It was fast approaching 11pm on Tuesday night, and even though I was wiped from a full day of meetings, I sat huddled under my bedcovers glued to my phone screen watching the latest poll results coming in. I wasn’t alone. With heated campaigns and too-close-to-call projections, millions of Americans found themselves tuned into the election like a political Super Bowl that had just gone into overtime. Would the House flip? What affect will the results of the election have on policy, equality, and our economy? Will we go to sleep tonight hopeful or deflated?
The votes were counted. The results were announced, and we all got up the next day and went right back to the routine that November 6th had momentarily interrupted. The “I Voted” stickers were thrown in the trash, fresh cups of coffee were poured, and we flocked to freeways, highways, and subways for our regularly programmed commutes to work and school. One very significant day for our nation with potential ripple effects felt globally was followed by a very ordinary day. So goes life.
Where does this leave us? When one politically explosive moment ends, how do we continue to make our voice count? With no immediate rallies to attend, social media comments to post, ballots to complete, campaigning text messages and cold calls to receive, how do we continue to contribute to the cause of peace, justice, and good- politically and otherwise?
Here’s a few suggestions for Christ-followers on how to engage in our culture and politics post the election, regardless of our political party affiliation and voting history:
Celebrate the moments of progress made.
The 2018 election is shaping up to be a historic year for midterm voter turnout. Many states are recording levels of voter participation not seen for a non-presidential election in decades. Here’s another record-breaking moment for the U.S.: more than 100 women have been elected to Congress. Abby Finkenauer and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, both 29-years-old, are the youngest women ever voted into the House. Sharice Davids and Deb Haaland became the first Native American women elected to Congress. Ilhan Omar became the first Somali-American elected to the U.S. House, who came to America as a refugee at the age of 12. Rashida Tlaib became the first Palestinian-American to serve in Congress. Ayanna Pressley was elected the first black congresswoman from Massachusetts.*
Regardless of our party affiliation, we can take a moment to celebrate the increase of diversity in our government. Knowing that children will grow up seeing examples of historically underrepresented females and minorities now influencing and leading within government brings tears to my eyes. By no means have we arrived at racial and gender equality, but these small victories have greater impact in the future landscape of the world than we can ever truly know now. Heaven will be filled with every nation, tongue, and tribe; and it brings joy to my heart to see a glimpse of Heaven a tiny bit more realized in places of influence here on this earth.
We voted; now we pray.
The turnout of voters this past election was a huge triumph for a nation notoriously politically vocal leading up to elections, but conveniently absent at the polls. With voting campaigns compelling us to use our voice leading up to Nov 6th now over, we might conclude our voice can only be heard come election time. Through prayer, our voice always counts. In fact, the Bible commands believers to continually pray for our government and for our leaders, to pray for peace and justice:
Most of all, I’m writing to encourage you to pray with gratitude to God. Pray for all men with all forms of prayers and requests as you intercede with intense passion. 2 And pray for every political leader[a] and representative,[b] so that we would be able to live tranquil, undisturbed lives, as we worship the awe-inspiring God with pure hearts. 3 It is pleasing to our Savior-God to pray for them. 4 He longs for everyone to embrace his life and return to the full knowledge of the truth. -1 Timothy 2:1-4 TPT
Regardless of election results, we have the power to pray. Our assignment to pray is just as much an honor as our ability to vote. Voting is our civic duty; praying is our spiritual duty.
I just spent the last couple of days in Kansas with a group of leaders, experts and students to plan an event coming in July 2020 with the hopes of launching thousands of Claim Your Campus student led prayer groups in schools nationwide. One student, Amonte, shared his story of praying for his high school:
Marion High is a large urban public school in an economically struggling area. 85% of the student body doesn’t live with their biological father and 70% are eligible for free and reduced lunch. One spring semester, 4 students (including Amonte) began meeting weekly to pray for their school. As time went on, more and more students joined, and within a year, the group had grown to over 40 students. Two of their primary focuses of prayer were for non-violence and improved grades. By the end of the year, Mr. Burke, the principal of Marion High, reported a dramatic drop of fighting and increase in academics. In his words, “We had 2 fights this entire school year. 26 out of 27 of our students passed the AP Calculus test, putting us in the top five scores in the country. It’s not an accident; God works miracles.”
Prayer is powerful- in ways we can’t fully imagine or comprehend. When we humble ourselves faithfully to seek God’s will and pray for His guidance, His will, and His blessing, we invite the miraculous to take place not only in our churches and homes, but in our government and nation too.
Our country is in many ways divided. And in many ways, so are believers. We are called to love each other and live in harmony with each other. That takes hard work and a large dose of humility. In my personal experience, when I love someone, love demands I listen to them, even when I disagree with them or have been hurt by them. In those moments, I show love for them by listening before reacting. We can’t love someone well without developing the habit of listening and the posture of seeking to understand before being understood.
Let’s face it- we are very good at voicing our political beliefs, especially in the social media sector of life. We still have a lot more to learn about listening. Listening is an extraordinary practice because it draws people together in subtle and sacred ways. It creates an equal playing ground to connect, to agree and disagree, to reconcile, to heal, and to build bridges that need building. The best ideas come from listening. The best relationships come from listening. The best collaborations come from listening. The best solutions come from listening.
On Tuesday evening, I sat around a table of old and new friends from various parts of the country and beyond. We were different ages, genders, ethnicities, political parties, and experiences converging over dinner. Yet, as followers of Jesus, we shared a common belief that Christ had brought us together as family, and that belief allowed us to talk about politics and racism and the economy and the Church and a whole lot of other things without strife or rage or offense. We didn’t all agree, but if we had, our connection wouldn’t have been all that authentic. Always agreeing is an immediate red flag indicating shallow community. We didn’t agree on everything, but we listened. Listening opened the door to a wonderful moment of diversity and unity, of empathy and learning. On election night of all nights, I left that meal with a sense of hope… all because we practiced the lost art of listening.
Look for the helpers.
I recently watched the Mr. Rogers documentary aptly titled, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? I sobbed through most of it. It’s a deeply moving look at a life well lived, and the impact one can have in this world when they seek to do good. Towards the end of the film, Mr. Rogers said this, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.’” Our world needs more helpers. The world desperately needs the Church to be helpers. Helpers rarely get the credit, and the work is rarely glamorous, but for those who are on the receiving end of the help- it’s nothing short of a miracle.
We should never forget that governments do not hold all the power. Regardless of who is or isn’t representing us, and regardless of what happens behind closed doors in the White House, we can help. We can do good. It is the job of elected officials to represent and serve the people. They are not the only ones with the responsibility to serve though. It is our human duty and certainly our Christian duty to help the poor, to help the oppressed, to help the marginalized, to help the homeless, to help the sick, to help the foreigner. Policy and political leaders don’t decide that for us. Jesus does.
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