The following article appeared in the Wakefield Daily Item newspaper on Wednesday, Oct. 26, 2016
Focus on Faith
The Rev. Matthew P. Cadwell, PhD
Rector, Emmanuel Episcopal Church
A few weeks ago, we held a church work day on a beautiful Saturday morning. Parishioners worked inside and out. Some gardened. Others polished silver. There was a lot of dusting and cleaning out closets. Quite a bit was thrown away, recycled, and donated to the Good Will. It was a lot of work, but also fun, sharing a crisp fall morning with friends, knowing, too, that we were spending the day with God, and for God. The name of our church—Emmanuel—means “God with us.” And it felt that way. It felt like God was with us as we laughed and shared stories and wondered why we had hung on to old 70s era plastic dishes for so long.
As I drove home from the church that day, I reflected on the fact that among the dedicated parishioners working side by side, laughing and sharing stories, were people I know to be liberal Democrats and others who are conservative Republicans. Others identify as Independents. So far as I was aware, no one called anyone else “deplorable,” nor labelled anyone “crooked.” There were no threats of imprisonment or deportation. Rather, we focused on the tasks at hand—planting mums and organizing kids’ toys and art supplies. Even more than that, we enjoyed being together, with all our similarities and all our differences.
As we approach election day, it sometimes seems that the press and the presidential candidates would have us think that people with political differences share very little, and that our worldviews are so far apart that we actually have to live states apart. Facebook and other social media contribute to that perception as well, only feeding us news and commentary that support our own limited worldview and perspective. In fact, they encourage us to easily “share” sharp articles that reinforce perceptions and beliefs, dividing us from friends, family, and acquaintances who may disagree.
It doesn’t have to be that way, however. We can live together, even when we disagree. In fact, we should live together, so that we begin to understand each other. We can step back from launching missiles of insults, whether verbally or electronically. It may take a little self-control. But it’s worth it—for good of our society and for the good of our hearts and souls.
Thankfully, there are less than two weeks remaining in the current campaign season. As much as I have a hoped for outcome, about which I feel passionately, I am also looking forward to an end to the ads, the fights, and the allegations. I am looking forward to an end of the toxic language and vitriol that are infecting our hearts, poisoning our souls, and driving us further and further apart. The candidates and their most vociferous supporters will say and do what they think is necessary to be elected. We can’t control them. We can control us.
My goal over the next two weeks is to pray daily for our nation. I am going to pray for Donald Trump and his supporters. I likewise am going to pray for Hillary Clinton and her supporters. I am going to pray for those who feel caught in the middle or left behind and just want a better life. Most especially, I am going to pray that our nation finds a way to come together in hope for a new day. Ultimately, it won’t be up to the new president to change and heal our nation—at least not alone. Instead, that healing and reconciliation will be up to us, working side by side, Democrats and Republicans alike, just like my parishioners on that Saturday work day.