November 3rd. Just a few days remain until election day. Millions of people have already voted through the early voting option. This has been a contentious and polarizing time in the life of our nation. We can identify the red states and the blue states and the news channels that each side watches. Few people are undecided about their vote (or, they are not indicating they have a preference).
Surely, politics has been a blood sport at periods throughout American history (look at the early nineteenth century and the rise of political parties through John Adams and Thomas Jefferson’s feud). The strength of the American republic and the democratic freedoms enshrined in our constitution brought balance even during the wobbly times of the Civil War and Reconstruction, the Great Depression, and McCarthyism. This may be an unsteady time unlike any period in our history. My faith is in the American people and their resilience. Democracy will survive the challenges before us.
The problem of division goes deeper than a preference for one candidate or platform against another. Public dialogue on social media reflects this chasm. Just because we see it there doesn’t mean that social media is the cause of it all. Twitter, Facebook and other applications amplify the fear and doubt that dwells deep within us. COVID isolation has not helped. If we are not careful, our fear of the stranger will morph into hate for the one who looks different, the one who is not from around here, the one whose thinking or habits contrast with our own.
Our fears affect what we buy, how we vote, and whom we befriend. Fear mars our souls and diminishes our trust in God. It robs us of the God-given inheritance of joyous love we graciously receive as the children of God. It fools us into believing that we control life through the strength of our locked doors, our FDIC insured accounts, and our noted accomplishments.
What is the answer? How do we move through this wobbly, distressed time? Answers are not easy. Each one of us cannot control the world by ourselves; we can only change the space between our ears and the practices of our day. As a person of faith, I will dance with the One who brought me this far, for grace will lead me home. I will pray for courage in proportion to the gift of my daily bread. I will look less at small screens and look more in the eyes of those around me–especially into the mask-wearing faces I see beyond my isolation. I will behold those beyond my circle as wonderfully made brothers and sisters of Christ, not as anonymous and forgotten samplings of someone’s demographic pie chart. I will claim the first words the angels spoke to the shepherds on a bleak night outside of Bethlehem. I will repeat them and share them as a holy refrain and a divine reminder on uncertain days and fearful nights:
What will you do?