Going to bed last night, and even waking up this morning, I was struck by the variety of responses to the election results. Fear. Anger. Hopelessness. Vengeance. Sorrow. Frustration. Pride. In trying to process my own emotions and thoughts on the matter as well as put what transpired into focus, my mind turned once again to T. S. Eliot’s “The Hollow Men.” The poem is somewhat vague, filled with symbolism and metaphors that don’t go entirely explained within the poem itself. It’s the fifth section that I was most drawn to. I’ve included a portion of the poem below (it’s set up as Eliot intended, so don’t blast me for how unconventional it is):
Between the idea And the reality Between the motion And the act Falls the Shadow For Thine is the Kingdom Between the conception And the creation Between the emotion And the response Falls the Shadow Life is very long Between the desire And the spasm Between the potency And the existence Between the essence And the descent Falls the Shadow For Thine is the Kingdom For Thine is Life is For Thine is the This is the way the world ends... Not with a bang, but a whimper.
Tragic, depressing stuff, but that’s where my mind goes thanks to my time teaching language arts. For whatever reason, things come into focus for me in this way. So, after dabbling in the melancholy, I decided to list, point-by-point, my thoughts on the election.
- God is still on the throne, no matter who won last night. That is not a consolation, but it is instead a glory to wonder at as well as a blessed assurance. God’s purposes will still be accomplished regardless of man’s struggle for power. He has raised up kings and kingdoms, and He has overthrown them according to His purposes. The heart of our “king” is in His hand, and the entire universe is under His control. God is not dead, nor does He sleep. He can bring about justice, mercy, and provision for His glory no matter who is in the Oval Office or has a seat in Congress.
- When it comes to the presidential election, we had two choices: a moderate with a questionable voting record on moral issues OR a liberal with a definite bias against moral issues. A two-party system is going to drive everyone to appear moderate during election time. People appear to have preferred the devil they knew.
- Elections are snapshots of a society. Given the victories for those who champion immoral, anti-religious causes, the snapshots reveal that we are a sick, sick people. The ruling party at the moment supports the murder of unborn infants. Greed has infested our society to the point that the rich invest in politics to protect their wealth, and the poor and middle class vote to take from the wealthy by sheer force. Stories of racially-motivated hatred (white folks and New Black Panthers alike) and unsympathetic comments from a certain Chris Matthews regarding the political effects of Hurricane Sandy flooded the news media. We are a divided and self-destructive society, but I’m not going to dwell here. My point is all too easily made.
- Between a quick read of Scripture and thumbing through the history books, we discover that the two points above bring us to a logical conclusion: America is at a very important crossroads. God’s purposes will always come to pass, but whole kingdoms may be removed if they don’t follow His commands. This isn’t about theocracy, folks. This is about sovereignty. America does not equal Israel, nor is there such a thing as a truly “Christian” nation. However, God does have demands for all nations. Egypt’s sins were many, so God used the plagues to chasten them. Canaanite cultures were wiped out because their sin was so wretched that God states that the land itself was ready to expel them. Babylon, Persia, Greece, and Rome were mighty nations which were given power by God providentially, and they all had their power removed by that same Providence when their national sins were too many. They victimized the innocent, the poor, and the faithful alike. They became cruel, prideful, or hateful, so God used nature and nations to move them off the scene. So it may be with America before long. How quickly she rose to greatness, and how quickly she has fallen in power and prosperity within my own lifetime! There may be yet a national rebirth, a renewed conscience in this nation. It has happened before in many other nations, including our own. A single election does not signal our necessary downfall. If not, however, we must trust God to be faithful and good to His people even as He removes America from the world scene at some point in the (hopefully) distant future. He would not be unjust for bringing us far lower than we are at this point or for removing us as a nation entirely. He is “not a tame Lion, but He is good.” The problem is not God’s goodness, but our “badness.” The problem is that we- as a nation- might be weighed in the balance and found wanting.
- The real issue in America is the Church, not the World. The World is merely doing what it has been doing since the Fall. It forces conformity to pride, lust, and violence. It fuels self-will and seeks to drown out Christ in a sea of brazen rebellion. Nothing has changed since mankind left the Garden. God’s people, on the other hand, have failed miserably. Some Christians are walled gardens of stinkweed and poison ivy. They are content to shut themselves off from the culture in the name of “fundamentalism.” The Salt has refused to leave the Shaker, so the Meal is either bland or rotten. Other Christians have turned Jesus into a political figure, using Him to champion various political causes that have nothing to do with Christ or the Bible. Still others are guilty of idolatry similar to the Statism of our nation as a whole. While not technically replacing God with the Government, they have nonetheless transferred God’s commands to the Church to various government assistance programs. This group has managed to foist a whole new form of legalism upon us, all the while quoting chapter and verse completely out of context. A final group of Christians see fit to just be lazy and ignorant, frankly. They choose to ignore the issues of the day, sit on their hands, and hum a cheesy worship song while posting a single verse from Psalms on Election Day, all the while congratulating themselves that they are concerned with “more important things besides ‘politics’.” Or perhaps they work themselves into a frenzy in the months heading in to the election, but they do nothing the rest of the year to meet the physical and spiritual needs of others. It’s as if they were cramming for a test in college, and the lack of effort shows. If the Church refuses to be salt and light, if we aren’t thinking right and believing right and acting right each and every day of the year, why should we expect to have any influence at all on the direction of the Nation we claim to love so much? What is a nation besides a group of people? If we care nothing for souls and bodies alike, then maybe we are just married to an ideal based on half-learned or biased history lessons.
And so here we are on November 7th, and I am going to bring this post full circle. The Shadow has fallen between idea and reality, motion and act, conception and creation, emotion and response. While we as a Church and a Nation ought to be crying out, “For Thine is the Kingdom!”, we are instead wrapped up in our party, our ideals, our issues, our emotions…..ourselves. And there’s nothing more depressing then ourselves, so instead we find ourselves crying out in our depression and hopelessness (or perhaps unsatisfactory triumph), “Life is very long!” We are wearied and discouraged by life because we are controlled by what we consume. The Shadow falls, paralyzing us, just as T.S. Eliot predicted. The soul of this Nation- and especially the Church- is struggling desperately to shake off the weight of evil and self-delusion. At one moment, she cries out “For Thine is….” but falls silent before ceding authority and kingship. The next she finds herself muttering “Life is…..” while recognizing that there is deeper meaning to be found.
Let us turn our gaze Heavenward. Let us cry out to the only One capable of helping our lips form the words: “For Thine is the Kingdom, Power, and Glory forever.” America desperately needs a revival, an awakening, but this will not come through activism. It will not come through politics. It certainly will not come via the ballot box. It must come when the Church determines that it will glory in Christ and seek only to glorify Him.