The news is the most obvious way to frame the election, but it is flawed in two important ways. I learned last week—ironically from an article in the news—that following the news closely is itself a partisan identity. I’m referring to an article called “The Real Divide in America is Between Political Junkies and Everyone Else.” (Yanna Krupnikov and John Barry Ryan, New York Times, Oct. 10, 2020). Surprisingly, there is a big political difference between Democrats who follow the news all the time and those who follow the news casually or not at all. They care about different things. There is a big difference between Republicans who follow the news all the time and those who don’t follow the news. The article also said that people who follow the news all the time, political junkies, are only 15-20% of Americans. So if I want a frame of reference for what this election is all about and what it means for me, following the news isn’t going to give me a complete picture.
Another example illustrates the difference between politics and spirituality. Donald Trump was diagnosed with COVID-19 a few weeks ago; members of Mike Pence’s staff caught the disease this week. In popular culture, this news is political: what does this reported sickness mean for campaigning, for voting, for public opinion? However, I would argue that a religious or spiritual perspective on this news would be compassionate concern. People are getting sick—in this case famous people, and people who are icons of a political movement. But seeing them as people first, and as politicians second, is what compassion calls us to do. If we ever wish suffering and death on any human being, our morality and religious values are in peril.
Finally, I am mindful that this election is one event in human history. It is certainly important, and feels like a turning point for the nation. Still, the issues that I believe in and fight for transcend this election. Equal rights and dignity for those who identify as LGBTQ; eradicating systemic racism in this country; eliminating poverty and hunger world-wide; an end to war. This is what I believe in. I don’t hear that as any candidate’s platform. I will support candidates who more closely align with those goals, but any election is just one event in these larger struggles.
Spirit of life and love, hear my prayer.
May all be safe in the election coming up. May voters be safe, may poll workers and poll watchers and poll monitors be safe. May all politicians be safe and healthy.
May we see this election as moment to voice our opinions and to use our power for greater love and justice in the world. And may we continue that struggle, before and after election day, every day of our lives.
May it be so.
Rev. Andrew Frantz