"Out of the depths I cry unto you, O Lord!" thus begins Psalm 130, a psalm which has inspired more than forty composers, including the masters Bach, Mozart, Handel and Mendelssohn, to write compositions based on its plea. It has attracted so much artistic attention because its passionate cry for redemption from the depths of human existence is a theme which resounds down through the ages. Even down to November 6, 2012.
Not to be melodramatic, but I believe this psalm is a good model for many evangelicals who were so deeply disappointed with the U.S. election results two weeks ago. No election in recent memory had gotten evangelicals as stirred up as this 2012 Obama-Romney face off. As election day approached, Republican evangelicals were flush with confidence after the successfully massive turn-out during last summer's 'Support Chic Fil-A Day,' which was intended the send a strong message to the secular culture around us that, well, we will not be bullied. We'll eat chicken instead. So anyway, it only seemed natural, they thought, that the same huge numbers would flood into the voting booths in November and oust incumbent Barack Obama, the president most loathed by evangelicals in recent memory.
And turn out on Super Tuesday we did - by the millions. The evangelical vote accounted for 27% of the national electorate - the highest it's ever been. A whopping 80% of evangelicals voted for Romney. Some conservative pundits were giddily predicting a Romney landslide. But late on Super Tuesday things didn't turn out that way. One could almost hear the wheels of history turning. As the wind got sucked out of the Fox News Election Night War Room, one could see Bush-era kingpin Karl Rove imploding on camera. Dick Morris, the one who predicted a Romney landslide, could only mumble "This is not your father's America," as the realities of Obama's victory became apparent. The outcome was so bad it prompted the Rev. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, to tell NPR: "I think this [election] was an evangelical disaster." The wave of post-election status updates by so many of my Christian friends on facebook was a gutteral wail of despair. Many were painful to read.
So what happened? Why did we evangelicals so decisively pin our hopes on a political candidate?
I maintain it is precisely because the Kingdom of God is truly foreign to so many of us. We believe Jesus to be a good Savior but a terrible political philosopher. We believe Him to be a good philanthropist but a poor economist. We praise Him as an otherworldly Savior on Sunday mornings but fail to apply this salvation - embodied in a Kingdom on earth which is as socio-political and counter-cultural as it is spiritual - for the other six days. This leaves the rest of the week, our out of the church building existence, to the other kingdom, the earthly, eerily Roman one, as espoused by the Republican party, a party who promised to rescue our country and restore "Bibical values" to our democracy. But, for those who are truly attentive, President Obama's victory served as a referendum on an evangelical subculture deeply embedded in the materialistic values of American society and yet horribly out of touch with what the United States is becoming demographically. As my friend Darren Carter so excellently blogged in Where Do We Go From Here? :
"Latinos, blacks, single women and this younger generation are the future of America, which is a demographic fact that you can’t argue. I hear many talk about the restoration of America, but if we want to be a part of it then it is time to set a bigger table. To use the political terminology of the right the conservative strategist David Frum recently said, “To be a patriot is to love your country as it is. Those who seem to despise half of America will never be trusted to govern any of it. Those who cherish only the country’s past will not be entrusted with its future.”
Rev. Mohler went on to blame the loss on a "seismic moral shift in the culture." And he's exactly right, but I think he might have been mistaken on which morality has shifted. It is my prayer that, out of the post-election depths, evangelicals will finally see that their right-wing, politically based morality has failed to show American culture the true face of Jesus.
The AP news story An 'Evangelical Disaster': What Happened to the Religious Vote?