I never write about politics. Never. But today I will.
In Obama’s last State of the Union address he assured us that we’re “still the greatest nation on earth.” Most of the Republican candidates (and a few political gadflies) endlessly recite Obama’s damages to that claim, and promise they will restore our nation to its former glory and make American great “again.” Cue the flag-waving, fist-pumping and applause.
Let me get all my confessions out of the way. I am not a political being. My blood does not stir at any of these pronouncements. I watch very little TV coverage of the presidential race. (I don't even own a TV) I don’t say the Pledge of Allegiance, because I pledge my allegiance to Christ, not to a human government. This is who you’re dealing with here. But today I have a question. One question:
Why must America be great?
Why do we have to be the “greatest country on earth?” Or, more accurately, why must we BELIEVE we are the “greatest country on earth,” superior to the 195 others? How and why are we so afflicted and infected with “American exceptionalism?”
But, on the other hand, I am not surprised. This is entirely our human condition.
Remember the day that twelve men walked a dusty road, arguing? They were famous. They could touch a broken leg and heal it, they could pray over an afflicted woman and stop her hemorrhage. They could restore a little boy’s hand, burnt in a fire, back to wholeness. They could even touch a dead body and lift it to life, on occasion. Big stuff. Crowds followed them. They were wildly popular. People hushed when they spoke, cheered when they healed.
They kept a record, each one of them, secretly: how many healings, how many exorcisms, how many hands shaken and babies kissed and cripples running races. But they couldn’t keep it quiet.
“So, how many you got there, John, buddy? I’ve had three raisings from the dead. Not to brag or anything, but that’s pretty great, I’d say. ”
“Did you see what happened in that last village? A whole family. I healed a whole family. That counts more. “
“Peter, whatch you got? I slapped the synagogue ruler a good one, and there he went, skipping into the sunset! The trophy’s mine!”
“Really? We’ll see who’s the best! I took a poll in that last city and I’m definitely on top. They wanted to make me mayor!”
“Mayor! That’s nothing!” scoffed Andrew. “The Zealots want to make me president! I cured a whole colony of lepers!”
And so it went.
In their bickering and bragging, they even forgot about Israel, which was why they got into this campaign in the first place. They were all looking for a Messiah who would set Rome on fire, who would rout their political and religious oppressors and restore Israel to power and supremacy again. That’s what they signed on for.
But, full of pride and applause, it came down to them. To each one of them vying against the other.
Aspiring to “Greatness” does that.
They were wrong about everything that day. Jesus didn’t come to do any of that. The power Jesus granted was the power to forgive, the power to humble the proud, the power to be as pure-hearted and dependent upon God as a child. The little girl or boy he pulled into their midst made that clear.
“If you truly want to be great in the kingdom of God, you must become like this little child.”
"Whoever wants to be great among you must be your servant."
I don’t care about living in a country that’s “great.” Especially when greatness has been downgraded to mean mostly economic prowess rather than the moral or ethical good. Nor do I want a president who crows about his or her own greatness. A “great” president of the “greatest country on earth” is less likely to seek God for wisdom, to listen to the people who elected him or her, to listen to the wise counsel of others.
How do we choose, then? How do we vote? I can only speak for myself, but here are the questions I’m asking:
*Who desperately wants power? Who desperately wants to serve?
*Who cannot stop talking? Who knows how to listen?
*Who is rapacious to opponents? Who is gracious to opponents?
*Who insists on their own greatness? Who aims instead for goodness?
Here is my hope: that we would lay down our goal of global “greatness.”
That we would instead be a country known for its goodness.
Then we will truly be, "America the Beautiful."
What are YOU looking for in a candidate? (And please subscribe to the comments so I can respond back to you!! thank you!)