Only YOU Can Prevent Election Fires?
For months, I've been wondering what's going on with evangelicals. This election has turned so many of us into angry monsters, and I keep shaking my head, wondering what has transformed us from Dr. Jekylls to Mr. Hydes.
Last night I stayed up way too late reading responses to a beautiful post Philip Yancey wrote to clarify a statement he had made, and my stomach felt sick watching how cruel people were to him. Even Eric Metaxas, who should know better than to give in to divisiveness in the body, criticized Yancey publicly. I was severely disappointed.
But just a few hours later, I let the frustration that had been building inside me loose in two different ways that I shouldn't have. I realized that I had caught the communal anger. I let it take root in my heart, and then I let it fly.
As I was mulling all this over this afternoon, something hit me that finally made a little bit of sense. I want to run this possibility by you to see what you think. Does it work? And if it does, what can we do about it?
About a decade ago, it felt like a lot of evangelicals were in denial. Many wouldn't accept the fact that the world was changing so severely. They ignored warnings about globalism and secular humanism because it was relatively easy to move on through life without feeling the pinch of those threats.
But in the past few years, reality settled in for many conservatives. They are now seeing how their faith won't jibe with some of the legislation that's moving through America, and as consequences hit closer and closer to home, they are passing through anger into full-blown rage.
In the wake of this rage, they are now bargaining with bad leaders, trying to Jimmy-rig politics to to get the world back to what they want it to be. Evangelical pillars are not just encouraging voters to be strategic and vote for the least damaging of two (clearly) bad candidates, they are actually embracing a man who is immoral, trying to cast him as a hero. These attempts to manipulate the public by deception make any faith they have professed seem like a lie.
Why? Why would people who claim to love the truth, who have built a platform on telling the truth, on morality, on honor suddenly throw all that away? Why would they first ignore the truth, then explode, then link arms with sin?
Denial. Anger. Bargaining.
A lightbulb went off. The Kubler-Ross model of grief. Denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.
The Kubler-Ross model was developed in 1969 when Elizabeth Kubler-Ross noted regular patterns to grieving. Research has generally indicated that these stages are not universal; different people hit these stages at different times. But still, it's normal for people who are experiencing deep loss to work through these responses.
Today I began to wonder if this basic principle applies to larger people groups instead of just to individuals. I wonder if the evangelical world first denied that postmodernism was a powerful force, then responded in fury when consequences hit home. I wonder if now evangelicals are reacting by trying to bargain with an unethical force, hoping to push the pain of cultural death away just a little longer.
If this is what's going on, I wonder if we are likely to hit depression before healing comes? Will despair be our next temptation? If our broken hope in a flawed man crumbles away, what will evangelicalism look like in the face of that next disappointment? Will we sulk? Will some of us piously disengage from all politics and culture, working out our despair by elitism? Will there be suicides? Will there be an abandonment of hope?
Also, since some of these grief stages overlap, how do we respond to the temptations of denial, fury, and bargaining that still exist in our midst? Is there some way to address the core grief here instead of living grief-driven, reactive lives?
If evangelicals are confused because we are mourning the loss of a culture we felt comfortable in--a culture that we recognized--that is important to admit openly. It's not wrong to grieve. It's wrong to react poorly because we are grieving. If sorrow and fear of loss are behind a lot of the crazy, vitriolic responses we are reading and exchanging with our friends and neighbors, we need to see that for what it is.
Maybe admitting the problem will explain some of the bad dream we've all been living. Maybe it will help us consider the core of our restlessness so that we can take our needs to Jesus for healing before we simply react out of them.
Because the truth is, in our own power, we can't prevent election fires. Sure, that slogan makes for a nice sentiment, but people who grieving are subject to the weaknesses of that process. Pain can knock us off kilter. But thankfully, as we grieve we have access to Someone who can handle the weight of our emotions of loss, Someone who can take us by the hand so that we learn to walk in faith in troubled times and not in fear.