Election Day this year has been a long time coming. It’s as late as it can be in November, and this year it feels even later than that. A great many of us are ready for this to be over.
As a minister serving a congregation, I always feel torn during elections. There’s a delicate balancing act involved in speaking our values with all the passion that is their due without crossing the line into electioneering. When we feel passionately about a candidate, and when that passion arises in part from religious conviction, it can be hard to set the work of the campaign apart from the work of the congregation. I find myself speaking passionately from the pulpit about social justice and encouraging members to vote and help others vote in any way we can, while carefully maintaining the spirit as well as the letter of the law.
But elections like this one are difficult in another, more subtle way. During especially divisive campaigns, we sometimes find ourselves wondering about our most treasured values. Candidates may say and do things we find morally reprehensible, and supporters of one side or the other may do some things we consider even worse. Unitarian Universalists like myself affirm the inherent worth and dignity of every human being, but we sometimes find it tough to concede the worth and dignity of candidates we vehemently oppose. We speak of the right of conscience and of acceptance of one another, but may find it hard to be accepting of family, neighbors and frends who see things very differently than we do. Other religions face similar dilemmas, perhaps viewing all people as children of a living God, while finding it difficult to acknowledge the divine spirit within those whose words or actions cause harm to others. Those without any religious affiliation deal with the same issue, as all people do whenever our deeply held values come into tension with one another. Language and beliefs vary, but the challenge is remarkably constant.
No matter who wins this election, on November 9 we will all have work to do. Issues of racism, misogyny, homophobia, economic and environmental justice will still need to be addressed, along with many others. We will have work ahead of us to rebuild the respectful community that has been damaged by the rhetoric of such a harsh campaign, and to create a new and better society that honors diversity. This, as much as anything else, is the work of my faith and many others.
My prayer and my wish is that we enter this task with compassion and open hands, creating connections and
building bridges among people of every political stripe. Despite our political differences, we and our neighbors have far more in common than divides us – love for family and friends, simple human compassion and kindness, the realities of human suffering and frailty, the experience of awe at the beauty of Autumn. May we nurture our connections with every kind of person, so that we truly learn to live the spirit of love, this year and every year.