CHRISTIANS...THE ELECTION IS OVER. TIME TO UNIFY THE NATION.
Elections by nature are divisive. One candidate wins. Another loses. It is quite natural for those on the losing side to feel bitter when the candidate, who represented their views and values, is defeated.
However, the 2012 Presidential Election seemed far more divisive than any I have witnessed in past years. Television ads on both sides were downright nasty. Voter suppression laws and tactics, aimed largely at Latino and African American voters, were rampant in many states. Over 400 racially offensive emails about President Obama were traced geographically, with several Bible belt states ranking highest. An Arizona woman ran over her husband for failing to vote for Romney and because of Obama's victory. Thirty states filed petitions to secede or split from the United States. Polls showed that anti-African American feelings among White Americans escalated since the election of the first African American President, Barack Obama. Far right extremist, Donald Trump, who consistently challenged President Obama's citizenship and qualifications to be President, called for "a revolution" on election night. And, to deepen the division, Franklin Graham, son of revered evangelist Billy Graham, said that America was "on the road to destruction" because of President Obama's re-election.
Clearly, many people voted for Obama or Romney simply because they thought that one candidate would be better at leading the nation at this time. During this Thanksgiving and Christmas season of peace and goodwill, lingering racial and political divisions highlighted in this election are real causes for alarm by Americans of conscience, but especially for born-again Christians. The word "Christian", used only twice in the Bible, means to be a follower of Jesus Christ. This goes beyond church attendance and religious activities. St. Paul put it best when he said, "This means that anyone who belongs to Christ has become a new person. The old life is gone; a new life has begun!"
In a real way, Christians, both mainline and born-again evangelicals, who held strong, opposing views about the re-election of President Obama, have a responsibility to model unity in ways that would attract nonbelievers to the faith and bring healing to our nation. Pew research exit polls showed that of those voting for President Obama, 42% were White American Christians; 20% White born-again evangelicals; 95% were African American Christians; and 50% were Catholics with the majority of Catholic votes coming from Latino voters. Heightened racial division, growing Middle East tensions in Gaza; and continued economic hardship for many unemployed and working poor Americans that may worsen with the threatened "fiscal cliff" or crisis, are incredible challenges facing our nation. They are also great opportunities for Christians to stand up and demonstrate four basic unifying lessons of our faith:
1. The earth is the Lord's and everything in it, the world and all who dwell in it.(Psalm 24:1).The election is over and God who created heaven and earth is still in control and reigns over the affairs of nations and rulers no matter who is in the White House, the Congress, or the State House. Efforts to secede or split from the United States are hopefully short-term temper tantrums of angry voters. Christian leaders need to step up, become the voice of unity, and help America turn to, and not turn on one another, as did the people of New Jersey and New York following Hurricane Sandy.
2. Who can command things to happen without the Lord's permission? Does not the Most High send both calamity and good? (Lamentations 3:37, 38)God did not choose Barack Obama over Mitt Romney. But God certainly allowed it as He does many things which we do not always understand. This fact of our faith would be true no matter who was elected. Racially bigoted language aimed at President Obama has absolutely no place among those who have determined to be followers of Christ and therefore have become a "new person".
3. You must love the LORD your God with all your heart, all your soul, all your mind, and all your strength. 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' No other commandment is greater than these. (Mark 12:29-31)These greatest commandments are not suggestions or recommendations. They are the primary basis for demonstrating our love for God. Loving God and neighbors as oneself means seeing all others in the image and divinity of God. It means treating others fairly; and welcoming strangers as we once all were in this nation except for the Native Americans. Most of all, it means not using racially negative language toward any person or group even if we disagree with their political views or values. A good start for African American Christians, most of whom voted for President Obama, and White American Christians, most of whom voted for Governor Romney, is to begin building bridges of communication and dialogue around what unites us. We are united by faith and our shared love for a nation where Americans of all races and cultures are hurting financially, and in need of our collective voice for the President and Congress to come together immediately to address the nation's challenges.
4. Pray for all who are in authority so that we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity.(1 Timothy 2:1, 2)We are called to pray for leaders whether or not we agree with their politics, so that God will touch their hearts to make decisions that are fair and just for everyone. There is power in prayer and prayer changes things. So in a real way we have the nation and leadership for which we pray. Just imagine what would happen if prayer vigils were held outside of the White House, Congress and State Legislative Houses across the nation as important decisions were being made. I have not agreed with every decision of President Obama on such issues as marriage and abortion, nor did I agree with every past President from both political parties on every issue. But I prayed for them. God's word compels all believers to pray for President Obama and for those in leadership, both nationally and locally, "so we can live peaceful and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity."
May we use this Christmas season of peace and goodwill to demonstrate God's love in action in ways that bring healing and hope to our world.