For about a hour, I hated myself for staying up. As the networks began projecting the re-election of President Obama, the social networks ignited. People I knew began saying, ugly, mean-spirited, pseudo-apocalyptic things. I felt compelled to hold the center, to try and be a voice for love, and a reminder that good, decent, smart people voted on each side.
I am not particularly defensive of the Democratic Party. As I have said before, I don’t think either party comes close to having all the answers. But I am defensive of brothers and sisters, friends and family on both sides of the political divide. I’m also aware of non-Christian friends seeing this kind of ugly anger in the name of the Christian faith. I will be unapologetically defensive about these things. I received a good amount of encouragement from all over the political spectrum for this, but I also caught some flak. Naturally, the flak bothered me more than the encouragement helped and as the ugliness continued to pile on my Facebook feed, I was ashamed of what I saw. I became bitter myself. Why bother?
Yet up top it says “Good” and “Holy.” How did I get there from here?
Earlier last night, I got to receive communion in my worship class. Communion is a remembrance of what Jesus did for us. It is also a reminder that, as Christians, we are part of a new kingdom, a new covenant. It is a realm where victory was not won by force or war or political ascendency, but by sacrificial love. Communion reminds us that we are part of something radical that runs counter to how the world has always operated. I think we forget that sometimes; like during elections. I know it began to fade from my mind as I watched Christians point fingers, get mad, and insult others directly and indirectly.
So I shut my computer, but I couldn’t shut off my anger. I hurt for my friends who were being called indecent and stupid. I was legitimately furious that Christians would respond this way. I wanted to lash out. Fortunately, I had some parenting responsibilities that needed tending.
EA had fallen asleep on the couch beside me, so I decided to go check on Jim before taking her to bed. I cracked the door to Jim’s room open, lightly walked over to his bed, and listened for his breathing. It was so peaceful. After a minute, I sat down on the floor beside him and I just listened as his little lungs breathed in and out. It is one of a million moments that I get as a parent in which description cannot do justice. Yet it was wonderful. It was good. It was holy. It was real.
That’s when it struck me. Taking communion earlier that night and watching Jim sleep; those things were real, perhaps even more real than real. The political storm that had been happening all night was not. Don’t get me wrong. The election was actually happening and it was incredibly important, but it wasn’t real like communion. It wasn’t real like that moment with my son. States weren’t really red or blue. A single person in an office cannot really turn around a country single-handedly. Neither side really had the complete plan to fix the country. Mitt Romney really isn’t a soulless corporate stooge that hates the poor. Barack Obama really isn’t a socialist Muslim seeking to destroy America. America is not really the world’s last, best hope. Campaigns are spin, mirrors, and smoke.
I don’t want to convey that we can’t disagree (or that I’m apolitical). We can and should, just civilly. And, again, I don’t want to convey that elections are unimportant. They matter a great deal and there will be both good and bad that transpires because of this one. There always is. But as I sat there listening to Jim breathe and as I thought about the bread and the cup, those were the things that truly felt like they were going to change the world. And it was love.
When we usually talk about love changing the world, it’s usually a warm and fuzzy, impermanent feeling. What I mean is the love of God for humanity, the love that Jesus showed as he walked the earth, the love on which God’s upside down Kingdom is built. This love goes free from God to us back to God and to those around us. It goes to my son, to my wife, my family, my friends of all and no political persuasions, and even my enemies. It is humble yet powerful. It does not pick and choose who is worthy of love. It does not dehumanize other people. It is a dangerous, vulnerable love. It is a love in which one may catch flak or get run over yet that is part of what makes it so powerful.
So in those quiet minutes sitting in Jim’s room, I remembered love. I remembered that it is something worth living for, catching flak for, and it’s something worth passing on to my sons. I am not fluent in this language of God’s kingdom, often my owns words and actions muck things up, but I’m trying. That’s what we must do as we follow God’s most excellent way.
After about fifteen minutes, I stood up, leaned over Jim, and kissed him on his forehead. I walked to the door and turned back to look at that two and a half year old one more time. I pray he knows how much God loves him and how much we love him. And I pray that he will walk in the way of that radical kingdom that is more real than real. May we all.