On Election Night, I was crowded around the television with a dozen college friends in a tiny apartment above our government professor’s house. The Virginia night air seeping through the window was rescuing the feeble air conditioning unit and someone had propped up the three-legged TV with a handful of textbooks. Everyone watched the colorful maps on TV flip colors and we good-naturedly heckled CNN hosts who had been talking nonstop for the better part of two hours.
When Trump started gaining votes in Pennsylvania, everyone glanced at the three Pennsylvanians in the room. “All the Republicans just got off work,” said one, a pastor’s son from Pittsburgh. We all laughed.
But his joke stuck with me. I imagined that amorphous group of Pennsylvania Republicans going about their days, serving customers, trading smiles, clattering dinner plates in the kitchen. They would vote proudly and then they would move on with their daily responsibilities to the people around them.
I can’t say for sure if those Norman Rockwell-esque voters in rural Pennsylvania exist the way I imagined, but I have been inspired and convicted by their imaginary example following the election. They cheerfully did their civic duty, and they went about their day. They didn’t drop the responsibilities and joys around them to hang all hope of salvation on a presidential candidate.
As Christians, that’s how we should approach the electoral process — both before and after the results are announced. We should be educated and enthusiastically involved in our governing authority. We should surely fight to protect our families, our right to worship, and the rights of those who cannot defend themselves. But at the end of the day, we do all we can and then leave the results in eternal hands.
We preach that Christ alone is the hope of our salvation. But how graciously we handle the results of this election will show those around us whether we mean it.
That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be rightly concerned about protecting the electoral process where there is evidence of voter fraud. It also doesn’t mean we should give up being politically involved or holding our elected officials accountable for their words and actions. Advocating for liberty and justice in the civic process is a legitimate and necessary calling.
But it does mean we have an excellent opportunity to live out our faith by remembering that we trust in something greater than elections. “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation,” the psalmist says. “Blessed is he whose hope in is the Lord his God.”
Because our hope is not in this world, we have no reason to be fearful. We may be disappointed and should be aware of policies that threaten our ability to live as we have been called. Yet we have no need to feel afraid, distraught, or betrayed. Any earthly idol would betray our trust.
It is because we hope in an eternal savior that we joyfully continue our daily lives. We don’t need a week off of classes or work to mourn an election. Our daily joys have suffered no loss of meaning. We continue to enjoy fellowship with other members of the body of Christ. We keep going to work and serving those around us. We go on cooking dinner and enjoying it around the family dinner table. And we remain completely fulfilled by the daily grace of God. Because of our faith, we know that politics isn’t everything (and thank God it isn’t). Our lives shouldn’t revolve around who sits in the Oval Office.
After all, the whole concept of government is merely a means to enable people to live well in community with each other. We cannot let the means become the end. Instead, we should continue to live full and fruitful lives with the people placed around us. Furthermore, watching other reactions to election results reminds us how dangerous and disappointing it is to place our trust in fallen human beings.
A video of a woman screaming uncontrollably at Trump’s inauguration in 2016 became a meme because it captured the disconsolate reaction to Trump’s victory by some of his opponents. “I’m so sorry to my world,” the woman sobbed. “There’s so much potential for beauty and for devastation in this one moment, it’s just almost incomprehensible that they can exist right now.”
Other Clinton supporters reminisced a full year after Trump’s election about how devastated they were by his victory. “It kind of just hit you,” said Trent Vanegas, explaining how he broke down in tears when the 2016 election results were announced. “One moment, there’s hope and the next moment it’s complete despair.” Another Clinton voter expressed fear that he and his wife would have to raise their newborn child under a Trump presidency.
Even the positive reactions to Biden’s apparent victory show an obsessive and unhealthy faith in political power. Members of the media literally wept on television when they called the race for Biden. “I don’t know why I’m crying so much,” MSNBC contributor and former Democratic senator Claire McCaskill said. “I keep crying, I’m going to cry now.”
“I’m very emotional,” CNN’s Don Lemon said. “So when you ask me how I’m feeling right now, I’m sorry, that’s all I can tell you.” CNN’s Van Jones repeatedly wiped his eyes with a tissue on camera.
And then there was Stephen Colbert on Thursday night, in what was supposed to be a comedy routine. Because of Trump, “I’m not sitting down yet, I just don’t feel like it yet,” Colbert said. “I’m also dressed for a funeral, because Donald Trump tried really hard to kill something tonight.”
Two minutes into the show and without having told a single joke, Colbert hung his head and just stood awkwardly in silence. “What I didn’t know is that it would hurt so much,” he finally added. “I didn’t expect this to break my heart, for him to cast a dark shadow on our most sacred right.”
Comedian Marc Maron led off his podcast on Monday — after about 30 seconds straight of profanity — by proclaiming “the weight has been lifted…I don’t know that people really fully understand the power, the symbolic power of the head of state that determines on some level how grounded people feel in the country.”
“We just barely f—ing avoided real fascism, people,” he added, before calling Trump supporters “brainf—ed, brainwashed people or just people who believe that fascism is the way to go.”
Watching these reactions, we should not make a mockery of their joy or sorrow. We should, however, be inspired to share the promise that we have. After all, we are blessed with the confidence that politics is not our final hope. And we are called to live accordingly.