So, some surprising things happened this week. Have you heard? J After the most contentious presidential campaign in our history, the candidate no one thought would win, won. The candidate everyone assumed would win, lost. Even as the peaceful transition of power began, protests broke out around the country.
It’s like we’ve awakened from a long sleep to find ourselves on a strange new planet.
So, how do we inhabit this new terrain? How do we continue living our Christian faith with integrity and relevance? Where do we go from here?
Like everyone else in the country, I’ve gotten a lot of things wrong in recent weeks. I thought the candidate favored by the polls would win. I was wrong. I thought some of the revelations about the other candidate and much of his rhetoric would prevent him from being elected. I was wrong. I thought we were on the brink of history, that the highest glass ceiling in our country, after 240 years, would be shattered. I was wrong.
There is one thing, though, about which I haven’t been wrong, and which this election has reaffirmed: As a nation, we have forgotten how to listen to each other.
In a sermon about the election this summer, I invited you to go to lunch with someone who holds different political views than yours and simply listen to each other. No proselytizing, no analyzing. Just listening. Some of you did it and reported fruitful conversations. Others honestly confessed: “I can’t do that!”
Since this week’s election, our need to listen to each other has intensified.
The week before the election, I listened to an On Being interview with David Brooks and E.J. Dionne. In that interview, E.J. Dionne said: There used to be a time when people who disagreed went to the same congregations. They had an instinctive trust in each other. They could argue from respect, and didn’t assume bad faith. Is there any way in which religious institutions could try to play that role again?
He continued. I came from a very argumentative extended family, and we always argued about politics, and we never doubted that we loved each other. You can’t do that much in our politics now outside the family, and I think our religious institutions might struggle to be venues for that. I’m not talking about bringing people together artificially. The hardest thing to reach is authentic disagreement, but not disagreement among people who then leave and hate each other forever, but disagreement among people who respect each other and know they have to live with each other the next morning.
So many faith communities in our area lack political diversity. Most of their members tend to one side of the political spectrum or the other. I suspect being in worship today is a bit more comforting—and comfortable—for them than it is for us here at Pilgrimage. Chances are good this morning that you’re sitting next to someone who voted differently than you in this election. That knowledge, no doubt, has some–maybe all–of us on edge.
And yet…it is our political diversity that better positions us to create something positive out of this election… because, like Mr. Dionne’s family, we know we have different views AND we don’t doubt that we love each other. And while we might not always get it right, as a religious community, we have an intrinsic trust in each other, we strive to argue with respect, and we don’t assume bad faith in each other.
As much as we strive to be a community where we listen to and disagree respectfully with each other, this week it’s been challenging. Out of our own fear and weariness, we’ve perhaps said things we might not have said in other circumstances. It’s gotten hard to know what it’s safe to say, what’s better left unsaid, and what we might need to say, but just aren’t ready yet to utter. In the last five days, simple conversations have become minefields.
So, I invite us today to take a deep breath, to remember the love and safety we’ve always experienced in this place, the love and safety we’ve always worked together to create in this space, to remember God’s deep love for all of us, to remember our deep love for each other….and listen.
Listen to those who are terrified today…for their families, for themselves, for those on the margins of society, for the least of these. Hear the fear. It is real. Believe people when they say they are frightened. And please, please, please, don’t tell them to just “get over it.”
Listen to those who feel judged for voting for the winning presidential candidate. There are as many reasons for how people voted as there were voters. No one wants to be labeled. What might be learned from listening to someone’s reasons for voting for the president-elect?
Listen to the protesters. No, the system isn’t rigged. The electoral process worked as it was meant to…but something is stirring in these young people. If we listen to them, we might learn something about who we are as a nation. And who we want to become.
Listen to the people who’ve been forgotten by our government for a couple of generations now—those who have lost manufacturing jobs with few new vocational options, those whose incomes continue to decline, those who often feel condescension from their fellow citizens. Large pockets of Americans feel left behind by the rest of the country. What might be learned from listening to them?
Listen to the grief of women who had hoped they’d finally see a national leader who looked like them. The election wasn’t only about gender, but the prospect of electing our first woman president gave hope to millions of women across the country. Now they wonder if they’ll ever see a woman president. Their grief is real.
Listen to the poor, the imprisoned, those who continue to be affected by racism… Listen to immigrants and Muslims and the fearful voices of children who ask their parents, “Will we have to leave our country?” Listen to the fear of parents who are having to comfort their children, who in the last week, have heard the N word directed at them for the first time in their lives or who have been grabbed, taunted, or worse.
Listen to something we heard very little about during the campaign—the earth. Climate change hasn’t stopped just because we stopped talking about it. Earth continues to cry out for healing, for an end to abuse, for a commitment from us to act it into wellbeing. Listen to earth’s cries. And respond.
And finally, listen to each other. National politics have become so divisive. How easy it is for that divisiveness to spill over into other areas of our lives…even church. Now, more than ever, we need to listen to each other.
To help with that process, I invite you to join us for So What? Sunday School today. The best way to figure out how to listen to each other… is to listen to each other. We’ll do some listening in Sunday School.
It’s true that, in many ways, the world looks very different than it did last Sunday. What hasn’t changed is our mission as a Christian congregation. Regardless of what’s happened as a result of the election, our calling as followers of Jesus is the same—to continue feeding the hungry and giving drink to the thirsty, visiting the sick and imprisoned, and doing whatever we can to act the least of these into wellbeing.
I’ve been spending time with the Old Testament prophets the last several weeks. Again and again the prophets attribute Israel’s down times to their neglect of the least of these. “Buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of shoes…”
What gets Israel back on track? The prophet Micah articulates it best. “What does God require of you but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”
Where do we go from here? I’m not sure. I am sure, though, that if we do justice—that is, if we do whatever we can to see that all people have the resources they need to live and freedom to become who God created them to be— If we do justice, if we love kindness….Isn’t that interesting? Micah didn’t say to “do kindness” or to “be kind.” He said to LOVE kindness, to be kind because we want nothing better than to be people who act others into wellbeing. If we do justice, if we love kindness, if we walk humbly with our God…which is to recognize our mutual partnership with God for acting the world into wellbeing…
Where do we go from here? Just five days after a most surprising presidential election, I’m not sure. Here’s what I am sure of….regardless of where we’re headed, the prophet gives us a good plan for getting there. If we do justice, if we love kindness, if we walk humbly with our God, we’re going to end up exactly where we need to be.
In the name of our God, who creates us, redeems us, sustains us, and hopes for our wholeness. Amen.
Kimberleigh Buchanan ©2016