Do not speak against one another, brethren. He who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks against the law and judges the law; but if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge of it.
— James 4:11
I don’t normally write about politics on this blog, for a number of reasons. I believe that the good news of Christian mysticism is for everyone, not just for people who see eye to eye with me politically, and so I am hesitant to alienate some readers with my political views. Obviously, some political bloggers write in order to persuade or defend their viewpoints, but I don’t think I am knowledgeable enough or eloquent enough to do that effectively. At the end of the day, I’d rather see more and more people engaging in contemplative prayer and a spirituality grounded in forgiveness, compassion, and joyful optimism in God’s lavish love, regardless of where we stand politically. I suspect that the more people embrace mystical spirituality, the more likely it is that our public life will slowly but certainly sort itself out.
Over the past few days I have already grown weary of the mounting rancor and partisan spirit that I see among my Christian friends and associates during this election year. This is true whether they are supporting a candidate whose last name begins with “M” or with “O.” Passions run high on a number of issues, from Iraq to abortion to energy policy to same-sex marriage. It breaks my heart when I see Christians (or contemplatives of other faiths) surrender their serenity and rootedness in the love of God for anger and hostility clustered around “their” issue or party or candidate.
With this in mind, I’ve made a decision, and I’d like to invite my readers to prayerfully consider joining me on this. This decision involves a commitment of daily prayer, in two parts. First, I have decided between now and Election Day to daily pray for the ongoing conversion of both the major political parties and their candidates for national office. When I say pray for their conversion, I am not questioning anyone’s faith. Apparently all four of the major candidates are regular churchgoers and value the spiritual dimension of their lives. But I believe that conversion is a lifelong process, and that God isn’t finished with any of us. With that in mind, when I look at both parties and their platforms, I see positions that I believe are contrary to the will of God. Yes, I see this in both parties. I’m not going to list details, because that will just engender fruitless debate. Neither am I going to go on record as to which party I believe stands in “greater” need of conversion. Naturally, I have my opinion on that one, and I am sure you do too. That’s not the point. As the Epistle of James so uncompromisingly states, “For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all.” By that standard, both Republicans and Democrats stand in need of God’s mercy and forgiveness. Both Republicans and Democrats stand in need of the conversion that can only come through the untamed love of the Holy Spirit. Joe Biden, John McCain, Barack Obama, and Sarah Palin all stand in need of our prayers.
So pray for their conversion to the love and justice and joy and delight that can only come from God. And, my friends, take it a step further. Here’s the second part of my daily commitment: I have decided between now and election day to daily pray for God’s blessing on all four of the major party candidates.
Yes, that’s right. Pray for God’s blessing on all four of them.
If you’re like me, you will probably find it easier to pray for God’s blessing on two of them — the two who more closely represent “your” views, passions, values, concerns. That’s normal. It’s normal, but it’s not perfect. And Christ commanded us to be perfect, in some of his most powerful and stirring words:
I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect.
— Matthew 5:44-48
We are to be perfect, just like our heavenly father who sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous. So please pray for God’s blessings to rain on both tickets this fall. Let’s face it, right now the race is a dead heat. So there’s a 50% chance you will be disappointed come election day. That’s true regardless of whether your vote will be red or blue. So please, for the sake of your own soul as well as that of the nation, pray for God’s blessing to shower on both parties. Pray for the ongoing conversion of both parties, but also pray for their blessings.
Guess what this little political/spiritual experiment will do? It will force you to face your own imperfection. If you’re like me, you will wince as you pray for the blessings to fall down on “those guys.” That wince is evidence of our own sinfulness, our inability to love people the way God does. I’m not saying you have to condone the political party with which you disagree. I think it’s a good thing to pray for God’s blessing to fall on all people even while we still continue to work hard to bring the values of God’s reign into the world, which of necessity means we will face opposition and political conflict. I’m just pointing out that the Christian thing to do is to love our opponents. And I mean love them — to cherish them, to delight in them, to care for them, to seek their blessing and their good, to want God’s love and forgiveness and joy to course through their veins. And yes, part of loving someone is being honest about how we disagree and to seek God’s justice and a spirit of humble conversion. But conversion begins at home. And as we all get into the habit of praying for God’s conversion and blessing to rain down on both parties and all four candidates, we will at the same time be opening our own hearts and souls and minds to the healing metanoia that can only come to us from God.
What’s the point of doing this? Well, I believe prayer changes things. For one thing, it changes the heart of the person doing the praying (that’s you and me). As our hearts change —as we are converted to live a more Christlike life — hopefully we can discuss politics with our friends and associates with a little less rancor and a lot more love. Hopefully we can find ways to engage positively and creatively even with those with whom we disagree. But I also believe prayer is more than just a self-help tool. The more of us who are praying for God’s blessings to fall on all four candidates, the more we can hope that all four of them will in little and perhaps even big ways live out God’s call for their lives. You know, whoever loses in November isn’t going to just shrivel up and blow away. The losers will still be out there, doing what they do. Shouldn’t we be praying that God bless them so that their efforts might be oriented toward God’s love and justice? And of course, the winners certainly need our prayers — even if the ones we secretly hope will just go away end up being the victors.
My dear readers, if you haven’t already done so, please carefully form your conscience and mindfully support the party/candidates you believe will best advocate for God’s love and justice. Some of us will vote one way, some another — and that’s okay. If we are all engaging in a life of prayer and devotion and contemplation, hopefully the Spirit will use us to achieve truly Godly ends in a corporate context. Once we have made up our minds, then let us remember to honor and love those who oppose us. Let’s remember to pray for the continual conversion of both major parties and their candidates — indeed, for all people and all political factions, for all of us stand in need of redemption and forgiveness. And let us pray for God’s unimaginable blessings to grace both parties and all the candidates. Indeed, may God’s blessings shower upon us all, regardless of our where our political loyalties lie. After all, we’re all on this earth together. Let’s love each other the best we can while we’re here.
One final thought: if you are a practicing contemplative, then you are likely engaged in a regular practice of meditation, contemplation, the Jesus Prayer, contemplative recitation of the rosary, or some similar exercise at simply seeking the presence of God. If this is part of your practice, please at least hold the intention of blessing and conversion for all people in your heart as you practice. I once heard Cynthia Bourgeault say that she thought contemplatives were the best hope for the healing of the world. I agree with her, with God’s grace. If you feel this way as well, then please join me. Let’s offer our spiritual practice for a better world.