Spiritual tools ground you in the shifting political moment.
Published February 13, 2017
I am sorry that this newsletter is three days late; I was distracted by a pinched nerve in my back and a breathless feeling in the country. Less than a month into the Trump administration, my media diet (to change metaphors) has become heavy and unhealthy, but perhaps not incorrect. From it,
I cannot help but think that there’s a divide threatening to cut the nation in two.
I cannot tell if my conservative friends, a principled and fluent group, choose not to speak because they do not want to; because they fear backlash from less-thoughtful conservatives; or because they see no value in talking; or …
I cannot tell to what degrees I am in an echo chamber, both of my choosing, to keep from thinking the abnormal is normal; and from external forces, like Facebook algorithms, which feed us news and opinions tailored to what we already believe.
The unknowing is horrible, but the pain of unknowing is neither new nor unique, and our Universalist heritage provides tools to cope. Some of the answers to our national crisis will be found spiritually, and I’ve noticed how often otherwise secular people are using sacred language to create a context in their new lives. That is one way we can help. (Even as I write these words, I know they evoke spiritulized self-delusion; I trust that each of us have come across good-hearted people who make irrational and magical bargains to cope with the world, cloaking themselves in their religion because they have no hope. Seeing such, spiritual solutions seem like evasion. With that caveat, I carry on.)
First, in an absence of empirical evidence, look for themes that point you forward. We do not know that liberal and representative democracy will persist in the United States, but our civil society and the courts are strong. There’s a well-evidenced capacity for empathy and mutual care. Politically inactive and neutral people are finding a voice, and this voice calls from all parts of the country, not just the easily-dismissed coastal cities. This reminds me of the crisis Universalists once faced when they counted up biblical passage pro- and con- regarding universal salvation. You can find both but when debate across denominations mattered, so did raw numbers. But in time, with maturity, it was the thrust of divine promises and action towards mercy, love and reconciliation, and the experience of God by faithful people that was convincing and timeless, and not the number count.
Second, examine the past for its own flaws. If you enjoyed life in a pre-Trump world, know that it’s not enough to return to it. Whether you look at incarceration, environmental degradation, access to medical care, race-biased economic policy or any number of harms faced here or across the world, it’s not enough to make salvation a private matter. Once Universalists inwardly knew God’s will and mercy, it developed into a social ethic that makes us face our sins and repent from them. Repentance leads to reconciliation, and the mending of harm. If we take this time to move, we must move to a place better than where we have been, and better for the commonweal.
In these ways, prayer informs action, and action informs prayer; they are not independent from one another. I hope this brings you encouragement, wherever you live and whatever the government may be.
Also: if you know someone who would like to join the Universalist Christian Initiative, please direct them to http://www.universalistchristian.org/join/. Thanks.
(The Rev.) Scott Wells