I will be relieved when it’s over, too. I’ll be glad if we can go back to something resembling “normal” on November 9, but I have my doubts. Over the last couple of weeks, I’ve become aware, in body and mind, of a growing sense of dread. It isn’t a concern tied so much to the outcome of the election; though, to be sure, I remain committed to my candidates, confident that they best represent my values and the interests of the United States. I will be disappointed and worried about our nation’s future if the “other side” wins. But I have a deeper concern: I am afraid of what we’ll find has happened to our relationships when all has been electorally said and done.
If Brandon’s temptation in times of political tension is to lean out and disengage, mine is quite the opposite. I lean into it—hard. I devour news, I consume opinion; I scour my social media feeds to see where friends and acquaintances are “right” (translated: with me) and “wrong” (translated: not with me). And I go in still harder than that: slipping into a posting frenzy. I tweet out pithy 140-character dings on the other candidate’s character and zingers attacking the hypocrisy of his or her followers. It gets even more forceful on Facebook, where campaign ads and poll analyses and YouTube videos are ready to share at the click of a finger, flying onto the wall and into the face of anyone who holds an opposing view or different values. In the immediate aftermath of making grandiose social media statements, I feel so alive in my self-righteousness and high-minded idealism. It doesn’t last very long; soon I’m feeling embarrassed and a bit ashamed of how, intentional or not, I have dehumanized my friends or ignored their own concerns.
It may turn out in time that we are proven right about few or many things, but we should have little doubt that the most important relationships in our lives will need deep care and attention by all, in the wake of everything that has been said and done. God will be wooing us into a deeper relationship with Godself, as is always the case, calling us—no matter who “wins”—to turn from outsized faith and hope in those candidates or political voices in which we have invested too much. The Holy Spirit invites us and will keep inviting us to return our trust to the One in whom all things “live and move and have their being,” the One who is neither surprised nor confounded by any political outcome in the world.
We have much work to do in our human relationships. As Christians we have been entrusted with a peculiar ministry in the world that St. Paul lifts up in 2 Corinthians: “All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation.” The Book of Common Prayer names our primary Christian work as “bearing witness to Christ” and carrying on “Christ’s work of reconciliation in the world.”
So, what will the work of reconciliation look like in these next 11 days, and in the time to follow? It will look like living out our promises of Baptism: continuing in the apostles’ teaching and fellowship, breaking bread, prayer, resisting evil, repenting of the wrongs we commit, proclaiming the Good News of Christ, loving our neighbors as ourselves, striving for justice and peace, and respecting the dignity of every human being. In our voting, we seek these things for the institutions and systems of our nation. In our living, we commit again to this way of life that transforms us as lovers of God and as lovers of each other.
The Rev. Scott Painter