On Tuesday, November 6th, many of us likely stayed up and watched the mid-term elections unfold. There were major elections in our City, in our State, and across the Country. Two days after the election, there are many who are celebrating, many who are disappointed, and many with mixed feelings. I find myself in the place of mixed feelings. There were results I found to be hopeful as well as results I found to be disappointing. There were individuals I was rooting for in elections they lost, while there were individuals who won which I wasn’t sure I cared they won.
Many deemed this election as one of the “most important elections of our time,” as if this country was at a “make or break it” moment. Because of the hype, there was record voter turnouts across the country. In terms of our Democracy, I think it is worth celebrating that many chose to participate in this election. Historically, the voter turnout for midterm elections has been abysmal. However, in some states and areas, more people chose to vote in this election than they did in the Presidential election. You may have seen the news story of a woman in her 80’s who voted for the first time in her life in this election!
As I’ve reflected on this election, I’ve wondered what motivated this massive turnout. Why all of a sudden did people decide to come out to the polls? One of the conclusions I’ve drawn regarding voter turnout is that fear was a major motivating factor. Never have I witnessed fear used by all sides as a way to motivate people to vote. Granted I am grateful all the silly ads on television are gone, but I honestly don’t remember a positive ad; nor do I remember one that didn’t pit individuals against the “evil” empire of the other side.
Our nation is quickly devolving into one of fear and fear mongering. As a result, we talk past one another, assume the other is the enemy and are out to get us. I wonder who is actually winning with us being as divided and fearful of one another as we are? What are the consequences of fear being the motivation for action? Fear certainly has its place. It can be important to survival. And yet, too much fear creates unnecessary anxiety, panic, and even hatred. It can tear apart communities, families, and lives. Too much fear leads to distrust and immobilization. Moreover, it prevents us from listening and being in dialogue with one another.
I think as people of faith, we play an important role in dispelling fear. As part of my devotional practice, I came across a poem the other day written by a Jesuit priest named Luis Espinal. The first lines read, “There are Christians who have hysterical reactions, as if the world would have slipped out of God’s hands…But we believe in history, the world is not a roll of the dice going toward chaos. A new world has begun to happen since Christ is raised.”
I don’t know how many times I’ve heard Christians remark, “This world is just headed toward the end.” Or, “You know things are only going to get worse before they get better.” As a side note, this is based on a misreading of Revelation, but that’s for another day. However, we are people of ultimate hope. The world has not slipped out of God’s hands. We need not even fear death for it does not have the final word. Life isn’t moving toward chaos. Though chaos might break out or rear its head, we should be motivated by hope. Christ really is alive. God’s New Kingdom is coming. We should be fighting for the nature of this kingdom and its motivating factor, which is love. Friends, there will be other elections. And more fear will be pushed at us to swallow and digest. I encourage you to refuse the fear mongering. Believe Christ is at work in the world and live toward God’s hope. Celebrate the victories of love you discover in the world. Advocate for justice and love. Have faith a new day has dawned and live toward it. After all, Paul reminds us, “Perfect love casts out fear.”
Peace and grace,