Wednesday, October 19, 2016

African Christians Can Teach Us About Elections


"You know how in Tanzania, Christians pray and fast over our presidential elections and sometimes those of neighboring countries?  Yeah, I don't know how common this is in the U.S. but to be honest maybe a series of week-long overnight African-style prayers are needed for this year's election."

-Facebook post by Sia Kwimbere, former HOPAC student and now a Cornell graduate

America, welcome to the politics of the rest of the world.

You may be thinking, "How on earth is this happening?" while the beleaguered citizens of most of the earth are thinking, "How did you avoid this happening for as long as you did?"

Corruption, manipulation, violence, narcissistic candidates, propaganda, bullying....all are common features even in supposed "democratic" elections worldwide.  The United States (even with all its faults) has been a beacon of freedom and virtue for the rest of the world.  Until now....when this election isn't looking much different from much less developed countries.

And the world is watching.  Just yesterday I was at my tailor's little closet-sized shop, ordering a dress, when I heard the radio news blasting about Trump.  In Swahili.  The world is watching.

This self-governing thing doesn't work so well when your only choices are people you would never want to live next to, work with, or ask to look after your dog--let alone run your country.  It's like we're all standing on the edge of a black pit, and the only choice we get is the direction we jump in.  I think I'd rather just be pushed.

I voted last night, and today I drove our ballots over to the U.S. embassy.  I could say that my part is done.  Or is it?

I'm watching from a distance, so all I see are the Grand Pronouncements from evangelicals on social media.  I don't know the kind of conversations Americans are having in real life.  The truth is though that most of us really don't have any idea what to do.  Isn't that right?  But in the midst of all of the squabbling and desperation and impossible choices, I wonder if God's people are doing much praying.  We're so used to governing ourselves that we see ourselves as needing to fix it all.  Ourselves as the answer.  And that's pretty exhausting.  And pointless.

But doesn't God like putting us in a position where we have no idea what to do?

The good part about losing faith in our government is that it increases our faith in God.  At least, it should.  I think that's why--as Sia described above--that Africans do so much praying come election time.  They tend to be a whole lot more familiar than we are with things like fasting and all-night prayer meetings.  They know there isn't much hope for their countries aside from God's intervention.  Seems true for America too right now.  Maybe we've got something to learn from them about that kind of desperate dependence on God.

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