By all accounts, I should be firmly in the camp of one of the two presidential candidates. I’m a white, Christians male who’s only education is an accreditation to be a pastor. Yes, everything I am says I should be a Trumpie.
But I’m not.
If I’m being honest, I’ve even gone so far as to be absolutely shocked to hear anyone who claims to be a follower of Jesus and who also admits that they’re voting for the man.
It is important at this point that I make it clear – I’m not about to bash Trump so my Christian friends and readers who still plan to vote for the man can stow the angry comments now. The point of this blog isn’t to degrade him.
The purpose of this post is bigger than that.
I want to share my story of being at the brink of despair for following Jesus and what has given me hope for this election and beyond.
There’s a phenomenal book out now called Finding God in the Waves by “Science Mike” McHargue. It’s the story of a man who was raised as a somewhat fundamentalist Christian home and science led him away from faith when it couldn’t answer the tough questions for him. Ironically, it was also science that led him back.
The second half of the book does a deep dive into the science of faith and specifically, neurology.
McHargue suggests that essentially all denominations within the Christian faith fall into one of two categories: Angry God or Loving God.
Angry God is the neurological model our brain creates when we believe that God is primarily wrathful or angry and some would even use “just” here. The Angry God is a god of judgment who does a whole lot of smiting. This God demands worship and loyalty and is mostly associated with the God of the Old Testament because he also seemed to be into smiting.
McHargue says “When you experience God as being primarily angry, this experience shows up in your brain. God becomes highly associated with activity in the *amygdala. You have more stress, and you anger more easily. It becomes difficult for you to forgive yourself or others, and you become fearful or angry towards those who don’t think, look, or act like you.”
(* amygdala – the part of the brain connected to emotional reactions, fear, aggression, anxiety, stress, political orientation and even alcoholism)
He adds that the Angry God isn’t entirely bad though. Angry God is awesome when it comes to impulse control. When you’re afraid of being punished (yea, even smitten) you tend to be a little more motivated to stop or start certain behaviors. Angry God demands change and this tends to lead people to a structured life of service. Angry God is great especially for those coming out of a life of addiction.
See, that’s not horrible.
As I was reflecting on this, my slow brain finally made the connection.
THIS is why so many of my Christian tribe love Trump.
They serve Angry God (again, not all bad).
And Trump is the candidate who, at least in words, represents Angry God best. He preaches that the whole political system could use a good smiting. Maybe that would have been a solid slogan for his campaign “Trump/Pence 2016: Smiting The System”
My warning to those Christians would be that Angry God is ripe for exploitation – especially in the political realm. If those who primarily follow Angry God are not careful, they can be swayed to hate people who are different than they are and be manipulated into believing that God is aligned with only one political party.
Understanding this has changed the way I view the people who only days ago I was ready to eliminate from my social media life. *GASP* How dramatic!
Of course these people don’t support most of what the man has done in his personal life! They simply agree with his words and intentions to bring justice to the system.
I mentioned that there’s a counterpart to Angry God and we call him Loving God.
Those followers of Jesus who follow Loving God have a completely different thing going on in their brains. Again quoting McHargue directly:
“People who focus on God’s love develop thicker, richer gray matter in their prefrontal cortex and anterior cingulate cortex. This development offers them better focus, concentration, compassion, and empathy. They have lower stress levels and lower blood pressure, and it’s easier for them to forgive themselves and others. Over time, they even show less activity in the amygdala.”
He goes on to add that:
“God’s love becomes implanted in their sense of identity, and they begin to see the world as basically safe. This not only allows the believer to experience peace – it also elevates her capacity to take risks for the sake of others.”
Pretty sweet, right?
Don’t jump ahead of me though.
Yes, I said that Trump seems to look like Angry God but I’m NOT about to suggest that in any way Hillary Clinton is Loving God.
Let’s say that Trump is a hyena. Ugly and you know it. Clinton is a slow loris. Less ugly, but but also potentially dangerous.
Now, most Christians have a mix of God who is both Anger and Love.
And it is understanding this that helps me see that my tribe can float between an Angry candidate and a not-quite- Love candidate but certainly more so than the other guy.
This can feel hopeless.
Here’s the big question: HOW DO WE VOTE FROM HERE?
I’ve heard countless people say they feel like they’re throwing a vote away this year by voting for either candidate.
Every day you wake up you get to vote.
You may not wake up and vote for an official office of the government, but you can certainly vote.
You can vote whether or not you will love your neighbor.
You can vote whether or not you will value your spouse, children, or the people in your tribe as more important than your own life.
You’re pro-life? Then you can vote today with your time or money to support a pregnancy crisis center. There’s no president who can stop that vote.
You want to see racial tensions reconciled? Then you can vote with your words to reach out to someone of a different ethnicity or skin color to start that.
Or you can not do any of it.
That’s the beauty of the “every day vote”.
You can vote to do or not do something every day.
You can vote to not be harsh to your coworker who constantly offends you.
You can vote to not place expectations on others that they’ll never live up to.
You can vote to follow Angry God or Loving God.
I’ve never tried to get a hashtag started on social media, but I think the idea of #voteeveryday has something to it and in the same way this dude asked the most humanizing question of either debate I believe #voteeveryday can help bring light into a dark time.
So how about it?
The choice is yours.
How will you spend your vote?