Are we there yet? Even seasoned veterans of U.S. elections are beginning to ask this question that comes so naturally to children on a long road trip. Are we there yet?
By every measure, this has been one of the most difficult and one of the most important election seasons in U.S. history.
So, as we say at Lifetree Café: “You’re welcome just as you are. Your thoughts are welcome; you’re doubts are welcome. We’re all in this together. God is here, ready to connect with you in a fresh way.”
We have prepared some materials designed to help you keep your faith and your sanity next week.
First, there is an article by acclaimed educator and author Parker Palmer about healing the heart of our democracy. We recommend that you take a few minutes on Monday to read Palmer’s article and let it seep in.
Second there’s a prayer for Tuesday, Election Day. We recommend you pray this prayer before you vote and at noon.
Finally, there’s an Election Day Litany of Scripture and Prayers for those who want to go deeper on Election Day.
We urge you to vote. It is a great privilege that many in the world do not enjoy. Remember . . .
No matter what happens on Election Day, no matter who gets elected, on Wednesday, November 9th, God will still be God!
~ gerri & stan
Five Habits to Heal the Heart of Democracy
The human heart is the first home of democracy. It is where we embrace our questions. Can we be equitable? Can we be generous? Can we listen with our whole beings, not just our minds, and offer our attention rather than our opinions? And do we have enough resolve in our hearts to act courageously, relentlessly, without giving up—ever—trusting our fellow citizens to join with us in our determined pursuit of a living democracy?
—Terry Tempest Williams
“We the People” called American democracy into being. Today, the future of our democracy is threatened. How can “We the People” call American politics back to health at a time when, in the words of Bill Moyers, “we have fallen under the spell of money, faction, and fear”? One answer is close at hand, within everyone’s reach. We must return to the “first home” of democracy, which, as Terry Tempest Williams points out, is found not in a centuries-old document or in a distant city, but in the human heart.
A young French intellectual named Alexis de Tocqueville made much the same point when he visited our young nation in the 1830s, returning home to write the classic Democracy in America. In it, he predicted that democracy’s future would depend heavily on the “habits of the heart” its citizens developed, and on the health of the local venues in which the heart gets formed or deformed: families, neighborhoods, classrooms, congregations, voluntary associations, workplaces, and the various places of public life where “the company of strangers” gathers. These habits and the places where they are shaped form the invisible infrastructure of American democracy on which the quality of our political life depends. It is an infrastructure we have neglected at our peril, just as we have neglected its physical counterpart.
The heart is where we integrate what we know in our minds with what we know in our bones, the place where our knowledge can become more fully human.
When Tocqueville and Terry Tempest Williams speak of the human heart, they mean much more than feeling or sentiment. “Heart” comes from the Latin cor, so in its original meaning, it points to the core of the human self, that center-place where all of our ways of knowing converge: intellectual, emotional, sensory, intuitive, imaginative, experiential, relational, and bodily, among others. The heart is where we integrate what we know in our minds with what we know in our bones, the place where our knowledge can become more fully human. Cor is also the Latin root from which we get the word courage. When all that we know of self and world comes together in the center-place called the heart, we are more likely to find the courage to act humanely on what we know.
If “We the People” are to help heal our ailing democracy—and if we do not, who will?—we need to develop five crucial habits of the heart. That, in turn, depends on people in positions of leadership dedicating themselves to forming these habits in the local venues I named earlier: families, neighborhoods, classrooms, congregations, voluntary associations, workplaces, and the various places of public life where “the company of strangers” gathers.
An understanding that we are all in this together. Biologists, ecologists, economists, ethicists and leaders of the great wisdom traditions have all given voice to this theme. Despite our illusions of individualism and national superiority, we humans are a profoundly interconnected species—entwined with one another and with all forms of life, as the global economic and ecological crises reveal in vivid and frightening detail. We must embrace the simple fact that we are dependent upon and accountable to one another, and that includes the stranger, the “alien other.” At the same time, we must save the notion of interdependence from the idealistic excesses that make it an impossible dream. Exhorting people to hold a continual awareness of global, national, or even local interconnectedness is a counsel of perfection that can only result in self-delusion or defeat. Which leads to a second key habit of the heart…
An appreciation of the value of “otherness.” It is true that we are all in this together. It is equally true that we spend most of our lives in “tribes” or lifestyle enclaves—and that thinking of the world in terms of “us” and “them” is one of the many limitations of the human mind. The good news is that “us and them” does not have to mean “us versus them.” Instead, it can remind us of the ancient tradition of hospitality to the stranger and give us a chance to translate it into twenty-first-century terms. Hospitality rightly understood is premised on the notion that the stranger has much to teach us. It actively invites “otherness” into our lives to make them more expansive, including forms of otherness that seem utterly alien to us. Of course, we will not practice deep hospitality if we do not embrace the creative possibilities inherent in our differences. Which leads to a third key habit of the heart…
An ability to hold tension in life-giving ways. Our lives are filled with contradictions—from the gap between our aspirations and our behavior to observations and insights we cannot abide because they run counter to our convictions. If we fail to hold them creatively, these contradictions will shut us down and take us out of the action. But when we allow their tensions to expand our hearts, they can open us to new understandings of ourselves and our world, enhancing our lives and allowing us to enhance the lives of others. We are imperfect and broken beings who inhabit an imperfect and broken world. The genius of the human heart lies in its capacity to use these tensions to generate insight, energy, and new life. Making the most of those gifts requires a fourth key habit of the heart…
A sense of personal voice and agency. Insight and energy give rise to new life as we speak out and act out our own version of truth, while checking and correcting it against the truths of others. But many of us lack confidence in our voices and in our power to make a difference. We grow up in educational and religious institutions that treat us as members of an audience instead of actors in a drama, and as a result, we become adults who treat politics as a spectator sport. And yet it remains possible for us, young and old alike, to find our voices, learn how to speak them, and know the satisfaction that comes from contributing to positive change—if we have the support of a community. Which leads to a fifth and final habit of the heart…
A capacity to create community. Without a community, it is nearly impossible to achieve voice: it takes a village to raise a Rosa Parks. Without a community, it is nearly impossible to exercise the “power of one” in a way that allows power to multiply: it took a village to translate Rosa Parks’s act of personal integrity into social change. In a mass society like ours, community rarely comes ready-made. But creating community in the places where we live and work does not mean abandoning other parts of our lives to become full-time organizers. The steady companionship of two or three kindred spirits can help us find the courage we need to speak and act as citizens. There are many ways to plant and cultivate the seeds of community in our personal and local lives. We must all become gardeners of community if we want democracy to flourish.
If I were asked for two words to summarize the habits of the heart American citizens need in response to twenty-first-century conditions, I would choose chutzpah and humility. By chutzpah, I mean knowing that I have a voice that needs to be heard and the right to speak it. By humility, I mean accepting the fact that my truth is always partial and may not be true at all, so I need to listen with openness and respect, especially to “the other,” as much as I need to speak my own voice with clarity and conviction.
American Democracy is a non-stop experiment in the strengths and weaknesses of our political institutions, local communities, and the human heart. The experiment is endless unless we blow up the lab, and the explosives to do the job are found within us. But so, also, is the heart’s alchemy that can turn suffering into compassion, conflict into community, and tension into energy for creativity amid democracy’s demands.
Today we are in the middle of another election cycle. Once again, false claims, half-truths, hateful rhetoric, fear-mongering and demonization of the opposition dominate our civic space, driving out the genuine issue-oriented debate a democracy needs to survive and thrive. We need citizens with chutzpah and humility to occupy our civic space and call American democracy back to health. There is no reason, at least no good reason, why our number cannot be legion.
Election Day Prayer
Adapted from Bob Hostetler
God, your Word says that you control the course of world events; you remove kings and set up other kings (Daniel 2:21). So I pray, exert your control over the events of this election; remove and install leaders according to your “good, perfect, and pleasing” plan (Romans 12:2).
I pray for every candidate for every office, and the people who love them: God, be merciful to them and bless them; look on them with kindness (Psalm 67:1), whether they win or lose, and accomplish what is best for them, their loved ones, and their constituents.
I pray Isaiah 11:2 for every voter: Holy Spirit, speak to every person who votes in this election. Send the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and strength, the spirit of knowledge and the fear of the LORD on everyone who casts a ballot.
I pray for justice to roll down like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream, through my neighborhood, city, state, and nation (Amos 5:24).
I pray for your people to participate in this election and respond to the results not in a spirit of fear and timidity, but in a spirit of power, love, and self-discipline (2 Timothy 1:7).
As Jesus prayed, I ask for your will to be done rather than mine (Matthew 26:39). Dispel suspicion and hatred, heal divisions, repair the damage to and by your church, and restore the unity of our nation.
And, finally, Lord, I ask for the faith to see your hand in the results of this election, even as I remember those people around the world who have no voice and no vote. Let my reaction to this election reveal my faith in you and my awareness of my privilege and responsibility as a citizen, in Jesus’ name, Amen.
Going Deeper on Election Day
Adapted from J.D. Walt Election Day Litany
Hear the word of the Lord from the Psalmist:
I look up to the mountains;
does my strength come from mountains?
No, my strength comes from God,
who made heaven, and earth, and mountains. —PSALM 121:1–2 MSG
Almighty God, we come before you this day to declare that you are God and we are not. We stand in awe of your greatness. We marvel at your goodness and we bow before you, the sovereign King over heaven and earth. Our hope is neither in a nation nor for a nation but for your kingdom to come in all the nations of the earth. We also come before you this day to make intercession for this nation, the United States of America, and all its people. Come Holy Spirit and fill us with the wisdom of heaven that we might make effective prayers in accordance with the will of God for this earth. We come praying in Jesus’ name.
Lord in your mercy. Hear our prayers.
Hear the word of the Lord from the Prophet Jeremiah:
Look closely. Has this ever happened before, that a nation has traded in its gods for gods that aren’t even close to gods? But my people have traded my Glory for empty god-dreams and silly god-schemes. “Stand in shock, heavens, at what you see! Throw up your hands in disbelief—this can’t be!” God’s Decree. “My people have committed a compound sin: they’ve walked out on me, the fountain of fresh flowing waters, and then dug cisterns—cisterns that leak, cisterns that are no better than sieves. —JEREMIAH 2:11–13 MSG
Holy God, we come before you in repentance to confess our sins and to seek your mercy. We confess we know we cannot be awakened to your mercy until we have become aware of the offense of our sin. We have forsaken you as the only true source of security and prosperity. Instead we have trusted in our wealth to sustain us, placed our hope in our elected officials to lead us, and declared our dependence on military might to protect us.
We come now to stand with your people in all times and at all places who with one voice declare, “Some trust in chariots and some in horses, but we trust in the name of the LORD our God” (Ps. 20:7). Lead us in the way of dependence on your daily bread for our provision; on your kingdom come and your will be done as our path; and on your deliverance from evil as our protection. We pray in the name of your Son, Jesus.
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.
Hear the word of the Lord from the Prophet Joel:
But there’s also this, it’s not too late—God’s personal Message!—
“Come back to me and really mean it! Come fasting and weeping, sorry for your sins! Change your life, not just your clothes. Come back to God, your God.” And here’s why: God is kind and merciful. God takes a deep breath, puts up with a lot, this most patient God, extravagant in love, always ready to cancel catastrophe. —JOEL 2:12–13 MSG
Come Holy Spirit and bring near the grace, mercy, and tender care of God. Remind us that it is your kindness that leads us to repentance. Awaken your people that we might return to you with all our heart. Save us from religious demonstrations and lead us to the cross, where we might humble ourselves again before you. In Jesus’ name.
Lord, in your mercy: hear our prayer.
Hear the word of the Lord from the Prophet Isaiah:
In the year that King Uzziah died, I saw the Master sitting on a throne—high, exalted!—and the train of God’s robes filled the Temple. Angel-seraphs hovered above God, each with six wings. With two wings they covered their faces, with two their feet, and with two they flew. And they called back and forth one to the other, Holy, Holy, Holy is God! God’s bright glory fills the whole earth. —ISAIAH 6:1–3 MSG
Almighty God, awaken us to an all-consuming vision of your holiness. We want to behold you high and lifted up; your glory filling all the earth. Open the eyes of our hearts. We want to see you. Lord Jesus, you taught us, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). Would you give us clean hands and a pure heart. You taught us that “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6). We ask you to increase our appetite for all things to be put right in the world. Would you begin by putting things right within ourselves. Lead us beyond a place of duty and obligatory religion to an all-consuming holy desire for you, your will, and your ways. We pray in the name of Jesus.
Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer.
Hear the word of the Lord from the Prophet Hosea:
Sow righteousness, reap love. It’s time to till the ready earth, it’s time to dig in with God, until God arrives with righteousness ripe for harvest. —HOSEA 10:12 MSG
Come Holy Spirit, reveal to us the fallow ground in our own lives. Show us those places where we have become broken by sin and hardened by the pride that keeps us from even knowing it. Awaken us to the urgency of the times in which we live. We agree, now is the time to seek the Lord that you may come and rain righteousness upon us. And by this rain of righteousness, cleanse us from the scourge of insult and incivility of our nation’s discourse. Govern our hearts, our minds, and our words that we would no longer contribute to the discord but become sowers of your peace. Make us sowers of your Word, the ancient Word who is ever doing a new thing. Awaken us again to your high calling to be the salt of the earth and the light of the world. We pray in the name of Jesus.
Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer.
Hear the word of the Lord from the Letter to the Hebrews:
The fundamental fact of existence is that this trust in God, this faith, is the firm foundation under everything that makes life worth living. It’s our handle on what we can’t see. The act of faith is what distinguished our ancestors, set them above the crowd. . . It’s impossible to please God apart from faith. And why? Because anyone who wants to approach God must believe both that God exists and that God cares enough to respond to those who seek God. —HEBREWS 11:1–2, 6
God, we come today praying for an awakening of faith. Where we see brokenness, you see healing. Where we see irreconcilable differences, you see new possibilities. Where we see callous indifference, you see rising compassion. We are desperate for a vision beyond what our eyes can see. We want to see as you see. Awaken our faith, Lord. We want to be counted among those who walk by faith and not by sight. Walk us into a new day of faith carrying a new banner of your truth and singing a new song of your grace that nothing is impossible with God. We pray in Jesus’ name.
Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer
Hear the word of the Lord from the Apostle John:
This is how much God loved the world: God gave God’s Son, God’s one and only Son. And this is why: so that no one need be destroyed; by believing in him, anyone can have a whole and lasting life. God didn’t go to all the trouble of sending the Son merely to point an accusing finger, telling the world how bad it was. He came to help, to put the world right again.—JOHN 3:16–17 MSG
This is how we’ve come to understand and experience love: Christ sacrificed his life for us. This is why we ought to live sacrificially for our fellow believers, and not just be out for ourselves.—1 JOHN 3:16 MSG
Come Holy Spirit and awaken the love of God within us. Open our hearts to know the love of Jesus for ourselves in a new and deeper way that we might become vessels of your love for others. Deliver us from our love of power that we might come to know the power of your love. Make us agents of healing in this land; peacemakers amid racial strife, way makers against impossible odds, and door holders for the house of the Lord. Lord we know where there is great love, miracles always happen. We are in need of miracles so teach us the ways of great love. We ask you for a great awakening to the grace of God in Jesus Christ. We pray in the name of Jesus.
Lord in your mercy: hear our prayer.