Waiting for order
Lessons to learn in the aftermath of the presidential election
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Advent season approaches with a world already in waiting: Waiting for a vaccine. Waiting for life after COVID-19. Waiting for a new presidential term. Waiting to see how it all unfolds.
In the Scriptures, God tells us to wait on Him. He repeats it often, probably because He knows it’s especially difficult. Waiting is inevitable, but how we wait—with calm and composure—matters to God. It matters in election seasons too, when results get prolonged and suspicions grow high.
The Associated Press might have done a service to the country if it had waited until later in November to call Pennsylvania—and the election—for presumptive President-elect Joe Biden, rather than doing so on Nov. 7. When the news agency declared Biden the victor, he was leading in the state by 0.51 percent. The threshold for an automatic recount in Pennsylvania is 0.5 percent.
AP cited other calculations that suggested Biden’s lead was likely to grow, and it did: A little more than a week later, AP reported Biden’s lead at 1.1 percent. (In 2016, Trump won Pennsylvania over Hillary Clinton by 0.73 percent.)
Calling Pennsylvania so soon, when the margin was still so close, raised questions for some voters, particularly during such an unusual year with an unprecedented number of Americans voting by mail.
For some, those suspicions snowballed into accusations of massive fraud and a stolen election. But the courts are the legal recourse for weighing election claims, and President Donald Trump’s team had the right to pursue that course.
Attorney General Bill Barr authorized federal prosecutors to pursue any substantial allegations of voting irregularities that revealed problems big enough to change the election’s outcome. (Even if investigators find problems that don’t change the outcome, election officials still should explain how the problems happened and how they’ll make changes.)
For Christians, legal standards are helpful, especially when they reflect the standards of the Bible.
Barr told the attorneys in a memo they should handle serious allegations with great care, “but specious, speculative, fanciful or far-fetched claims should not be a basis for initiating federal inquiries.” He added that nothing in his memo “should be taken as any indication that the Department has concluded that voting irregularities have impacted the outcome of the election.”
The legal burden remains on Trump’s attorneys to produce credible evidence of election-altering fraud or irregularities. Going into the second full week after the election, courts had ruled against Trump’s claims in several cases, and were set to hear more.
Outside the court of law, the court of public opinion is deeply divided, and there’s no judge with a gavel to make a final ruling. But for Christians, legal standards are helpful, especially when they reflect the standards of the Bible: Claims still require clear, credible evidence, even when we’re tweeting or posting among ourselves.
Waiting isn’t unprecedented: In 2000, the U.S. Supreme Court ended the wrangling over Florida’s recount on Dec. 12. The election drama came down to a single state and lasted a few weeks.
At some point, though, the time for waiting will end. This year’s drama might end sooner, if courts don’t rule there’s credible evidence of major fraud or irregularities and as states start certifying their vote counts.
Even if some or many Americans remain unconvinced the election was fair, they’ll have to decide how to respond to the likelihood of a Biden presidency. That’s especially true for Christians who sometimes don’t trust politicians, but who should trust God’s providence—whatever He brings.
And the beginning of Advent season—a time of hopeful waiting—is a welcome reminder that God has already given us what we need most.
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