Take a Deep Breath
Okay folks, we've almost made it. Can you feel it? We're less than a week away from being done with political ads, Facebook asking if we're registered to vote, and walking on eggshells wondering what the next four years will look like. We're so close! In case you've been living under a rock, this Tuesday is Election Day, and whoa boy, can it not come soon enough.
While this campaign has not been quite as contentious as 2016 (probably has something to do with the pandemic keeping people a bit farther apart), it's had its fair share of name-calling, arguments, and ridiculous "If you support the person that's not the person I support, unfriend me" social media posts. We are a divided nation, and it sometimes feels impossible to talk politics without an argument ensuing.
I want to offer a few Gospel-rooted tips for staying sane and loving your friends and family you disagree with as we approach Election Day. There's going to be a lot of grumpy people when the results come out, and there's a 50% chance you'll be one of them! But no matter who wins, life will go on. So how do we move forward?
First and most simply, prepare for the possibility that your candidate will lose. No matter what the polls say, what you see in your local community, or how strongly you feel your choice is right, we can't predict the future. We don't know who will win! In fact, we may not even know on Election Night due to the increased number of mail-in votes this year.
So, prepare for both possibilities. Come to terms with the fact that your candidate may lose before the results come out so that you're not processing everything all at once. This is a great trick for dealing with any potential disappointment (something we've all learned a lot about this year), but it's especially effective when applied to something with so much emotional weight.
That's the easy part. Now, let's move into the more difficult aspect: loving your neighbors who vote against your choice. Our society is SO obsessed with drawing battle lines and putting people in boxes based on their political choices. It's truly sickening. Let's turn to the Gospels to see why this tendency is a bunch of baloney.
There is no more perfect Gospel passage for this topic than that of this past Sunday. This is, of course, where Jesus tells us that the second greatest Commandment of them all (behind loving the Lord our God with our whole heart, our whole mind, and our whole soul) is to "Love your neighbor as yourself."
Let's examine that Commandment a bit closer. Does it say, "love your neighbor as yourself so long as they vote for the same person as I do?" Nope. Does it say, "love your neighbor as yourself until they say something I disagree with?" Negative, Ghost Rider. How about "love your neighbor as yourself when you're not having a bad day?" Take a wild guess.
Jesus doesn't give us much wiggle room here. This passage is not difficult to translate, nor is it open to interpretation. "Love your neighbor as yourself," period. Full stop. We have forsaken this Commandment in our country today. It pains me to say this, but it's true. We paraphrase the words of Christ Himself when we agree to love our neighbor as ourselves until _________.
I saw a Facebook post a week or two ago that should be a gut punch to all American Catholics. It said the following: "Kamala is beloved. Donald is fearfully and wonderfully made. Mike is cherished. Joe is important enough that I died for him." Full. Stop. If we have an issue with anything in there, than we have not heard Christ's Commandment.
Here's the thing: it doesn't stop with the candidates. This post applies to each and every person in our lives. ESPECIALLY the ones we disagree with. The fact is, God loves us no matter who we vote for. While I agree that political debate and discourse are the lifeblood of a democratic republic, things have gotten far out of hand.
If this makes you uncomfortable, that's probably a good thing. It's uncomfortable for me to write. But it's the Truth. We can't call ourselves servants of the Living God on Sunday and call our neighbors "snowflakes," "fascists," and "sheeple" on Monday. That's not how this works. We MUST treat our neighbors with dignity and respect no matter who they vote for.
This has been a long, difficult year for us all. No matter who wins on Tuesday, we can (hopefully) all agree that it'll be wonderful to be done with this election. Hopefully, we can come together in the aftermath and work as a whole to make our country a better place for all.
Pray for our country. Pray for your neighbors. Above all else, pray for peace. Remember that life will go on after the election. Prepare for the possibility that your candidate may not win, and be prepared to love your neighbors whom you disagree with (no matter who is elected President). That is the American way. And, more importantly, that is the way of Christ Jesus.
I wish you all a safe, patriotic, and fulfilling Election Day. And I look forward to joining you in one massive sigh of relief when we're finally done with this period of ads, campaigning, and debates. God bless you all.