Some will be disappointed. Some will be ecstatic. Some will be infuriated. Some will be relieved it’s over. Some will be taunting and gloating. Some will be exhausted. Some will be seething and accusatory. Some will be incredulous. Some will be resolute. Some will be nervous, afraid and dubious. Some will be worried and stressed. Some will be frustrated to the point of giving up. A few won’t care. Some will be further inspired and resolved to keep fighting for who and what they love, for how else can you endure?
Regardless of how this election turns out, sin is crouching at the door for all and each of us, for when emotions are stirred, sin feeds on our emotional reactions to reality, to what we experience, keenly when we are personally invested. We moderns, given our enlightened sensibilities, tend to dismiss sin as a quaint and antiquated religious relic of an unsophisticated and superstitious era. This is exactly how sin wants us to view sin, despite its insidious virulence and causal familiarity proven by every newscast and news article. Sin casually prowls forth taking advantage of every personal and social fissure, fracture and conflict. Sin salivates when we do what sins want all and each of us to do: to see the world as a wolf pack competition between predator and prey, between winners and losers. Compare sin to cancer ever-present, ever-lurking, ever-awaiting the opportunity to be cellularly released. Sin anticipates the opportunity when our spiritual immune system is depressed. Then it pounces and devours.
So how will you respond to this election week? How will you react to the emotions churned by this tempest of politics? The years ahead will be determined today. How you win and how you lose reveals your soul.
So dismiss not cavalierly how sin is aptly dramatized by the classical Seven Deadly Sins — greed, lust, anger, sloth, gluttony, envy and the granddaddy of them all, pride. Think not of sin as the polar opposite of what we consider good. See sin as the distortion of the good. Sin, like a contorted mirror, misshapes and corrupts our passions and emotions. Give us humans any divine good and our natural prism of self-centredness perverts it. Healthy self-respect gets twisted into disdainful and haughty pride. Ambition gets twisted into greed. Romance gets twisted into self-serving lust. Admiration gets twisted into envy. Righteous indignation over wrong gets twisted into ogreish wrath. Sane boundaries get twisted into apathy and indifference. Epicurean delight gets twisted into gluttony.
You can play this game of sin yourself. Take any virtue and shine it through the prism of self-centredness and what do you get? Patriotism plus sin equals...? Power plus sin equals ...? Motherly love plus sin equals ...? Success plus sin equals ...? Popularity plus sin equals ...? Tolerance plus sin equals ...? Now do you see why we need to be earnest in prayer, lest even hate, prejudice and cruelty be justified as good?
So we pray this election week.
First, we pray for our candidates-elect, those chosen to a new term of public service and the virtue of government (for if “men were angels, we’d have no need of government,” – Alexander Hamilton). May they appreciate the dignity and nobility of their high calling, ever guided by wise and edifying use of authority.
Second, we pray for those who failed to gain sufficient votes for office. May they gain insight about themselves. Grant them grace in defeat and meaning in loss.
Third, we pray for the president and vice-president-elect. Grant them compassion, sound judgment. May they ever appreciate, with all humility, the burden of their duties. Give them an eye to their legacy by reminding them that they are mortal and that all nations before God are a “drop in the bucket,” chalk on concrete, yet gloriously bestowed with the rare and binding privilege during these days to ensure justice among the people they serve — protecting them, insuring peace and domestic tranquility, promoting their happiness, defending the poor, the orphans, the widows and those who have no helper.
Fourth, we pray this week especially for us each and all, ever called to be the loving conscience of the nation, ever called to work hard, fighting the good fight, entrusted with the responsibility to further the good as our God reveals the good, ever called to hold all and each to account that we may be worthy of our time and place.
Amen and Amen.
The Rev. Robert Andrews is retired pastor of Grove Presbyterian Church in Danville. Read more of his work at robertjohnandrews.com.