Hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us. —Romans 5.5
A few weeks ago, I voted. Sitting at the same kitchen counter where I eat breakfast and pay bills, I filled out my little bubbles and then returned my ballot. Then I, along with millions of other Americans who also voted early, settled in to wait. Now, Election Day has come; we are in the eye of the storm. We don’t know yet what the destruction will be, or where it will go. Will there be a peaceful transfer of power? Will every vote be counted? Will the vote be suppressed by threats of violence? Are we even asking these questions?
All of the fault lines dividing us that have been exploited in American culture over the last four years will still be intact no matter when the ballots finish being counted and no matter who wins. Today, though, we don’t know where this will go. We are in a big breath of a moment, unsure of what comes next.
In Pittsburgh, and across the country, we recently observed the second anniversary of the attacks on the Tree of Life Synagogue that happened here—the most deadly anti-Semitic attack in our nation’s history. I heard an interview with Mark Oppenheimer, a religion writer who hosts the podcast “Unorthodox,” and is working on a book about the shooting. He’s been to Squirrel Hill, the tightknit Jewish neighborhood where it happened, more than 30 times talking to people about what life has been like. The host asked him whether it wasn’t “depressing” to write a book like that. Oppenheimer’s answer has stuck with me, and I think gets at a distinction that is what faith is about. No, he said, it’s not depressing. It’s sad, but it’s not depressing.
Today, as a parent and a pastor and a citizen, that’s a distinction I want to hold on to. The state of American democracy, dividedness, and demagoguery is sad. My LGBTQIA friends’ anxiety about the legal status of their marriages with the composition of the Supreme Court. Philadelphia, in my state, roiled with the death, yet again, of a black person, a child of God, Walter Wallace Jr, killed by police. Asian friends of a friend out of state who were threatened by their neighbors, the racist epithet of Covid-19 as “the Chinese virus.” There is more tragedy than I can name, at every turn. We are in good company there: from start to finish, there is way more trial and tribulation than victory and glamour in scripture, too.
In trying to frame this election day to my children, I want to communicate “the fierce urgency of now” as Martin Luther King, Jr put it decades ago, as well as the “unchangingness of forever.” The day after the presidential election four years ago, I made pancakes for breakfast, a rare treat for a Wednesday. That Sunday, I preached about the Nicene Creed; in my church and in my house, those felt like unchanging things.
No matter what happens in politics, our mission as Christians is the same. Who we are is the same. Who God is? It’s the same. In baptism, we promise to seek and serve Christ in all persons (it’s the all that gets me every time) and to love our neighbors as ourselves. In baptism, I remember that it is what God has done for us, not what we do for God, that carries us into the eternal.
As a Christian, the only thing I can come back to at the end of the day is the power of the Resurrection to heal, renew, and give wholeness to all the shattered places in this life. Hope. Hope that does not disappoint. What our children need from us today is what we all need from our faith.
Maybe we have been in a long stretch of Good Friday. Maybe it will shift, maybe it won’t. No matter what, though, our hope depends not on our own power, but on the grace of God.
Easter is coming.