Paul Prather

Paul Prather: Regardless of election results, God's in control

Paul Prather, Faith and Values columnist.
Paul Prather, Faith and Values columnist.

I'm writing this column on Nov. 4, two days before the presidential election.

By the time you read it the election's outcome will have been decided, unless it's too close to immediately call.

So what I'm about to say has nothing to do with the specific winner; I have no way of knowing who that will be.

Whether it's Barack Obama or Mitt Romney, my suggestion to you is the same: Get over it.

Pray for the new president-elect. Thank God that you live in a free country. Move on with your life. Be gracious.

It's not that I don't think politics and politicians matter. They do.

Before every election, I read up on the candidates and on the issues I hold dear. I guarantee you, unless I fall off a ladder and hit my head between writing this and Tuesday, I'll vote on election day for the candidate of my choosing.

I feel strongly enough about this race that I can't understand how any sane person could not see the contest the way I do, how anybody could cast his or her ballot for the other guy.

But I've got some news for you. And for me.

Regardless of who gains or retains the Oval Office, God's still in control. The president of the United States isn't the most powerful person in the universe.

God is.

I've been troubled for quite a while, really, by religious people who act as if our eternal fates hinge on the outcomes of temporal political races.

I hear tales about preachers — clearly ignoring their churches' tax-exempt, non-profit status — instructing their congregations on which candidates to vote for.

I've heard with my own ears Christians spreading all kinds of logic-defying, inane drivel about Obama.

I've heard other Christians wailing that Romney, being a Mormon, is the secret weapon of a pseudo-Christian cult bent on world domination.

Well, now's a good time to stop all that silliness for a while.

I try to avoid trotting out the Bible in these newspaper columns because, as I've noted before, doing so offends some readers and confuses others. However, here I think the New Testament proves instructive.

The biblical writer St. Paul and his followers lived under the iron fist and the bewildering whims of a corrupt occupation government run by a succession of egomaniacal, and occasionally insane, Caesars.

St. Paul himself was imprisoned unjustly by this same Roman government and finally lost his life to it. Yet in the following passage, from Romans 13, he tells his fellow Christians how they ought to respond:

"Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. Therefore, he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves."

In this and similar chapters, St. Paul goes on to say our duty as Christians is to be model citizens, regardless of who's in charge. We're to work hard and quietly, offer honor and respect to all public officials, pay our taxes willingly and pray sincerely for everyone in office from the king (or president) on down.

We might not like those rulers or see that they're accomplishing anything but evil, St. Paul implies. But if we disrespect them, we're disrespecting God and trying to undermine his grand plan for human history.

This quickly becomes a thorny problem, I realize.

What if the leader in charge is, say, a Stalin or Pol Pot? Don't we have an obligation at some point to rise up?

What if we're living in a 21st-century democracy, where the political system hinges on our duty as citizens to question, and even judge and vote out of office, leaders we find corrupt or incompetent? Aren't we required to speak out?

These are legitimate questions, but addressing some of the nuances would require far more space than I have here. Anyway, these questions don't much apply to the situation at hand.

Except to the wildest crackpots and haters, neither Obama nor Romney can remotely be compared to a Stalin, a Pol Pot or even a Caesar.

And in our own 21st-century democracy, the season for questioning, judging and criticizing — called election time — has now ended. By the time you read this, the votes will have been cast.

Now's the time to believe God's still in control, that he placed in office the guy he wanted there, perhaps for purposes you and I can't comprehend.

Now's the proper time for us to offer that presidential winner, whoever he is, our honor and respect, to pay our taxes as they're levied and to say our prayers that God will bless our leader with wisdom, strength and compassion.

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