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Sunday, October 23, 2016

Presidential Candidates Are The Offspring Of US

ABC News photo
In all my years I've never heard so much dismay and disgust expressed over the leading candidates in this year's presidential campaign.

Most see Mr. Trump and Secretary Clinton as simply not representing the US, as individuals who are alien to everything the rest of its good people stand for.

But might they in fact be an entirely accurate expression of the kind of culture we have become?

For example, did Donald Trump's narcissism, his ego-centeredness, his denigration of people of other faiths and ethnicities, his tendency to see women as objects readily available for male gratification just come out of nowhere, or from some alien planet?

Likewise, is Hillary Clinton's drive for accessing wealth and power for personal and political gain something she and her husband just came up with in isolation from the rest of us? Is her sometimes "extreme carelessness" with the truth for the sake of furthering her political ambitions something unheard of in the nation's history? Is her defensiveness and reluctance to own her mistakes unique to her personality?

And is the aggressive tone of each regarding avenging and killing enemies, as though the nation's motto was "In Guns we Trust", something new in a country which has for decades had a military budget exceeding that of the next highest ten nations combined?

No, No and No.

Unfortunately, our candidates' negative traits are those of our national culture writ large. Clinton and Trump are not so much exceptions to the values of many Americans as they are imitators of the darker side of all too many of us who are its citizens.

What made us think we could flaunt sexual promiscuity and promote endless self-gratification through constant media and other messages and not reap the results of what we have sown? Why should we be surprised when the selfish, shallow and sensual culture of Wall Street, Madison Avenue and Hollywood Boulevard seeks residence at Pennsylvania Avenue?

This isn't to say that everything about the Babylon-like nation we live in is pure evil, or that everyone who seeks political office is irredeemably corrupt, but we have all been tainted by Babylon's moral decline and negatively affected by expressions of its decay.

Yes, our candidates are the children of our own creation. We, with them, are a part of one large bell-shaped curve, with psychopaths at one end and some saints at the other, but the majority of us define ourselves as essentially good and unlike the "deplorable other".

As followers of Jesus we need to get in step with the beat of an entirely different drummer, live by the values of an entirely other, heaven-headquartered Sovereign who loves and longs to redeem all humanity everywhere. While those of us who pledge allegiance to Jesus as Lord remain residents in our predominantly godless society, we should find ourselves increasingly alienated from it, and moving in a counter direction, in conformity with the worldwide "God-movement" Jesus announced millennia ago.

That upside-down "Kingdom" will endure long after this election is over, and forever after the earth-focused, self-centered kingdoms of this world collapse under their own weight.

Yet lest we become too self-righteous in all this, let's take seriously the following story Jesus once told, as found in one of today's lectionary texts:

"Two men went to the Temple to pray. One was a Pharisee, and the other was a despised tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed this prayer: ‘I thank you, God, that I am not like other people—cheaters, sinners, adulterers. I’m certainly not like that tax collector! I fast twice a week, and I give you a tenth of my income.’

"But the tax collector stood at a distance and dared not even lift his eyes to heaven as he prayed. Instead, he beat his chest in sorrow, saying, ‘O God, be merciful to me, for I am a sinner.’ I tell you, this sinner, not the Pharisee, returned home justified before God. For those who exalt themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”
- Luke 18:10-14 (NIV)

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