In 1861, with civil war raging in our country, and in his first inaugural address, Abraham Lincoln closed that address with these words.
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battle-field, and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearth-stone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.
I have been thinking about that line a lot in these last few days. “the better angels of our nature” I used that quote in my All Saints sermon before the election, and it seem every bit as appropriate after it. We have just witnessed, and lived through, the most contentious, the most divisive, the most demeaning election, perhaps in history, certainly in my lifetime. I believe we did ourselves little honor in it, no matter what side you are on. But, with the campaign over, we do not have to allow this to define us, and most definitely we have to work so that it does not continue.
We woke up Wednesday morning either elated, or deeply troubled and sad. There seemed to be little in between. That disparity only further reflects the deep division in our land. Perhaps blood is not being spilled as gratuitously as it was during our Civil War, but civil war, in this generation’s country, is still very real.
There were many hurtful and disparaging words spewed in this election. We should be careful with them, and leaders even more. I wish more care had been used with them during the campaign, and I pray that this will be heeded now that it’s over.
Many are rightfully afraid because of those words, and the intent of them. My wife, who teaches at a local college, received a text early this morning from a Muslim student wondering if she should come to school. Our Refugee Resettlement Office has, in just 24 hours, become a mournful place with a deeply forboding and uncertain future. I cannot tell you how many times I heard today, either in person, or in interviews online and on the television, that this morning was described like the day after 9/11.
But I also heard very hopeful stories too. A person conveyed to me that a man at her church was a huge Trump supporter, and the two of them had, for the most part, jokingly pushed and prodded one another these last months. This morning, he called her, genuinely asking, “how are you doing this morning, I care about you far more than I do the outcome of this election.”
It is the small gestures like that which will get us to a new place. This represents the “better angels of our nature”, and certainly reflects more the Way of the One we follow and are called to reveal in the lives we live, Jesus Christ.
We will remain divided on many of the issues. There is nothing inherently wrong with that. We, being humans, and living in community will never see things completely the same. But, through our differences, that same humanity, and even more the God that blesses us with our very lives, calls us to rise above what divides us, and to see again, what binds us together.
That will not be easy. It will take a lot of intention.
We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.
The pendulum of politics swings endlessly from one extreme to the other. Our brother Jesus was caught in this same realty, over 2000 years ago: different time, different place, some of the same issues. A vote reveals many things, the hopes, the dreams, the aspirations, and the fears of people. But we should not forget how blessed we are to be in a place where we can vote in the first place, and where we have more than just a modicum of belief that our vote will be counted, and where, even after the votes are counted, we still have a voice, and the right to agree or disagree with whatever direction this vote sets in motion. That is not perfect, but it is certainly better than just about any other place on this planet.
We should learn from all these revelations. We should take heart in what Paul reminds us of in his letter to the Romans,
For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
If one good thing could comes out of this election, no matter if you are celebrating today, or despondent, it would be the realization that if we do not walk toward one another, if we do not aggressively repair our relationships, we are destined for only more of the same.
It will take all of us working at it. I pray we will, … live from, and live out, the better angels of our nature.