In 1976, Rocky won the Academy Award for Best Picture. Happy Days was the highest-rated show on television. Apple Computer was formed by Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak. And I voted in my first presidential election.
In the forty years since, I’ve never seen anything like this.
There have been forty-nine presidential primaries and caucuses so far, with 1,574 delegates awarded to Republican candidates and 4,380 to Democratic candidates. There are twenty-four primaries left, with 769 Republican and 1,977 Democratic delegates remaining. In other words, more than two-thirds of the delegates available have now been determined.
By this point in the 2012 race, Mitt Romney was the consensus Republican nominee; his remaining challengers would win a total of seventy-five delegates the rest of the way. In 2008, John McCain clinched the Republican nomination on March 4. In 2004, John Kerry clinched the Democratic nomination by March 11. In 2000, George W. Bush and Al Gore had each clinched their party’s nomination by March 15.
At this point in 2016, the Democratic front-runner has lost seven of the last eight elections. After Tuesday’s Wisconsin results, the Republican front-runner is less likely than ever to win enough delegates to avoid an open convention in July.
Is the chaos of this election cycle reflective of a larger cultural trend?
David Brooks writes in The New York Times that “there are four big forces coursing through modern societies.” They are:
- Global migration, which leads to demographic diversity but weakens cultural cohesion.
- Economic globalization, which creates wider opportunity but also inequality.
- The Internet, which gives people more choices over what to purchase and pay attention to, but is being used by ISIS and other forces for destructive ends.
- A “culture of autonomy” that “valorizes individual choice and self-determination.”
To counter the fragmentation of our society, Brooks recommends a renewed emphasis on covenant relationships. When we relate to each other not in contracts but in covenants, our social ties are stronger and more unconditional. When we serve our country and each other out of gratitude for who we are and what we have, our service is more sincere, sacrificial, and loving.
Can a society based on transformational covenants rather than transactional contracts actually exist?
These days I’m reading through the Book of Acts in my personal Bible study. I was struck again by this paragraph: “All who believed were together and had all things in common. And they were selling their possessions and belongings and distributing the proceeds to all, as any had need. And day by day, attending the temple together and breaking bread in their homes, they received their food with glad and generous hearts, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord added to their number day by day those who were being saved” (Acts 2:44–47).
The first church’s secret was simple: The closer they came to Jesus, the closer they came to each other.
I cannot do much today about the lack of covenant relationships in national politics and culture. But I can love Jesus so much that I love the next person I meet and serve that person in order to serve Jesus.
So can you.