In the pre-electronic age, wherever people clustered together and built community buildings (city halls, schools, churches) the most central one usually had a bell tower. Someone would pull the rope and ring the bell as a morning alarm, or as notice that church was about to start, or in celebration. But the most intense, long pealing was used as a warning—Fire! Attack! Flood! It was used to jerk the listener out of their daily routine so they could race to address something momentous that might otherwise blindside them.
Picture me running to the bell tower and hauling on that rope.
I am going to do something a bit unusual and return to my public policy roots for a moment. Not to dive into politics, but to share a crucial warning that some folks may not be fully aware of and ask all of us—especially church pastors and other ministry leaders—to think through a very crucial question. (So please forward this to your church pastor if you believe that he or she would want to know this information.)
Many pastors and leaders have shared with their congregation or followers their concern about our country’s extreme discord and division. They say things like, “This is going to be a hard few weeks in the run-up to the election . . . we have a responsibility as followers of Christ to have grace with each other . . . and I will be so grateful once November 3 is behind us!”
We deeply need that call to be light in the darkness, and I hope everyone listens. But most people don’t realize the deepest “darkness” may only be beginning on Election Day. It is very likely that the discord in the weeks following November 3 will be far worse; it is not overstating it to say that we may again see violence in the streets this year.
I hope that chaos is averted—and please hear me when I say that it definitely could be averted. But in the policy-wonk community where I still occasionally live, the probabilities add up to great concern and the alarm bells are sounding among hundreds of election researchers and pollsters. That is why each of us must be thinking ahead now about how to respond then—and how we can lead others to do so.
Some of you will have already heard and thought deeply about these things. But just to get us on the same page, let me put on my policy analyst hat and share three likely events we all need to be aware of. I’ll also share a few big-picture ideas for what to do about it. (I’ll discuss what we can do about it, personally, in a follow-up article.)