By Owen Phelps, Ph.D.
Director, Yeshua Institute
Just before I sat down to work on this issue of The Catholic Leader, I tuned into a webcast designed to help Catholics understand the dynamics of last Tuesday’s Presidential and Congressional election and to consider how we can best respond as Catholics going forward.
It was an interesting discussion led by John Carr, Director of the Initiative on Catholic Social Thought and Public Life at Georgetown University. His panel included four prominent national correspondents with a ton of experience covering the nation’s religious beat.
I found the discussion interesting and informative, with some behind the scenes observations on both the Trump and Biden campaign strategies to appeal to believers.
I found the so-called “chat” occurring at the same time alongside the speakers distressing -- but instructive too.
There a couple of people carried the argument that Biden really lost the election in a landslide but that massive fraud skewed the results. No problem, they argued. By the time the Justice Department and the courts get done with the outcome, they promised Trump will be heading to his second term with a huge margin and mandate.
I also learned that those who don’t buy this narrative are communists and socialists.
So here we are more than a week after the election and no matter what the vote count, American Catholics don’t even agree on who won and who will be the President of the U.S. after the next inauguration in Jan. 20, 2021.
With disagreement that deep and fundamental, how is a Catholic to deal with the ongoing discord and be -- as Pope Francis says we should be – missionary disciples who strive to be Jesus-like Leaders?
With the firm hope and prayer that wounds are not so painful that we dare not discuss them, here are some suggestions for being a Jesus-like Leader in the days ahead:
- Don’t fan the flames. No matter what your personal opinion regarding the outcome of the election, don’t try to settle the matter on Facebook, YouTube, or any of the social media out there today. Our divisions and wounds are deep and heartfelt. Don’t make them deeper. At the end of the day, we all have to live and work together for a better nation and a better world.
- Recall Jesus’ own words in Matthew 5:9 – “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.” Time for us to live as children of God and try to be peacemakers. In fact, it’s a good time to go back and read what Jesus has to say in all eight of the Beatitudes (Matt 5:3-12). Several of them are very relevant. For example, Jesus tells us that it is the meek who “will inherit the land” (Matt 5:5). Let’s live as if we believe him.
- Listen compassionately. Many millions of our fellow countrymen are mourning the apparent outcome of this election. We, family, friends and co-workers may be among them. But whether we are mourning or ebullient with the outcome, we need to listen and perhaps help console people. Look for opportunities to comfort, sooth and heal.
- Be patient. No matter how you voted, let the legal process of recounts and court cases proceed to their legal – and peaceful – conclusion. We are not at war. We really aren’t. Nor should we be. Our disagreements may be broad and run deep. But we can get past this if we let ourselves do it – and don’t, instead, cause irreparable harm to ourselves and to our nation.
- Whatever the eventual outcome, accept it. If you are among the aggrieved right now, that’s fine. There are legal processes to address your grievances, and eventually they will be addressed. But if come Jan. 20, your candidate is not the one taking the oath of office, resolve to do your best to be a good Christian Catholic and a good citizen. Accept the fact that as Americans we not only have differences but that we are entitled to have differences. Sometimes we win, sometimes we lose. But win or lose, we are obligated to try to work together for the common good, no matter what the circumstances.
We can do it.
Way back in 1782, Congress adopted a Great Seal for the nation with the motto E Pluribus Unum: “Out of many, one.” It served unofficially as our national motto until 1956, when Congress formally adopted the motto, “In God We Trust.”
If we want to ever be one people again, a good place to start would be for us Catholics to start living up to the nation’s official motto. Our hope and prayer should be to trust in God to see us through and not do anything that betrays that trust or trashes our fundamental unity.
E Pluribus Unum. Our hope. Our prayer.