My husband and I decided to live in the United States this fall. Flexible work made it possible to move temporarily to a small town near where we grew up, with a primary goal of providing support to my 85-year-old mother. Belatedly, we realized that meant we would be immersed in a presidential election, a prospect that was, by turns, intriguing or unsettling.
Writing just days out from the election, the experience has proven to be baffling, fascinating and sickening. I am baffled by the appeal of a violence-inciting rogue. I am fascinated by the convulsions of a society in enormous change; old ways are crumbling, the powerful cling to power, and an emerging new order is not yet in place. I am sickened by dehumanizing mockery of the disabled, people of colour, religious minorities and women. The political currents are tumultuous and volatile, even though I am living in a beautiful rural area that is stable and relatively prosperous.
After too many hours of reading far-ranging political commentary, I better understand the factors that have led to this point. My current neighbours speak of frustration with politicians who have not addressed their work and economic insecurities. Many white Christians are alarmed by the loss of dominant status. Many reasonable people refuse to discuss politics, and the gap between divergent perspectives grows larger. As the weeks went by, I found myself joining the 52 percent of Americans experiencing the election as a “very significant or significant source of stress,” according to an American Psychological Association poll cited in the Nov. 1, 2016, issue of The Atlantic.
While there is much that could be said, the focus of this column is on healthy relationships and families. How do governments impact the individuals and families of their countries? What happens when the public space is contaminated by lies, debasing language, greed and immorality? How do the most vulnerable ones find protection? How do the powerful find the moral courage to use their power to sustain justice and integrity?
When public leadership goes awry, as I am now witnessing, we all suffer some loss of moral and spiritual dignity. At a minimum, it is much harder for parents and teachers to instruct the young when political leaders have abandoned values of respect, fairness and compassion. My deepest prayer is that after the election all responsible citizens will turn their hearts and minds to creating a just society where peace and righteousness kiss (Psalm 85:10).
In the midst of being tied up in fretful knots, I went to church. Thank God for the church! What a welcome respite! That particular Sunday was a hymn-sing worship service, at which congregants called out favourite numbers, and we then sang, raising voices in praise and worship. We recalled and rested in God’s great faithfulness, mercy and love. We gave thanks for the beauty of the earth. We celebrated victory in Jesus. We boldly proclaimed that Jesus has risen and we shall not die. We sang of blessed assurance offering a sorely needed foretaste of heaven divine. We closed with the exquisitely tender “Children of the Heavenly Father,” which brought tears to my eyes.
The time of giving ourselves over to God’s ways and God’s rule was a time to reground ourselves in a vision of integrity, healing and wholeness. Since then I have spent more time in prayer—for the candidates, for the voters, for the disheartened and the hopeful, for myself—and less time feeding my fears. When the public sphere is troubled and troubling, may we centre ourselves in God’s great, compassionate, unbounded loving heart.
Melissa Miller (firstname.lastname@example.org) has a passion for helping people develop healthy, vibrant relationships with God, self and others.