Faith, Politics, and Voting ... Part 3, Process and Product
I know that most people think only in terms of the product of the election. Only one question matters: Who won?
But I think the process of the election is tremendously important to. It raises an even more important question: What are we becoming?
For example, if someone wins through dirty tricks, we have become a dirtier nation in the process. If someone wins through dishonest or superficial arguments, we have become a less honest and shallow nation in the process. If someone manipulates us with unrealistic promises, we have become a more gullible nation in the process. If someone wins through vicious rhetoric or fear tactics, we become a more divided and frightened nation.
A friend sent me an email this morning which suggested one of the more positive possibilities in this process. He and his wife are enthusiastically supporting Barack Obama in this election, and they have been shocked by the negative responses they've received from some relatives and friends at church. Among the responses that have saddened them most have been overt and covert expressions of racism.
After an uncomfortable conversation with a family member that turned into a good dialgoue about race, my friend's wife sent this email to her relative (shared with permission):
I've been thinking...and since it's 4.30am and i can't sleep, thought i'd write...
re: "why does God make different races?", your question on the beach.
I think it forces us to see our sinfulness, just how human we are. The bible says, man looks at the outward appearance but God looks at the heart.
we, as humans, have a hard time getting past the outward appearance. whether that be the color of someone's skin, their beauty or lack of, their clothes. we want to wrap things up, so to speak, with an easy assessment of who they are so that we can judge, put them in a category and move on to the next person. I think it's an obstacle to our humanness. I think God would like us to resist that temptation, the easy way out, the shortcut and look torward the part of man that he looks toward. the heart. Assess a man or woman by their heart, what their true intentions are, which usually requires us to give them the benefit of the doubt. Because, of course, we don't really know what another's intensions are, only God knows. But if we get past the outward appearance there's room to see the miraculous. While they may not look like us on the outside, they're just the same old sinful person, as we are, trying cover up mistakes and look good while doing it.
What struck me today as I read her email was the thought that during this election season, thousands of conversations like this will be happening. And maybe, just maybe - please, God, let it be so - through these conversations on beaches, at dinner tables, via email, on the road - our nation will become a little wiser, a little less racist, a little more humble, a little more good-hearted and unified and respectful, one conversation at a time, one person at a time.
That's my prayer and hope today.