Just Before the Election

This has been a very intense election seasons and I know many of us are exhausted and just want it over with.  There is a chance that there may not be closure on Tuesday night however as ballots are counted in districts around the country.  Two weeks ago in my sermon I concluded with three recommendations for this strange time in which we find ourselves.  It seemed to resonate with many of you so I share a version of what I said here.  As we live through a difficult chapter in modern American history, it will be important for all of us be alert, mindful and compassionate.  Here are a few suggestions that I myself plan to follow:

First, be careful of pervasive and increasingly pernicious misinformation on social media.  Twitter, Facebook and Instagram are built on a business model that requires they get your attention, not that they share content that is true.  Social media are powerful tools, perhaps too powerful at times.  Currently they are being used by both domestic and foreign groups and actors that do not have the best long term interests of the United States in mind.  The recent Department of Homeland Security Threat Assessment report states this very clearly.  So be careful about everything you read and hear and see on your social media feeds.  Use reputable sources for your information, including newspapers and sources for which you pay for a subscription.  And be careful when sharing anything that sounds too outrageous on social media in the coming days.  For more information I recommend this short video on misinformation in our current campaign season produced by the NY Times.

Second, be wary of voices seeking to demonize and sow seeds of resentment.  The novelist Marylynn Robinson aptly stated in a recent editorial that “resentment displaces hope and purpose the way carbon monoxide displaces air…  Resentment is insatiable.”  So resist that temptation: don’t let our impulse to resent pull our attention away from the crucial truth that what we share in common is so much greater than what pulls us apart.

Finally, take a break from the endless news cycles and make the time to reach out to people nearby in our local community and folks in your personal network.  Instead of Facebook, try some actual “face time.”  Check in with people you know in your neighborhood, even if they are folks with whom you do not always agree.  Put on your mask, walk across the yard or street and say hello from a distance.  Call up your friends and family and check-in.  A free and cordial exchange of ideas between people with different perspectives is what is missing right now in American society.  That’s part of what allows a democracy to work.

Remember that ultimately our challenges here in the 21st century must be solved by working together, with cooperation and good will, or at least some respect and tolerance.  It’s too easy to divide and resent, when the real path to human wellbeing lies in fostering connection and fellowship. I am reminded of the well-known and oh-so very true words by the Rev. William Sloan Coffin – “the world is too dangerous for anything but truth, and too small for anything but love.”

Join us this Sunday for our annual All Saints / Souls Day service when we remember and celebrate our loved ones who have passed away. We will be lighting candles virtually this year and reading the names of people we have lost out loud.  It’s a powerful service, even from a distance.  See you in church,