Communism and Nazi Germany. Never mind that Nazis and Commies are entirely opposed to one another ideologically: They’re both socialists, and to Republicans, any socialist is the enemy. Ronald Reagan said government is the problem; they believe it; that settles it. Margaret Thatcher said you can’t tax your way to prosperity; and if you know absolutely nothing about France or Sweden or Israel or Singapore or the Netherlands or Denmark or West Germany or Italy or even her own United Kingdom, you’ll believe her. So any plan Clinton had to make the government help people? Communism. Or Nazism. Either. Both. Whatever. Clinton bad.
So when Clinton won the election, part of me expected those dire Republican warnings to come true: Clinton was going to usher in a new Orwellian dark age. I was bummed. It felt, not just like the party had lost, but like Christianity had lost. Because weren’t we Republicans the good, moral ones? Weren’t we the pro-life party? Weren’t we in favor of keeping the gays in the closet? Weren’t we in favor of getting 7-Eleven to stop carrying Penthouse in their magazine racks? We were the good guys!... yet we lost. The country was going to hell.
Somehow it never sunk in: The reason my hopes had been dashed was because I was putting those hopes in the wrong thing. I was supposed to put them in Jesus. Not the Republicans. Not the party platform. Not the plans our politicians had for America—which they somehow never get around to implementing once we actually give them power. But I digress again.
It took a few more elections, a few more bummers, before it finally did sink in: I was practicing idolatry. I have no business putting my hopes in anything other than Jesus.
And if you’re bummed out because Romney lost, that’s precisely what you’re doing too.
Now I know you’re gonna have a ton of excuses why your post-election blues have nothing whatsoever to do with idolatry.
You’re bothered by the plans Obama and the Democrats have for the country. You were hoping to overturn this or that, and now you’re gonna have to wait another four years for another shot at it. You’re in the upper class, yet you’ve convinced yourself and others you’re in the middle class, and you want your taxes lowered. You’re freaked out about another four years of abortion in this country—which the Republicans somehow didn’t abolish during that two-year window in 2001-03 when they had the trifecta of the Presidency, the Congress, and the Supreme Court. Hm; maybe they didn’t do anything because they knew they’d kill off the goose that laid the golden pro-life vote? Hard to win future elections once you finally give your base what they’ve been longing for—and suddenly they realize they have nothing else in common with the Mammon-worshiping libertarians who make up the rest of the party. But I’ve ranted on that elsewhere.
Each of those things, I point out, can also be idolatry. It’s not just putting your trust in the party, or in a particular platform. It’s putting your trust in anything other than Jesus. Anything that’s going to totally pass away once Jesus returns and takes over: If you’re worried about it, you’ve picked the wrong thing to worry about.
So be honest with yourself. Once I was, I stopped worrying about elections. I would have been annoyed if Romney had won—like I said yesterday, he’s a liar—but not bummed. Not depressed. Not worried for the future of our nation. My hope has nothing to do with the future of our nation. It has to do with the Kingdom of God. Follow Jesus.