I’m going to say some things in this post that will undoubtedly make me unpopular. Basically, I’m going to take the stance of a prophet, and a prophet’s job has always been to tell us the truths that we don’t want to hear. So here goes.
For our brothers and sisters who are disappointed in the results of yesterday’s election:
I’m sorry that it turned out the way it did for you. I know that you are mourning a loss, and that you are feeling some anger and bitterness and grief. Please understand that four years ago, and eight years ago, those who are dancing and rejoicing today were feeling that same anger and bitterness and grief, when you were dancing and rejoicing. Perhaps you didn’t understand their disappointment. Perhaps today, they don’t understand yours. This is natural. We are humans, and as hard as we try to love and to understand each other, we are flawed. I hope that you can find some gifts and lessons from yesterday’s election. I know they are there for you, for all of us. And please forgive your rejoicing brothers and sisters when they are insensitive to your grief.
For our brothers and sisters who are rejoicing in the results of yesterday’s election:
Congratulations! You have won a great victory! Every one of you has worked hard for this, and I know it means a lot to you. I ask you to remember one thing in the next few days and weeks. Remember what it felt like on this Wednesday, four years ago, and eight years ago. Remember what it felt like when John Kerry conceded? Remember the bitter ashes feeling of defeat, the pain in your gut, the grief? This is what many of our brothers and sisters are feeling today. Please remember them. Please be kind to them, and do not turn your back on them.
Now, for all of our brothers and sisters:
We are called to a path of love and forgiveness. Jesus is pretty explicit about this, and we just had the reading a couple weeks ago in the lectionary. The two great commandments are (1) Love God, and (2) Love everybody else. And when Jesus gets asked, “Who exactly does this everybody include?” he tells the parable of the Good Samaritan. Of course, we don’t get the provocativeness and power of this parable today. It would be like walking into the most liberal Episcopal parish and telling the parable of “The Good GAFCON Bishop” or walking into a network parish and telling the parable of “The Good Homosexual Priest.” Well, today, I’m saying, we are commanded by God, commanded by Jesus himself, to love John McCain, to love Sarah Palin, to love Barack Obama, to love Joe Biden.
Yeah, I know. It’s simple, but it’s not easy. There’s good news, though. See, God doesn’t care if we actually like them. God never says in the Bible that we have to like anybody. Look through the Bible for yourself – there are a whole LOT of unlikeable people in there! – but we are commanded to love them.
What’s more, we are commanded to forgive them. Not once, not seven times, but endlessly. Of course, forgiveness is another of those “simple but not easy” things. Forgiving doesn’t make everything all right, and forgiving doesn’t mean forgetting. But it does mean setting aside the wrongs and the hurts, allowing the scar tissue to form, allowing the wounds to heal. So the wrongs and the hurts, the wounds from this campaign season? Now is the time to set those aside. Now is the time to allow those to heal. We cannot keep picking at them, and let them become infected. We must heal. We must love. We must forgive.
And we must love and forgive more than the campaign wounds. Now is the time to forgive more than just the last year or two. My friends, my beloved brothers and sisters, please, let us begin to set aside the wrongs, the hurts, the wounds. Let us stop clutching these to ourselves and wounding ourselves again and again with the hurts that have been done to us by others, by leaders and politicians and governments. Let us allow healing to happen. Let us make room for love. Let us make room for peace. Let us make room for change. Let us make room for hope. Let us make room for forgiveness.
It is our choice, my friends. We must choose these things. And I may not feel, on my own, capable of loving and forgiving George W. Bush and Dick Cheney and Karl Rove. I may not feel, all by myself, up to the challenge of loving and forgiving Bill Clinton and Al Gore and John Kerry. Just me, I might not be able to love and forgive George H. W. Bush or Ronald Reagan or Jimmy Carter. But I know where to go for help. Once I decide – once I choose the path of love and peace and healing and hope – once I set my feet on the path of life – I know who to ask. And this is my prayer:
God, you knit me together in my mother’s womb. You breathed life into my body and gave me a mind and a spirit. I want to help my country find healing, but I am only one small candle in the darkness. God, please help my light to shine. Please help me to love and to forgive those who have done me harm, and those who have hurt the people I care for. Please help me to love and pray for our leaders, even when I disagree with them. And God, please help my brothers and sisters to raise their candles in our nation, too, so that American can be a great light in your world, to bring hope of peace and justice to all of your people. Amen.
So what are you waiting for? Get out there and love, my friends! Get out there and hope! Get out there and forgive! Get out there and heal! America needs every one of us, liberal, conservative, centrist, left-wing, right-wing, evangelical, fundamentalist, high-church, low-church, Muslim, Jewish, Christian, atheist, agnostic, unchurched, undecided. We are America, so let’s act like it.