Last night was a tough evening for me. One of our major political parties pretty much handed the nomination to a racist bigot, many of whose ideas would involve significant injury to groups of people that the Bible commands us to protect. We’ve been seeing this coming for a while now, but I still felt a difference between knowing it was likely, and knowing it would happen.
For me, as for many, this whole campaign season has raised unsettling questions: Are these really the priorities of our neighbors? Have we collectively failed one another, left large portions of our population in the dust, to the extent that this man appears to be a messenger of hope? What has happened to our country?
And so, last night, I voted. No, I don’t mean that I went to a ballot box or even mailed an absentee ballot. I mean that I voted for hope. I went to the website of a woman named Glennon Doyle Melton, a blogger who has become an improbable force for change, and sent some money to one of her projects.
Let me tell you about it. Glennon Doyle Melton spent twenty years addicted to alcohol and drugs and binge-eating, but then she found she was pregnant. (Not married, just pregnant.) And she vowed to herself that this child would be her life and that she would quit drugs and alcohol for that baby, even though she had not been able to do it for herself. She married a man she barely knew and they set to work to make a family together. Today, she is widely-followed blogger, an author, pursues an active career in public speaking, and has created two networks for change: Together Rising, which harnesses the energy of the people who read her blog to funds project that empower women like the woman Glennon used to be, and The Compassion Collective, which does the same for a broader range of causes.
Recently, Compassion Collective has been focusing on Syrian refugees. Their last round of fundraising produced $713,000 for aid agencies working in Syrian camps in Greece, money that went for food, medical care, shelter, and solar-powered lights to comfort refugee children who are afraid of the dark. They held another fund-raising day yesterday; still waiting to hear the totals.
Why am I telling you this? Because I needed to be reminded, on a dark day, of all the ordinary, struggling, good people in our country who are still working to make a difference. Not through politics, but through the sheer force of their own compassion and the creativity with which they deploy it. I could have written about the men and women who guide visitors into their local hospital, or about the firefighters who risk their lives on a regular basis to help people they may never even meet, or about the nurses who manage to be patient with querulous people in pain, or even about the people in my parish community, who are tireless in finding ways to show compassion in this world.
I guess what I’m saying is this: it’s not up to our leaders to shape this world. It’s up to us. Each of us has a ballot, but each of us also has a life: the days and minutes and hours that God has given us. The ballot is a powerful tool and great gift of freedom, and every one of us should use it to support whomever we think can best lead our nation, our city, or our state. But of the two, the second is more powerful: what you do with your life.
I’m going to leave us with words from Verna Dozier, who wrote a revolutionary book called The Dream of God. She says,
“It is the task of the church, the people of God, to minister within the structures of society….Ministry is serving the world God loves. The people of God are sent to the world — the people of the world, not the kingdoms of the world, not the way of life that exalts one person over another, greed over giving, power over vulnerability, the kingdoms of this world over against the kingdom of God.”
How can you be a force for compassion today? How can you make a gesture (even a small one) that will bring the world one step closer to the dream of God, who made and loves us all? How can you vote with your life today?
- If you want to learn more about Melton, you can find her work at momastery.com. That’s also where the image with the calligraphy came from.
- If you want another way to help Syrian refugees (and if you live near DC), mark your lunch calendar for July 31st, when our parish will be hosting a falafel fundraiser to help several families in the DC area.
- It has been my faithful practice to remain rigorously neutral during election seasons. That’s not because I have no political convictions, but because the church has to be a welcoming place for people who disagree with one another about which policies and laws would best help all of God’s people in this country and in the world. It is only in such free (and sometimes heated) exchange of ideas that the best can emerge, strengthened by the very testing it has endured. But while I cannot endorse a candidate, I will not be silent about racism, cruelty, and xenophobia. There are times when faithful people are called to come off the fence. This is one of them.