Love Your Enemies, Do Good to Those Who Hate You
About 2 a.m. on November 9, it was clear where the election had gone, so I turned off the television, took my dog for a walk, and stopped in our front yard as we returned to pull up our two Clinton-Kaine election signs. Later in the morning, I took a shower, but I felt unable to wash off the sticky residue of the presidential campaign just ended. I felt and still feel dirty; I feel like I've been inside the primate enclosure of some zoo where an angry outcast has been flinging feces and climbing, against all odds, to the highest position in the pack. I don't know that any amount of scrubbing will cleanse this.
I dressed and drove to the church to meet an electrician who diagnosed why our outside lights have stopped coming on automatically at night. I spent the day trying unsuccessfully to diagnose why the light seems to have gone out of the country, why it feels as if a darkness of spirit has descended, and what — if anything — I as a county-town parish priest can do about it. What words can I say that will uplift those who find this election a crushing blow, what can I say to those who will crow about the triumph of something paradoxically called "the right."
Later in the morning, I completed preparations for the next Sunday's Masses including writing the additional petitions to be added into the Prayers of the People. I had to add a prayer for (God help me, I can barely bring myself to key in these words) "Donald our President-Elect." I have to look forward to praying for him by name for the next four years and, as I have tried to encourage those who refused to pray for our current president by name, I will have to encourage myself and others to pray for this man.
The All Saints Day's Gospel came immediately to mind as I did so: "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who abuse you. If anyone strikes you on the cheek, offer the other also; and from anyone who takes away your coat do not withhold even your shirt. Give to everyone who begs from you; and if anyone takes away your goods, do not ask for them again. Do to others as you would have them do to you."
This is it. This is the test. Can we live up to it? Even as soiled as we feel, even as reluctant as we may be, can we do it?
After I had written an earlier version of the above few paragraphs, I posted them as my "status" on Facebook.
In comments to that status, a friend asked, "If [Trump] really takes action to hurt those who can not help themselves. If he makes the poor poorer, the ill lose access to healthcare. Do we support him? Do we pray for him? I guess I'm asking a theological question here ..."
I replied, "I think especially so. To pray for someone does not mean to endorse what they do or to support them as they are now. Simply saying, as we do in the prayers of the people, that 'we pray for our president-elect' is not to signify a prayer one way or the other; my prayer, when I say those words, is that the person be given wisdom and maturity and that he repent of sin and sinful ways."
Another friend then commented, "Sometimes the best or most honest prayer we can offer is a name, grudgingly spat from between clenched teeth ..."
The Clinton-Kaine signs I removed from our yard are leaned against the trash bin in our garage. Every time I take the dog for a walk, go out to the car, or go to the garage for any reason, there they are. I cannot bring myself to throw them away. It feels like throwing the country away!