Wednesday, November 9, 2016

On the Recent Election - Our Responsibility


If the recently concluded election teaches us anything, it tells us that we are, as a nation and a society, more divided then many of us understood. We find ourselves as fellow citizens among many more people who feel themselves pushed to the margins of our society than we may have realized. The message for me seems to be that there are many more who do not believe that anyone cares about them.

As often happens with political events like elections, it becomes way too easy to line every one up on one team or another and to start taking pot shots at one another – not unlike the dreaded dodge ball games we might have experienced in junior high gym class. It is very easy to become “tribal” as we gather around ourselves people who voted the same way we did, whichever way that was. It is way too easy to retreat into our safety zones, among like-minded folk, and listen only to voices that reinforce our own beliefs and values.

I believe that Christ calls us to do exactly the opposite. It was not the pattern of Jesus life that, when faced with opposing viewpoints, he simply huddled up with his closest disciples and talked about the other side. No. He moved out to them and engaged them. It wasn’t always comfortable, but it was always with a mind toward justice and it was always done from a motive of self-effacing love. It is important to note that one of the most quoted verses of the New Testament (John 3:16) comes to us in the context of an encounter with Nicodemus, a Pharisee – and we all know how Jesus and the Pharisees often felt about one another. As disciples of Jesus Christ we must listen and engage and work to find places where all of us can stand and talk together.

Our Baptismal Covenant commits us to “respect the dignity of every human being.” That means that we must respect the dignity of those who voted for Hillary Clinton. It means that we must respect the dignity of those who voted for Donald Trump. We must respect the dignity of those who voted for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein. And we must respect the dignity of those who felt themselves even unable to vote for any reason at all. We must acknowledge that we are first and foremost people of faith. We must presume that “others” are people of good will, and that we all want what is best for our nation and our society even though we may disagree on how best to get there. 

A key to moving forward is to realize that Christ calls is to listen to those who disagree with us to discover why they feel the way that they do. We are not required to agree with one another, but we are called to accord each other respect.

There are people in our parish who may rejoice that their voices were heard yesterday. There are people in our parish who may feel that their most closely held beliefs and values were rejected. There are people in our parish who may fear for what the future will bring for them or for those they love. There are people in our parish who are anxious about what comes next. Our parish community must be a place for all of these people.

From its founding, the Episcopal Church has prayed for the President of the United States in our liturgy. We will continue this noble tradition and will add prayers for Donald, our president-elect.

Most importantly, we need to begin urgently to listen to one another, to pray for one another and to find and build a community where, because of our mutual love and respect, can come together in peace.

In the present circumstance, I recommend the prayer for sound government from the Book of Common Prayer (p. 821)

O Lord our Governor, bless the leaders of our land, that we may be a people at peace among ourselves and a blessing to other nations of the earth.

Lord, keep this nation under your care.

To the President and members of the Cabinet, to Governors of States, Mayors of Cities, and to all in administrative authority, grant wisdom and grace in the exercise of their duties.

Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To Senators and Representatives, and those who make our laws in States, Cities and Towns, give courage, wisdom and foresight to provide for the needs of all our people, and to fulfill our obligations in the community of nations.

Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

To the Judges and officers of our Courts give understanding and integrity, that human rights may be safeguarded and justice served.

Give grace to your servants, O Lord.

And finally, teach our people to rely on your strength and to accept their responsibilities to their fellow citizens, that they may elect trustworthy leaders and make wise decisions for the well-being of our society; that we may serve you faithfully in our generation and honor your holy Name.

For yours is the kingdom, O Lord, and you are exalted as head above all.  Amen.

I am grateful to the deep pastoral sensitivity of Bishop William Franklin, now bishop of my home diocese, the Diocese of Western New York, whose own reflections are the basis this reflection and this writing.

In the loving heart of Christ,

David+

4 comments:

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  2. I posted that prayer last evening before it was totally clear who was going to win the election. The election result was the reason I visited your chapel today. I was in a daze all day while I traveled for work to Ambler and then Berks County. All day I couldn't quite identify my feelings, but as I drove, I kept noticing the WWJD ring on my finger and I repeatedly pondered "what WOULD He do?" As I gazed upon the crucifix in the chapel, I remembered. LOVE, He would do LOVE. I began to pray for all of us... not the percents, not the non voters, not me, but ALL of us. Thank you for letting me visit the chapel today. As I was coming back ito town, I found myself aimlessly driving around , and then I saw the church and felt a need to be inside. Being there in the near dark, at the foot of the cross was an experience I cannot aptly frame with words. But there came the moment I knew Jesus had turned my desloation to hope, my anger to forgivenss, my fear to peace.

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  3. David- Thank you thank you thank you. Beautiful message so needed at this time! I applaud your sensitivity and compassion for all sides! I will share this.

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  4. David- Thank you thank you thank you. Beautiful message so needed at this time! I applaud your sensitivity and compassion for all sides! I will share this.

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