Just before the third presidential debate began, my friend said to me “let’s get this over with”. I responded that I felt that could be the theme of the election this year. Let’s just get it over with. It feels like it has been going on forever. To make things worse, this is the most vitriolic, hateful, divisive campaign I can remember. While, there may be more divisive campaign, the general consensus is that we have hit a new low in politics. The good news is, barring something extraordinary, it should be over next week.
I have wondered if this shift in politics is strategic by the candidates. After all both major party candidates now have historic unfavorable ratings. There have always been attack ads, because politically, they are effective. This year, these attacks have been amplified, but when you boil them down, both candidates are saying the same thing. The world is broken. It is the fault of my opponent and people like my opponent. Only I, and people like me, can fix it. It is a story of demonizing others to make ourselves look good. It is a story of divide and conquer. It is a story, ultimately, of creating teams and pitting us against each other. Last month, theologian and ethics professor, warned that when we give into these divisions, we trade our neighbors “for the sake of donkeys and elephants that will never love us back.”
Colossians 1:17 tells us that in Christ all things are held together. We have to remember that we have brothers and sisters in Christ on both sides of the political divide. We need to remember that it isn’t either political candidate that holds us together, but Emmanuel, God with us, Jesus Christ. Colossians 3:13-14 reminds us, “bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.”
I am in no way saying that this election is not important or that you shouldn’t vote. I am saying that we should not let the outcome divide us. Next Wednesday, one of the candidates will be the president-elect and the other will go back to what they did before the election, relatively unaffected by the division they have wrought. We will still be here, needing to move forward. The way forward begins with remembering what unites us, the love of God as shown in Jesus Christ.
John Wesley, who is considered the father of the Methodist tradition gave advise about division caused by elections in 1774. He advised, “1. To vote, without fee or reward, for the person they judged most worthy. 2. To speak no evil of the person they voted against, and 3. To take care their spirits were not sharpened against those that voted on the other side.”
The divide and conquer approach will be a winning strategy for one of the candidates, but it is a losing strategy for both the church and for society. Society is better than that. The Church is better than that We can disagree with one another and continue to love one another. We can remember that our salvation does not come from a politician, a political party, or anything else created by human hands. Yes, we do live in a broken world, but it can only be healed through that which unites us, the love of God in Christ.
Galatians 3:28 “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus.”