Nobody likes to lose. But Americans will need to get better at losing if we want to maintain our system of government in the years ahead. And Christians of all people should model losing well, based in our commitment to Christ’s victory through the cross and what we are told in Scripture about our nature as losers in the eyes of the world.
Neither Americans in general nor Christians in particular have demonstrated an ability to be good sports in defeat this week, though. When Congress certified the results of November’s presidential election, formally naming Joe Biden the winner, dozens of representatives and several senators objected to the results of the election in a number of states.
Speaking as a political scientist and as a Christian who did not vote for Joe Biden in November, I think it is important to say that these allegations are grounded in selectively presented half-truths, ambiguous and out-of-context videos, and some outright falsehoods. They fall apart under the slightest scrutiny.
The truth is, sometimes people lose. Our system of government depends on citizens recognizing that fact and being okay with it. The American system of government actually guarantees losers. Our winner-take-all system of elections differs from the proportional voting systems of other countries, so if a candidate wins just one more vote than his opponent in an election where millions of people participate, he or she wins the election outright. There is no consolation prize for second place. There is only a winner and a loser.
Christians should be leading the way in losing well. Rejecting nonsense and embracing truth, however dispiriting, is essential to our witness to a skeptical world. If Christians are the ones broadcasting conspiracy theories about elections, what credibility do we have when telling the world of the Good News of a resurrected Savior? When it comes to making sense of controversial things like presidential elections, we Christians should not be naïve or bury our heads in the sand, but neither should we be searching for comforting explanations in far off places in lieu of realistic explanations right in front of us.
Scripture serves as a valuable resource in this conversation. The psalmist advises, “Put not your trust in princes, in a son of man, in whom there is no salvation” (Ps. 146:3, ESV throughout).
When Christians speak of a given election either winning or losing “the soul of our nation,” we risk putting the government of men ahead of the sovereignty of God.