It’s important to remember those we elect are more like us than not.

Published October 25, 2016

Greetings, friends:

Before the next newsletter, the United States will have a general election, and it is in the spirit of an Election Day sermon that I write you.

Living in Washington, D.C., I may have a different impression than many of you of elections in general. Not being a state — though there is a referendum on our ballot this year to petition the Congress for statehood — we don’t have senators or a voting representative, so don’t have those elections. And since D.C. is overwhelmingly Democratic, there’s almost no presidential campaigning. Our last-in-the-nation primary means we have no influence in the presidential selection process, either.

But if our elections are mostly calm and municipal, the city jitters. Issues of governance, treated as arcane elsewhere, are part of the economy and social fabric here. And so when popular films and television shows depict violent attacks on the government — like this season’s new show, Designated Survivor — I sense that a mistrust in governance is more than a partisan matter and has become a cultural one. The idea of government itself is threatened, and that that’s not acceptable. (For the record, I refuse to watch my adopted hometown getting blown up.)

I’m not dwelling in the philosophical. We rely on elected officials to make and enact the laws. Justice and equity are inspiring thoughts, but not abstractions; there’s a human factor. Lawmakers, their counselors and staff are human beings, with the usual complement of needs and emotions, and within the reasonable demands of just and ethical behavior, they deserve our patience and prayers. It’s not easy work, even if there are those who would try to over-simplify it.

As Universalist Christians, we know well that thoughts cannot live in the mind and have to be applied to live, and very often that comes through messy work and inconvenient compromise. Prayerful concern “for those in authority” in a democratic society is not about deferring to power for power’s sake, but mindfully splitting our regard for our neighbor between them, and those who are affected by the acts of governing. And when political discourse grows grim, that’s hard to do. Our place, then, is to improve the tone of that discourse. That, and vote, of course.

Sincerely yours,

(The Rev.) Scott Wells