God doesn’t care who your president is
During the most recent US presidential election, there was a ton of uproar. Directly after electing the first black president (ending racism for a bunch of folks that don’t experience racism), America decided that its top political office should be run by a racist (again).
In the run up to the election, there were talking heads on both sides of the aisle complaining about the opposite candidate while boosting their own. That’s always to be expected. But the most disturbing of comments that I saw came from Christian people who claimed that Trump was God’s chosen leader for this time. These comments weren’t just coming from people that I know; they were coming from prominent Christian leaders from various places around the country. People with large followings.
I was aghast. How could people claim that this dude, known for his misogynistic and racist behavior, is the person that God had chosen to lead the United States? Does God also choose the leaders for other nations, or is America just that special? And, furthermore, why do people think God cares who the president is?
That last question is worth exploring. I’ll pose it again, worded slightly different, and I’ll make my points.
What assumptions have to be true to assume that God cares who is elected President of the United States?
I ain’t got all the answers, but I’m going to attempt to tackle this one.
Assumption #1: America is a Christian nation.
I grew up in a church where this was preached regularly, so I’m familiar. The idea is that the founding fathers of this country were Christians who set up this government rooted in their Christian faith. And given that America is a Christian nation, we are to be a force of moral right in the world. God cares who our president is, because America was founded to be His.
The flaw is that there was no one belief that was so pervasive among the founding fathers; their faiths were all over the map. And despite what they claimed to believe, most of them were slave owners. (Before you argue that a Christian slave owner was probably the best type of owner a slave could have just because you feel like that should be true because reasons, I suggest you read Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Douglass goes into detail explaining why, despite being a Christian himself, the worst owners he had during his slavery were those who professed to be Christian.)
A lot of things can be argued about the founding fathers, but it’s hard to argue that America is a Christian nation founded on Christian principles by a bunch of men who owned people.
Embedded in this assumption is the thought that America has slid further away from God in the last hundred or so years, causing societal problems today. But in order for America to slide further away from God, America would have had to have been close to God at some point. And given America’s history of slavery, land theft and genocide (all of which was happening during the founding of the country), I argue that America, as a country, was never that close to God in the first place.
America is not a Christian nation today and it’s never been one.
Assumption #2: The Republican candidate is almost always the Christian choice.
This one doesn’t have to be assumed to assume that God cares who the president is, but the assumption that God cares who the president is almost always leads those who believe it to vote Republican. Most of the people that I know and have talked to who vote Republican do so because of any one of three issues:
- Gay marriage
- Gun rights
The idea is that a woman choosing to abort a fetus is always wrong, marriage that isn’t between one man and one woman is wrong, and don’t ever talk about taking my guns away. The Republican party has learned that by championing those issues, they will have a consistent voting base in every election forever.
The truth is that Republicanism has been linked to Christianity for a very long time, but not forever.
The 1950s and 1960s are known as turbulent times in the United States. The Civil Rights Movement began in that time, there were assassinations of several prominent American leaders (up to and including a sitting president), and the Democratic and Republican parties were undergoing some changes.
Many Republicans like to remind people that the Ku Klux Klan was birthed by Democrats and Republicans are the “party of Lincoln”. While both of those things are historically accurate, the parties today are not as they were then. It is a fact that Lincoln was a Republican, and it is a fact that slaves were freed during his stint as president. But it’s also a fact that Lincoln signed three Constitutional Amendments into place (13th, 14th and 15th). That’s more than any other president and makes him the most progressive president (with respect to Constitutional Amendments) in the history of this country. He made the government bigger. That’s not how modern Republicans/Conservatives get down. Lincoln’s Republican Party is not today’s Republican Party.
Gradually, from the 1860s to the 1930s, the liberal Republican Party began to shift more to the political right, while the conservative Democratic Party shifted more to the political left. Democrats living in the former Confederate states started becoming Republican, and Republicans in the northern states started becoming Democrat. They essentially switched places. It was in the 50s and 60s, though, that Richard Nixon linked up with “America’s Pastor” Billy Graham, creating a marriage between Republicanism and Christianity that continues to run deep today.
Today, Republicans own the Evangelical voting bloc. They have taken their own interpretation of Biblical morality (which is the only morality they value) and made that their raison d’etre. And if a person’s interpretation of Biblical morality causes him/her to always view abortion as wrong and marriage can only be between one man and one woman, then the Republicans have a stable voter. That voter will always try to make his/her faith and politics line up despite any adverse affects on other people of other faiths and political leanings. That voter’s morality drives everything.
Gun rights aren’t at all Biblical. They are, however, constitutional. And given the assumption that America is a Christian nation, they may as well be Biblical.
Assumption #3: There is a righteous candidate.
The last election is a perfect example. America’s choice for president was either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. And while Clinton is a far more qualified candidate than her opponent, she has skeletons in her closet that cause people to doubt her motives at times. Trump has a history of sexual assault allegations, discriminatory housing practices and bad business dealings vast enough that NPR’s Embedded podcast has done an entire series on his past.
I understand fully that all of us are flawed (Romans 3:23). None of us are righteous without Jesus’s blood and God’s saving grace. I get that. But I also understand that we can find that righteousness by acknowledging our sins and asking God’s forgiveness. If God cares who the president is, how do you contend that His choice is the dude who is vehemently unrepentant about all of the mistakes in his past?
Assumption #4: The best candidate will always be a Christian.
If God cares who the president is, would the best candidate always have to be Christian? And if he/she is not a Christian, will the same people who recognized that God has chosen a man like Donald Trump recognize that He’s now chosen a Muslim? Would God ever choose a Muslim? Could He ever choose an atheist?
If America is a Christian nation, I don’t see how God’s choice could ever be a non-Christian.
In order for a person to believe that God cares who our president is, I think he/she would have to make all of these assumptions. I, for one, can’t do that. 1) I know too much about our history to ever again think that America is a Christian nation. 2) As much as I’ve heard people argue that Democrats have coddled black people for votes, I could argue that Republicans have done the exact same thing to Christians. 3) I don’t think there is a righteous candidate that could make it up the ranks of our political structure while remaining righteous. 4) I can’t say that the best candidate to lead our country will always be Christian.
And since I can’t make any of those assumptions, I just don’t think God cares who the president is.