Saturday, November 3, 2012

Inhale. Exhale. Breathe easier. The 2012 election is nearly over.

A facebook friend posted, “I sure hope this election ends before I lose all my friends.” Can I get an AMEN?

If you care about the results of an election and find yourself engaged in the debate, like me, you’ll find that when it’s all over you may have lost some friends while you gain some others. Regretfully, politics seems to be a process of narrowing our relationships so that increasingly we “break bread” more and more among only those with whom we agree.

With this election drawing to a close, regardless of who wins the presidency or the congress, there are some historically critical matters to be addressed promptly. A congress that thought it could force discipline on itself by mandating catastrophic budget cuts as a penalty for its own failure to compromise is now faced with the reality of the havoc those cuts will create unless they act responsibly in the lame duck session. Politicians who’ve spent the last year pillorying one another must now find enough common ground to save the nation from the results of their earlier inability to put party aside.

When the Wyoming Tribune-Eagle endorsed Cynthia Lummis for reelection it noted, “Lummis has wisely backed away from her ‘no new taxes’ pledge and appears to be looking for more realistic approaches to solving America’s problems. We would, on the other hand, like to see more leadership from the congresswoman. Ms. Lummis’ experience does Wyoming no good,” the editorial continued, “if all she is going to do is take marching orders from House Republican leadership.”

The same leadership should be asked of all members of both parties as they leave behind the campaign and resume their jobs. America needs more leadership from all of them. Partisan marching orders have walked the country to the precipice and will send us over the cliff if something doesn’t change immediately.

That doesn’t mean the debate won’t be difficult, even harsh. Each side has deeply held beliefs. Each has worked hard to persuade others of the righteousness of their positions and the threat posed by their opponents. But all of that came during a time when the focus was on winning an election. Now the focus is on the well being of the nation.

People of faith have some perspective on turning harsh rhetoric into a search for what’s best for the community. If you want to judge the negativity of contemporary dialogue, compare it with Christian scripture. The Apostle Paul, who crystallized the teachings of Jesus into Christianity, once told the Galatians, “I wish that those who are upsetting you would castrate themselves!” (ISV 5:2). Later he became better known for teaching that greater than hope and faith is love. Jesus raged at times, calling his adversaries “zealots” and “a brood of vipers.” Later he thought it better to turn the other cheek.

In his classic book “Siddhartha” Herman Hesse attributes words to the character after whom the book is titled. “The world is NOT imperfect or slowly evolving along a path to perfection. No, it is perfect at every moment; every sin already carries grace within it.”

Every argument made in the heat of the campaign, both from the left and from the right, carries within it the answers to America’s problems. In spite of the philosophical differences, Barack Obama is not a socialist. Mitt Romney doesn’t disdain the poor or the elderly. Both men care deeply about their country and their fellow human beings enough to expose themselves and their families to a political process that attempts to separate our view of them from their real values.

The Apostle also once said, “Let each of you lead the life that the Lord has assigned.” 1st Corinthians 7:17 (NRSV).  On Election Day, each candidate for all public offices, winners as well as losers, will be given an assignment. All we can ask is that each undertakes the democratic obligations of that assignment.

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