Every other Wednesday in The Kiddy Pool, Erin Newcomb confronts one of many issues that parents must deal with related to popular culture.I am weary of this election season. I’m tired of waking up every day to a new scandal, and I’m frustrated by the condescending and vitriolic rants that fill my newsfeed. As much as I want to check out from it all (and I know I’m not alone in that desire), I feel responsible for this election as well. I am concerned about the stakes of this election and its possible fallout. I will not be casting my vote for Donald Trump, but after the election, I will still live in a neighborhood where the only political signs are for him. It feels like Donald Trump is my enemy, and these folks with the signs are my neighbors; I’ve been called to love them both. And maybe that’s wearing me out, too. It’s not easy to find or feel love right now, and I’ve got a sneaking suspicion those who disagree with my politics feel the same way about me. All Saints’ Day reminds me that no matter how dark the times, I walk in the light.None of that changes the fact that we’re neighbors, in a literal and figurative sense, nor does disagreeing, however vehemently, with however much justification, get us out of that tricky “love your neighbor” clause. Jesus didn’t leave a loophole. I do not mean to say that there should not be dialogue and debate, or even righteous anger, but that too often condemning a candidate or a candidate’s supporters results in the same dehumanization leveled against one’s opponents. It’s so hard to take First Lady Michelle Obama’s advice to “go high,” when as Christians it’s necessary to speak the truth—but to do so in love. What does that look like in a culture fraught with dissension, lies, hatred, and fear?
As I ran through my neighborhood this morning, past sign after sign, I thought of what my grandparents might have said about these campaigns. I can picture my grandfather, waxing poetic, his grumbling interlaced with choice swear words for all parties. I can see my grandmother smiling and gently shaking her fork at him. I started thinking not just about the election season, but about the church calendar that’s propelling us toward All Saints’ Day. Recognized on the day after Halloween (or All Hallows’ Eve or All Saints’ Eve), it celebrates the connection between the saints in heaven and the saints on earth. I’m reminded of the way one of my former pastors started sermons; he’d shout “Good morning, saints!” pause, and add “Good morning, sinners!” We, the congregation, responded to both.We are all sinners and saints alike, but on All Saints’ Day, we trace our lineage through the departed saints who’ve walked in the faith before us. For me, that means my paternal grandparents, my maternal grandmother, and my mother’s godmother. I pray for them and remember them every time I run through a cemetery, where, mercifully, there are no political signs. I have always loved to run in cemeteries, but in the decade since I have lost my most faithful role models, my experience has shifted. I can’t get to their graves, but I can honor their memories as I move through the cemetery and beyond. And these days, I can think about the times they walked through: the Great Depression, World War II, the Cold War, Korea, Vietnam, the Civil Rights Movement. It’s not like they faced no social or political turmoil.
I don’t say that to belittle or minimize our contemporary struggles but to put them in perspective of the church eternal. There is the body of Christ, which exists outside of space and time, and the church temporal that must work in the world as well as it can. There are the saints who’ve lighted the way and gained their rewards, and those of us still toiling here. I have to remember that my children are looking to me the same way I looked to my grandparents. And it does not matter that the times are tumultuous, because they are often so; the words and person of Christ remain the same, no matter the historical, social, or political context: Love thy neighbor.
I know my grandparents weren’t perfect; they, like me, were both sinners and saints. Of course. But they gave me something that buoys me in what feels like dark times. They taught me gentleness and steadfastness and courage and kindness and love. Their faith made me want their faith. I want to be the kind of Christian they were. I miss them so much. On Election Day, I have one vote, and I will use it. But on every day before and every day after, the looming presence of All Saints’ Day reminds me that no matter how dark the times, I walk in the light. And come what may, I am called to be the light for those who look to me, sinner though I am.
Image by Kapa65 via Pixabay.