It’s a presidential election season here in the US. The candidates from the two major parties, Democrat and Republican, have all put forth their credentials for the voters to decide on their eligibility for the highest office in the country. As can be expected, the candidates have vigorously defined, defended, and redefined their past, present, and future positions on all major US policies.
Like most elections, the 2016 race has lived up to its secular expectation: downright dirty, brutal, and ugly. Candidates have taken rhetoric to another level; character assassination and caricaturing are business as usual. They have appealed to the worst side of human nature. Donald Trump called Ted Cruz a “liar,” Marco Rubio “Little Marco,” and Jeb Bush “low energy.” Marco Rubio has in turn questioned Trump’s anatomical fitness, and other present and past candidates have wondered about Trump’s fitness for the presidency.
On the other side of the aisle, Hillary Clinton continues to be plagued by controversies, and Bernie Sanders’ self-description as a “democratic socialist” is loathed among certain demographics of voters.
American Christianity and the Presidential Race
In each election, the elected president to one degree or another reflects the hopes and ideals of the voters. Judging the next possible US president by today’s primary campaign rhetoric and votes, these are troubling times.
For a sincere Christian, the stakes for the US presidency have never been higher. A country that has carried a beacon of hope, justice, and opportunity for many seems to be facing a character crisis. The United States seems to have divorced herself from the Christian ideals that have sustained her for the past 200 years. This is evidenced by the Christian leaders, once the voice of moral reasoning, who have adopted and supported troubling candidates and their policies.
About such Christian leaders, Russell Moore writes,
I have watched as some of these who gave stem-winding speeches about “character” in office during the Clinton administration now minimize the spewing of profanities in campaign speeches, race-baiting and courting white supremacists, boasting of adulterous affairs, debauching public morality and justice through the casino and pornography industries.
I watched one evangelical leader pronounce a candidate a Christian, though he explicitly states that he has never repented of sin, because he displays the fruit of the Spirit in job creation. That’s not a political problem; it’s a gospel problem.
Whether it’s an identity crisis or nostalgia for bygone years, American Christianity is in serious trouble. It is no longer the voice of reason in an increasingly secularized and morally relativized culture. Instead of standing to make a difference, many American Christians have spinelessly joined the vitriolic rhetoric of this age. What does this say about the soul, character, and future of American Christianity?
Adventism and Political Divides
What about Adventism in the US? A recent Pew Research Center publication found that about 45% of Adventists in the US are Democrats and about 35% are Republicans. While some Adventists have been vocal on social media about their political leanings, it is interesting to watch how politics has divided church members, sometimes along very different lines than their theological divisions. Church members who hold divergent views theologically may agree politically, and vice versa!
This has blinded our understanding of two factors:
- Both sides—Democrats and Republicans—will unite to legislate a Sunday Law.
- The entanglement of American Christianity in prevailing socio-political views poses a temptation to Adventism to do the same, at the risk of sacrificing our God-given identity as a movement.
The Adventist understanding of end-time events should shield the remnant church of God from being distracted by the ongoing forces that will converge in imposing one world religion, one world economy, and one world government (Rev. 13).