These are days when we need to give each other much space. By that I mean, much grace… a generosity of love that transcends the fears of uncertainty and strife. Whether it is questions about how our lives may change coming out of this pandemic or concerns over economic and political strife, we need a new level of space creation. There are many issues that affect us where an abundance of grace and space is needed. For some nations, it’s facing elections in a covid-19 reality and the deep political divides.
With just a few weeks to go until election here in the USA, the apocalyptic language has begun. Have you seen or heard it? Are you familiar with it from your own national context? It may go like this: If my party/candidate doesn’t win the election, it will be the end of the world… or the end of civilization as we know it… or (in more religious language) the ‘judgement of God!” Or even, ‘Jesus will be returning on November fourth’ (the day after the election)!
For some, their party losing may mean threatening to move to another nation, though that virtually never happens. It may mean staying away from social media or media of any kind for several days, at least until Facebook or Twitter or Instagram draws them in again. Family dinner conversations may need to steer away from politics, as they may even now. But , life will go on.
Those of you not from the USA most likely have similar issues when your favored political party doesn’t win in your country either. It is a problem in any functioning democracy. There will be winners… and losers. I have a preference for who I want to win in November, but they might lose. Am I prepared for that? But, of course, I can go back to India… unlike some of you reading this that are from the USA.
How do we create space for repairing the fractures within us or around us in our nations?
Here are a few simple ideas that are not always easy to live out:
1. Have the long view of history in mind… and the future to come.
There have been fifty-eight presidential elections in US history; this will be the fifty-ninth in November. Many have been very close. Virtually all have had incendiary rhetoric and doomsday results promised if one side loses. Often the stakes are portrayed as for the continuing of civilization as we know it… or the ending. Never-the-less, one side loses and the other wins. And life goes on. Such is life in a democracy. Be grateful you are in one, and that you have that privilege of voting. Not all the world is so fortunate. Being a student of history helps me to have a long perspective. There is indeed not much new under the sun… and certainly not many new insults and doomsday language. The Armageddons have been proclaimed before and the anti-Christs named. And still history goes on.
2. No matter which party wins, there will be hidden blessings and fruits.
It is of course hard to see in the agony of defeat, but even if your party loses, opportunities will be there. Perhaps it will be looking more deeply at why it lost and learning valuable lessons; or building a stronger and wider coalition to gain victory in the next election; or seeing that your political or religious goals can be met in other ways or in the other party. Defeat faced clearly has a way of teaching wisdom, once the initial shock is over. Defeat can even create greater space. As people of faith, we believe there is a God at work no matter the result; this creates space for hope in the future.
3. Work daily for the healing of a fractured country and world.
I have read the work of Rabbi Jonathan Sacks for many years. He is the Chief Rabbi of London, a voice of reason and inclusivity. Chief Rabbi Sacks is respected not only in the Jewish community, but also among Christians and Muslims. He is committed to peace and loving engagement among all. I recently re-read his book, To Heal a Fractured World. (I also highly recommend his The Dignity of Difference). In his book on healing a fractured world, he describes the concept of chesed – a beautiful Hebrew word with multiple meanings including covenant-love or lovingkindness.
Rabbi Sacks details ways of involvement in a broken world by showing love in actions. He writes movingly of another Jewish concept, that of tikkun… or loving the world enough to repair or heal it. This combines with another Hebrew word olam… or the ‘concealing of eternity’. Together tikkun olam suggests that repairing the world has echoes into eternity. Redemptive acts, however small, create ripple effects that continue opening space into eternity.
Even if our party or candidate loses the next election (in the USA or your own country) we are to still work towards that healing of our societies. Ultimately it is not a political party or agenda that will bring the healing of a fractured world. It is many, many people doing many redemptive acts together that will have the needed impact… and the ripples go on into eternity.
4. Let go of your trust in a political party to change the world.
It is not the Democratic Party that is the answer… or the Republicans, or the Greens, or the Libertarians, or (insert your own country’s party names here). Yes, each has a platform or agenda that may most reflect your beliefs. But they may lose. And that should not stop us working faithfully for redemptive acts with others that can result in healing and a better world. So, if your candidate loses on November 3rd (or in your own national or local election) spend time grieving the defeat. Then, get up and stay involved in loving, praying, working, and speaking for things you are concerned about. Create the space for constructive action.
5. Be kind to others.
Kindness creates space. It is easy in any area of personal conflict and strife, including politics, to see the ‘other’ in ways that build walls. But, the ‘other’ are human beings. They are not evil. They believe passionately in causes that are different than yours. Listen more deeply to them in the next months, and you will understand more… and it will make you kinder. Together, let the gracious space increase and enlarge, helping to repair our fractured world just a bit more.
6. Use wisdom in social media posting.
Especially if your side loses in an election, don’t post. But even if you win, use wisdom. It is not doomsday or Armageddon. Life will go on… even in the strange season of Covid-19. Your side will lose or win. In that way it is a little like sports… but much higher stakes of course. It is never fun to lose. It can seem like the end of the world, but it is not. God is still in charge.
I am trying to live out these principles in the weeks ahead until November third… and after. Not only in the area of politics but in all areas of my life.
Will you join me?