People Over Politics

Jonah and the government shade

So God said to Jonah, “Are you really so very angry about the little plant?” And he said, “I am as angry as I could possibly be!” The Lord said, “You were upset about this little plant, something for which you did not work, nor did you do anything to make it grow. It grew up overnight and died the next day.”

— Jonah 4:9-10 NET

“I hate politics.”

“Politics are more polarized than ever.”

“America is divided.”

“I hate elections.”

“The government is corrupt.”

I have heard these ideas expressed every election year. It is true that 2020 is exceptional, but in reality every election is exceptional. Who can calculate all the factors and people that swirl in our country for four years? The United States government has endured civil war, depressions and even pandemics, and its people have endured far more.

Most Americans I know are simply trying to live, but a few I know are so concerned about the shade of the government that they are angry enough to die. True, despair is easier to slip into and dwell in now. We can surround ourselves with bad news that we will never be able to do anything about. We have the ability to ignore all who disagree and let the facts be interpreted for us.

It is tempting, isn't it? I can create a world where my assumptions are never challenged and my opinions are always right. It pleases my pride to overwhelm myself with evidence that the other side is wrong. I have access to the truly true secret knowledge that “they” REALLY don't want you to know. All I have to do is tap some shiny glass, but the other side of the glass isn't real.

What do you believe in? Where is your hope? How much does the president mean to you? How much does he really effect you? When do you interact with the government? Do you really think that electing one person can solve all your problems? Can you be distilled into a binary choice? How many lives are you willing to sacrifice to be proven right? What have you done to make this country and this government? What do you owe it? What does it owe you? What is the government responsible for? What should it be responsible for?

These questions have been stewing since 2016. The only one I can answer definitively is the first one, but Jonah and his plant have helped clarify how I value politics:

I believe that America's system of checks and balances is a brilliant idea. I think it is about as good as we can do on earth. I am thankful to live in the United States, but I did not plant it or make it grow. I did not help write the Constitution or sign the Declaration of Independence. All I have done is live here. American government and its relative stability has been a shade over my head, and like Jonah I was once very delighted with it.

The shade seemed to wither in 2016 (though for others it might have seemed to strengthen), but now on the eve of an election I am reminded that my hope is eternal and that this world will pass away. I voted and I care very much who wins, but I do not care about it more than you or my family or Jesus. I want to devote myself to good policies over parties and to people over politics because the people of America are far more influential than the president.