our callingFrom the President
On November 3, all of us who have been following the national election will be emotional. Regardless of the outcome, some will be delighted, others will be depressed. Some will feel vindicated, others will feel victimized. Writing two months before the election, it is not possible to forecast the outcome, but the spiritual issues that will confront us are clear.
Many Unitarian Universalists actively work to register people to vote so that more citizens can take part in this national ritual of discernment. Some of you drive shut-ins to cast their ballots. Some of you are poll watchers, devoting your time to making sure all the voters eligible can cast a ballot and that all the ballots cast are counted. If we are able to help increase citizen participation in our democracy, we can all count that as a victory for our nation.
Regardless of the outcome, America has spiritual work to do. As I write, the political campaign is pulling us farther and farther apart. Democrat vs. Republican, Conservative vs. Liberal. It is as if battle lines are being drawn. I can only imagine this will intensify as the election approaches. The level of public discourse about the issues is so shallow that it makes me weep tears of both sorrow and anger. On complicated issues like terrorism, war, economic justice, and marriage equality, the best the media seem able to muster is to bring one strident voice from the Right and one strident voice from the Left together to have a fight in public. I doubt that any minds are changed, and I know that no souls are saved.
Also troubling is the way religion is being used. Political and social points of view are cloaked in religious language, as if to claim the mantle of divine truth. One candidate is criticized for not making his religious point of view clearer. The other refuses even to meet with the head of his denomination.
In the aftermath of such a campaign, the work we will have to do is not only spiritual. Regardless of your point of view, there will be a continuing need for organizing and advocacy, which are central parts of the democratic process. Issues will be decided at the national level in the coming years that impact all of our lives. We will need a more honest, more engaged, and more respectful reflection on these issues.
Although I deplore the way religion is being used in the campaign, there is a role for religion in a democracy. Unitarian Universalists, so important in the creation of this democracy, have always known that ours is a faith with a spiritual center and civic circumference. Religious communities can be places where we can know one another as persons, not only for our political points of view.
I remember the night I was elected to the UUA presidency in 2001 . The first thing I said, in my first public speech, was that it was time to take off the campaign buttons, all the campaign buttons. I said that we were all Unitarian Universalists and that the need for our voice to be strong was far too important for the differences of the campaign to divide us. Though the scale is much larger, I hope our national leadership can find a comparable gesture. There is far more that brings us together as Americans than divides us. There is only one destiny for this nation.Regardless of the political outcome, I hope we remember the meaning of religion. It is from the Latin, re-ligio, to bind together that which has been sundered. I hope ours will be a voice that works toward reconciliation and rejects the divisiveness of the campaign. Our liberal religious voice must affirm, again and again, that there are possibilities in our pluralism; that divisiveness and fear will tear us apart when we need most to find ways to come together.