US Presidential Elections: A nation divided

US Presidential Elections: A nation divided October 25, 2012

I was asked this week what issues in the American Elections concern my constituency of readers, many of whom are American. I think a number will agree with an issue that is not often expressed. For me, as a British observer, one big concern I have is for the unity of your great nation. It seems that with every passing election cycle the divisions grow deeper. Some Republicans dismiss Obama as out to destroy what makes America great, while some Democrats demonize Romney.

It might surprise you to know that in the UK we just don’t seem to feel our politics as strongly as you do. Few of us passionately and unequivocally support one party or the other. The notion that anybody would “register” as either a Conservative (most similar to your Republican) or Labour (similar to your Democrat) voter seems bizarre. When our last election came round, I don’t even know for sure how most of my friends voted!

Over here someone might be inclined towards the Conservatives, but admire the Labour Tony Blair as a leader. They might believe in abolishing abortion in almost all cases (a very common opinion among Evangelicals) but decide to vote Labour because they believe supporting spending more money on the poor and needy is a way of expressing Christian love. Few Evangelicals in the UK believe that supporting either party is a necessary consequence of their faith.

I look at your media, your political adverts, your adversarial debates, and I wonder, how long before your nation tears itself apart? Can either of the candidates unite the land? With your red states and blue states, it often seems to me like you are not a very United States at all!

Even Rick Warren has cancelled his “Civic Forum” due to the lack of civility he has observed in this campaign on both sides, saying

“”I’ve never seen more irresponsible personal attacks, mean-spirited slander, and flat-out dishonest attack ads, and I don’t expect that tone to change before the election. … It would be hypocritical to pretend civility for one evening only to have the name-calling return the next day.”

What seems to be at stake in your nation is the ability for people to get along and disagree agreeably. This is much more than just a political issue. If as soon as the vote was cast, you all united again as “Americans” and supported the right of people from every sort of background to live as full members of society without fear of being insulted or worse, it would not be such an issue. But as I have posted elsewhere there is a growing undercurrent where Evangelicals feel persecuted, Homosexuals can still be physically assaulted, Muslims feel unfairly tarred with the brush of terrorist extremism, and atheists are still seen by some as second class citizens. Unfortunately some from all these groups are not just on the receiving end of discrimination, but are also on the giving end.

In the UK we may not be as divided politically as you are, but I fear that socially and religiously we may even be further along that route of mutual distrust. I wish more than anything that whoever wins your election would genuinely call for unity, peace, and a re-examination of how we can learn to live with each other better at both a national and international level. There are lots of hard questions to answer as we look at the sometimes conflicting claims of religious freedom and non-discrimination in the 21st Century. But we must try to examine them together while thinking the best of those who disagree with us.

We have seen the results of extreme sectarianism in this country during my lifetime in the troubles of Northern Ireland where Catholic and Protestant were pitched against each other. We also saw leaders from both communities making the brave decision to reach out and shake each others hand. Nobody asked them to deny the wrongs the others had done. Nobody asked them to lay aside their precious beliefs. But, openness about the past and forgiveness for the sake of the future was encouraged in a similar way to the Truth and Reconciliation Commission in South Africa.

Surely we need to learn to like each other, or at least truly tolerate each other despite our differences?

The Scripture urges us “that supplications, prayers, intercessions, and thanksgivings be made for all people, for kings and all who are in high positions, that we may lead a peaceful and quiet life, godly and dignified in every way.” (1 Timothy 2:1-2).

Content Director’s Note: This post is a part of our Election Month at Patheos feature. Patheos was designed to present the world’s most compelling conversations on life’s most important questions. Please join the Facebook following for our new News and Politics Channel — and check back throughout the month for more commentary on Election 2012. Please use hashtag #PatheosElection on Twitter.

"Never ask a person "are you depressed?" Ask them "do you have depression?" It really ..."

Dark Days of Depression
"MacArthur still embraces "Biblical counseling"."

John MacArthur and John Piper on ..."
"I just thought I would let you know that I am now three days into ..."

“Pray Always” – Jesus
"Lord, in your great mercy, hear us. "In the same way, the Spirit helps us ..."

“Pray Always” – Jesus

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!

What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • Some people in the UK “register” as supporters of a particular party by becoming party members. At least in some parties, this gives them the privilege of helping to choose candidates, much as US registration does. I guess the difference is that in the UK you have to put at least a little of your money where your mouth is – so not so many people bother.

  • Excellent post, Adrian.
    Just one point that I would make: you said that you wish the winning candidate would call for unity. That does in fact happen after every election. The newly elected president calls for everyone to unite behind HIS leadership. What would be a refreshing change would be to hear the losing candidate, and their entire party, call for the entire nation to come together to support the democratically elected government.
    From the other side of the pond,

  • I think that part of our problem here in the US is the way the election process is set up, where major party candidates are chosen through primary elections. The problem that the Republicans have is this: at the beginning of the election cycle the declared conservative candidates outnumber the liberal or moderate ones. This almost always results in the moderate (John McCain, Mitt Romney) winning the nomination, since the rest of the candidates split the conservative votes among themselves. Then, when the more moderate Republican nominee goes into the general election, he has a hard time distinguishing himself from his Democratic opponent. Since he can’t present a compelling vision of his own, he demonizes his opponent. Vote for me because nothing could be worse than the other guy!
    This election is particularly bad — both candidates are weak, and you have a challenger running against an incumbent whose presidency hasn’t been particularly successful. The result is that the challenger is running against his opponent’s record while being evasive about his own vague proposals.
    Sad to say, many Evangelical Christians get caught up in the election year propaganda, and are inclined to believe things about Mr. Obama that border on slander (He is secretly a Muslim; he wasn’t really born in the US, etc.). I think that during an election like this we all need to bear in mind the Ninth Commandment!

  • stage 9

    “Brethren, our preaching will bear its legitimate fruits. If immorality prevails in the land, the fault is ours in a great degree. If there is a decay of conscience, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the public press lacks moral discrimination, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the church is degenerate and worldly, the pulpit is responsible for it. If the world loses its interest in religion, the pulpit is responsible for it. If Satan rules in our halls of legislation, the pulpit is responsible for it. If our politics become so corrupt that the very foundations of our government are ready to fall away, the pulpit is responsible for it. Let us not ignore this fact, my dear brethren; but let us lay it to heart, and be thoroughly awake to our responsibility in respect to the morals of this nation.” — Charles Finney, Revivalist during the Second Great Awakening

  • The problem in the U.S. is that we are a litigious society. My husband and I purchased an expensive self steering vain for our sailboat from a company in England. We were not satisfied with it and wished to return it. The company would not take it back. My husband threatened to sue but were told that they did not do things like in the U.S. so a suit wouldn’t be advisable. If gay marriage is approved businesses will be sued if they will not support gay marriage. If businesses are pro life they will be sued for not offering abortion on demand through their health insurance. Next churches will be taxed for preaching against immorality. We are no longer a free country. God will not be mocked!

    • Lisa

      Oh you poor oppressed Christians, your plight just makes me want to cry – not. Conservative Christians have a lot of power in the US. They along with big business completely control the Republican Party, and spend much of their time and money trying to force others to live by their beliefs. From my point of view, Christians have always been the most privileged religious group,so now that others are tired of being pushed around by them, they cry persecution. I don’t feel sorry for them one bit. Until they leave the rest of us alone I will fight them every step of the way. And no I’m not gay or a promiscuous, selfish libertine. I’m faithfully married 29 years to the father of our three kids. My oldest and youngest are both in the military serving in Afghanistan.