PORTLAND, Ore. (PORTLAND TRIBUNE) — For those that have ears that hear and eyes that see … Normally, the scripture — from Proverbs 20:12 — finishes this way, “the Lord has made them both.”
But for this week, in this season, in this year, that phrase might need to be adapted slightly: “For those that have ears that hear and eyes that see, it’s obvious that this has been a really ugly presidential campaign.”
Not quite as poetic or lasting as the original to be sure, but it certainly hits the mark.
So, what’s a Christian to do these days as the 2016 presidential race hits its high point? Where can believers go to consider our country’s predicament without being called a bigot, a traitor, a misogynist or a deplorable just because of which candidate they support?
If you live in or around the Beaverton area, the answer to those questions are surprisingly simple — go to the Election Eve Service at 7 p.m. Monday at Southminster Presbyterian Church, 12250 S.W. Denney Road.
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Sponsored by Southminster Presbyterian and four other area Christian churches — Murray Hills Christian Church, Spirit of Grace, Christ United Methodist Church and Cedar Hills United Church of Christ — the event invites church members and the public to “join faith leaders in Beaverton as we join other people of faith to pray for the upcoming election.”
So what should the church’s role be in this most peculiar, most heated, most important race for the presidency?
First comes the role of the Election Eve Service itself and the part it can play in bringing people together.
“It’s been a long, bitterly-fought election campaign,” said Rev. Mary Sue Evers of Cedar Hills United Church of Christ. “Worshiping together the night before Election Day gives us a chance to pause, to breathe, to put things in perspective, to gain strength from God and from one another, and to recognize the resilience we gain from our diversity.”
“The ‘ick’ factor is high in this election. This worship service is an opportunity to take a long, hot, metaphorical shower,” said Southminster Pastor John Shuck. “This is an opportunity to decompress and to, hopefully, get out of ‘battle mode’ and, regardless of what happens … accept the results even if we didn’t agree with them, and build our community.”
“I’m delighted we are joining together around prayer that crosses bridges this election season, because never has our need for deep and abiding respect of one another been more desperately needed,” added Reverend Laurie Larson Caesar, the Lutheran pastor at Beaverton’s Spirit of Grace.
Next, comes the church’s role in the aftermath of the election. How can America heal in the post-election period when nearly half its voters will be bitterly opposed to the election and presidency of the winning candidate, and when many have suggested that the election has been “rigged?”
“We run the risk that on November 9, we will be a fragmented country and a fragmented church,” said Dr. Rev. Larry Snow of Murray Hills Christian. No matter who is elected, we “will be asked to unite a divided country. We need to be reminded that God is still at work in the world.”
The format for this service comes from the Council on Christian Unity of the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), which states that it “believes that Christians still can get together at the places of prayer as one body of Christ no matter what kind of political opinions we hold as citizens.”
Implicit in all of this is that Christians, like many other Americans, feel that this election is different, more divisive, more intense and meaner than any in recent memory. That sense, the pastors in this group of Christian churches say, has brought them together again in a new way this election season.
“I’ve never seen anything close to the kind of name-calling, belittling, indifference toward truth, and derision toward women, minorities and the differently abled that has emerged in this campaign,” Evers said. “Coming together for prayer and healing and communion is all the more important this year.”
“It feels like this election is different,” agreed Rev. Karyn Dix, Minister of Education and Spiritual Formation at Murray Hills Christian. “There is a lot of anxiety about the future, regardless of how the election turns out. I hope that coming together to pray and worship together will ease some of that anxiety. I hope that it will remind us that there is always hope.”
With all the fear and anxiety this election season has engendered, and with all that’s on the line, Evers directs her attention back to Scripture, offering this from Psalm 146.
“Do not put your trust in princes,” — or princesses, she adds — “in mortals, in whom there is no help. When their breath departs, they return to the earth; on that very day their plans perish.
“Happy are those whose help is the God of Jacob, whose hope is in the Lord their God, who made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that is in them; who keeps faith forever; who executes justice for the oppressed; who gives food to the hungry.”