The Sunday after the Election
November 13, 2016
Bonnie A. Perry
When life is hard and I am sad, overwhelmed, tired, depressed, self-loathing, insecure, exhausted, or when I feel as if my country is falling apart, I find myself saying, without thinking,
"Create in me a clean heart, O God,
Renew a right spirit within me.
Cast me not away from your presence,
And take not your Holy Spirit from me.
Give me the joy of your saving help again."
It's a portion of Psalm 51 and it comes to me unbidden. Yet, come it does, present, from a period in my life when I said this psalm almost every morning as I prayed for a bit, sitting on my window seat in my living room.
This psalm is in my synapses. I've been saying it a lot this week, something of a spiritual reflex, words that form in my mouth but seem to link to my soul.
Next week, the week after that, and the one after that, we can talk about and plan our coming actions in response to the tectonic plate shifting of our country. In the weeks to come we can delve into and deeply explore the theological, spiritual, and political ramifications of what it means to have elected a man, as an article in The Economist succinctly put it,
[to have elected a man]
Who led a racist campaign to discredit the incumbent, Mr. Obama. While campaigning, he abused women, the disabled, Hispanics and foreigners. He advocated using torture, and nuclear bombs, said his opponent was corrupt and possibly a murderer, and swore that, if elected, he would lock her up. Almost half of American voters have now given Mr. Trump an opportunity to follow through on that threat. Who knows; perhaps he will. (November 9, 2016)
Create in me, a clean heart O God,
Renew a right spirit within me...
Next week we can begin to move forward, right now, I am compelled to grieve, to voice my fears, list my sins, lick my wounds and marvel at this almost unexpected reversal of fortune, "As for these things that you see, the days will come when not one stone will be left upon another; all will be thrown down." Or, as our friends in R.E.M. said years ago, 'It's the end of the world as we know it..." Except I don't feel fine.
So we grieve and we lament:
the loss of power and the sense of safety and security,
be it real or imagined,
that we experienced with that power.
We grieve the ascension to power of an individual who spews and embodies racist, misogynistic, and xenophobic beliefs.
We lament the presence of physical and emotional violence linked with his movement.
We grieve the seeming loss of civility in public discourse.
We grieve the potential harm for people seeking refuge in this country.
We lament the potential loss of religious liberties.
We lament, the loss of shattering of a profound barrier in public life.
In short, many of us grieve the loss of our dreams of how we thought the world should be ordered.
We would be remiss if we did not also grieve and lament our insulation and isolation from so many people in our country; our possible blanket judgment of people with whom we may not agree; our willingness to remove the depth, texture and humanity of people who may appraise the world differently from ourselves; and most importantly of all our clear inability to work for and bring about justice for all.
Create in me a clean heart O God,
Renew a right spirit within me.
We long for something more...that longing and living and working for more, that begins next week, in a way, the likes of which many of us have not done before.
What does truly progressive Gospel-infused, coalition building look like? How much of our time, money and souls need we offer to transform our world? How might we, in the triple bubble of insularity, living on the North side of the city of Chicago in the state of Illinois, how might we meet and hear individuals, different from ourselves, so that we might truly respect the dignity of every human being? This then is the work of the weeks, months, and years to come.
But today, this morning, we grieve. We look for God. We hold fast to God's promise, to be with us always. We take some heart from the hymn written years ago, by Tommy Dorsey. While away at a revival, Dorsey received word that his wife had died giving birth to their son. He raced home. A day later his son died. Dorsey buried his wife and son in the same casket and ceased to play, compose in public, or have anything to do with music, the church, his family or friends.
But one day, as Nancy Lynne Westfield, tells the story, he sat in front of the piano and he heard a melody in his head, he'd never heard before, he began to play it. Then composed this hymn to it.
Precious Lord, take my hand,
Lead me on, Let me stand:
I am tired, I am weak, I am worn:
Through the storm, through the night,
Lead me on to the Light:
Take my hand, precious Lord,
Lead me home.
Although we grieve, dear friends, we are not alone.