Every election brings joy to some and disappointment to others--whether election to the library board or to the presidency of the United States. If our preferred candidate loses, elections of the greatest consequence also bring out fear that our worldview and most deeply held beliefs may somehow be challenged or defeated. Our Christian faith tradition reminds us, however, that new and abundant life grows even in the midst of fear and despair. Our faith reminds us, in fact it compels us to believe, that love is more powerful than hate, that hope is greater than fear, and that life is stronger than death. Always.
Within our Emmanuel family there are some who were hopeful for a Donald Trump victory, and others who were equally hopeful that Hillary Clinton would come out on top. Many, if not most, of us were disgusted by the campaign that unfolded in front of our eyes, by the accusations and insults, by the way that it brought out the worst in us as individuals and as an American community—racism, sexism, classism, and xenophobia to name just a few issues of concern. Thankfully, the ugliness of the campaign is now over. We can hope that the rhetoric reflected more the heat of the moment than the true character of those involved. For our own well being as a nation we must hope that.
I'll be honest and share that the final result is not the one for which I had hoped. And as of this writing, Hillary Clinton is leading in the popular vote count by over 235,000 votes. So, we are a nation deeply divided indeed, reflected in different electoral college and popular vote outcomes, with more of our citizens voting for the candidate who will not become president. But the system is what it is. We have survived the same disparity before, difficult as it was to accept for many. I believe that beyond the most extreme supporters on the fringes, those who voted yesterday reflect the hopes and dreams of the American people. They are people in need of a better job, better health care, safer communities, and fuller access to the American dream. This is equally true of Trump and Clinton supporters. Of course, the preferred political and philosophical means for achieving those ends are different. But, we all long for full and abundant life--whatever our race, gender, sexual orientation, economic situation, or political philosophy.
One of signal characteristics of our Emmanuel Episcopal Church community is the ability to come together, even when we disagree. Our parish community includes Democrats, Republicans, and independents, people with differing beliefs and backgrounds who are friends and family, who work and volunteer together, and who pray, sing, and receive the sacrament side by side. We are people who love and cherish each other, not because of our political beliefs, or even in spite of them, but instead because we know that we are drawn together by God, as God's beloved and cherished people. That is who we are, and why we are.
In my "Focus on Faith" column in the Wakefield Daily Item a few weeks ago I wrote that we can live together when we disagree, and even that we should live together when we disagree, so that we can begin to understand each other--both the greatest joys and the deepest concerns of our hearts. When we do that, we have the power to overcome suspicion, fear and mistrust. When we do that, we have the power to live the resurrection. That is my hope and prayer now that the election is over--that we will grow closer together and that we will incarnate the resurrection and manifest God's love to each other, to our friends and family, and to the world.
I also wrote in that “Focus on Faith” column that it will not be up to the political candidates to heal the deep and profound divisions in our society--at least not alone, though certainly they have a role to play. Really, it is up to us. For we are Christ's body in the world. We are Christ’s hands and feet. We are Christ’s heart and love. It is a love that casts out fear and offers glimpses of radiant light and enduring hope. This calling, to be Christ’s presence, is as real and true for those who feel victorious after the election as it is those who feel concern and even despair, wondering what the future holds.
I want to close this message by saying, yet again, how much our community means to me. How much you mean to me, my friends and family in faith. We have the power to hold each other up, to comfort each others' fears and anxieties, and really and truly to be the love of God for each other. In the days ahead, I invite and encourage you to share that love with those who need it, and also receive that love yourself.
Here is a prayer that I offered at our candlelight Evening Prayer and Vigil service on Monday night. I think it is even more appropriate today.
Almighty God, from whom cometh every good and perfect gift: Send down, we beseech thee, upon all those who hold office in this land the spirit of justice and integrity, of wisdom and charity; that seeking their own good in the well-being of those committed to their charge, they may ever advance thy kingdom upon earth and promote the welfare of thy people. This we pray through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Revd Matthew P. Cadwell, PhD
Emmanuel Episcopal Church
5 Bryant Street
Wakefield, MA 01880