Dear Nephews: On This Day of the 2016 American Election

found on: Creative Commons

My dearest Cubbie, Dodger, & Rex,

Today the United States is in the process of electing a new president. Like the rest of the world, Canadians are watching with baited breath to find out in a few short hours who that new president will be. While we aren’t Americans, the impact of the US election will directly affect Canada in many ways (indeed it already has).

It’s strange: by the time you’re old enough to read this, you’ll already know the outcomes of today’s election and the subsequent historical moments. In this moment as I write, I don’t know what the outcome will be. I hope I’ve geeked you all up enough for you to appreciate my smile, liking this little time warp moment.

I love the three of you with a fierce love that cannot quite be described in words. I want to emulate Jesus’ love for you in ways that will compel you to seek that love for yourself. I want to be that person you can look to and realize how flawed she is, how broken she is, and yet how desiring of love-in-the-world she is.

But in our world, love is abused and misused.

The American election has exposed this ugly reality on a rampant scale. Friends have turned on friends; family members have turned on family members; church leaders have shamed and condemned the masses; faith has become almost inextricably linked to politics; slurs have been used; people of colour have been dragged through the mud repeatedly (again); racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, and 1-issue political attacks have erupted all over social media; we cannot trust the media for balanced reporting; we cannot trust leaders to be transparent or truthful; and we cannot trust ourselves to see as clearly as we possibly can, our emotions are running so high for or against the other side.

The work of democracy does not begin and end today, my wonderful boys. It starts tomorrow after the decision has been made. Whatever the outcome we, as the generations older than you, must find a way to live with one another again in peace. It is by our choices in the coming days that we will be judged by you and your generation.

How now shall we live?

I’ll admit that I find it difficult to sit beside a person who openly ridicules or slurs someone who is LGBTQ+…or indigenous… or Muslim… or even espouses being “pro-life”. Righteous anger only takes me so far in standing up for what’s right, however. Anger must be tempered with a desire to be in community with the other in such a way that the peace Jesus exemplifies begins to emerge. And some days I don’t feel like I can do that, or that I even want to.

Likewise there are people who find me offensive or somehow not as godly as other people of faith. My beliefs and values stand in direct contrast to their beliefs and values, and in their eyes I represent the destruction of Christianity that has had such a powerful hold in our country for hundreds of years. For them, sharing a meal with me in peace would be a hard thing to desire.

My incredible boys… be peacemakers.

Desire peace. Chase after peace. Plant, water, nurture, and cultivate peace. Ache to be in community with people who are not only oppressed, but who oppress. Choose to break bread with people who disagree with you. Honour your feelings and emotions that inevitably come along with your beliefs and values, but learn to understand that your feelings aren’t the sum and total of who you are. When you begin to give your emotions and opinions their proper place, you will begin to be able to actually want to listen to the other person, even if that person says things that make your hair stand on end.

You will begin to want to understand before being understood.

You will begin to create safer spaces for people who have long felt that the entire world, including churches, have not been safe for them.

You will open wide doors that almost always remain closed because our trust in one another has been broken too many times.

There will be many opportunities to stand up for what is right, to support social justice movements like Black Lives Matter or Standing Rock. But there will be many more opportunities for you to choose to listen, understand, and embrace (even in disagreement), despite the reality that every inch of your being will want to shout from the rooftops the true and loving thing.

My precious ones… be listeners.

Even in your speech, construct your words so well that every person you meet — friend, stranger, or enemy — will sense that they are loved and made safe enough to share communion with you. Be authentic and true and honest, but temper your honesty with generous and expansive desire to love each person you meet even as God loves them. You don’t need to convince every single person of your political or moral position. You do need to show them you love them.

And this, by far, is the harder life to choose.

Be on guard for condescension in your love; beware of becoming holier-than-thou; be careful that your love is always rooted in the person of Christ — selfless and unconditional — and not in any political or moral agenda. For when you align yourselves with any political agenda, your love will be shaped by the body politic. Run from this temptation with every breath in your body. Be shaped by Love itself, and allow yourself to always be shaped. You are created to always grow and change, as will your love. Let it grow. Make it grow. Challenge it to grow when it falters, fails or stagnates (which it will as it does for us all).

My boys, you may not understand the turmoil and vitriol that has spilled over from our collective closets (and yet if things get worse, you may understand far better than I ever will at this moment). All I can say is that we need to work hard now to make peace, to make community, to create new paths towards life rather than death.

On this election day — the culmination of a terrible and contentious election season — I pray that all of you would choose to see how badly the world needs your generous spaciousness, your extravagant love, and your active pursuit of life together.

Tomorrow, the real work begins.

I love you all,

Auntie Erin


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