I write this on Thursday of election week. Two evenings ago most people were surprised by numerous outcomes, both presidential and others. Some were pleasantly surprised, others disappointedly so, but most had not anticipated what transpired.
Yesterday there were demonstrations and tears by some, celebrations and smiles by others, and news reports and pundits pondering aloud as we watched the democratic system do what it does every two and four years. Some who danced four years ago wept two nights ago. Some who danced two nights ago will weep on future election evenings. The pendulum swings. Always has. Always will. It’s how our system works. As Emerson rightly observed, “The only thing constant is change.”
Some have suggested that some of what we saw this year was the fear of those who think the world is changing too rapidly and who tried to at least slow down the clock, if not turn it back a little. That is not new and has been a reality throughout our political history. Another historical reality, of course, is that clocks do not reverse. The changes we see, whether feared or endorsed, continue to occur. The way our nation looks has altered substantially and will not cease to change. There will not suddenly become fewer people of color, fewer members of the LGBTQ community, fewer women, or fewer young adults. The world will be what the world will be, and culture (whether political, religious, or interpersonal) will adjust and move forward. Of course there will be challenges, and sometimes resistance, and frequent uncertainty, and moments of pain for all people whether they lean left, right, or moderate. But in the end, we will figure out a way to live together as a nation. That has been our history. It will also be our future.
There is, however, one certainty that does not change. The Bible says of Jesus, “He is the same yesterday, today, and forever.” Every election experience (this year’s and all year’s) is in some way a faith experience. We who follow Christ have faith that he walks with us along all the highways we travel. He is with us individually. He is with us collectively. He is with us as we navigate turbulent waters. He is with us as we come to terms with change. He is with all people of all colors and all economics and all politics, and he has the power to heal and transform us. If we truly believe in Him and what he said and did and stood for and lived for and died for, then we cannot deny a central principle: Jesus commanded us, “You shall love one another, as I have loved you.” He even made it more difficult saying, “Love your enemy, and pray for those who despitefully use you.” Those are tough words, but words that contain our only hope for building a future where we can become “one nation under God.”
At some point we have to come to terms with a few things: with the pendulum reality of political movements, with the changing nature of culture, and with the undeniable challenge placed upon us to learn how to love one another. It’s not easy, but Jesus gave us no wiggle room. “This is my commandment, that you love one another.” That involves patience, tolerance, listening as much as talking (and maybe even more), reasonable compromise, refusal to demonize those who do not share our opinions, finding common grounds we can occupy and build upon, doing something about the shallow state of affairs where partisanship is given priority over patriotism, and embracing those who are “other” than we are. That’s a tall order, but it’s what Jesus ordered. And if we take Him seriously, we do not have the freedom to turn a deaf ear. Black, Brown, White, male, female, young, old, gay, straight, red, blue – we all share this little space called “America” together. And it is up to all of us to begin building bridges. Why? Because Michael said so? Get serious! Who cares about that? Instead, it is incumbent upon us to get started building a new and relationally-positive world because God said so. That’s why we cannot resist rolling up our sleeves, joining our hands, and starting the journey to a new future. “This is My commandment, that you love one another.”