"When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, "I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life."  John 8:12

This is that season in America where many a person will be dragging around work because of a lack of sleep.  We finished the Olympics from Beijing, rolled into the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, and are now embarking on football.  All of these things can cost Americans sleep.

Maybe it's that lack of sleep that is causing such ridiculous things to be said in America - and about America - during this time.  I have watched a decent amount of the coverage of both the Democratic and Republican national conventions.  I have listened to the well planned, and often (though not always), well delivered barbs that the different political parties are throwing at each other.  Both parties, and their respective candidates for President and VP, can be somewhat convincing to the casual observer (note Obama and Palin's sharp oratorical skills and poise, and McCain and Biden's longevity that translates into experience/maturity).  It is really a point/counterpoint kind of political situation in how the tickets are chosen and for what reason.  I guess that's the nature of politics - but it doesn't endear me to the process really.

All that said, and with the hope that the discerning believer is looking through the lens of a holistic, Christ-centered worldview that will inform decision making, there are still some things that bother me greatly about what I have seen and heard.

Here's the first:  Acting like a particular candidate is one of the Beatles by the crowd reaction (or one of the Jonas Brothers for my younger readers).  Maybe even worse - acting like a candidate might be America's Messiah.  Forget the fact that evangelicals have graciously tried to convince their Jewish friends that Jesus is the Messiah that has already come - it appears that some Americans (and some American Christians) are acting in the same way - they feel that the American Messiah has not yet come but may be here or on his/her way.  Spooky.

The second is not that unlike the first:  Making crazy comments that people actually believe.  When I was watching one of the conventions (happened to be the Republican one), one of the speakers actually said something like this - "We want to get America back to what it was always supposed to be - the hope of the world."

The Hope of the World?!?  Somebody give that speaker some smelling salts.  America is not only NOT the hope of the world - America isn't even the hope of America.  Before you start writing me off as some anti-patriotic lunatic, you had better think long and hard about the statement you might defend.  I believe that America is a great country.  Frankly, there is nowhere else that experiences the freedoms and opportunities that we are afforded.  I think we have the best system of government in the world, as imperfect as it is and the people that populate it.  I love our nation, and thank God for it.  But the second we think that we are the hope of the world - well, we simply try to take up a spot on the Divine roster that is already filled.

JESUS is the hope of the world.  Not a governmental system, not a country, not a cause, not a candidate.  Just Jesus.  If people start believing that America is the hope of the world (and many do), the slope gets more than slippery.  Unhealthy nationalism, rather than healthy and grateful patriotism, begins to take root in the soil of that thinking and the fruit that will result will be bitter indeed.  My guess is that the Roman Empire felt the same way.

I am praying that the light of the world helps illuminate the hope of the world in this electoral season - and that those who follow Jesus have light enough to tell the difference between sane patriotism and insane nationalism.