Tonight’s debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump is expected to be the most-watched political broadcast in American history. One reason is that the race is so close: a new poll puts Clinton ahead of Trump by two points, 46 percent to 44 percent. This is well within the margin of error. Among registered voters, each candidate has 41 percent support.
But another factor is the huge number of “undecideds” at this late stage of the campaign. Nearly 20 percent of voters say they are undecided or plan not to vote for the Democrat or the Republican. What they do on November 8 will likely determine the election.
Pollster Frank Luntz explains that these voters are undecided because they know a lot about both candidates but don’t like either one. As a result, the surprising truth is that the Americans whose impressions of tonight’s debate matters most are those who are least impressed by their options. Luntz likens them to children living through a bitter divorce: they are “watching with a mixture of fear and disdain as their parents argue, knowing they will soon be forced to choose with whom to live—a decision with no good outcome.”
I think such a view of the election mirrors a larger anxiety in our culture today.
We’re worried about the rising drug epidemic after seven people died from drug overdoses in Cleveland last Saturday. We’re worried that attacks such as Friday night’s mall shooting could happen where we live. We’re worried about Zika and superbugs and the global economy.
And beneath our circumstantial fears, there’s something even more visceral. Thomas Kelly: “Over the margins of life comes a whisper, a faint call, a premonition of richer living which we know we are passing by. Strained by the very mad pace of our daily outer burdens, we are further strained by an inward uneasiness, because we have hints that there is a way of life vastly richer and deeper than all this hurried existence, a life of unhurried serenity and peace and power.”
How do we find “unhurried serenity” in a culture of discontent?
God’s peace is directly aligned with his purpose. His Spirit cannot give tranquility to those who are outside his will for their lives. But when we focus our passion and resources on our Master’s call, we experience his empowering peace.
As a result, peace is not a goal but a consequence. When we make God’s purpose the highest priority of our lives, we will say to our Lord, “You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you” (Isaiah 26:3).
Craig Denison notes: “God anoints all he appoints. He will perfectly equip and empower you to accomplish whatever task he has set before you.” And with his equipping power he will give you his peace.
Tonight’s debate will be all about the problems in America and the candidates’ promises to solve them. But the greatest problem in America is one no candidate can solve. Thomas Merton: “We are not at peace with others because we are not at peace with ourselves, and we are not at peace with ourselves because we are not at peace with God.”
Are you at peace with God today?