About six months ago as I was praying I felt a nudge to pray for the elections this year. Praying for government leaders is a fairly new thing for me, and didn’t come without a lot of resistance and habits of thinking getting in the way of me caring for God’s thinking. For most of my twenties, I felt pretty cynical about being an American, much less cared for the leadership of my country. I refused to vote in two elections; I worried when all my friends sprouted American flags on their cars, doors, mailboxes, lunchboxes, etc. after 9/11. I worried that Europeans might see me as one of those insensitive Americans; I over-apologized for my government. After awhile a lot of that internal apologizing got old. So something started to change. It happened slowly, over time, but the more my heart changed, the more I began to see the beauty of America through His eyes.
I think it took living abroad to see her objectively. First I noticed that my generation was very quick to criticize her, that we love journalists and artists that cleverly point out the naivete and stupidity of patriotism, and which critique what has become a consumerist monster. At the time I was living in a European nation that suffers from so much self-hatred from nearly a century of being raped and controlled by stronger, surrounding nations. I saw how beautiful these people were underneath all the crushings. Some day their nation would be worth something in their own eyes. He said to me, “Amy, I love America. Do you believe that?” He showed me that I had been hating myself and where I was born, and that this was hurting Him. He started showing me a new part of Himself, the Maker of Nations. He makes and shapes nations to teach things about Himself, and America has a very special and obviously powerful identity in the world–for good or ill. He showed me the difference between patriotism and love of what He has made, which is ultimately accepting ourselves. He chose me before the foundation of the world to be born here, and he saw that that was good.
In the last elections, I didn’t vote, because I found the potential candidates so lacking in what I thought to be good leadership. I was confused about what party I might be interested in–should I be republican, because that is what every good Christian is? Should I vote Democratic, because that is what every good artist is? Should I opt for the ragamuffin, the Green Party, the Michael Moore vote, or the one woman on the ballot? My head was spinning, so I opted out. But after the crisis in Florida, I realized that there was more to the elections than just a bunch of miscounted votes. There was some kind of spiritual tension happening, and I was shocked to hear the kind of insults that were hurled at the candidates in the school halls where I was attending graduate school. How can people be so angry over a platform? Somethin was up.
I know that I’m guilty of putting ideas and platforms before human beings. Each person running for president is a human being, not a party and not a platform. Regardless of what category they are running under, or what they are symbolizing to us, each has a complex inner being that only God knows personally. My question is this–God, whom do you choose to lead my nation right now? And how are you involved with each person running for leadership–how can I pray for them, regardless of their “issues”? This time around, I know that I have to humble myself and all my pet issues to get to the root of His desire.
The truth is, political frames are just frames of the soul. Father doesn’t see in categories like Republican and Democrat. They are created systems–which do embody certain collective ideas and beliefs–but they have created false oppositions, in America and in other European nations. They certainly succeed in perpetuating an us-them mentality. In America we know that to be a “liberal” means you are concerned with certain things and to be a “conservative” means you are concerned with certain things, but of course we know that people are more mysterious and multi-faceted than that. I think it is time that we stopped judging a person on the basis of their platform and instead looked at them through His eyes—which always makes a person infinitely more fascinating.
The political frames that we often make our decisions within are just as religious as the church frames. They are based on ideas and issues, rather than individuals. Individuals get chosen to serve the system, and we vote often on the basis of how well a certain individual serves this system or platform.
I pray that each of us can lay down our own thoughts this year—and listen beyond the soul into the spirit. Each one of us has the Spirit of God within us, speaking to us, guiding us. Regardless of how we think of candidates, God can speak to us His ways and, we can not just vote for but pray for the right leader. We also all have the same spirit who knows more and understands the nature of politics than most of the reportage that we get.
Will the leader be perfect? No way. He might even be arrogant in our own minds. But Father can turn someone towards His mind and purpose in a heartbeat, and we have to trust Him for that, regardless of a leader’s track record. He doesn’t pick people based on their track records, either, or we’d all be dead. Saul was picked by the people because He looked like a leader, and look where that landed. In his case, Israel picked a king to be king. But Father picked someone who loved Him to be king. Obvious natural leaders are not always His choice. He picks people He can mold to be leaders.
In our lifetimes we are going to have to tune in to His Spirit more and more in this area. He was showing me that this year’s election would be one of the subtlest ever–and also a sign of elections to come around the world. The enemy will more and more raise up people who look like beautiful choices, who seem to have nothing ugly to judge. They will seem like kings. They may even be humble and work for peace. He will pick people that appeal to our senses, our sense of justice, our sense of leadership. Honestly, we will have a hard time making a choice unless we are led by Him. There is always the part of us that is tempted to make decisions out of religion or personal ethics, but even good ethics can be deceiving. Paul wrote that the “man of sin” himself comes to power speaking truths about God. This is called a spiritual “anti-christ” (against christ) because it casts down the very cross by saying, man is capable of accomplishing everything man hopes for. But we have the spirit to guide us into our decisions. I will be the first to admit that I am often deceived, and so Christians are not immune to it–our journey is to embrace the cross, to embrace and let him teach us. We must be blinded to making decisions with our natural instincts, our natural desires. oh jesus, let your cross, your cross, guide us.
I have been on a long journey with this, and honestly, I am thankful to let go of my big ideas. Do I want social justice, peace, interracial harmony, protection for women, jobs for everybody, less nuclear weapons, an end to abstract, cold dehumanizing systems… well, yes, but I also know that Jesus wants them more than I do, and I want to be willing to follow along His leading, even if it is slow or painful. He is the one who will make peace in the nations, not us.
For many of us politics seems to involve a lot of hot-headed opinions, and I have been known at certain points of my life to argue some issue with someone. We have to be careful with our words. As anyone knows, the elections in our nation (and in many other nations) are often fraught with serious accusations between parties and candidates. I have been very choosy about when I watch TV and read the newspaper; I have asked him to guide me at the right times into the news because the level of accusation during presidential campaigning is very hard to bear. Accusation is a very real evil spirit. The accusation between leaders is big enough to bleed from them to the media to us, and I have borne witness to some ugly political arguments that have ended up hurting people. Anytime we wish someone’s death, or shame, or humiliation, or seek to tear someone down for our own building up, we are participating with the “accuser of our brethren” who is the same dude we read about in Job who roamed the earth to and fro looking for someone to devour, and eventually accused God himself.
I have a God who brings breath and life and chance after chance, who believes in us a million times and again, who knows each politician intimately and loves them. The opposite of accusation is encouragement and blessing. Rather than spend my time accusing the opponent, whoever he may be to me or you, I may pray for him or bless him, sincerely.
I do pray, jesus, for your peace in our hearts. I also ask that you would lead this generation into your hopes for leadership. You are the king of all the kings and the leader of all the leaders and the president of all the presidents, and they all need you, your wisdom, your kindness, your love, your strategy. I ask that you would teach us how to yield to you on the subject of leaders, that we would seek the person you would have to lead us regardless of what we think about him. I know you can turn a person’s heart in a second, as you have done mine so many times. I know you love this nation, too, as you do all the nations. Tell us your redemption stories for all of them.