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Many people think that politics are more hateful and vitriolic than they have ever been, but the problem with mankind’s efforts at self-rule goes deeper than Red versus Blue, Republican versus Democrat, or Labour versus Conservative. Is a better government coming? If so, who is going to lead it?
By the time many of you read this article, Election Day in the United States will be past. We will know whether President Donald Trump has been re-elected, or whether former Vice President Joe Biden has been elected as President.
Or will we? A shocking number of observers have suggested that the nation is ripe for a nightmare scenario in which November 3 comes and goes with Americans unsure about who really won. Economist magazine called it “America’s Ugly Election” and noted, “Many Americans worry that November could herald not a smooth exercise of democracy but violent discord and a constitutional crisis” (September 3, 2020).
Whatever the result, there is one blight on our world that a President cannot fix: Politics. This is true not just in the U.S. but in all the nations of this world. Elections come and go, but politicking continues. Yet, there is a cure. Your Bible long ago prophesied the coming of our troubled days, and warned of the dangers ahead as we approach the end of this age. Sadly, the blight of politics and political corruption will grow worse, bringing untold devastation that only Jesus Christ’s return will cure. Yet He tells us that we need not wait for His return. God is calling a handful of people, even amidst our world’s many problems, to experience the blessings of that cure today, years before the rest of our world.
It has become absolutely horrendous, hasn’t it? Negative advertising campaigns, vicious personal attacks, childish “tweets” and social media posts, dueling “unbiased” news anchors pitching their favored candidates—it seems there is no escape. Those seeking office often seem to drop any pretense of decorum or dignity, willing to gain their desired position at almost any price. No rumor about an opponent is too salacious or suspect to repeat (or invent), and no insult is too degrading to hurl. The political rancor has spread to every form of media—television, radio, the Internet, and beyond. Don’t expect to find a politics-free zone anytime soon.
And that’s just the campaign season—which increasingly seems unending. Even after an election the politicking continues: speeches painting opponents as enemies, press conferences filled with gossip and slander, promises that encourage and energize voters followed by compromises that bring discouragement and despair. As lawyer-poet John Godfrey Saxe once said, “Laws, like sausages, cease to inspire respect in proportion as we know how they are made.”
Yet, if we think that politics have never been this bad, we don’t understand politics. Personal attack and character assassination were not invented in 2016 by Donald Trump and his tweets—nor in 1988 by Lee Atwater and his brutal “Willie Horton” ads against Michael Dukakis, nor in 1964 by Bill Moyers, whose famous “Daisy” ad blasted Barry Goldwater without even mentioning the candidate’s name. Political mudslinging has in fact been a vital part of American politics from its earliest days.
Consider that Thomas Jefferson famously hired newspaper reporter James Thomson Callender to publish false rumors and personal attacks about his political opponent, John Adams. In his pamphlet The Prospect Before Us, Callender claimed that Adams possessed “a hideous hermaphroditical character which has neither the force and firmness of a man, nor the gentleness and sensibility of a woman.”
Jefferson himself was not immune to such attacks. On July 4, 1798, Yale University president Timothy Dwight gave a well-publicized “sermon” in which he told the crowd, “If Jefferson be elected we may see our wives and daughters the victims of legal prostitution, soberly dishonored, speciously polluted, the outcasts of delicacy and virtue, the loathing of God and man.”
And notice that former U.S. Congressman Kenneth Rayner, a few years before the Civil War erupted, did not hesitate to write in a North Carolina newspaper that then-President Franklin Pierce was “the pimp of the White House.… A man sunk so low we can hardly hate. We have nothing but disgust, pity, and contempt” (The Weekly Standard, July 4, 1855).
No, the nature of politics has not changed. What we bemoan today among our politicians and government officials—name-calling, insults, and smear campaigns—has always been more the norm than the exception.
Like a body thoroughly invaded by a virus or colonized by bacteria, our lives today seem utterly saturated with politics. At every turn, politicians battle for our votes and our money. Protests by political partisans fill our news feeds—and sometimes our actual streets—as they seek to frame our most ordinary of choices as political statements:
Some observers have noted the almost religious zeal with which many now practice politics. Indeed, in the absence of a real God in people’s lives, politicians on all sides are ready to fill that void. There is a reason why so many are rioting—and publicly defending the riots, regardless of the harm they cause and the lives they ruin—with religious zeal: When God is absent, terrible things fill the vacuum.
This is no way to run a civilization. The politicization of pretty much every aspect of life—and an atmosphere that equates even the slightest disagreement with a personal attack—has created the very sort of environment we might expect: Much of modern life is now a nasty competition and a brutal battleground of ideologies.
In an article for the U.S. edition of the UK’s Spectator magazine, American comedienne and political commentator Bridget Phetasy wrote of the ugly “politics über alles” world in which citizens of the U.S. now find themselves: “Democracy doesn’t die in the darkness; it dies when politics become team sports, in full view of a bloodthirsty, cheering electorate…. While both sides increasingly weaponize reason and peddle conspiracy in order to defend insanity, millions of sensible, moderate Americans grapple with the choice to join a tribe, tune out, or go insane” (“The battle cry of the politically homeless,” August 16, 2019).
Phetasy’s comments are notable for recognizing the role of the people—the citizens themselves. Democracy—regardless of its various strains and hybrids—ties the quality of a nation’s leadership directly to the quality of its people. The powerful occupy their positions because “their team”—the latest political majority—wants them there. You get the leaders you choose—who win in the political arena. Or, put another way, you get the leaders you deserve. Even when the citizens in a democracy decry their leaders’ fitness, personalities, and competence, the nature of democracy ensures that the leaders reflect the character of “their team”—the people—who put them there.
The state of things today should call to mind the Apostle Paul’s long-ago warning that when we forget the second great commandment, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” and begin to bite and devour one another, we will ultimately be consumed by each other (Galatians 5:14–15). The nasty, brutal, self-devouring environment in which many democracies and democratic republics find themselves today—and the diseased and debased nature of public discourse and interpersonal relations—cannot be blamed fully on our politicians. Those leaders are both a product of the ills present among their peoples, and contributors to a worsening of their peoples’ ills—a terrible cycle leading to a terrible end, unless something is done to cure the disease.
When we look to the Bible, we see that its ancient prophecies foretold this crisis of leadership. In a message for “Jerusalem” and “Judah” that still applies to our nations today, Isaiah tells us that God will remove the “stock and the store, the whole supply of bread and the whole supply of water; the mighty man and the man of war, the judge and the prophet, and the diviner and the elder; the captain of fifty and the honorable man, the counselor and the skillful artisan, and the expert enchanter” (Isaiah 3:1–3).
What is God saying here? That He will utterly remove competent leaders from our sinful nations, leaving us bereft of any sensible guidance. Instead, our nations will be led by “children” and “babes”—the immature and incompetent (Isaiah 3:4)—resulting in a populace that turns on itself: “The people will be oppressed, every one by another and every one by his neighbor; the child will be insolent toward the elder, and the base toward the honorable” (v. 5). Only the blind cannot see in that description a picture-perfect image of the society we are creating around us—a society far from being governed by God and His perfect ways!
And the result will be desperation! Isaiah explains that people will look not to qualifications or credibility, but to the shallowest indications that someone may be able to lead. Some will turn to others in their household and say, “You have clothing; you be our ruler, and let these ruins be under your power” (v. 6). Indeed, how many “empty suits” are the peoples of the world beginning to elect? It is not a coincidence that the U.S. presidential election came down to a race between a reality-television celebrity and a man who ranked near the bottom of his class both in law school and as an undergraduate. Many have said they plan to vote not for a favorite, but against the candidate they dislike more!
God inspired the prophet Ezekiel to speak powerfully to our times, condemning the “princes,” the “priests,” and the “prophets” who lead society astray (Ezekiel 22:26–28). In modern terms, these are the governmental leaders who presume to rule, the religious leaders who presume to preach, and the media figures who presume to “speak truth to power”—whose journalistic motto was once “to comfort the afflicted, and to afflict the comfortable.”
But this is not just an indictment of leaders. Ezekiel in the same passage condemns the people themselves, as they are as guilty as their leaders (v. 29). This should not surprise us; Paul warns the young evangelist Timothy that in the last days (that is, in our day), people will be unloving, slanderers, proud, brutal, and unholy—consumed with monetary gain and lacking in self-control (2 Timothy 3:1–4). The people, Paul warns, will have “a form of godliness” but will deny the power of real, biblical godliness—a denial we see all around us (v. 5).
Some wonder how the people of the world could fall victim to the prophesied “beast” and False Prophet. Remember that their ungodly religio-political machine, fueled by the devil himself, will make many people incredibly wealthy (Revelation 18:3). Many will prosper, unbothered by the unimaginable suffering inflicted on others (Revelation 13:4–7, 11–15), until this union of tyrannical political power and counterfeit “Christianity” takes our world to the brink of self-annihilation.
With this, the spirit of politicking will have reached its natural climax. Rooted in competition and the desire to see one’s own will enforced upon others no matter the cost, the disease of politics will have metastasized until it endangers the life of humanity itself, such that no flesh on earth would survive (Matthew 24:22).
Yes, things will get worse before they get better, and we will see our world at the brink of destruction. Thankfully, those days will be cut short before we commit cosmocide. Jesus Christ will return to the earth to rule as King of kings and Lord of lords. Yet, unlike any king, president, or prime minister before Him, His reign will utterly change the rules—it will cure the blight of politics!
Why? There is a built-in problem with human beings ruling other human beings, as political scientists Bruce Bueno de Mesquita and Alastair Smith observe in their cynical but enlightening book The Dictator’s Handbook: Why Bad Behavior Is Almost Always Good Politics:
No leader is monolithic. If we are to make any sense of how power works, we must stop thinking that North Korea’s Kim Jong Il can do whatever he wants. We must stop believing that Adolf Hitler or Joseph Stalin or Genghis Khan or anyone else is in sole control of their respective nation.… All of these notions are flat out wrong because no emperor, no king, no sheikh, no tyrant, no chief executive officer (CEO), no family head, no leader whatsoever can govern alone (p. 1).
People who rule other people can only do so because key supporters want them in those positions of power. When that support wanes, there is always someone eager to take the leader’s place. This is just as true for presidents, senators, and ministers of parliament as it is for kings, dictators, and despots. In human systems of rulership, politics is unavoidable, as are politicians. Even the most powerful human rulers must, at times, curry favor among supporters or maintain fragile coalitions of allies, each with their own desires and plans, all of which should serve to remind even more that true Christianity and politics don’t mix!
But the glorified Christ will be no politician. Isaiah 9:6 describes how the peoples of earth will regard the Messiah reigning over the world from Jerusalem, and notes that He will be called “Wonderful, Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Though politicians seek to achieve their ends through manipulation, “horse-trading,” and deceit, One who rightly bears the title “Mighty God” will never resort to such tactics.
U.S. President Theodore Roosevelt is famous for having described his foreign policy as speaking softly but carrying a big stick. Well, Jesus Christ will wield the biggest stick in creation—in fact, He will have at His disposal all of creation! No “politicking” necessary. If a nation decides to rebel, the One reigning in Jerusalem will simply declare that the disobedient nation shall have no rain on its land (Zechariah 14:17–19). And the forces of nature will obey! As the land dries up and its people—and their leaders—face the prospects of drought and hardship, they will yield to this new King.
Jesus Christ will rule with absolute power. But, for the Son of God, absolute power will not corrupt absolutely—in fact, it will not corrupt at all. The sinless life Christ lived for the sake of all humanity during His three decades on earth before His crucifixion demonstrates the character He will bring to His role. He will be the wisest, most loving, and most beneficial ruler the world has ever known. Those living under His guidance will experience a rejuvenated world as the Creator reigns with humility and justice over His creation, caring for and defending the poor and meek, filling His Kingdom with righteousness. He will change even the nature of the animals themselves so they no longer harm, picturing in the animal kingdom what He will eventually achieve among human beings in His Kingdom: a complete change of human nature. Men and women everywhere will finally live lives of genuine godly love for one another, governed by the laws of God. The world will blossom under the hand of its divine King, as we find in many passages (e.g. Isaiah 11:1–10).
Wouldn’t you like to experience a foretaste of that future world, even though God’s Kingdom and Jesus Christ’s reign are not yet established on the earth? God is calling a small group of people now to experience a foretaste of that time—a taste of a world without politics.
Those who follow Jesus Christ are “strangers and pilgrims” on the earth (Hebrews 11:13). They do not participate in the world’s politics, as their “citizenship” is with the coming Kingdom of God, which is now in Heaven (Philippians 3:20). Like ambassadors who represent their countries while living abroad, Christians strive to represent God’s Kingdom even while living in this corrupted world (cf. 2 Corinthians 5:20). And, just as ambassadors do not vote in the countries where they are stationed, Christians do not participate in the politics of the lands where they reside.
As Jesus said to Pontius Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world. If My kingdom were of this world, My servants would fight” (John 18:36). Jesus’ followers did not fight to save Him from His crucifixion, nor did they fight to change the Roman government. Today, they understand that they cannot fix this world through this world’s own politics—that God and government will not work together until tomorrow’s world becomes a reality. Only Jesus Christ can fix our world, when He returns to establish His prophesied Kingdom on the earth. Until then, Christians strive to come out of this world’s corrupt ways of self-rule (2 Corinthians 6:17). Rather than choose the lesser of two (or more) evils each election cycle, they choose to spread the good news that a real Leader will soon come to accomplish everything that today’s leaders cannot!
Today’s Christians recognize that “the Most High rules in the kingdom of men, gives it to whomever He will, and sets over it the lowest of men” (Daniel 4:17). They need not participate in this world’s politics, because they see the larger picture. There is a deep and powerful peace of mind that comes with stepping out of the political fray and giving oneself to the greater cause of God the Father! It represents a foretaste, however small, of the peace of heart and mind that will engulf the whole world when the entirely un-political Prince of Peace will inaugurate His reign in Jerusalem in the years just ahead of us. And those few who respond to God’s call can have that foretaste now! If you think God may be calling you, please consider visiting the TomorrowsWorld.org website and searching for the Tomorrow’s World telecast, “Is God Calling You?”
I am writing this article in late September, more than a month before the crucial U.S. presidential election of 2020. As I’ve mentioned, many observers are concerned that the election may not truly end on Election Day, November 3. Will results be delayed, as in the year 2000, by disputes over which votes should be counted, and how? Will legal battles over mail-in voting, or access to polling places—or whatever other controversies the desperate losing side can raise—draw the nation’s trauma out for weeks or months before a resolution? Will this trauma spill over into more turmoil on America’s streets—Main Street and Wall Street alike? Remember that America’s trauma often becomes the world’s.
Thankfully, God’s word is clear. Though the blight of politics, politicking, and politicians will get worse before it gets better, it will come to an end. When Jesus Christ returns, He will put an end to politics. Whatever changes may be made to the U.S. and its political systems after this election, only He is the cure. How wonderful it is that for those who let Him reign in their lives now, the healing can begin today!