We (Pastor Greg and Pastor Megan) have been listening to the concerns of many regarding this week’s election, particularly for the office of President of the United States. People supporting either candidate have expressed fear if the candidate they don’t support wins. In some cases it is a fear for themselves, in others it is fear for other people, our neighbors known and unknown who bear the image of God. There is anxiety about a contested election and what that might mean for the immediate and long-term future of our country and our democracy. There is angst that the losing candidate’s supporters will react with hateful and malevolent speech and behavior, potentially devolving into violence and even some degree of anarchy.
For many, there is concern about how they will personally respond if their candidates lose. Words like despondent, despairing, fearful, angry, and hopeless are common. And if one’s candidate wins? The division that will remain in our country after the election is over leaves many believing they too will be despondent, despairing, fearful, or hopeless.
Last week, Pastor Greg said in a sermon that this is an election the likes of which most of us have never seen before. He was referring to the animosity, acrimony, fear, and polarization that has animated much of the political climate surrounding the campaigns, debates, and now, the election. The usual minor manipulation of data to support one viewpoint or another has given way to outright lies regarding the election process itself. This has become the atmosphere we all are breathing as we come to this Election Day.
But it is also an unusual election because, for the first time in decades–for many of us, the first time in our lifetimes–we cannot expect to know the results within a few hours of polls closing. Due to adapted voting practices in consideration of COVID-19, many more ballots than previous years will not be tallied until several days later. The potential for various shifts in reported vote counts, especially with regards to the presidential race, has created anxieties for the legitimacy of the counting processes before they have even begun. Tragically, these changes have even been exploited by our leaders and candidates for office, whose voices increase the concerns surrounding this test to our structures of democracy.
So what word of truth, what word of hope, what word of assurance might be offered to diffuse our anxieties and anchor us in the midst of all these storms?
We have two: One is a call for us to remember that our democratic ideals and institutions have weathered severe challenges, both from within and without, before. Somehow, as a people and a nation, our history has shown that we have been able to find enough common ground and common decency to remain united and work, even if very imperfectly, for a greater common good. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr reminded us, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice.” Even with all the injustice and imperfections that continue to exist in our country with respect to our founding ideals, we believe we as Americans have not given up on becoming better as a people and as a society.
Pastor Greg’s wife Charlotte has a coffee mug that says: “Different day. Same God.” That sums up our second and much more profound reason for hope and assurance in these difficult days. For ultimately, as great as our democratic ideals and institutions are, they are still flawed and far from perfect. And as Christians, our primary and ultimate allegiance is not to those institutions, but to God, and his son Jesus Christ, the one who promised to never leave us or forsake us. The one who constantly commands us in Scripture to not be afraid. The one who has made us citizens of the only eternal kingdom that will reign on earth forever and ever. That reality grounds us in hope and assurance and strengthens us to never give up on our task of helping bend the moral arc of our day in the direction of the King of Kings and Lord of Lords.
On the eve of the darkest day for his disciples, our Lord Jesus offered a reality check. It was a check of a far greater, but often forgotten in the moment, reality that was meant to govern all of our life here. So on the eve of Election Day (and beyond), we offer it again to you as an anchor for today and all the days ahead: “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.” (John 16:33)