Healing America

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.

Need An Encouraging Word?

Do you need some cheering up? This American Presidential run to election has brought an incredible heaviness on our nation. The accusations, barbs, rumors, half-truths and hatred, splashing across our televisions daily can be a downer. I’m a news junky. I like to be informed, up to date. But I’ve occasionally joined the chorus of those saying, “I’m sick of this.”

That’s why a couple recent stories caught my eye, one in the corner of page six in the October 10, 2016 issue of Time magazine. Normally, I would smile at such trivia and move on. Not this time. I found myself surprised with gratitude for a small piece of good news amid the barrage of negativity in the air.

It was a story about a woman in San Diego, California, who found $5,000 in a Domino’s pizza box. Before you start researching flights to San Diego to find that Dominos pizza joint, read on. What did she do with her strike-it-rich discovery? She returned it to Dominos. What did they do for her? The company gave her free pizza for life. There was nothing to indicate her motivation in the brief account, but what an inspiring response. And what an admirable comeback on the part of Dominos Pizza.

If your are in a despondent mood thinking good people are an endangered species theses days, think again. Sometimes we have to search hard to see good, and there is a challenge to that search. A prevailing wind against our being able to see good people who do good things, is an American news cycle saturated with bad news. If there is a redemptive, feel-good story, it’s usually tacked on the end of a depressing news broadcast. Reality is, many good people are quietly doing good things everyday.

Then on Friday, October 14, the Chicago Tribune had this headline: “Amid hate-filled election mega church launches ‘love’ campaign”. Robert McCoppin explained that a local church is “trying to instill a bit of the sacred in a profane campaign.” So on Monday, October 17, just 22 days from election day, “some commuters in Chicago will be greeted on their way to work with the message, ‘Love Everyone, Always’”, on electronic bill boards. Way to go Willow Creek Church! After all, you may have heard that “God so loved the (whole) world” – everyone. So God sent Jesus to show us love at its best. Even a radio announcer on Chicago talk radio, WBBM, sharing this love story Saturday morning when I first heard it, touted in so many words, ‘that’s Biblical.’

I’m a strong believer in the Bible’s message of inspired truth. After reading about the right move made by the above mentioned woman who got more than pizza in her Dominos’ box, I thought of a Scripture in the New Testament book of Philippians, chapter 4, verse 8: “Finally, beloved, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is pleasing, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” For the record, that statement was written by a man held against his will, in a place he did not want to be.

The Bible does not call us to bury our heads in the sand and pretend evil and sin do not exist. They certainly do! We are called to be careful where we let our minds hang out.

I had kind of lost that concentration in the hurricane of disheartening news. Maybe you need a focus correction too. I felt a bit better after reading and hearing these stories. Do you know why? The Bible rings the bell of truth again when it says, “good news refreshes the body.” (Proverbs 15:30) Yes it does. And there’s more of it than you might have noticed lately.