Political idolatry in 2016

posted at 12:41 pm on March 28, 2016 by Taylor Millard

The reaction to the “Ted Cruz has five mistresses” story is bringing out the worst of the Internet. Donald Trump supporters are clinging to conspiracy theories about Cruz’ jacket, while Cruz fans are calling Cruz “sent from God.” Angry Marco Rubio supporters are cackling with glee at all this and taking a “hands off” approach to the Cruz-Trump, whilst occasionally tossing fireballs at both candidates. Meanwhile the rest of us are just ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ing and looking to see if the Libertarian Party will select ex-Governor Gary Johnson or Austin Petersen as their nominee. One thing this has shown is what the problem when people go from supporting a candidate and their ideas they espouse to worshiping the candidate and not even being willing to play the role of, “Hey, you’re straying from your path.”

Elizabeth Scalia warned about this very same thing a few months before the 2012 election. She first wrote American Christians were considering George W. Bush “God-ordained” and “an agent of the Lord.” She notes at FirstThings.com things got only worst in 2008 with the ascendancy of Barack Obama.

Then came the election of 2008, with idols arising amid both the religious right, who swooned for Sarah Palin’s heartfelt nationalism, and the secular left, who called Barack Obama “The One” and “The Lightworker” while Obama propelled the “anointed” analogies forward with his own rhetorical excesses. I started wondering about idolatry, again. What was driving Americans to paint their candidates”these merely human people”with brushes so gobbed-up with malice or over-laden with love? It was impressive enough that Palin had been an effective governor with a sound record on energy policy; why did some need to see her as Mother America and others need to savage her until her humanity could be disregarded? It was historic enough that Obama was the first serious African-American contender for the Oval Office; why was it necessary to herald him with halos, until the other side could only see the devil? 

Erick Erickson had a similar piece at RedState before the election, saying he wouldn’t go insane if Mitt Romney lost to Obama.

My world view is pretty simple. I think this world is destined to go to hell in a hand basketby design. I think things are supposed to go to pot. So if Barack Obama wins, I won’t be upset. If Mitt Romney wins, I won’t be running through the streets cheering. I think, either way, it is all part of the design. The world is going down hill. Barack Obama re-elected just gets us down the slippery slope faster in my view. For others, it is Mitt Romney who does.

God is sovereign and He is in charge and He will return. That is my hope and my ever present expectation.

We often get so wrapped up in the view of things at ground level, we forget to look at the world from 50,000 feet. In the historic, grand scheme of things, this too will end.

This is the problem with political idolatry and the idea of “only this man (or woman) can save us!” I learned a long time ago, “heroes have clay feet.” Patrick Henry, who I personally am a big fan for warning about the dangers of a strong central government, was proven a hypocrite because he told the Virginia legislature to convict a British government sympathizer during the Revolutionary War without a trial (the Josiah Philips affair). Thomas Jefferson and James Monroe did the unconstitutional Louisiana Purchase (Congress told Jefferson he could spend $X, Jefferson told Monroe to spend $Y, and Monroe spent $Z) and Calvin Coolidge signed a very restrictive immigration law. Paul had his “thorn,” Peter was rebuked by Paul for not eating with Gentiles, and John and James argued who would sit at the right hand of Jesus. The fact is all these things happened because all “heroes” are human, which mean they’re imperfect and will have failings. I have no idea if the Ted Cruz mistresses stories are true (I doubt they are), but if they are it’s because he’s human. Cruz isn’t perfect and never will be. The same goes for Trump, Rubio, Hillary Clinton, and Bernie Sanders. They will fail and they will disappoint us.

This is why people need to be very careful when they start putting someone up on a pillar because of the values they represent and forget the faults. It’s easy to do it when we get caught up in the minutia of politics and forget to take a breath of fresh air. It doesn’t mean not paying attention or being involved in the political process, but at least taking some time to ourselves (even if it’s just for a week or a day). Politics is always going to “be there” and won’t stop just because we decide to. Maybe that’s the best way to avoid the entire political idolatry thing and the insanity of political silly season.

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