I write this on Saturday of Inauguration Weekend. We’ve observed democracy at work this weekend in dramatic, if unprecedented, fashion. President Trump’s election and subsequent inauguration stimulated a wide range of emotions from ecstasy to despair, from joy to anger, from confidence to fear, all expressed these past two days in Washington, DC, and every other city, town, and hamlet from coast-to-coast.
On the one hand... Yesterday we watched the swearing in followed by three galas, all celebrating the orderly transfer of power from one president to the next. We watched as many people gladly embraced this new moment in our nation’s history, stating hope that somehow amid the divisiveness that is our current reality a new and greater reality of unity and shared purpose may emerge. This morning we watched the Prayer Service in the National Cathedral where the President and First Lady, the Vice-President and his wife, and their families joined other worshipers in a multi-faith service of prayer and litanies.
On the other hand.. Today we have watched Women’s Marches here in our city, in Washington, in six hundred cities in our nation, and in sixty other countries on seven continents. Those participating, women and men, expressed doubts (and often discomfort) about the new government that is taking shape, especially with some of what appears to be its values and ideologies. I spent some time on 2nd Avenue here in NYC, and what I observed there felt very much like the Civil Rights marches or anti-War marches of the 60s, including voices singing We Shall Overcome and pieces by Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger.
In these two days we have heard speeches of support and speeches of protest, testimonies of positive expectations and testimonies of determined resistance. And in every case from each extreme, we witnessed democracy at work... so long as there is always room for all voices, however disparate, to be heard. We live in a land where we are allowed to choose who governs and, if dissatisfied, are allowed to change leadership. We live in a land where we are free to assemble and to speak out, whether in support of or in critique of powers-that-be. We live in a land of the First Amendment, insuring freedom of speech, press, and religion. We live in a land where patriotism is not defined by which party one supports but rather by how much one is willing to do to properly shape this country which is home to us all. Whether Republican, Democrat, right, left, whatever one’s gender, color, age, place of origin, or faith, this great melting pot is a place where we are endowed with the liberties of thought, belief, expression, and vote. As Francis Scott Key wrote, ours is “the land of the free...”
Our essential freedom, of course, is found not merely in our Constitution but even more in our Faith. Jesus said, “You shall know the Truth, and the Truth shall make you free.” (John 8:32) It is our connection with God... our listening to God’s voice... and our willingness to obey that insure our freedom and our future. “One nation UNDER GOD” can overcome polarities and divisions, can build bridges, can affect responsible reconciliation, and can usher us into a shared future that politicians and their philosophies cannot craft. And so a moment has come for us to pray the prayer that Jesus prayed in the Garden: “Not my will, but Thine be done.” (Luke 22:42) From the White House to the state house to the city hall or county courthouse, even within our own house, our prayers must be: “Thy will be done.” Or, put another way: “God, what do You desire for us? What do You ask of us? What do You want us to become? And, what personal agendas must we discard in order to follow where You lead?” Thank God, we have the freedom in this nation to ask those questions and to give voice to the answers we sense in reply. And so, we keep praying... we keeping standing up and speaking out … we keep following the Light and serving purposes that are consistent with it... we keep advocating for love, which is life’s deepest value and greatest power... and, thus, we know that in time God will lead us to a place where one and all can live in peace, harmony, and freedom.