The year was 1603. The previous monarch, Queen Elizabeth I, had just died with no direct heir and England had already endured years of instability. Elizabeth had taken the throne after the tumultuous reign of her half-sister, Mary I (also known as Bloody Mary), and had revived the fledgling English Reformation Mary had tried to extinguish.
Once again, the nation was at a crossroads.
What was at stake? Freedom of religion, and by extension, protection of property rights, personal liberty, and even the right to life itself (considering the bad habit of religious zealots in those days to burn the unlucky people with whom they disagreed at the stake).
In a small village in Nottinghamshire, these were more than just philosophical concerns. William Brewster and a small group of kindred spirits had been meeting for years to secretly worship in violation of the law. So far theyâ€™d gotten away with it, but if the new monarch wasnâ€™t inclined to turn a blind eye to that sort of thing, persecution, confiscation of personal property, imprisonment, deportation, and possibly death stared them in the face.
Who would England choose for a monarch? It was – dare I say – the most important election of their lifetimes.
Most of Brewsterâ€™s worst fears came true. The British government chose Elizabethâ€™s closest relative, James IV of Scotland. Being a nice, amiable gentlemen of a reasonable temperment, he declared that every Tom, Dick, and Harry would comply with his religious system or he would â€œharry them out of the land.â€
You know the rest of the story, how that small band of religious protesters known as Separatists endured tremendous persecution and loss at the hands of government and finally considered themselves fortunate to escape the land they called home. How they sunk all their resources in a daring venture to the New World and a ship called the Mayflower. And how against all odds and at great personal cost, those brave men and women forged a new life full of freedom and opportunity for themselves and their descendants.
All of that, thanks to the coronation of the rascally King James.
This is only one example of many. The Old Testament is full of these kinds of stories, and youâ€™ll see them throughout the history of Christendom. While this is an important election, itâ€™s nothing compared to what other countries have been faced with.
The Rise of Adrenaline Politics
I tell that story for two reasons: 1. While our nation is certainly in trouble, itâ€™s not nearly as bad as many others have had it, and 2. The tendency to hype up the stakes is a very, very poor tactic that will hurt us in the long run.
This â€œmost important election of our lifetimeâ€ trend has concerned me for some time. It could be called â€œadrenaline politicsâ€ – hyping the grassroots up with tales of woe and danger and the possible extinction of civilization if they donâ€™t turn out and vote.
The trouble is that adrenaline is not sustainable. Adrenaline is, by its very nature, short-lived and tied to a particular situation. In the case of politics, itâ€™s tied to whether you win or lose.
In this approach, you whip the grassroots up into a frenzy, and then when you lose, they get discouraged and go home (and some of them start stockpiling ammo. Not their fault if they believe things are actually as dire as you told them!). Or you win, and then they dust their hands off and go home (again, you told them the key to saving the country was electing a particular candidate, not staying involved.).
Is it any wonder we canâ€™t keep people involved in politics, and that thereâ€™s so much burnout?
When you look at history, we honestly arenâ€™t doing so badly and there is a lot to be encouraged about. Itâ€™s time to change our paradigm when it comes to civic involvement.
Civic Involvement: The Price of Living in Freedom
Every privilege in life has a corresponding responsibility. When you get married, you pledge to love, honor and be faithful to your spouse for the rest of your life, in exchange for the privileges of the relationship. In the same way, you go to work each day to â€œearn your livingâ€ – literally. Itâ€™s the responsibility that comes along with staying alive.
Political involvement is the same way. Itâ€™s not just something we desperately need to keep our nation alive. Itâ€™s the responsibility of living in a free country. Itâ€™s paying your dues, and itâ€™s understanding that it will be a part of your life for as long as you enjoy the privileges of living in freedom. When you understand that, you know that just as sure as the fact that the sun will rise tomorrow, you will get up and continue to be involved in politics, no matter how many victories we win or defeats we suffer.
Thatâ€™s why you vote. Not because the nation will fall apart if you donâ€™t, but because itâ€™s your duty and to whom much is given, much is required.
Itâ€™s going to be okay.
In conclusion, I just want to offer a word of encouragement: we will be okay. Other nations have gone through worse and survived. Hard times may be ahead (and probably are), but it wonâ€™t be the end of the world until God says so, and His instructions are for us to occupy till He comes.
Remember, God doesnâ€™t wait till the final chapter to pick up His pen. He is writing the whole time and none of this is catching Him by surprise.
So vote, stay involved, love those you disagree with, and as the Psalmist said, â€œTrust in the Lord and do good. So shalt thou dwell in the land, and verily thou shalt be fed.â€
(Psalm 37:3. Translation credit to the aforementioned rascally King James. See, he didnâ€™t get the final say in anything!)