The Wave Offering

Four reflections on the election last night:

AP Photo

1. Political trends are true until they are not, and the same can be said of political models and narratives. The past-is-prologue-to-the-present school of analysis fell apart pretty quickly last night leaving many analysts uncomfortably shifting in their seats. Media abhors a vacuum, so they were forced to offer unprepared truisms like, “This is a really big night for Republicans.” (New York Times writer Ross Douthat comments on one of the failed models on his blog this morning.) Very few saw this “wave” coming, and the lack of foresight created a welcome scene of humility on some newscasts and elation on others. There is something about such disorientation on public display, the moment when a person is speechless, when there are awkward pauses on the guest panel, when the cellphone alarm inexplicably bleepbleeps in the middle of the newscast. In a world of heavily produced news, one enjoys seeing everyone a bit off their game. (UPDATE: Howard Kurtz talks about why the surprise.)

2. The stories of the Bible often turn on a sudden twist of fate, an unforeseen, but usually foreshadowed, outcome that sets all things to right, or wrong as the case may be. (Samson’s hair grew back–who saw that coming!) History often goes where we least expect it, and this tells us something about God’s work in the world.

3. As voters, the Christian’s work is not finished now that the ballots have been cast. We are called to be an informed electorate, not merely an active one. We would not be able, caring members of our families or circles of friends if we did not take the time to get to know our family members and friends, their personalities, likes, fears, hopes. Likewise, we are not good participants in public life or stewards of our tiny piece of civil authority called a vote if we don’t take the time to follow and understand how our representatives and governors are using the power given to them.

Yes, honor civil government as Paul reminds us in Romans 13, but remember that, unlike Paul, you don’t have the luxury of saying the government is distinct from you. Caesar is not out there and other. You are a part of the authority structure you are called to honor. With such power comes responsibility (see point #1 in Anne Chamberlin’s TGC post last week).

4. God has ordained whatsoever comes to pass (obvious slogan: “Election not elections!”), and this arrangement should provide deep consolation in times of doubt and compelling conviction in times of plenty. Last night’s elections initiated a significant shift in the American political scene, one that we ought to hope and pray will increase the peace, prosperity, and general flourishing of humans made in the image of God, both within and outside of the U.S.

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