I’m grieved over the division our Presidential campaign/election has caused our country. You may even have concerns about family Thanksgiving gatherings deteriorating into awkward, divided camps, over candidates, results or the ugly process.
There’s an oversupply of hyperbolic writing and rhetoric about this season of our life together. I don’t want to add to that. We need more focus on how we can heal, rather than deepening the chasm of our differences. Polling analyst, Frank Luntz, wrote a piece in Time Magazine (Nov. 21, 2016, p 45) – “What the polls refused to tell us” – where he advised: “. . . be kind to one another. Don’t spike the football or take the ball and go home. Don’t silo yourselves in anger. America has a future. It will be a bright one only if we work together to get there.” Let’s move beyond talk about healing and actually become healers. Here are some ways to do that.
Realize you can make a difference. In the above mentioned issue of Time ( p 43), David Wolpe, the Max Webb Senior Rabbi of Sinai Temple in Los Angeles, offered this on healing: “The nation will not be healed from the White House. It has to be healed in backyards, in halls of worship, in public parks and clubhouses.” We can be healers right where we live. I overheard such a healing conversation in the halls of our church building the Sunday after the election, spoken by someone disappointed with the outcome. As I listened I envisioned what could happen if healing talk like that was repeated in worship centers across America. Or in shopping malls, or work places, or with neighbors.
Listen with as much effort as you put into talking. The Bible wisely counsels: “be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry.” (New Testament [NT], James 1:19) Those actions and responses can promote healing. Listen humbly to others who see things differently than you do. Listening may be more important today than it has ever been because we are connected globally. We think we know what life is like for others simply because we’re connected through social media or instant world news. The National Association of Evangelicals, in their Identity Statement, cautioned: “we are concerned that globalization and the emerging global public square have no matching vision of how to live with our deepest differences on the global stage. In the Internet era, everyone can listen to what we say even when we are not speaking to everyone. Global communication magnifies the challenges of living with our deepest differences.” Listening is a critical skill for building bridges with people we imagine we know.
Let history be our tutor. The above mentioned issue of Time has an article titled “The Dirtiest Election Ever?” (page 18-19) offering numerous quotes from past Presidential elections that put this election’s nastiness in perspective. Lyndon Johnson’s aides put out a kids’ coloring book with Goldwater dressed in Ku Klux Klan robes. George H. W. Bush said about Bill Clinton and Al Gore, “My dog Millie knows more about foreign affairs than those two bozos.” The 18 election quotes bring a releasing hilarity to our disgust over what adults have said and done while recklessly determined to win an election. Joseph Cummins who wrote, Anything for a Vote: Dirty Tricks, Cheap Shots, and October Surprises in U. S. Presidential Campaigns, believes this election was “the worst of the past 100 years and among the top five dirtiest of all time.” (p 18) The historical panorama, though not overly comforting, reminds us, to quote another biblical text, “there is nothing new under the sun.” (Old Testament, Ecclesiastes 1:9)
Be thankful we live in a country where power is transferred peacefully. We easily forget that midst the raucous clamoring to out demean one’s opponent and the numerous trips into the gutter we were dragged into. It was an embarrassing, chaotic junior-high-like food fight too many times. Nonetheless, power is being transferred peacefully with cordial, civil dialogue from all sides to enhance that transfer. It’s an amazing thing, and we dare not take it for granted.
Practice kindness, love and respect. My concluding thought on how to become healers comes from the one in whom I have put my ultimate trust, Jesus Christ. He did so much more for us, but he spoke radical truth to lead us through this anger, uncertainty and hope, toward a respectful life together. Jesus said: “Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you . . . Bless those who curse you. . . . Do to others as you would have them do to you.” (NT, Luke 6:27-31). Scripture calls us to “Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.” (NT, Ephesians 4:32) We are called to “overcome evil with good” (NT, Romans 12:21). Let God empower these words in you.
I hear the resistance – but he/she didn’t do that. You’re right. But you and I are only responsible for what you or I do or say. You can write Jesus’ words off as pious platitudes or let them show you how to be part of the answer right now. I want to be a healer. Let’s pray that God will raise up many healers. Let’s be part of the answer.