Ernie Johnson's commentary on 2016 election remains true in 2020
In the immediate aftermath of the 2016 presidential election, many loud voices — voices from both sides of the aisle — were amplified, but the most insightful and enlightening message I absorbed all week came from an unlikely source: TNT's Emmy award-winning studio show Inside the NBA.
Over the years, Inside the NBA has cemented itself as one of television's best sports shows. Charles Barkley is a larger-than-life personality; his conversations with fellow NBA greats Shaquille O'Neal and Kenny Smith are equally as thought-provoking as they are amusing. Standing in the middle of it all is host Ernie Johnson, who has functioned as the show's straight-laced traffic cop, responsibly directing the madness to 11 Emmy wins. As the show's host and only non-NBA player, his primary job is to set his teammates up to shine. But on that Thursday night in early November, Johnson was the star of the program.
Prior to the tip of the Bulls-Heat game, Inside the NBA opened with Johnson giving Barkley, Smith and Shaq each the chance to thoughtfully and civilly comment on the election's outcome. Then, Johnson offered America the tallest drink of water it had been given all week.
After briefly sharing his thoughts on the political landscape, Johnson used this discussion as an opportunity to pivot to his Christian faith.
"I know you're not supposed to talk about politics and religion, but we're already talking about politics, so I'm going to go the 'R' direction too.
"From one election to the next, I never know who's going to be in the oval office. But I always know who's on the throne. And I'm on this Earth because God created me, and that's who I answer to. I'm a Christian. I follow this guy named Jesus, you may have heard of him."
For the last four years, whenever anyone has brought up politics around me, in the back of my head I've heard Ernie reminding me, "I always know who's on the throne". It's very easy to lose sight of this matter in our present, hyper-politicized climate.
I've recently watched people take up their political principles as their new religion. Those that veer off from their strict political doctrine are damned, or better yet, "cancelled". According to the redemption-less political gospel, salvation can only be obtained through backing the correct political candidates and standing on "the right side of history".
I've recently witnessed a large number of high-profile celebrities avidly express their desire to make the world a better, more unified place. Their solution? Vote! Apparently, if you put the right people in power, our problems will magically disappear. This is a dangerous notion, considering that our country is evenly split between two firm political camps, and it often feels as if the two sides haven't been more divided than they currently are. I can't remember the last time I witnessed political differences bringing people together. Instead, it seems that our politically-obsessed culture is the very essence of what's tearing us apart.
Now, let me be clear. I have nothing against voting. Since turning 18 in 2012, I have voted in every presidential and mid-term election. I'll gladly exercise my right to vote to my dying day. Encouraging people to vote isn't a bad thing at all. There is, however, a fine line between viewing American politics as an important thing, and an ultimate thing.
I've recently observed people, both Christians and non-Christians, placing their hope and identity in their political party or political candidate of choice. What's going to happen if, come Wednesday, your candidate has lost? Are you going to be okay? Businesses across the United States are currently boarding up in anticipation of chaos and unrest following Tuesday's results. How have we allowed ourselves to get to this point? Is politics your religion? Political leaders are just like us: flawed, human and only temporary. If you put your faith in imperfect politicians, you're going to be let down. Presidents can't hold office for longer than eight years, and sometimes are only allowed four years on the job. In my lifetime, we've had two Democrat presidents and two Republican presidents. Thankfully, for our own good, our country has swung both ways and enacted policies from both sides. We know that America has the capability of swinging back and forth rather quickly. Thanks to our founding fathers, very few products of our republic are permanent. America doesn't elect kings, and luckily for Christians, our King isn't up for election. He has already won.
Jesus Christ is my King. He died on the cross to pay the price for my sins, so that I could be set free. We live in a fallen world. It's been that way ever since Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit in the garden of Eden. Unfortunately, as a consequence of our own sin — no matter how hard we try, no matter what politicians we put into power — any attempt to abolish sin or the effects of sin, and create our own perfect utopian society is going to come up short. We can't achieve perfection here on earth. That's okay though, because God has something far greater in store for those that choose to follow Him.
The best we can do in the meantime is follow the guidebook that God has provided us and live in the manner in which He's called us to live. I believe that by sharing the same love and grace that He unconditionally gives us, with others, and by attempting to emulate Christ's behavior to the best of our abilities, we can form a more perfect union and effectively make this world a better place.
Christians sometimes get distracted by political warfare, which keeps them from sharing this far superior message. Ernie Johnson didn't. Ernie put things into perspective wonderfully, and reminded us that there's far more for us to live for. Instead of using his Christian faith as a vehicle to share his political views, he used a political conversation as a vehicle to share his Christian faith.
We only have a finite amount of time on this earth, and with it, a limited word count. If there's only one message you are able to convey to the world, what do you want it to be? Do you want it to be one that alienates and divides, or one that offers hope — real, everlasting hope — to people in need?
Jesus tells us in John 4:14, that "Whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty again" (ESV).
When God sent his only son to die for us, He didn't do so for political purposes. Nor does He see us as Republicans and Democrats; so why should we look at each other as such? Why should we allow these labels to divide us? He sees us as His own creation (Genesis 1).
Come Wednesday (or whenever we know the election's results), our president for 2021 and beyond will have been voted in by roughly half of the country. How is the other half of the country going to react? Unfortunately, based on how much pressure our society has put on this singular election, I'm fearful that some of my brothers and sisters are going to be feeling hopeless, lost, broken and depressed. Are you going to be okay if you don't get the result that you are hoping for? Are you putting your trust in God, or in man? How will you respond if things don't go the way you are hoping they will?
Ernie Johnson definitively laid it all out there for us. "From one election to the next, I never know who's going to be in the oval office. But I always know who's on the throne."
There is great comfort and peace in knowing, and resting in this truth.