Neighbors First – Politics Second

As election day approaches, the intensity of the rhetoric will continue to dial itself up.  In this extremely polarized election year, there are only a small number of people who consider themselves “undecided.”  And both major campaigns are pulling out all of the stops to try and get these people’s attention, and to persuade them to their side.

Most people just want for the election to be over (Do I hear an “Amen?”).  The divisiveness of this election cycle, especially when piled on to the pandemic, serious racial tensions, economic issues and anxiety over the future can feel almost overwhelming.  I spoke with one person recently who told me “it feels like the water is up to here!” and she gestured with her hand to that small space between the upper lip and the nostrils.  I get that.  I’ve felt that way myself.

I’ve got good news and I’ve got bad news.  The good news is that yes, in just a few days, the election will be over (assuming a clear winner and a non-contested race).  And the election’s end will mean that the negative advertising, the divisive speeches and much of the angst will cease. 

Here is the bad news:  This won’t solve our problems.

The election is not causing divisiveness.  The election is merely putting it into a spotlight for us all to see and experience.  This past year has shown that our divisions run deeper than which little circles we will fill in on an election ballot.  We are a people divided socially, economically, racially, ethnically, by gender and of course, politically. 

In Paul’s letter to the Ephesians (4:4-6) we are reminded of something important:  “There is one body and one Spirit, just as you were called to the one hope of your calling, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is above all and through all and in all.”  Our own pledge of allegiance echoes this sentiment when we promise to live as “one nation.” 

It does not feel like we are living in any kind of “unity of the Spirit right now.”  In fact, the language of “red states” and “blue states” has normalized division. 

The wisdom from Ephesians reminds us that there are gifts, ideas and a Spirit that transcends our divisions.  That while we can disagree about goals and ideas, we are called to a unity of vision; a unity that puts the good of the other ahead of our own personal gain.  This is, of course, what Jesus did.  Jesus poured himself out for all of God’s people, regardless of politics, ethnicity, economics or social status. 

After you vote, be sensitive to those who may have voted differently from you.  And remember that ultimately, the love of God surpasses the politics of our culture.  Remember that God calls us to be community, and that in a community, your neighbors today will still be your neighbors tomorrow. 

This piece first appeared as the “Pastor’s Perspective” column in the Owatonna People’s Press; October 24, 2020

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