“I don’t deserve it.” This is the line from Miss Clara’s prayer that most resonated with me and inspired me to journal my way through her prayer as we approach election day in America.
Watching this election season unfold has been more like witnessing a soap opera. I long for a normal election about real policy differences, but every day the headlines are about some shocking new revelation. I don’t want to read this stuff, but I confess the I do the very thing I hate. I get drawn in and it’s just been distracting. And some of the stuff has been so juvenile: inappropriate tweets, plagiarized speeches or advance notice of debate questions? And, of course, some it’s been deeply troubling.
If I can say one thing about this election as a Christian, we have seen this Biblical truth writ large: Our human nature is deeply corrupt. It’s wise not to put trust in any leader, but to put our trust in God. God has a long history of using deeply flawed individuals to accomplish His purposes.
So many people are voting because they are more scared of one candidate than the other. I’d like to offer the nation this assurance: The founding fathers of our nation believed in the corruption of human nature. And our government was designed with so many checks and balances to guard against it. My advice, for what it’s worth: Vote your conscience, keep praying for our nation’s leaders, and live your faith.
I feel the need to share a few words of wisdom from John Witherspoon, a Presbyterian minister, who signed the Declaration of Independence. Nine of his students from Princeton went to the Constitutional Convention in 1787, including James Madison, father of the Constitution. After rereading his sermon again tonight, I think what St. Witherspoon would want from us as a response to this election is to heed the same advice he gave his listeners:
It is therefore your duty in this important and critical season to exert yourselves, every one in his proper sphere, to stem the tide of prevailing vice, to promote the knowledge of God, the reverence of His name and worship and obedience to his laws.
Here’s a few more passages that spoke to me today from a sermon he preached at Princeton on May 17, 1776 called “The Dominion of Providence over the Passions of Men:”
Others may, if they please, treat the corruption of our nature as a chimera: for my part, I see it every where, and I feel it every day. All the disorders in human society, and the greatest part even of the unhappiness we are exposed to, arises from the envy, malice, covetousness, and other lusts of man. If we and all about us were just what we ought to be in all respects, we should not need to go any further for heaven, for it would be upon earth.
Nothing can be more absolutely necessary to true religion, than a clear and full conviction of the sinfulness of our nature and state. Without this there can be neither repentance in the sinner, nor humility in the believer. Without this all that is said in scripture of the wisdom and mercy of God in providing a Savior, is without force and without meaning.
A good form of government may hold the rotten materials together for some time; but beyond certain pitch, even the best constitution will be ineffectual and slavery must ensue. On the other hand, when the manners of a nature are pure, when true religion and internal principles maintain their vigor, the attempts of the most powerful enemies to oppress them are commonly baffled and disappointed.
He is the best friend to American liberty, who is most sincere and active in promoting true and undefiled religion…Do not suppose, my brethren that I mean to recommend a furious and angry zeal for the circumstantials of religion; or the contentions of one sect with another about their particular distinctions. I do not wish you to oppose anybody’s religion, but everybody’s wickedness. Perhaps there are few surer marks of the reality of religion, than when a man feels himself more joined in spirit to a true holy person of a different denomination, than to an irregular liver of his own.
Dear God, Whoever wins this election, I pray that the honor of the office will bring the President to his or her knees and closer to you. Nobody is beyond your saving grace. Thank you for the Biblical wisdom that guided our founding fathers in writing our constitution with so many checks and balances to correct for the corruption of our human nature. With St. Witherspoon in heaven I pray: God grant that in America true religion and civil liberty may be inseparable, and that the unjust attempts to destroy the one, may in the issue tend to the support and establishment of both.
My entry as I reflected on these thoughts…