On the third day after the election results, I am filled with admiration for the ways that my family members, friends and colleagues are reacting. Each is following the pull of individual conscience. One relative, with very little disposable income, has made financial contributions to causes she believes need to be supported now more than ever. One colleague wrote a beautiful pastoral letter to her congregation, challenging them to take a concrete step towards reconciliation (and taking one step herself.)
We knew, before the results early Wednesday morning, that our nation was divided. Now we know just how sharply divided we are. One candidate won the popular vote, the other won the electoral college. In the county in which I live and serve, the margin was 388 votes, less than 0.3 percent!
Wednesday night, we at the Avon Lake United Church of Christ were celebrating the end of our six-week fall programming we call CrossTraining. CrossTraining, which also occurs during Lent, is an opportunity for our church family to come together for a meal, an informal worship, and classes for all ages. The class I led this session was a book discussion of Parker Palmer’s Healing the Heart of Democracy.
We had a respectful and heartfelt conclusion to our book study, and then we went next door where the class on Understanding God in Islam and Christianity was also wrapping up. That class had been attended by both Christians and Muslims, most of them members of Cleveland’s Turkish community. Our Turkish friends brought food to the last class session, so we were all invited to sample desserts, drink Turkish tea, and mingle with one another. It felt like church at its best, and exactly what we are called to be doing at this moment in our nation.
Two weeks ago, during CrossTraining worship, we showed a powerful video in which Muslim immigrants and native Europeans look each other in the eye for four minutes:
When I follow the tug of my heart and conscience, I feel called to find the people in my county who voted differently than I and look them in the eyes for four minutes. I want to listen to their stories.
I know that some people voted for Mr. Trump because they feel the American dream has left them behind. That I understand. What grieves me is that some also feel that the only way they will get ahead is by leaving others behind. In theological terms, we call that a scarcity mentality: “there’s not enough to go around, so let me grab mine while I can.” The faith I proclaim is one of abundance: there is enough to go around, and we all do better when we pull one another up. Life is not a teeter-totter where every four years, one group of persons is listened to and another denigrated. Our country will not progress if the rights that have been enjoyed by some these last eight years are now squashed in favor of others.
Perhaps I’m naive, but I’m going to trust my instincts and look for opportunities for conversations that open eyes, hearts and minds to the reality that we live in a world of abundance.