Unless you have been living in a doomsday bunker, you have seen the stories of people in clown costumes terrorizing neighborhoods across the United States. These folks aren’t just draping themselves in red foam noses and floppy shoes. This is a full-scale creep fest. If you need a visual, just imagine Bozo the Clown, only now he’s just had a bad chemical peel from the local aesthetician, and picked up a heroin addiction. I would post a photo here, but since an estimated 12% of the population has coulrophobia (fear of clowns), I’m afraid I’d lose readers.
As with any sensational story, it didn’t take long for the news of creepy clowns to spread like a case of head lice through my kids’ school. Jake hopped off the bus one day and asked,
“Dad, did you hear about the killer clowns?”
I responded, slightly shocked, “Well, I heard about clowns, but didn’t hear about any killing.”
“Yeah. There are weird clowns in our area and they have been dragging kids into the woods and killing them.”
“Are you sure?” I asked. “Where did you hear about this?”
His tone became very serious. “My friend’s brother told him about it.”
Knowing that all good elementary school gossip should go through a solid fact check, I prodded. “And where did his brother hear about it?”
Jake replied emphatically, “The news!”
Doubting his claims of clown death squads, I doubled-down. “Well let’s just check the news, shall we?”
And that was my fatal mistake.
I searched online for stories about the clowns, trying to prove my point. As my son watched over my shoulder, I scrolled through story after story. Most of them concluded that the clown epidemic was just a bunch of whackos trying to scare people with their costumes. And while we didn’t find a single story of a clown committing an act of violence, we did see plenty of pictures of nightmarish clowns.
And that was all it took.
With these photos locked in my son’s mind, and imagination being much stronger than reality, creepy clowns took over our house. It wasn’t long before Audrey was brought into the loop as well. Countless worried questions were asked. With countless words of reassurance offered. But it didn’t matter. The clowns had done their damage. They brought anxiety. And worry. And stress. They robbed us of our sleep. And our joy. Which led me to ask:
How can this hold so much power over us?
When I look at the emotional climate in our world today, I start to feel disheartened. As the election approaches, the air is filled with rancor. Vitriol. Blame and bluster. Usually it all stays within the confines of the talking heads on TV or the megaphones on the radio, but now it has slipped past the guards into our workplaces, ball fields and homes.
Like the clowns, robbing us of our joy.
And we’re allowing it.
Well-meaning Christian people.
Because we treat our candidates like God.
We defend them, adore them, and advocate for them as if our very souls depended on their success. And though they are far away from us, we give them power over us. Forgetting that a leader is just a human being. Flawed like the rest of us.
Interviewing for a job.
Don’t get me wrong. The job is an important one. I know there are sharp contrasts in the ideology of Clinton and Trump (and Johnson and Stein). Important principles that affect human rights, human decency, national security, our economic futures. And I have strong opinions on these. Yet, as I devolve into name-calling and judgment of those on “the other side” who I believe to be absolutely wrong, I am reminded of Jesus’ words:
“Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's.”
When we allow our passion for principles to devolve into accusations, insults, and painting others with a broad brush, we render things to Ceasar that simply aren’t his. We grant power to politicians that they should not have.
The power to sever friendships.
The power to destroy family relationships.
The power to divide our communities.
Because in three weeks, all but one of these candidates will be gone, but your Uncle Bob is still coming to Thanksgiving dinner. Your flesh-and blood. So, by allowing these three-strand cords to be broken, we are giving our very selves over to government leaders. But there’s just one problem.
We don’t belong to Caesar.
We belong to God.
Every single one of us.
So today I pray we can move beyond the politics of Us and Them and truly follow Christ. The One who demonstrated he understood others before offering advice. The One who surrounded himself with those who were far different from him. The One who was able to boil down a complex set of rules and laws into one simple thing.
“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” (John 13: 34-35 NIV)
Because Christ knew what we all know in our hearts. No one has ever been browbeaten into believing. Whether or not we agree with one another, we are all children of God. Formed in his image. And worthy of love. A love that sacrifices self for the betterment of the other. We must start there.
So let us reverse the erosion by showing the world that we are His disciples. Share a kind word. Open a door. Pick up a check. Smile at a stranger. Commit to understanding before advising. Ask to hear the story behind the position, and then truly listen.
But most of all, let’s love one another. Without condition. Without regret.
And find our joy once again.
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