Sunday, October 30, 2016

Christian Hope & the Upcoming Election

If there is one word that could characterize the prevailing mood among observant Christians in America in the weeks leading up to the election on Nov. 8, that word would be frantic. Some pundits scrutinize all the most recent polls, discerning the voice of God in the voice of the people. Others analyze the utterances of the candidates and their surrogates, seeking signs of what is to come. Still others preach their jeremiads, lamenting the sinful ways of all who disagree with them. No matter whom they support, or where they stand on particular issues, they are in continuous emotional turmoil, either worrying that Hillary Clinton will bring about the imminent demise of our fair "city upon a hill," or looking forward to the day when Donald Trump will inaugurate a new reign of peace and justice in America. Their emotions swing back and forth from the most exalted rejoicing to the deepest gloom.

But, why are Christians so frantic? Why do they seem to have so little inner peace?

Is it perhaps because they have not placed their hope in Jesus Christ? As Matthew Schmitz of First Things helpfully reminds us:

Despairing of anything other than salvation is not per se a sin. If anything, the fact that people so commonly label despair over a candidate or cause as sinful indicates that they have a weirdly spiritualized understanding of politics.

As today (in the traditional liturgical calendar) is the Feast of Christ the King, it is an opportune time to remind ourselves of what the Psalmist said: "Do not put your trust in princes, in men who have no power to save." Instead, we must accept St. Paul's teaching:

Give thanks to God the Father Who has made us worthy to share the lot of the saints in light. He has rescued us from the power of darkness, and transferred us into the kingdom of His beloved Son, in Whom we have our redemption through His blood, the remission of sins. He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature. For in Him were created all things in the heavens and on the earth, things visible and things invisible, whether Thrones, or Dominations, or Principalities, or Powers. All things have been created through and unto Him, and He is before all creatures, and in Him all things hold together. 

Once we have this proper perspective in mind, Cardinal Newman's advice on how to act in politics will make much more sense and we will be able to apply his words fruitfully to our lives:

We need not be angry nor use contentious words, and yet may firmly give our opinion, in proportion as we have the means of forming one, and be zealous towards God in all active good service, and scrupulously and pointedly aloof from the bad men whose evils arts we fear.