A story that appeared in the faith section of this fine publication this past weekend examined a question related to the bizarre and disturbing spectacle that is our presidential election, a question that is apparently a popular one in religious circles right now. According to Russell Moore, public policy spokesman for the Southern Baptist Convention, many of his fellow Baptists are wondering if what is happening in this year’s presidential campaign is a sign that our nation is “under the judgment of God.”
Frankly, I’m more than a little surprised at the suggestion that the Lord somehow manipulated our nomination process to provide us with two such disagreeable choices to pick from as a way to punish us for our wickedness. I think we should be careful about dragging God into things that we have done to ourselves.
I do understand why people wonder sometimes, when some kind of natural disaster occurs, if the damage and destruction are really random or if God is trying to send some kind of message to us. I think that’s a dangerous philosophical road to go down, but I understand how our desire to make sense of things that are likely beyond our grasp can make people reach for such explanations.
But it’s one thing to suggest that God might direct hurricanes towards cities that rank high on his sinfulness scale and quite another to imagine that he might rig elections to deliver the worst possible candidates to us as a form of punishment.
If you believe in free will at all (and I think most people do, even though it can be hard to reconcile the concept with a belief in an all-powerful creator) you have to take ownership of your own decisions. And it’s especially important to take ownership of your biggest mistakes, otherwise you can’t learn from them. In this case, we have to collectively take responsibility for who we have nominated to run for president this year. We had other choices, and other people could have chosen to run but did not do so. You may not think that the two major party’s nomination processes are fair or even comprehensible, but the fact remains that an awful lot of people voted for Trump and Clinton in the primaries, and many of us will surely vote for one of them again in the general election.
I’m reminded of the old saying of unknown origin that goes “everything happens for a reason, and sometimes the reason is that you’re stupid and you make bad decisions.” I think that the theme for this year’s presidential campaign could be “we were stupid, and we’ve made bad decisions.”
That does not mean that I rule out the possibility that God is displeased with the current state of affairs in our country, or with the world at large. If I had created this planet and peopled it with human beings, I doubt that I’d be completely satisfied with how things are going.
The leaders we are lifting up today seem to personify some of the worst character defects from which humans can suffer — deceitfulness, arrogance, unchecked ambition, and an all-around lack of moral fiber. The fact that we elevate people who clearly exhibit some of our worst traits to positions of leadership does not say good things about where we are or where we are headed.
In that sense, perhaps we are under God’s judgment. And perhaps events in our country and around the world are leading up to some kind of sweeping change. It certainly feels as if that could be the case.
Most religions teach that the world will end in some kind of fiery cataclysm, and that a better world will rise from the ashes. If there is any truth to that, I can see either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump as good choices to help us down the road to the fiery cataclysm part.
Even a sinking ship needs a captain, I suppose.
Bill Ferguson is a resident of Warner Robins. Readers can write him at firstname.lastname@example.org.