If the philosopher and diplomat Joseph de Maistre was right and every nation gets the government it deserves, one has to ask, in the light of the 2016 election, what America has done to deserve this.

Hillary Clinton has been around long enough for Americans to know her. She is the wife of a two-term president, has served as senator from New York and has been America’s chief diplomat, the Secretary of State. Anyone who has been in the public eye that long can’t help but provide opponents with ammunition, but Clinton has given them weapons of mass destruction.

The list of Clinton’s questionable conduct goes back decades: Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate, and continues into the present with the Clinton Foundation’s pay for play controversy and the email server/email deletion debacle the FBI is currently investigating.

Then there’s the other candidate, Donald Trump. If I had a daughter, I would not want her to be alone in the same room with him. His deplorable conduct toward women has been documented and broadcast in his own words. But that is only the start. He has repeatedly used lewd and offensive language to talk about women. In a televised presidential debate the man actually boasted about the size of his sexual organ.

Over the course of the campaign, Trump has questioned a judge’s integrity on the basis of his ethnic background; suggested that the Mexican government is dumping rapists on America in the form of illegal immigrants; mocked Senator John McCain’s experience as a POW in Vietnam; urged people to watch a sex tape featuring a woman who has accused him of harassment; mocked a reporter’s physical disability; and the list goes on and on.

Trump has an overweening pride. He told the press that he could stand in the middle of Fifth Avenue and shoot somebody, and wouldn’t lose any voters. On Twitter he wrote, “Sorry losers and haters, but my I.Q. is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don’t feel so stupid or insecure, it’s not your fault.” At the Republican Convention he claimed that he, and only he, can fix the system.

It is hard to believe that Americans will place one of these two people in the Oval Office. Most people I know are justifying their choice as a vote against a candidate rather than for one. A friend said to me recently, “We aren’t presented with the lesser of two evils. We’re presented with the evil of two lessers.”

When I see Trump in action, I know I can’t vote for this guy. If God opposes the proud, as Bible repeatedly states, where will that leave us if Trump is our leader? It will leave us in a mess. We just can’t have Trump as our next president.

And then I think of Clinton. If she does what she says she will do, religious freedom will be restricted in unprecedented ways, protections for the unborn will be rescinded, and Supreme Court justices will be appointed not to uphold the Constitution but to advocate liberal views on abortion and LGBT rights. We just can’t have Clinton as our next president.

But either Clinton or Trump will be our president, barring some inconceivable occurrence. What has America done to deserve a self-righteous, deceitful, greedy, arrogant, or sexually obsessed leader? I suspect that de Maistre would say that America will choose the leader who looks most like her. And that brings us to a painful realization: Our candidates are projections of ourselves. In the final analysis, they are not the problem. We are. It’s our deceit and greed and arrogance and sexual obsession that has brought us to this place.

But that painful realization also provides a ray of hope. If the presidential candidates are not the problem, neither are they the solution. We are. If we will humble ourselves and admit this — even if only those of us who claim to be followers of Jesus will do this — we can begin to change the situation. Change doesn’t start in a voting booth. It starts in homes and schools and factories. It starts with us.

— Shayne Looper is the pastor of Lockwood Community Church in Branch County, Michigan. Read more at shaynelooper.com.