The nice thing about a democratic republic is that, after every election, about half or more of the people are happy, for a time. The prognosticators portend great changes and a new era of politics in America. Maybe, maybe not.
This week’s election is reminiscent of the mid-90s surge for the Republicans. After decades of Democratic dominance there would be, it was said, a sea-change for our country. Instead we got just the tides we’ve always had—some a little higher or lower than the past, but only tides nonetheless.
The new Democratic congress will certainly push forward issues ignored during the Republican ascendancy. Committee chairs will shift from Republican to Democrat so that different faces will be on center-screen when we watch CNN or Fox. I don’t think, though, that there will be as much change as people think.
This isn’t cynicism on my part, but an observation of what might be the greatest strength of our political system. While the country does change under different political leadership, the change is minute in comparison with other countries. Regardless of political affiliation, we are more united politically than other countries I've observed.
Chrissie, Audrey, and I lived in Scotland for a year and witnessed a different system, especially in local government. Nationally, the difference between the Tories and Labor in Great Britain was tremendous. The ascendancy of one party or another literally changed the face of labor and corporation ownership, with companies nationalized or privatized, based upon the party in power.
In local government, where you literally see the results take place around you, the change is greater. Edinburgh voted in a city government of one of the leftist parties around at that time. One result of that vote was the reworking of public transportation routes and times on Sundays, making it harder for people to get to church.
The difference in the USA is that the two parties are much more evenly matched in power and philosophy than is the case in other countries. The greatest change that is likely to come about in this term change—a truly great one—is the way in which the Iraq war is prosecuted. It will be interesting to see just how much difference there will be on this one, huge issue.
Christians witness includes being good citizens. This means being informed, faithful voters. It also means that we should be contributing our voice and resources to the body politic. What it doesn’t mean is that we put our trust in the political system. Those who do will always end up disappointed. The kingdom of God will not come about through a political process. It is, instead, made up of hearts changed by Jesus. In Him is our only hope.
There is a corollary between what I’ve written above and the condition of mainline Christian denominations. In the latter there has been a huge gulf of difference in belief between the orthodox and progressive side. Progressives took power in the churches decades ago and have exercised that power sometimes in responsibility, but more often in a ham-fisted and arrogant way. Progressives tend to see the kingdom of God in political change while orthodox believers emphasize spiritual transformation.
The divisions in mainline denomination, in which we at the Kirk have participated, are the logical result of a power-based system insensitive toward dissent. While our national government still hears and responds to two sides (hence the 90s Republican ascension and this week’s Democratic one), the churches do not. This is why there is schism.
I’m in the process of changing my denominational affiliation because of this. It hasn’t been about win/lose so much as about finding a place where I can openly practice my faith and, yes, even be a dissenting voice, without fear of reprisal.
I’m thinking about doing the same kind of change with my political affiliation. My Whig candidates haven’t won an election in ages.
Keep praying—keep the faith,