Four years ago, as we approached the 2016 election, I started to worry about what was happening around me, in the church I was serving, the community in which I lived, and in the wider community. On the one hand, I was increasingly excited at the prospect of the nation’s first female president. I had never been a big fan of Hillary Clinton, or her husband, but still I had this small river of excitement that ran through me in the weeks before that election. How could she possibly lose? How could large swaths of people vote for the sexist buffoon who was her opponent?
On the other hand, I was worried. Living in a part of the world where there were a lot of people who were drawn to the aggressive campaigning of Trump, it was clear enough that he had a lot of support in our area.
Still, as election day got closer and closer, I felt hopeful and looked forward to the exhilaration of a female President—finally. And, as that small river of excitement started to gain a little momentum, I couldn’t help but worry about those who would not only be disappointed at the prospect of the nation’s first female president (and a second Clinton in office), but would feel more than that, perhaps devastated, lost, frustrated, and more than a little angry.
The election of 2016 didn’t feel like previous elections. In the past, it had felt that no matter who won or lost a presidential election, the country would go on without much turmoil—even in 2000. In 2016, everything felt much more precarious. A lot of issues that had been living under the surface of our public lives were brought nakedly and assertively out into the open—sexism, racism, etc. And Trump’s in-your-face campaigning style appeared to bring out a new sort of aggression toward not only Hillary Clinton, but Democrats in general. No longer were we about different approaches to difficult public policy problems, but an increasing sense of the “other” as being corrupt and evil.
I remember that back in the 2016 election season that I had planned a prayer circle for election day. At the time, I’ll admit that I was mostly focused on those who would be disappointed by Trump’s loss. Could we come together to pray for the healing of our country, for a renewed sense of common purpose? Could I gather with others in such a way that would mask my increasing internal glee?
Of course, it didn’t turn out as I had thought it would. Instead, I was the one who was disappointed, and angry—and more. Sure, I could understand, to some extent, the suspicions regarding Hillary Clinton, but how in the world could those suspicions loom larger than the clearly inappropriate behaviors and remarks that Trump had displayed?
And, now here we are: four years later. And, another fraught election season. A season in which it’s not simply about differing analyses of issues, and how to solve them, but a tone of aggression that’s quite disconcerting. In the area in which I live, signs for Trump are not the familiar political signs that pop up during election seasons. Instead, there are large banners and flags for the Trump/Pence ticket (and, a lot of them). There are no Biden banners or flags, although I’m charmed by the number of handmade Biden signs that dot the landscape.
How best to deal with it all? Ignore it, as much as possible, for as long as possible. That approach, though, no longer works. Doing something is expected, in these final days before election day. We’ll have a prayer circle on Sunday and another on election day and, who knows, maybe still more as election day may turn into election season.
The worries and anxieties of the election have taken hold of Old South folk, and for many, there’s still more to worry about, especially as we encounter, amid the political revelry, people who claim the same association of “Christian,” yet hold perspectives and opinions that don’t line up at all with how the faith speaks to us. How will this time unfold, and how will we find a way to be a “do not be afraid” sort of people? How will we seek to love our neighbors when some of our neighbors seem so hostile?
And, when we have resolution on the election, what happens then? Will we find a way to deal with those issues that have been exposed, or will those issues simply become more and more a defining, and dividing, force? Will we be able to be the sort of people we need to be, sharing God’s love and hope, and seeking to love even our most difficult neighbors? Or, will it all prove too much, and we will find ourselves pulled into the negativity?
It seems clear enough that even a clear winner on November 3, will not bring resolution. In this season of woe, we have a lot that weighs us down. Yet, this is exactly when we need to be the bold and grace-filled people we are called to be. May the Spirit move among us, inspiring and guiding. This isn’t going to be easy.