Rebuilding from the Bottom Up: A Reflection following the Election

Click here for Cynthia Bourgeault and James Finley’s post-election messages.

Beside the streams of Babylon, we sat and wept, trying to remember Mount Zion. —Psalm 137:1

Every four years a significant portion of the United States is disappointed with the outcome of our national election. Still, this election has felt different. There was a palpable fear and anger leading up to Election Day, and for many it has grown even stronger.

This fear is felt deeply by those who are most vulnerable in our country. As a follower of both Jesus and Francis, my primary moral viewpoint is not based in the wellbeing of those who are on top but first in those who are at the bottom.

For the vulnerable who have now been rendered more vulnerable, I lament and pray and promise to stand with you.

A time of national introspection must begin with self-introspection. Without our own inner searching, any of our quests for solutions and policy fixes will be based in shifting sands.

I suspect that we get the leaders who mirror what we have become as a nation. They are our shadow self for all to see. That is what the Jewish prophets told Israel both before and during their painful and long Exile (596-538 BC).

Yet Exile was the very time when the Jewish people went deep and discovered their prophetic voices—Isaiah, Jeremiah, and others—speaking truth to power, calling for justice. Their experience laid the solid foundation for Jesus’ teaching and solidarity with the poor and the outcast.

Maybe some of us naively thought that we could or should place our loyalty in any political agenda or party. Remember, YHWH told Israel that they should never put their trust in “princes, horses, or chariots” (Psalms 20:7, 33:16-17), but only in the love of God. We must not imagine that political or programmatic changes—of themselves—will ever bring about the goodness, charity, or transformation that the Gospel offers the world.

Do not be afraid to allow conventional wisdom to fail and disappoint you, which is often the only path to wisdom. Imperial thinking focuses on judging who is worthy and who is unworthy, who is in and who is out. We who know about universal belonging and identity in God have a different form of power: Love (even of enemies) is our habitat, not the kingdoms of this world.

Our message is not primarily political, it is much more pre-political and post-political—with huge socio-political implications. We thus need to rebuild from the bottom up!

This election has solidified in us an urgent commitment to CAC’s work of action and contemplation, which now seems needed more than ever before. Grounding social action in contemplative consciousness is not a luxury for a few, but surely a cultural necessity. Both the Christian religion and American psyche now need deep cleansing and healing, and I do not say that lightly.

Only a contemplative mind can hold our fear, confusion, vulnerability, and anger and guide us toward love. Let’s use this milestone moment to begin again with confidence and true inner freedom and to move out into the world with compassion.

May God grant us both courage and peace!


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A Prayer

All vulnerable and merciful God,

We do not know what is ours to do.

We feel scared and alone today.

We are tired of taking sides.

We cannot hold any more fear or anger or rejection.

And yet we know so many of our friends feel unheard and unwanted.

Help us trust that no feeling is final,

And that YOU will have the full and final word.

If You are indeed a Suffering God, may we hold this suffering with You for those who voted for Hillary Clinton, for those who voted for President-elect Donald Trump, and for the many who have felt excluded by our politics in the many ways that we do indeed exclude.

We offer ourselves as best we can to hold this Love outward and open toward all, just as You never cease to do toward us.

We believe You are praying this prayer through us.

Amen

Click here for Cynthia Bourgeault and James Finley’s post-election messages.

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