A dozen years ago, George Lucas must have gazed into his Palantír* and seen a vision of this election while pounding out the overwrought script for Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith. (Six thousand lines of “George, you can type this [stuff], but you sure can’t say it.”)
They run down the hallway. Suddenly, ray shields drop around them, putting them in an electronic box in the middle of the hallway.
ANAKIN: Ray shields!
OBI-WAN takes a deep breath to express his total disappointment.
OBI-WAN: Wait a minute, how’d this happen! We’re smarter than this.
ANAKIN: Apparently not, Master. This is the oldest trap in the book . . . Well … I was distracted.
OBI-WAN: Oh, so all of a sudden it’s my fault.
ANAKIN: You’re the Master. I’m just a hero.
OBI-WAN: I’m open to suggestions here.
Hillary Clinton is an unthinkable terror as president. Donald Trump fails the minimum test for competence for the job. No acceptable options exist. We have no Jedi, and no heroes to save the day. We are in uncharted territory, as all of us freely acknowledge.
We can’t vote for Hillary, and we can’t vote for Trump. It would be hilarious if so much were not at stake. Jonah Goldberg wrote in his G-File about fellow National Review writer Victor Davis Hanson’s “detached depression,” responding to the Devil’s choice.
But the answer is staring him in the face: Because we’re supposed to tell the truth. I will say Hillary is corrupt, deceitful, and unqualified and I will say likewise about Trump — because that’s my job.
As grizzled veterans of scandal, filth and unbridled anger (read: political punditry), Hanson and Goldberg can remain faithful to calling them as they see them. But that doesn’t offer succor for the rest of us who see no good options and it’s not our job (wherein someone pays us for our opinion) to tell the truth.
There is a proper response to these situations, and, all levity aside, it’s where we need to look if we wish to navigate the narrow straits between denial and despair. Denial is to simply ignore Trump’s glaring deficiencies and support him “because he’s not Hillary.” Despair is worse, because it leads to cynicism and inaction, which leads to loss of the rights God meant for us to enjoy and employ as stewards of His world.
Meditating on impossible situations, this scripture came to mind, in Exodus 14.
And when Pharaoh drew near, the children of Israel lifted their eyes, and behold, the Egyptians marched after them. So they were very afraid, and the children of Israel cried out to the Lord. Then they said to Moses, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, have you taken us away to die in the wilderness? Why have you so dealt with us, to bring us up out of Egypt? Is this not the word that we told you in Egypt, saying, ‘Let us alone that we may serve the Egyptians’? For it would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than that we should die in the wilderness.”
And Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid. Stand still, and see the salvation of the Lord, which He will accomplish for you today. For the Egyptians whom you see today, you shall see again no more forever. The Lord will fight for you, and you shall hold your peace.”
The Israelites happily and unanimously marched out of Egypt, freed from their oppressors. They marched proudly into the desert, following Moses, observing the very manifestation of God Himself as a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. And God led them right into an impossible situation, trapped between the sea and Pharaoh’s pursuing army.
Facing death, many yearned for slavery. But God had a reason for leading them to the Red Sea. And the God of the Exodus is the same God today. Faced with our impossible situation, we should ask God what He seeks to teach us.
We’ve put too much faith in our own leaders and not nearly enough in God for far too long. The Republican Party is not a church, and it’s not God’s party. The political leaders we choose are not God’s anointed, as we would like to think. We are not Samuel pouring oil over Saul’s head or choosing David from among the sons of Jesse.
We are the frightened Israelites with our backs to the sea because that’s precisely where God wants us to be so He can get our attention. Our foundational problem is not that we are one Justice short in the Supreme Court, or that we have an overreaching and ever-growing federal government that’s subsuming state and citizen authority at a dangerous pace.
The problem is that we continually turn earthward and not heavenward in seeking solutions. We pray for our churches and fellowships and denominations to grow, but we willingly follow flawed, human leaders into ever-deepening crises and then blame them as the Israelites blamed Moses. It was not Moses who led them to the Red Sea, it was God.
It’s easy to pronounce God’s judgment over America–that He has abandoned us to our fate for our heresies and adulteries. It’s also easy to place God’s mantle on a man who will fix everything for us. That’s what the Israelites in Jesus’ day wanted to do–they wanted a human savior that they could influence and to whom they could apply God’s anointing. They got a suffering Son and rejected Him.
The proper response when all outcomes lead to ruin is to turn back to God, who has very likely led us here to get our attention. Might I suggest a time of prayer and fasting is appropriate. In times past, our presidents used to issue these calls as proclamations. President John Adams issued one on March 23, 1798. President Abraham Lincoln did the same on March 30, 1863.
And, insomuch as we know that by His divine law nations, like individuals, are subjected to punishments and chastisements in this world, may we not justly fear that the awful calamity of civil war which now desolates the land may be but a punishment inflicted upon us for our presumptuous sins, to the needful end of our national reformation as a whole people? We have been the recipients of the choicest bounties of Heaven; we have been preserved these many years in peace and prosperity; we have grown in numbers, wealth, and power as no other nation has ever grown. But we have forgotten God. We have forgotten the gracious hand which preserved us in peace and multiplied and enriched and strengthened us, and we have vainly imagined, in the deceitfulness of our hearts, that all these blessings were produced by some superior wisdom and virtue of our own. Intoxicated with unbroken success, we have become too self-sufficient to feel the necessity of redeeming and preserving grace, too proud to pray to the God that made us.
It behooves us, then, to humble ourselves before the offended Power, to confess our national sins, and to pray for clemency and forgiveness.
If the leaders we have selected for ourselves, setting up this impossible choice, refuse to repent and humble themselves before God’s throne of grace, it is entirely incumbent upon those of us who believe in God and His power to do so in their stead.
God is not asleep during this election, and He has the same grace today as He did at the Red Sea. We must pray for the discernment to know what He wishes us to learn, and for the courage to say “Yes” when we realize what He asks. There may be difficulty, betrayal, and even persecution in the future for believers in Christ, but we know that God is faithful to hear our prayers.
Instead of choosing between two intolerable choices, let us instead turn heavenward for an answer.
*Yes, I know I mixed a metaphor between Star Wars and LOTR. None of us know the future for certain. None of us know if we will wake up tomorrow. None of us possess that kind of foreknowledge. There is no future beyond this mortal prison of the flesh without Jesus Christ. Now that you’ve read this, if you don’t believe, go back and read Romans 1:16 and the Gospel of John.