The midterm election results are not yet finalized, but it is clear that Republicans increased their control of the Senate, while Democrats regained control of the House of Representatives.
At least 101 women were elected to the House, a new record. Two Muslim women and two Native American women are projected to win seats in Congress. The percentage of minority voters was the largest ever for a midterm election, reflecting the increasing diversity of the American population.
With yesterday’s vote, the US is returning to a divided government. Whether you are discouraged or encouraged with the results, one fact is clear: America’s democratic experiment worked yet again.
If a building could speak
The House of Representatives and Senate began meeting in the building we know as the US Capitol in 1800. The structure was expanded in 1850; some of the construction labor was supplied by slaves. The dome was enlarged and crowned with the “Statue of Freedom” in 1863.
Since the House and Senate first met in the Capitol on November 17, 1800, the building has seen the War of 1812 (in which it was partially burned), the Civil War, two World Wars, the Korean conflict, the Vietnam War, the Cold War, and ongoing conflicts with global terrorism. Legislators met there during the Great Depression and the Great Recession.
The Capitol has witnessed presidential administrations from Thomas Jefferson to Donald Trump. It has survived fifty-four midterm elections and significant political turmoil. Over the past twenty-one midterm elections, the president’s party has lost an average of thirty seats in the House and four seats in the Senate.
Like its Capitol building, the United States of America has faced and overcome enormous challenges to our survival.
What explains our success?
We have the advantage of geography, with no national enemies on our borders. No foreign nation has successfully occupied the United States. By contrast, Israel has been occupied by at least eleven empires across its history. 9/11, which killed 2,977 Americans, was the worst attack by a foreign agent on our soil. By contrast, Nazi Germany’s siege of Leningrad in Russia led to more than three million casualties, with more than a million deaths.
We have the advantage of enormous natural resources. The United States is now the world’s leading producer of energy, ranking first in oil, natural gas, nuclear power, and geothermal power production.
Our people are among the most industrious in the world, producing the world’s largest economy and ranking among the world’s leaders in technology. We are far more religious and more optimistic than people in other wealthy nations.
As we’ll discuss tomorrow, our nation faces critical challenges. But beyond question, we are a country with remarkable resources and opportunities.
The heart of the American experiment
Assessing America biblically, however, I believe there is one factor that especially explains our resiliency in the face of political, economic, and cultural turmoil. It was on clear display in yesterday’s elections and is proclaimed in the closest statement to a national creed we possess: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
This declaration identifies the cultural DNA at the heart of the American experiment.
It rejects the systems built on class and caste that dominated human history. Prior to America’s founding, the list of nations in which anyone could rise to the pinnacle of leadership was remarkably short. Kings and dictators ruled by right of birth or force.
The vast majority of the human race was consigned to lifelong servitude. A government “of the people, by the people, for the people,” as Abraham Lincoln so famously described America, was both novel and radical.
It was “self-evident” to our nation’s founders because they were steeped in a Judeo-Christian worldview. This perspective values each person as someone made by God in his own image (Genesis 1:26-27). According to Scripture, “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female” in God’s eyes (Galatians 3:28).
I believe this emphasis on the innate worth of each person to be the foundational value that explains America’s ethos and success. No matter how frustrated we become with our leaders, we have a regular opportunity to cast ballots for change. The laws that regulate national life are produced by lawmakers who are accountable to the people they govern.
While our democracy is significantly flawed in practice, it contains the seeds of its own continued rebirth and regeneration. And it stands aligned with our Creator in embracing the intrinsic value of his highest creation.
The message America needs most
As we will see in tomorrow’s Daily Article, America’s focus on the individual is not only our foundational attribute but also our primal challenge. For today, whether your candidates won or lost yesterday, let’s recognize the fact that our democracy worked yet again.
But let’s also note that no “democracy” (the “power of the people”) can repair what is most fundamentally broken with the people. With all due respect to President Clinton’s first inaugural address, it is not true that “there is nothing wrong with America that cannot be cured by what is right with America.”
Even if America abolishes all poverty, crime, and war, every American will eventually die (unless Jesus returns first). Our greatest problem is spiritual–our sins have alienated us from God, each other, and ourselves. Our only solution lies outside ourselves, in a Savior who can forgive us, heal us, and restore us.
That’s why the gospel is the message America needs most. And it’s why faithful Christians are so vital to our future.
As our nation focuses on yesterday’s results, followers of Jesus know that our future is not dependent on political outcomes. Ten thousand millennia after the 2018 midterms are forgotten, every person you know will be alive, either with God in heaven or separated from him in hell.
Will you reflect the light of Christ to your dark culture today? Will you make him the Lord of your life, resources, and witness? Will you share what every American needs most to hear?
Martin Luther: “It is the duty of every Christian to be Christ to his neighbor.” Will you do your duty today?
For more from the Denison Forum, please visit www.denisonforum.org.
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Publication Date: November 7, 2018
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