It is the night before the national election. I plan to go vote before I go to church in the morning.
I have voted in every election since I was eligible, except one: in 1984, I was in Japan, I was a poor student, and I couldn't afford to make all of the different train trips it would take for me to apply and get an absentee ballot and send it in. I voted as a college student and as a worker, as a seminary student and as a pastor. I loved that my little church was a polling place for elections. I liked following and voting on the local ballot initiatives as much as nationwide elections.
I have strong political convictions, although in my deepest heart of hearts, and as a Christian, I recognize that the Reign of God is deeper than any of my convictions, and there will never be a political candidate that will bring in the "Reign of God." I do believe that there are policies that better honor the image of God in all of us, but I know that others feel differently. I also believe in my deepest heart of hearts that even though I have strong political convictions, nobody knows everything or is wise about everything. To have a democracy, you have to have at least two different points of view (preferably even more); if you don't, you don't really have a democracy. So I believe that the best community decisions and the best policies really are created as people with different commitments and visions talk to one another and hash it out.
So, in this very wearying election season, I've been reminding myself and reminding others that, as Father Greg Boyle has said: "There is no them and us. There is only us." I have been reminding myself and reminding others that faith in God unites us, not faith in whatever political project we believe in, however much we believe in it.
Here's the confession, though.
It's really hard.
It's really hard because there are so many venues that speak lies and half-truths about things that are dear to me, and I see them. For example, I see someone joking that "Barack Obama will take an early lead, until all of the Republicans get off work." I see another set of statistics that blame one particular political party for the budget deficits and debts, when I know (even though I don't know everything, I know a few things) that the picture is much more complicated than that. And if we don't ever realize that it's more complicated than that, we will never get the will to fix it.
I hear people pointing fingers and saying, "It's all your fault!" People on all sides stretch the statistics to fit their own devices. I want to be able to say, "There is enough blame to go around," because I suspect that is the truth, really. And (to be honest) there are times when I want to say to someone I love, someone who is a fellow member of the Body of Christ, not "I love you," but "give me a break."
Tomorrow is Election Day. I keep believing that what unites us is the body and blood of Christ, given and shed for all of us. But it's hard. And I fear that it's going to get harder.
But I pray that we will all have the strength to do that hard thing: to come together to make good communities, and to see the imprint of God on each other's foreheads.