Just over a week ago Sarah Sanders gave an interview to a Christian television channel. She is the “press secretary” of the White House and by now I have a fair impression, I think, of what kind of person she is. Most mornings I watch a number of news broadcasts, with CNN being one of them. CNN usually pays ample attention to Sanders” press conferences. I did not know, however, that Sarah Huckabee Sanders—as her full name is—is an active Christian. I learned from the Huffington Post that she is the daughter of a Baptist pastor, who later became the governor of the state of Arkansas. I assume that Sarah herself is also a member of the Southern Baptist Church.
In the interview with CBN (Christian Broadcasting Network) Sarah was full of praise for her boss. She said, among other things, that she believes it is God’s will that Donald Trump became the president of the United States. There is no doubt that Sanders belongs to the “base” of loyal Trump-followers. (I do not understand how any intelligent person can still think that Trump is worthy of the presidency. But that is another matter.) I certainly do not want to denigrate the genuineness of Sanders’ religious convictions. In fact, I admire people who speak openly about the role of their faith in their personal and public life. But I feel very uncomfortable when she connects God’s will with the US presidential election. If it were true that God had a hand in Trump’s becoming president of the United States, this would not strengthen my confidence in God’s leading role in the world and the universe.
It is often said that people have attained a certain office because God wanted them to be there. This is, for instance, often claimed for church leaders—also in the Adventist Church. For do the participants in a nomination or election process not spend considerable time in prayer, pleading for divine guidance? Should we not have the confidence that God hears those prayers? And should we not, once functionaries have been chosen, proceed on the basis that God decisively influenced their nomination or election?
It seems to me that this line if reasoning is rather naïve, when it concerns politics as well as church affairs. Trump became president after a bitter campaign, full of lies and surrounded by crooks, and the strange political system in the USA brought him the presidency without winning the popular vote. He won as a result of among other things, a relentless hate-campaign against his rival. And his victory may also have been partly due to foreign influence. Hopefully, we will soon know more about this when the Mueller report will be ready.
There ought to be no political maneuvering in church elections, but it would be utterly naïve to think that there is no politicking prior to, and during, most elections. Certainly, many prayers are being offered, but many members of nominating committees have, before the deliberations start, already made up their mind about who should and who should not be elected. And neither should the role of the ambitions of many of the candidates by underestimated.
Does God not get involved in any way with what happens in the political and ecclesiastical arena? Perhaps he does, if we allow him to put his stamp on our activities. But simply connecting God’s name to all kind of events in the state or the church is often a transgression of the third commandment that forbids the misuse of God’s name. This commandment urges us not to curse, but it has a much wider application. We should never attach God’s name to things that he can not approve of. And this is true for all aspects of our life.