I awoke today distressed, and not about the impending results of the election today. (Though, if I’m honest, that alone is enough to distress me. I seem to care more about this election that I probably should.)
This “caring probably more than I should” is why I really empathize with others who are deeply invested in the outcome. Whether their vote matches mine or they vote differently, I understand that today is wrapped in an awkward bundle of passion, hope and fear.
I get it. BELIEVE me, I do.
But that’s not what’s behind my distress.
Surprisingly, it’s not the sour taste that a long campaign season leaves, or the general weariness resulting from my attempt to consume somewhat balanced media regarding “the issues”. It’s not the ads, the opinion pieces, or the yard signs.
It’s about how many who openly call themselves followers of Christ are handling the ‘bigness’ and stress of today. And it breaks my heart.
Spending time on Facebook during election season has involved my seeing which of my friends ‘like’ Mr. Romney or Mr. Obama. Though I know this type of activity drives some people to a self-imposed media fast, it doesn’t bother me. I confess, the Social Studies teacher in me appreciates seeing the democratic process at work, and feel that it can be valuable for people to put words around the reasons why they support specific measures or candidates.
Checking Facebook last night was different, though. A political group appeared in the sidebar ticker that provides updates about what friends and family are doing online. I was not terribly surprised to see a group called “I will NOT vote for (fill in a candidate name here, since there are groups for both major candidates) in 2012” pop up in my feed, as I have family and friends all across the political spectrum. As I looked closer at the ticker, I noticed that a number of my friends were members of one of these groups, all of whom are Christ-followers, several who hold positions of leadership in the Church or community of faith.
Intrigued, I clicked over to see what kept the group going after members shared to whom they would (or would not, as the case may be) give their vote. The overall tone felt disrespectful toward those who felt differently about the upcoming election. The site moderators primarily posted opinion pieces, political cartoons/memes and election news coverage while group members engaged in name calling and open mockery of people who believed differently.
As I was thinking about the cognitive dissonance I felt over Christian leaders participating publicly in groups characterized by disrespectful and overtly negative tone, a new group showed up in my ticker: “Christians against Obama’s reelection”. Like the previous group, several publicly professing Christian friends were members. Hoping that there would be a difference between the tone of the two groups since the second publicly declared itself to be Christian, I clicked over to check out the page.
I was horrified.
Aggressive and abusive language. Name calling and hate speech. Verses pulled from the Bible and applied with seeming disregard for context.
The worst came with a short scroll down the page. A group member composed an election day prayer that the moderator(s) shared publicly. Among accusations of the President being a treacherous, lying Muslim who is “owned by the Brotherhood”, the prayer calls on God to “rid the world” of President Obama, explicitly calling him “evil” and “Satan’s child”. Last night at midnight there were 41 ‘likes’ and several comments supporting the message, most with an all-caps ‘amen’. (Mercifully, the comments section is now disabled.) By mid morning today there are 199 ‘likes’ and 82 ‘shares’.
My heart breaks over this.
199 Christians publicly judging that our President acts on behalf of Satan and calling for his death. 82 Christians sharing this ‘prayer’ in the name of Jesus.
Is it any wonder that people aren’t always jumping to learn more about the good news of Jesus?
God, forgive us.
This morning I found myself singing one of my favorite songs performed (and composed, I believe) by William and Jacob Jolliff: “Oh, the Jesus Way”. It feels timely in light of what I read last night on Facebook and what type of conduct today almost certainly holds as election results unfold.
Oh, the Jesus way
Is the way of peace
Oh, the Jesus way
Is the way of peace
Oh, the Jesus way is the way of peace
When He is King all wars will cease
May his peace begin with me.
When Christ is King, all wars (including political fighting) will end. When we choose the way of Jesus we choose peace: in our hearts, in our families, in our work, and on Facebook. Even on election day.
May we remember, today and always, that in Christ alone our hope is found, not in any candidate or political party. May we remember we have an incredible privilege and responsibility to represent Jesus with our actions and words, for better or worse. May we be constantly mindful that choosing the way of peace is an act of worship, and lean into the reality that the Jolliffs share: the peace of Jesus begins with us now.