The Glimpse of Heaven in Each Person
Distinctly, I remember my father talking about voting. It was a conversation that took place one evening when my third grade teacher had told us that it was our civic duty to vote and that if we didn’t we were not good citizens. I remember thinking, as she finished talking, that my parents must not be very good citizens because I could not think of a time when they had gone to vote.
So, I asked the question later that evening to my father: “Why do you not vote?” He looked at me with a puzzled look on his face and then said to me: “I vote in every election. I have not failed to vote since I first registered years ago. Whenever we move registering to vote in a new place is one of the first things I do. I guess I haven’t made you aware of how important I think that it is for every citizen to vote.”
From that day on, each time an election came around—general, primary, or local—my dad would make sure that he talked to me about it and on each Election Day he would proclaim at the dinner table that he and my mother had voted.
This week, our election will be over. The campaigning that we have endured for months will come to an end. In the nearly thirty years of my voting eligibility I cannot remember a more divisive campaign. And the divisiveness that has characterized this election season has appeared on many levels. I have been heartbroken to see the negativity that has emerged in this campaign.
What has broken my heart the most and brought me the most sadness is that Christians have entered the negative rhetoric from so many candidates and people on both sides of the ticket have proclaimed that only their candidate can claim to be a “true” Christian. More than any other group that has been divided over this campaign, it has been the Christians that have been the most divided and the most divisive.
No matter who wins the elections, especially the presidential one, the divisiveness in American Christianity may not heal. And I am certain that this breaks God’s heart. It sure breaks mine. This past week I have seen article after article of pastors proclaiming who the best Christian is among the presidential candidates and how voting for the one of the others is unChristian. This is not what being Christian is all about.
My good friend Jane has been reading the writings of Joan Chittister, OSB, a Benedictine nun. Chittister’s writings have made such an impression on my friend that she has started sharing some quotes with me. As a result, I picked up a book that I have by Joan Chittister and began reading it again. The book is called Illuminated Life: Monastic Wisdom for Seekers of Light.
One statement that Chittister makes in the introduction to the book has stuck with me, I think because it is a concise statement about the Christian Life—which Chittister calls the “Illuminated Life” and she proclaims that this life calls out to us. She says:
“It asks us to go inside ourselves to clear out the debris of the heart rather than
to concentrate on trying to control the environment and situations around us.
It leads us to see into the present with the eye of the soul so that we can see
Into the glimpse of heaven that each life carries within itself. It takes us inside
Ourselves and leads us back out of ourselves at the same time.”
As this election season comes to an end and we need to live with the choices that have been made I believe it is important that those of us who proclaim to be followers of Christ spend time going inside ourselves and clearing out the debris that keeps us from looking upon all people as beloved by God. We need to concentrate on the “glimpse of heaven that each life carries within itself” and we need to study the words of Jesus as he called us to take care of our neighbors, to be kind and loving, to turn the other cheek, and so many other statements that suggest that living a Christian life is about putting others before ourselves.
I know this isn’t easy. Following Christ’s teachings is not easy to do all of the time. We forget. We put ourselves first. We often don’t know how. We are in good company because followers of Christ have found this difficult for thousands of years. And yet, we must try. For the sake of this world, we must try.
So, go out and vote on Tuesday, if you haven’t already. And then let us concentrate on discovering what it means to see that “glimpse of heaven that each life carries within itself.” Let us pray for each other, for our country, and especially for leaders in our country and worldwide.
To God alone be glory!
This is where I will vote on Tuesday, November 8.