Well now, here we are after our national election. And the result may be surprising or exactly what we feared. Here are a few thoughts for my beloved faith community:
First of all, peace be with you. No matter how we are experiencing the process and result of this election, God is still good. Which is to say that the Great Spirit of love is still our source and hope. What do we have to fear? As Paul says in Romans 8, “…neither heights nor depths nor principalities and powers…. No, in all these things we are more than conquerers in the love of Christ.” Now let us take a look at our nation.
We are a nation divided. It’s the dominant news message – a 50/50 nation. However true this is (and it needs some examination) only together will we move forward. Parker Palmer writes in Healing the Heart of Democracy “We must understand that we are all in this together.” We do great harm to others and to ourselves by failing to imagine all the ways that our destinies are deeply interwoven. We breathe the air together. We’re in each other’s heads – our mirror neurons are responsively firing all day long. We live in families that straddle all political divisions – the political turkey is often what is carved at Thanksgiving dinner.
We are in this together. And at the same time, as Kahlil Gibran wrote: “But let there be spaces in your togetherness.” The fact that we all live and move together can feel existentially claustrophobic. Being together in no way means everybody being the same. Unity at its best is a vibrant swirling mix of particularities, not sameness. Sameness is bred of anxiety and impulses to control. Unity is the fruit of constructive interaction.
We do well to live fully into both realities: “I am you and you are me and we are all together” as the Beatles sang. And at the same time we are all people of great souls and deep heart-giftedness. And the world will be so much richer for our particular gift and may in fact be desperately in need of it.
Prejudice, abortion, and pain
I think that the electoral response to what in my view was patent racism, sexism, and crude bullying rhetoric is an alarming clarification that awful prejudice is still alive among us, and may have just been restlessly waiting in the shadows. There is also the question of abortion (and its influence on our feelings about the supreme court). The politics of abortion has its own center of gravity that we need to attend to more thoughtfully. And there is the pain people are feeling as the world changes all around and under our feet, and the sense that mighty and unfeeling financial and political machines are having free rein.
Eugene S. Robinson (Ozy Daily Dose) wrote: “America, like the Dude*, will abide. Maybe not unscathed or unbowed but well beyond the slings and arrows of outrageous, and make no mistake we ARE there, fortune…. How [shall we respond]? By living, not on the couch but on our feet, for starters. ‘Civic engagement is not a four-year affair, I don’t think,’ said Salvatore Russo, a San Francisco social worker who focuses on affordable housing. ‘It’s an everyday one: Get involved, stay involved.'”
(*The Dude is the main character in the movie The Big Lebowski.)
These are good words – let’s live on our feet, and stay involved in our communities every day.
What is also required of us is a finer political conversation, one characterized, as Parker Palmer put it in Healing the Heart of Democracy, by both chutzpah (finding my voice) and humility (hearing well your voice). Where are the places where we can build and nurture conversations across lines of difference about abortion, taxes, and how we manage national borders? Donna Schaper wrote, years ago, that we say “I can’t even be safe in my living room.” She responds that it is correct – we cannot be safe in our living rooms. The only place we can truly be safe is to get out in the streets. We need to find each other again, and meet, and seek pathways together – to be restorers of streets to live in (Isaiah 58).
And if there is bullying that refuses to join the conversation? Then it is up to us to resist. Not from superiority or from a position of being right while others are wrong or to teach anyone a lesson but with the conviction that I must live courageously with the clarity that I have. This is how I will walk, and here is how I will love, and I will find a way into the future with you, God help me.
There is a new urgency in things. We don’t know what this moment means. But right now people are wondering if harm is coming toward them in a new way. Right now it feels like we have unleashed some scary beasts. So we must be those who are awake and who act with a divine sense of timing, so that we may, as God’s spirit would have it, show up and be present in the moment of great need, and that like the angels, we will announce to each other “fear not.”
Community of love
Finally, our primary allegiance is to the love of Christ. This is expressed and made real in local communities. So let us turn our energies and hearts toward loving and caring for each other in our communities of trust. And then also we may love and care for the stranger, the one in need, even our enemy, whoever becomes present to us. Let us meet and engage with our friends and also strangers, but let us especially do this with those who are immediately before us and around us. There are big questions and battles to address. Let us begin to address them with those who we next meet. Love is made real in local communities.
So let us give our hearts again to beloved community. At this moment, let us be in strong community together as black and brown people, lgbtq people, people with disabilities, those who do not go to war, those for whom this world often feels strange. Nothing can separate us from the love at the heart of all things, the love woven into the fabric of all creation, the Christ-love that is always faithful and strong.