I'm not sure how many of you have been paying attention lately to American politics, but if you have, it is next to impossible to miss all the media's discussion on the morality and integrity of the two presidential candidates.
Laying all personal judgement aside for the moment, I have a pressing question for you to consider? In our postmodern attempts to create a better society, do people really care about the issues of morality and integrity? When it comes to presidential candidates, or any other leader, how much should we care about their character? Surrogates of both presidential candidates seem quick to gloss over issues of integrity by deflecting or pivoting to their candidate's policies, or to their political and business acumen.
It seems the American presidential race has been reduced to which leader has the best insults, wields the most powerful and arrogant persona, slings the most mud, amasses the most campaign contributions, gets the media on their side, or plays the best political sycophant.
Admittedly, some supporters do express concern over their candidate's integrity. They relent their candidate's use of abhorrent and abusive language, or their duplicity and penchant for cover-ups. For an all but brief and fleeting moment integrity seems to matter to some supporters. When confronted with their candidate's lack of integrity, their faces display an awkward and palpable uneasiness. They regretfully wish their candidate had not said what they said or did something that was so harrowing. On the other hand, political opponents are quick to seize the moment; but their giddy display of schadenfreude does nothing to help the problem. Some point out that the typical voter should see all of this as just normal political rhetoric or behaviour. Why be alarmed at all? Have we not become accustomed to expect this from our politicians? After all, "They are all corrupt anyways".
At this point, I want to take up my personal judgement I had earlier laid aside. I don't believe for a moment that all politicians or leaders are corrupt. Many men and women are excellent models of moral values and principles. I am thankful for these people of high integrity.
Yet, as the American election now showcases, a leader's lack of morality and integrity are not only woefully apparent but have come under intense scrutiny. If what we see on the surface of a leader's life troubles us, you can be sure that underneath the facade lies a much darker and troubling problem. Jesus said, "From the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, all sexual immorality, theft, lying, and slander (Matt. 15:18-19). You have probably heard the expression, "corrupt to the core"—well, this is what Jesus was trying to say about the inner lives of not just politicians, but of all of us. Our society needs to hear and apply the words of Jesus, "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God" (Matt. 5:8). America and other nations need to start looking at the "heart" of their political and cultural malaise. It is a human condition that requires a Divine corrective.
If all the American political system can come up with is its two current presidential contenders, then we have to ask, "Why is this so?" Could it be—these candidates are mirror reflections of what is wrong with society in general. Integrity and trustworthiness is at an all time low with both of these presidential candidates. Is this the new normal?
What do we value as a society? Do we favour an amoral or hedonistic culture? Do we value a candidate's prowess at being able to raise millions of dollars for their campaign and party over their lack of moral virtues? Do we value secularism over Christianity? Political correctness over truth? Insults over diplomacy? If we as a society can answer yes to any of these questions, then it might explain the abysmal problem in American politics.
If the problem is to be addressed then we must come to terms with the real issue—the human heart (the centre of our will and affection). But let us be sure of what it is that we are up against. Jeremiah 17:9-10 says, “The human heart is the most deceitful of all things, and desperately wicked. Who really knows how bad it is”? The problem we all face is the deceitfulness of our hearts. Jeremiah also said that people can be quite headstrong concerning their own hearts. He says in 18:10, "This is what the LORD says: I am preparing disaster for you and making plans against you. So stop doing evil. Change your ways and do what is right.’ But the people of Judah answered, It won’t do any good to try! We will continue to do what we want. Each of us will do what his stubborn, evil heart wants“!
Do you see the problem? The human heart is deceitful. It's stubborn and evil. Remember the atrocities committed by the Nazis? These were people with depraved and evil hearts but they were people just like you and me. They never addressed their heart's deceitfulness, stubbornness or its proclivity towards evil. So let us not dismiss what Jeremiah says about our hearts, the well-being of our society and our world depends on it.
Happily, there is a corrective, not only for American politics, but for all of us. Jeremiah 29:13 quotes God as saying, "When you search for me with all your heart, you will find me"! God is looking for people who will forsake their deceitful and evil hearts (their affection and will) and turn it towards him. These people instinctively know that something is not only wrong with the world in general but with their own heart specifically. Blaise Pascal summed it up well, "What else does this craving, and this helplessness, proclaim but that there was once in man a true happiness, of which all that now remains is the empty print and trace? This he tries in vain to fill with everything around him, seeking in things that are not there the help he cannot find in those that are, though none can help, since this infinite abyss can be filled only with an infinite and immutable object; in other words by God himself".—Blaise Pascal, Pensées VII(425)
Paul the Apostle had a remedy for our heart condition. In Romans 10:9-10 he says, "If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is by believing in your heart that you are made right with God, and it is by confessing with your mouth that you are saved".
A heart that believes and trusts in God, and His Son, Jesus Christ, is critical to right thinking and right living. It's why Jesus said in Luke 10:27-28, "Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your strength, and all your mind.“ Also, "Love your neighbor as you love yourself. . . .Do this and you will live". I'd like to add, "Do this and you will see why pure hearts and integrity can make a difference". It was said of a not so perfect king in Israel, King David, that he "shepherded them with integrity of heart" (Psalm 78:72). We should expect the same integrity of heart from our leaders today.