Election: Is America getting worse or better?

By Paul Louis Metzger
Multnomah University Professor
New Wine Skins Ministry

You may have come across statements to the effect that the apocalypse is at hand given the election results. You may have heard similar statements from those whose candidates won, if they had lost. It certainly makes me wonder where our ultimate hopes are placed. It also makes me ponder how much we really value our democracy, which is for all the people. Our candidates may win or lose, but hopefully our democracy is bigger than our selections. One thing’s for certain. We may experience a bit of a mini-apocalypse or meltdown, if we cannot find a way in this democracy to work together across the aisle and across the faith spectrum to make sure that Lincoln’s words at Gettysburg endure—that this “government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

To return to my earlier point, I find in some conservative Christian circles the idea that our country is getting progressively worse. I heard a white preacher lament this seemingly apparent reality several years ago. I thought at the time just what I am thinking now—if this is so, why then do many African Americans, Hispanics and women feel our country is getting better? I can’t help but think if our perceptions on whether things are getting better or worse are often bound up with how much we think our special interests are taken to heart and how large or small our own voting bloc is. After all, in a democracy, representation is often configured in terms of percentages.

If America is a chosen nation, as many conservative Christians believe, they should continue working as collaboratively as possible to ensure that our government of, by and for the people is as inclusive as possible. If they are hoping to return it to some mythical, ideal state of Christian nationhood, they will be disappointed. But if they seek to come forth as Christians in pursuit of our country’s democratic ideals along with others, they will find as they work with open-minded people of other traditions that there is a place for them, just as there is for others. Besides, the idea that the conservative Christian movement in America is nothing but a small, insignificant and persecuted minority is also mythical. It is a powerful force in our country, and hopefully by and large for good. Even so, conservative Christians such as me and Christians of other persuasions need to ask ourselves based on the elections where our ultimate hope lies. When Jesus returns to the earth to gather the elect, will he find faith, or simply voting cards?

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