In just a few days most of us will go to the polls (if we didn’t vote early), cast our ballots, and in doing that we are exercising our right as citizens and attempting to sustain what Abraham Lincoln called “government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” There are many who would argue that the government isn’t that at all and that, perhaps, it hasn’t been in a long time. I understand their frustration. When we see constant partisan bickering, government waste and inaction, and the hypocrisy of many who hold office, we are right to be frustrated. However, that should cause us to be more determined to vote – and not merely to vote, but to be informed voters who understand the issues and are not willing to be satisfied with sound bites. Ultimately, even informed voters will come to different conclusions. We will choose different candidates for a variety of reasons.
This election season those differences have led to almost unprecedented hostility in some quarters. Facebook has been dangerous territory. Reasonable political pondering has led to vicious verbal assaults. People have argued back and forth as if their words would sway their “friends” who held a different view. Friends were “unfriended” (how did that even get to be a word?). And some have sought to make the choice of candidate a religious issue. Friends from other churches have told me that their pastors have said, from the pulpit, that “true Christians” only have one choice in this election. I know that is not true because I know people of faith who have made different decisions about their vote on November 8. That doesn’t mean that I don’t have strong opinions about my choice and what I believe are very good reasons for making it. And I may question the reasoning of those who make a different choice – that is human nature. But nowhere in Scripture do I find the right to judge the faith of others based on political choices that, while they may have spiritual implications, are based on a variety of beliefs, both sacred and secular, about how our nation should live into its future.
Some have wondered why we are hosting an ecumenical prayer service for the community on the eve of the election. I have invited other churches to attend (it is open to anyone who wishes to come) and other pastors to participate. I have asked none of them which candidate he or she supports. Instead, I have asked only that politics be put aside so that we can pray for our nation and its leaders, regardless of whom they are or who they will be in the coming year.
I have to admit that I approach both the prayer service next Monday and the election next Tuesday with some trepidation. But I also approach the future with optimism and hope because I believe that the nation defined by our U.S. Constitution is more resilient than it might seem. We have survived other challenges and emerged stronger for the experience. My prayer is that will be true again. And I believe that if any institution can model the kind of unity and cooperation that we will need in the days to come, it is the church. So I hope you will be here Monday evening to pray for unity. And on Tuesday, go vote. And may God guide our thoughts and actions as we move toward the future.