The national conventions for both the Republicans and the Democrats have been primarily star-studded pep-rallies intended to galvanize a largely fractured base of support. Celebrities and politicians have graced the stage at both events in an attempt to lend their influence to the candidate they believe will best guide America for the next four to eight years. So when actress and comedian Sarah Silverman took the stage at the DNC on Monday, her purpose was clear: help to unite the party around Hillary Clinton.
Silverman embodied the kind of unifying perspective Democrats hope will guide their party base over the coming months when she told the crowd, “I will vote for Hillary with gusto, as I continue to be inspired and moved to action by the ideals set forth by Bernie.” The basic idea behind her statement was that voting for Clinton was not the betrayal of Sanders that many of the latter’s supporters believe it to be.
That sense of betrayal is understandable given the emails from leading members of the Democratic National Committee, leaked just prior to the convention, that outline a concerted effort by the supposedly neutral group to ensure Hillary got the nomination. However, even Bernie Sanders noted that continued division was counterproductive and pledged his full support to Clinton in the upcoming election, thereby urging his constituents to do the same.
While Silverman’s scripted remarks did just that on Monday night, it was her unscripted statement shortly thereafter that’s drawn the most attention. You see, even Sanders hasn’t been able to convince a very vocal group of the convention’s attendees to fall in line behind Clinton. So when Silverman delivered her initial remarks, they were followed shortly thereafter by chants of “Bernie, Bernie.” The chaos continued until she stated “Can I just say, to the ‘Bernie or Bust’ people: You’re being ridiculous.”
Is she right? Are those Democrats who refuse to support Clinton being ridiculous? In one sense, they are. In the choice between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, those who were initially attracted to Bernie Sanders’s campaign will find far more in common with Clinton. At this point in the election cycle, whether or not Clinton (or Trump) will make a good president is largely irrelevant. The only question that really matters going forward is which candidate will be better than the other. For those who supported Sanders, the candidate who most lines up with their ideals is likely to be Clinton.
However, there’s more to it than that. For those who felt genuinely betrayed by a system they did not really trust to begin with, the decision of whether or not they will fall in line behind Clinton is more emotional than logical. Most of them will likely vote for Hillary by November, but that eventuality does not mean that they need to do so yet—not when they have the opportunity to help ensure that their votes and their voices are not taken for granted.
So, they will protest and they will chant before ultimately voting Democrat in a few months’ time. And the same reasoning is likely to lead many of those who are currently disenchanted with the Republican side of the election to cast their votes for Trump as well. Ultimately, the bigger picture will take precedence over individual concerns for most of those involved. As Christians, God calls us to take a similar perspective in our dealings with the larger culture.
As we look back on the religious freedoms that have been called into question over the last several years, it can be easy to become jaded against the non-Christian world around us and to perceive as the enemy those who prioritize liberties different from those we hold most dear. In many cases, those feelings are justified. However, to allow those factors to separate us from that larger culture would be shortsighted and foolish.
If the Christian response is to grow increasingly insulated and to withdraw from the world around us—as if it were even possible to do so—then we not only give up our voice against those wrongs but also give up our God-given calling to be his light to an ever-darkening world (Matthew 5:14–16). That’s something the kingdom and those most in need of the Lord’s grace simply cannot afford for us to do.
So the next time you feel anger towards the culture or fear the loss of liberties we’ve long taken for granted, try to keep the bigger picture in mind and remember that God has called us to rise above individual concerns to accomplish something far greater. To do otherwise would truly be ridiculous.