With the election just next week, I've been thinking about the opposites of democrat and republican. How important are they when we walk into the polling booth next week? Can we as citizens of a democratic nation sensibly limit ourselves to two polar extremes? Where has that brought us? To a place of healthy debate and compromise, of legislative and executive action for the common good, of fair and equitable justice for all? Really?
I suspect that the problem doesn't lie so much in hostility between those labels of democrats and republicans as in our growing culture of fear.
In mental health terms, people are becoming increasingly rigid. Rigid individuals stop developing emotionally too soon. They are like teenagers who know everything with a certainty that defies logic; you can't tell them anything. And just like teenagers, rigid people are profoundly insecure. Their rigidity gives them an illusion of security, a sense that they have life all figured out. But their seemingly secure world is just a vulnerable house of cards that they must protect at all costs...even at the cost of peace, of love, of kindness, of compassion.
Rigid people are gripped by the fear that they might be wrong, so they absolutely, positively must be right.
When groups of rigid individuals get together and form parties, we're all in trouble. This is mental illness on a collective scale, and we're all reaping the fearful harvest in this fall's presidential election.
How should people of faith respond to this harvest? One of the most repeated sentences in the Bible is "Do not be afraid." When people of faith fall into fear, they separate themselves from God, they trust their own understanding instead of trusting His, and they produce fruits of the flesh: anger, gossip, divisiveness, hostility, and hate. They defend their house of cards instead of proclaiming the Good News of love and light and life in Jesus.
I stand in the love and light and life of the Christ, who tells me to love God, my neighbor, and myself. I don't have all the answers (or even many of them!) but strive daily to walk humbly with Him. I don't understand what is going on in my nation right now, but I know that I need to hold tight to all my brothers and sisters, whether Christian or not, even those whose houses of cards are trembling and making them crazy with fear.
Have you become rigid in your faith? Are you feeling afraid and lashing out at those who are different, who have different political opinions or faith practices? Do you see them as a threat rather than beloved children of a God who is neither democrat nor republican but who created the stars and the moon and the very DNA that makes you a person. Have you forgotten that our God loves each and every one of His children?
Hear the Lord tell you, "Fear not!" Hear Christ's words in the gospel of John: "Love one another."
Hear the Lord, and act in love. Always act in love.
Lord of all, we ask your guidance and blessing on us in these strange days, that our acts in the world be pleasing to you and grow your kingdom of peace, love, mercy, and grace here and now. May your love reach fearful hearts and transform them into bold and faithful servants of the vine of life, to grow a rich and healthy harvest that nourishes all. In Jesus' precious name we pray, Amen.