Fellow Americans, election season is upon us. Attack ads are in full force, armchair politicians are slinging mud all over Facebook, and Jay Leno is having a field day with so much new material. Both the Republican and Democratic National Conventions have come and gone, and commentators are chomping at the bit for upcoming debates between the vice-presidential and presidential candidates. In Tampa and in Charlotte, a common theme was heralded from the convention stage regardless of gender, race, or political preference: the notion of the American dream.
James Truslow Adams coined the phrase in 1931 in his book The Epic of America. Adams wrote that the American dream is “that dream of a land in which life should be better and richer and fuller for everyone, with opportunity for each according to ability or achievement.” Thomas Wolfe, another early 20th century author, believed that this afforded “. . . to every man, regardless of his birth, his shining, golden opportunity . . . the right to live, to work, to be himself, and to become whatever thing his manhood and his vision can combine to make him.” While the American dream is subject to interpretation, common elements of success, achievement, ability and hard work are inherent to the concept. On the surface, this patriotic statement sounds quite appealing, but it may not be such good news for one who feels he has worked as long and as hard as possible, and yet has not achieved the notable status worthy of such effort—an experience that is not uncommon, especially in today’s economy.
In spite of such uncertainty and discouragement, whether Republican or Democrat, the good news is that Christians can rejoice in the outcome of the election even before the votes are tallied. As followers of Christ, we may pursue and defend causes that have personal importance, but we are also free from relying upon our own efforts—even our votes—to “save the day.” In the act of voting, we can exercise a privilege not afforded to all with a grateful heart, but we do not despair in the event that the candidate of our choice doesn’t emerge victorious. All is not lost, since “God reigns above the nations, sitting on His holy throne” (Psalm 47:8). Christians find rest in a sovereign, powerful and good God.
While the American dream holds lofty, moral ideals, those who believe the message of the gospel will refrain from blurring the lines between moralistic politics and the good news of Jesus Christ. Even though convention speakers preached a message of “do more, try harder,” followers of Christ are not burdened by self-reliance when it comes to their salvation. To the Christians in Ephesus the Apostle Paul explains, “. . . you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God. Salvation is not a reward for the good things we have done, so none of us can boast about it” (Ephesians 4:8-9). Regardless of where one falls on the political spectrum, the proverbial bootstraps are left at the foot of the cross, for no amount of pulling and tugging by human strength and ability can merit favor with God—no amount of campaigning will win the office of “saved.” The gospel declares that eternal life is the free gift of God through the sinless life, sacrificial death and resurrection of His Son.
In light of this truth—the fact that Christians are the recipients of the biggest bailout of all time—believers are free to serve and love others out of humility and gratitude. Moralistic judgments don’t find a seat here either, as needy brothers and sisters are not condescendingly viewed as lazy individuals seeking free handouts, but are seen through the compassionate eyes of Jesus, who may then say, “Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the Kingdom prepared for you from the creation of the world. For I was hungry, and you fed me. I was thirsty, and you gave me a drink. I was a stranger, and you invited me into your home. I was naked, and you gave me clothing. I was sick, and you cared for me. I was in prison, and you visited me” (Matthew 25:34-36).
As the election approaches, if you feel so inclined, pin on your campaign button, rally for your cause, put a sign in your yard and—by all means—vote. However, do all of these things with a new sense of true freedom found only in the gospel of Jesus Christ. No matter what the outcome of the election, may you rest in having exercised your rights and responsibilities as an American counting only, and fully, upon Jesus Christ to be your Savior in every aspect of life; election year or otherwise. May we turn our eyes away from man and toward God as the solutions to the problems facing our country, and may He continue to bless America.