Post-election consolation prizes

In the wake of Tuesday’s election, I have read and listened to plenty of response from Christians across the spectrum. And one of the things I’m hearing again and again, usually from people disappointed (or much, much worse) about the results is the phrase “God is sovereign”.
This phrase is usually a part of some self-comforting speech that goes something like this: “Even though we’re not at all happy with the way things went on Tuesday, and this country is going to go ______ (fill in the blank with “socialist”, “fascist”, “Muslim”, “to hell in a handbasket” or “broke”), we need to remember that God is sovereign.”

What I’m wondering today is why this phrase is used like it is some sort of consolation prize – or an attempt to comfort ourselves. Would those who’ve used the phrase use it if the election had gone their way? If they had, how would it sound as they said it? Sadly, I can remember elections or other civic events in the past when things have gone a different direction, and the same folks who’re in mourning now have sounded eerily like a “noisy gong or a clanging cymbal” as they proclaimed their certainty that things were finally going God’s way. “God IS sovereign! WE WON!”

Though I follow politics, I am re-evaluating my interaction with the process these days. The Internet Monk’s post on this issue really captures some of my questions and concerns about civic responsibility and the kingdom of God at this point: http://www.internetmonk.com/archive/imonk-101-the-tactics-of-failure-why-the-culture-war-makes-sense-to-spiritually-empty-evangelicals.

I have one friend who has embraced the truth that God is sovereign for as long as I’ve known her – in profound ways, through times of plenty and times of terrible loss in her life. She doens’t use the phrase as either a consolation prize or the slogan stamped on her winner’s trophy.

Instead, the words are her expression of trust in her Savior. They aren’t a reaction – they are a measured, surrendered response of trust. You can almost smell the sweetness of the offering of her life as she expresses these words. I heard them again in an e-mail from her this evening, in fact.

And the words reminded me again of the spirit with which they were properly meant to be expressed.

About Michelle Van Loon
  • Anonymous

    I have found this election frightening, not becuase of the outcome, but because of many of my friend’s and co-worker’s reactions. I’ve rarely heard such vitriol, anger, and just plain meanness, all seasoned with a generous helping of misinformation and self-righteousness. I need to go back and read my Bible; I must have missed the part that says that God is obviously a white pro-military Republican capitalist. Funny. I doubt many of these people would have joined to early church; too radical, too socialist.

  • Michelle Van Loon

    Anonymous – it’s amazing how we read Scripture through the lenses of our own preferences, ideologies and fears. (Check out Scot McKnight’s book Blue Parakeet – it’s about this very issue.)

    So – in the face of this bad brew of vitriol in our culture and among those you know, how do you respond?

    I am trying to figure out the answer to that question as well.

  • Anonymous

    Generally, I don’t respond, which is due to a lack of courage on my part! Or I mention that God’s ways are not our ways, and that we don’t know the future and that He has His overall plan for the world that He does not generally consult us about. There was an piece in our morning paper about how the real loser in this election was religion in general, because it has now become a weapon to use against the side one doesn’t agree with. And I have to blame the religious right for that more than anyone….


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