Tuesday when I was in line to vote, an election official noticed that an elderly woman a few people behind me was wearing a boot and shifting uncomfortably in line. He came right outside, offering several ways to help. Scott Merrell told a similar story. “This is who we are,” he said. While standing in line, waiting to cast my vote at Western Boulevard Presbyterian Church, I noticed that standing with me was a remarkably representative cross section of my fellow Americans. White men and women were the single largest group, but they only represented a little over half of who was voting. There were African Americans men and women; Hispanic men and women; several women had their head covered indicating they were Muslim, and several other folks looked to be of Asian descent. This is America, I thought, and what we are doing together is American. This is who we are.
By midnight another America began to emerge, one that we knew was present among us, but had not been numerically magnified with such focus and force. As we watched county by county election results posted, another picture of a deeply divided America emerged. Political pundits said this division represented a backlash against Washington elites and political insiders, but that is not what I saw. What I saw were deep divisions that cut across race and class; those who live in rural America and those who live in our urban centers; divisions that wall off immigrants and approach those who are different with distrust. The pain on all sides of these divisions was palatable, powerful and, ultimately, toxic to our common good.
Then, I began to wonder about the role of the church in the creation and maintenance of these divisions. Has a complacence among us contributed to this division? To whom have we been blind? What is our role in the healing and reconciliation that is necessary for our country and an integral part of our witness? What does Jesus’s ministry teach us about division? What does his death teach us about solidarity, and how does his resurrection offer us hope? Every time Jesus is confronted with a boundary or a division, he crosses the line and tears down the wall. When John sends his disciples to Jesus to ask him directly, “Are you the one who is to come?” Jesus sends word right back, “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, the deaf hear, the dead are raised, and the poor have good news brought to them. And blessed is anyone who takes no offense at me” (Luke 7:20-22). Disciples of Jesus Christ, this is the One we are called to follow. This is who we are.
As we come to terms with that hauntingly divided electoral map and the country it represents, let us first and foremost commit to pray for one another, starting with the side you voted against. Pray for both candidates, starting with the one who did not get your vote. Pray that from these wounds that have been laid bare, a deeper healing may begin. Pray for those who are afraid. Be ready to stand with them.
Church of Jesus Christ, we have wondered together if we would have the faith, fortitude and courage to lead in this kind of moment. May it be so for this is who we are.