In the middle of a political season, I need to note at the beginning of this post that this is not a political post. With so many people approaching this year’s general election in a binary good vs. evil attitude it may be easy to interpret this as being either an endorsement for or an endorsement against a particular candidate. Those who know me well know that my preference as an involved citizen is that we would make changes to our voting system that would give more nuanced views a voice and help our nation grow beyond the “us vs. them” approach to government. This post is more about the attitude many believers are exhibiting in this time of major cultural change.
Growing up in a Pentecostal church, I remember singing the lines:
“Some trust in chariots, and some in horses
but we will trust in the Name of the LORD our God.”
This song based on Psalm 20 was a common feature of children’s church song times and singing around the campfire. In the song, we were affirming our trust in the power of God to sustain and protect us over the icons of temporal power and military might. The irony of this scene is that we were living in a time when many of us were making our decision on the party we would support based on whether or not they would continue to expand our stockpile of nuclear weapons to protect us from the onslaught of Communism. The kings of Israel were instructed not to accumulate horses to themselves like the pagan nations around them (something Solomon violated), yet followers of the same God felt their safety relied on keeping up with our enemies stockpile of weapons and a strategy of mutually assured destruction to keep us safe from the enemies of eastern Europe.
It seems we continue to struggle with trusting in chariots and horses today. There is no question that our nation is in the middle of major cultural changes (some good and some concerning). Among the positive changes I see is greater recognition among members of our majority culture that many BIPOC people have suffered under the hand of Western European Imperialism and a White-Centered view of life. As the anti-racism movement grows in our society, though, I also hear tones of fear in many people afraid of what will happen if the tables are turned in terms of power. Efforts to change our approach to policing our cities (a.k.a. defunding the police) and a more inclusive table at which people from all cultures can sit and make their perspectives known are often met with concern about “preserving our (White) American way of life.”
This fear of losing our way of life has continued to cause us to place personal security and safety ahead of the values of the Kingdom of God in subtle ways. Afraid of what would happen if we held police more accountable for their abuses of power, some have looked the other way when these abuses happen and others engage in vilifying and blaming the victim when it is impossible to look the other way. We have replaced the call to love foreigners as we love ourselves (Lev 9:34) with chants to “send them back” when they don’t agree with us politically. Many have sought out politicians that promise to protect our interests while overlooking the practices and policies that hurt the least of these while bolstering a system that favors the few over the many. Some even ignore the command to not bear false witness against others while gladly sharing graphics and articles filled with half-truths and outright lies about the other side.
The irony when we engage culture in this way is that we increase the possibility of the very things we fear becoming a reality. If we resist calls for justice out of fear for losing our way of life, we often lend power to the few voices who seek revenge more than justice. We use these few voices as the straw man image we fear as we rally the troops to “stand for truth” and continue to trust the corruption of politics more than the power of the Prince of Peace who seeks to bring justice and righteousness for all people in our society and world. We continue to trust in “chariots and horses” more than the name of the LORD our God.