Not surprisingly, many Tea Party members, along with many other Republicans, are people of conservative Christian faith, and most of the Republican candidates campaigning for the presidency are known for their strong (and, it appears, genuine) faith. There is Rick Perry, who called for a prayer convocation attended by 30,000 before announcing his presidential bid. There is Michelle Bachman, who will now be joined on the campaign trail by her “personal pastor,” Mac Hammond. There is Herman Cain, who was recently quoted by the Christian Post as saying, “My faith plays a very big part in all the decisions that I make. . . . I’ve been involved with the church since I was young.” And always looming in the background is Sarah Palin, baptized in a lake in Alaska after getting “saved” at the age of 12. Perhaps one of these individuals will be our next political savior? Perhaps one of them will ascend to the presidency and bring about dramatic, national changes?
I would suggest we take a more pragmatic approach and not set ourselves up for disappointment yet again. First, the American political system is both complicated and convoluted, totally different than, say, ancient Israel where the right king could bring about national transformation, especially over the course of his lifelong reign. Here we have two major parties (at least), often at war with each, often fighting for what is politically expedient rather than what is best for the country, sometimes internally divided as well. And then there is the ever-present “good old boy” syndrome, with its coalitions and deals and favors. We would be naïve to think that one charmed leader will be able to overcome all this in the short period of time he or she serves as president.
Second, America is a nation of more than 300 million people, and much of the change we need must be grassroots change, from the bottom up more than from the top down. In fact, it is hypocritical to criticize big government and its overreaching arm while at the same time looking to government to save us. Third, our presidents are not superheroes, and once we get past the political panegyric, we are reminded of their humanity.
We would do well, then, to remember the apostle Paul’s exhortation to pray for our leaders, to vote or campaign for those we believe are best suited for the job (even with conviction and passion), without simplistically thinking that the next person we elect will somehow save our nation.
Can we hope for positive change? Absolutely. Can we expect national transformation? That will come from the nation, not just the president.
Michael Brown holds a Ph.D. in Near Eastern Languages and Literatures from New York University. He is the author of 25 books, includingLine of Fire. Follow him at AskDrBrown on Facebook or @drmichaellbrown on Twitter.