There will be no bells ringing, not massive parades through the streets. Taps won’t suddenly flow wine and your food will still taste the same. Despite the heavy rhetoric being tossed about during this campaign season, this election is not going to be the game-changer that many are suggesting. It’s not going to be a referendum on the soul of America, or a statement of our decline. We will elect a president on Tuesday, and on Wednesday life will be just the same.
Because the truth of the matter is, it doesn’t matter who sits in the office of our president. Obama, Romney – it’s all the same. Strip away the policies and ideas, the politics and the branding, the raw mechanics of how our system of government works; take away their distinctives, their histories and their visions, and you arrive at the truth of why the occupant of the Oval Office is of little consequence.
I have been slow to respond to some of the things I’ve seen and read because on the surface it has seemed like so much pointless debate. We can argue policies and points-of-view all day long, and the average person isn’t going to be swayed by all the braying. People vote in their best interests, and will align themselves accordingly. So unless I see an inroad for a little levity, I usually just let things pass.
But the more I read, the more people on both sides seem to be ratcheting up the value placed on this election’s outcome. The clamoring for one side or the other is veering away from the normal political passion and into something deeper, something primal. People are hailing Obama/Biden or Romeny/Ryan as if these men will somehow rescue our nation from a horrible fate, and they are proselytizing for one or the other as if their lives depended on it.
In a time of crisis and confusion, people are looking for someone to set things right. They are looking for the man in the white hat, the hero, the one who can put right what’s been set wrong.
Here’s where a normal pastor would say, “Now, let me tell you about Jesus, the One True Savior…” Here’s where a normal pastor would tell you about your sinfulness, your inability to set things right by your own effort, your need to accept that atoning death, burial and resurrection of Christ; then a normal pastor would close with a nifty little anecdote to make the point stick in your mind.
But there’s a problem with our need for a savior, and it’s this: too many of us want the savior to do all the heavy lifting. We’re into the idea of being saved as long as we don’t have to change. That’s what makes politics so appealing – we can acknowledge our faults, confess our need for change, throw ourselves at the mercy of a savior, and then sit back and do nothing. We’re into salvation without sacrifice, rescue without repentance.
So we install empty saviors onto the thrones of our hearts, and when they fail us, we shout and scream until the next one comes along. We’re Israel, circa the anointing of Saul. We don’t really want to be saved from our messes; we simply want our messes to not be so messy. We don’t want to live better lives; we simply want our lives to hurt less.
That’s why, when so many people wake up on November 7th, nothing will change. No matter which candidate takes the election, the people of our country will expect them to do the heavy lifting. We’ll sit back and demand that they balance budgets while we keep adding to our credit card bills; we’ll scream for them to fix the healthcare system while we continue to abuse our bodies with food, drugs and inactivity; we’ll rage against the political infighting that prohibits progress from being made while we hold a grudge against our neighbor.
And that’s why November 7th will be a sad, empty day: because we’ll delude ourselves into thinking that one little decision will outweigh all our other, destructive ones.
“O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing!” – Luke 13:34 (NIV)