It is election week in my world. Civic elections happen in a few days in my town and in communities all around my province.
We are not the only ones faced with elections. November elections in the United States are also in the news and it seems that much is at stake, for many.
Voting is a precious privilege. It is challenging to get to know candidates and I’m reading as much as I can. I’m listening and paying attention. It is one place where we can make a stand, where our decisions matter.
This blog however has been brewing for weeks. Really it is a new twist on an old subject. It seems to me that viewpoints are becoming more and more polarized. Social media is probably partly to blame, but it also depends on your news feed, on which slant you believe; on what you hold true.
What saddens me the most is how polarized the Christian community has become. People, deeply passionate about what they believe are at odds with one another.
There are a number of “issues” where there are deep divides. One can throw labels on it, Liberal thinking versus Conservative is one. I’ve always been confused by this. My conservative friends find me quite liberal, and I think my liberal friends think of me as rather conservative. I keep hoping that this will make me balanced! All kidding aside, these rifts can be very painful.
There are some news stories that have affected me as of late. The first is the “me too” movement, the movement of women who are speaking up and talking about abuse. I’ve heard many conversations about Judge Kavanagh and Dr. Ford, but what has struck me the most is how this public event has deeply affected women who have experienced abuse. Some of them have never had the courage to talk about it. For others, it is the festering of an old wound and it is deeply painful.
Their stories need to be told, and listened to with compassion. There is a need for healing. I’ve read posts which have broken my heart – women who feel that they have not been listened to, who feel trivialized. Abuse has been a deeply painful part of their lives, often hidden because there was no safe place to tell their stories.
Truth telling can be a painful process when a person does not feel believed. And perceptions come into it. My mother taught me this well… what she perceived and I perceived about the same event was often different. But it is only in honest and loving conversation that we can begin to process what happened and find healing.
This becomes more complicated when a person of power takes advantage of another. Denial and fear-mongering are troublesome weapons. When an act of abuse is covered up and there is shame, truth-telling can become very difficult.
There are other areas of deep divide which trouble me.
If we truly believe that God taught us to love one another, do we put it into practice by truly listening to one another’s stories? We need to do this for the “other”, for the person who is different than me. For the street person who has no home. For the person who has a different ethnic background than myself. For the foreigner and the refugee. For the person who thinks differently than I think and believes a different way.
I see this in our school system where many are threatened by changes in education and there are valid concerns. What I see lacking is the ability to really listen to each other, to understand different points of view. Sometimes I want to ask “What are you afraid of?” Instead of defending “my position” can I listen to how another reached their point of view? Can we reach a point of mutuality and respect even if we think differently?
I grew up feeling certain about many things. I could easily get on a “soap box” and give my point of view, truly believing I was right. What I have lost is my certainty about things. And I don’t see that as a bad thing.
What I AM certain of is that the God who created me, who created us all, is the Creator who loves me, and loves everyone. We are called to love, not to division. Sometimes love is a decision, a way of responding even when I am uncertain.
And certainly we need to voice concerns. There is a place for healthy respectful debate. We need to care about justice and mercy. We need to protect the vulnerable.
As I write this I am again reminded of the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi.
“Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;
where there is hatred, let me sow love;
where there is injury, pardon;
where there is discord, union;
where there is doubt, faith;
where there is despair, hope;
where there is darkness, light,
and where there is sadness, joy.”
A good prayer to pray in this election time, in any time!