In 2016, controversy arose over foreign actors trying to influence the future of the US presidency, casting doubt on the process and, ultimately, the outcome’s legitimacy. In fact, in the aftermath of the election, it became routine to see talk of foreign interference splashed across phone and television screens, giving many Americans the sense that nefarious actors had seriously undermined our democracy.
Yet, despite the near constant stream of pundits and politicians crying “foul” and pointing their fingers to the East, America rumbled on.
Perhaps this was due to election fatigue or because the media was widely seen as less trustworthy, but it could also be that implicitly, many Americans, even those who were not at all pleased with the results of 2016, knew that seriously challenging the legitimacy of the presidency would be questioning, in essence, the nation’s integrity.
Derived from the Latin integritas, the word integrity denotes soundness, wholeness, completeness, and in the United States, where e pluribus unum is our perduring refrain, integrity is everything.
Its loss would be devastating.
So when faced with a choice between taking President Donald Trump’s win on the chin or undermining the trust and unity on which America sits, it isn’t too difficult to see why many of the president’s detractors chose to cede defeat.
But that was then. 2020 is a different beast.
Four years of vituperative polemics, a global pandemic, and a serious lack of bipartisan cooperation has seeded America with suspicion, fear, and hostility, and now, with the issue of election interference again on the scene, there is a real sense that whoever loses will not tacitly accept defeat.
Presently, members of both parties are charging the opposition with fraud or voter suppression, proclaiming to all and sundry that the other side is hijacking the election. And that may well be the case, which is, itself, a deep and indelible disgrace worthy of censure and righteous rage. However, at the same time, we ought to feel sadness, dismay, and a profound sense that perhaps we have made a mistake. Because, at bottom, the present cultural and political malaise is a sign our integrity is rotting away, undone not by foreign invaders but by internal decay.
Today, there is no soundness in the United States. No wholeness. No completeness. Why?
Put simply, too many people bought the lie that political pragmatism was the way, the truth, and the life, and, under that assumption, integrity could not survive. In brief, in loving the fight, many abandoned the light. That was a grave mistake.
In Proverbs 28:18, King Solomon states, “Whoever walks in integrity will be delivered, but he who is crooked in his ways will suddenly fall.” God will not be mocked.
So whatever our political affiliation, believers should have a healthy dose of fear for the nation because that now obsolete, American asseveration “united we stand, divided we fall” echoes a sobering and universal biblical principle that marks integrity as essential, whether in the case of a person or in the case of a people. Its loss is ultimately fatal.
“America will never be destroyed from the outside,” President Abraham Lincoln once said. “If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”
And so, we in the United States have a choice to make. We can either continue as we are post–Election Day, half the country exultant, the other incandescent with rage, determined to rip the former’s potentially ill-gotten gain away. Or we can stop sowing our own heartache. We can trust that God has the final say in who becomes president of the United States. We can discard the seeds of hostility that only germinate hate. We can decide that political pragmatism is not, and never will be, our way. We can choose grace. We can choose faith. And perhaps, having done these things, our course will change.
Perhaps our integrity will stop rotting away. And perhaps we will once more be able to sincerely pray, “God bless the United States.”