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The Burden of Being Right

August 5, 2016

The other day I watched Dr. Ben Carson, the former Presidential candidate and now Trump supporter, being grilled by a left-leaning TV host about his support for Trump.  She tried, over and over and over to get Carson to say “Trump was wrong to say that” with a variety of Trumpisms.  And, over and over and over, Carson insisted he wanted to talk about the issues.

Frankly, if I were that TV host I’d have called his bluff; I’d have brought up any number of Trump pledges and asked for details on his plans.  I’d probably start with “When I am President they are going to say ‘Merry Christmas’ in stores.”  I’d love to know just how Trump is going to make that happen.  But the interview, and other things I’ve seen in this political nightmare season, have been leading me to one conclusion – this Presidential campaign, more than any before, is satanic.

Satan is called “the accuser of the brethren” and the very name means accuser.  In politics we are falling ever-deeper into a post-modern abyss where the only things flying around are accusations and attacks.  Even as short a time as two elections ago there was some effort to have an actual debate over concrete policy proposals.  But that is all gone now.   Ideas don’t matter.  All we need to do is assert that the other side is unstable, dangerous, crooked or evil.  Calls for Clinton to be locked up or Trump to be declared insane flood the internet. The former was chanted at a political convention.

Sure, you hear some so-called proposals, like walls to be built by Mexico and free college for all, but they are short on specifics or so unrealistic as to be ridiculous.  Mexico is not going to build a wall for us.  There is no such thing as free tuition, just absurd promises that someone else will pay for your college whether they like it or not.  But you never hear these candidates actually flesh out their “proposals.”  They are too busy attacking the other side.

Sure, politics has always been nasty.  Some accusations in the past are horrifying.  But this campaign seems to be all accusations all the time.  The goal seems to be to paint the other side as evil with the one doing the best job of it winning.

Christians are as caught up in the attack mode as much as anyone.  Attack-articles by Christians flood the internet, the vast majority (though not all) attacking Clinton.  In a recent poll cited in Christianity Today a big majority of us are voting against Clinton.  Those voting against Trump finished second and, way behind, are those voting for either of them.  We seem to think that are only option is to decide which one is less evil.

Clinton is going to speak in very guarded terms about her email.  She knows she could never say she was sorry or mistaken about this or anything without it being spun into a vicious attack line.  She knows that nothing she says can avoid digging a deeper hole. The net result is that she tries to speak in as boring and convoluted way as she can to give attackers as little as possible to accuse her of only to find herself accused of not giving any information with which they can accuse her.

Trump, bless his heart, (as my southern friends might say) simply shoots from the hip.  The focus by the media on his often outrageous attacks is not “media bias” as some would say but rather his never-ending string of outrageous statements and his near-gleeful determination to never back down.  They make such good talking points.  He gets so busy attacking everyone that he sometimes loses track of attacking Clinton.

But both sides seem determined to remain in accusation mode.  Poor Clinton and Trump are locked into a misery of self-justification, having the exhausting burden of insisting that their personal infallibility in all circumstances; insisting that they are right and the other is entirely wrong and evil.

Nothing could be further from the kind of world we Christians are supposed to create.  This is the misery that Jesus died on the cross to save us from. The tragedy is that far too many Christians have joined right in with accusations and self-justification.  And not just in politics but in everything we believe.  It seems we have defined Christian salvation as being always right and never wrong.  We fight tooth and nail on minor points of scriptural interpretation.  We accuse one another of heresy if they get even one question wrong on our self-written entrance exam for heaven.

Maybe we should watch Trump and Clinton and vow that we never want to be accusers like that; not in politics or anything else.  Maybe we should admit that sometimes we don’t have all the answers or even (Gasp!) that we might be wrong.  If so then maybe we as a church might really be a city on a hill.

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