The only way forward
Maybe it’s fitting that the early primary season falls during Lent. Maybe it’s exactly appropriate for so much hand-wringing over who might end up as the next president of the United States to occur at just the same time that we seek to recenter our lives in the promises of God and the work of Christ. Contemplating our nation’s political climate and imagining various “what if” scenarios based on possible electoral outcomes may certainly prompt some of us to despair and thus remind us that we are hopeless without Jesus – that our world really does need a savior. But I’m thinking about more than that.
Some candidates have accused the media of treating politics like sporting events, and, I must admit, that’s part of what I enjoy about presidential elections. Primary season is a lot like a playoff, where, it’s not on Sunday afternoon, but on Tuesday evening week after week that I settle in with snacks in front of the TV and watch the best competitors in the league go at it on the road to the championship. I treat poll results like league standings, and I cheer and jeer the talking heads on CNN as others would their counterparts on ESPN. Maybe this is even more fun than sports, because there really is something other than bragging rights at stake.
Please don’t judge me. Politics is more than entertainment to me, and I like to think I maintain a reasonable degree of objectivity in the midst of all the pep rallies and propaganda. Beyond that, my enthusiasm is tempered this time around by the undeniable realization that no matter who is inaugurated on January 20, 2017, a very large portion of our population will be deeply dissatisfied and committed to four years of constant battle.
So now back to Lent and Jesus. No matter who wins this election, whether it’s my preferred candidate or someone else’s, whether it’s a faithful Sunday worshipper or someone who darkens church doors only when there are votes perceived in the pews, I still have to be in relationship with people who disagree with me. No candidate can free me from the responsibility to love my neighbor. No president can bring reconciliation to a nation so wrecked with division and hate. That’s where you and I come in, because reconciliation is the work of Christ, and so it is the work of his body, the church. “That is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself…and entrusting the message of reconciliation to us” (2 Corinthians 5:19). No matter who is elected president, we still must love one another as Christ has loved us. Sometimes that means being pretty humble and sometimes it means suffering with and for others, but that’s the way of the cross, and God’s word is clear that it’s the only way forward.
– Ryan Bailey, director of faith formation