My election night

By the time I arrived at the church building, I could already feel it. That slow, inexorable, churning agitation. The anticipation and the uncertainty of it all.

Who’s going to win? Will we even find out before we all stagger into our beds at 2 a.m.? What if the other guy takes it?

Just how easy is it to emigrate to Canada, anyway?

I love and hate election night. Love it… because, well, I’ve always been a political junkie. Hate it… because I don’t handle uncertainty very well. (More than one person has helpfully pointed out this combination is a recipe for a disorder.)

Election Day Communion photos from across the US

Inside the church, two liturgies were playing out side by side. On the left, a line of voters waited quietly to cast their ballots — the last of the evening in my state. To the right, inside the sanctuary, a small gathering prepared itself to receive the bread and wine of holy communion.

The tension drained from my body the moment I sat down. Bread and wine were the antidote for my ballot box anxiety. This ancient ritual, repeated over hundreds of years, has endured while politicians and parties come and go.

And yet…

We allow politics to govern our lives in a way the Eucharist does not. We allow politics to dictate our anxieties to us, to decide for us who we’ll associate with and who we’ll disown. All of which is another way of saying we’ve fashioned our political loyalties into an idol.

When we who are knit together in Christ’s sacrifice break fellowship over political differences, we have swallowed the lie that ballots matter more than the people who cast them.

When we who kneel at the altar of a crucified servant despair at our candidate’s defeat or gloat in his triumph, we’ve been duped by the propaganda that says it’s more important to win than to love.

Back in the sanctuary, as we lined up to receive the body and blood of Christ, the last of the voters outside were lining up to receive their sacraments, ballot and pen, by which they would pledge their political allegiance.

It may well be a valid thing to do. Many would call it our civic duty. I did mine earlier in the day. But it’s worth remembering: for all that our favorite politicians and parties promise, they deliver shockingly little, apart from another four years of anxiety and division.

Whereas…

When we line up to reaffirm our allegiance to Christ through holy communion, we are given something far greater in return. In the bread and wine, we receive the grace of God all over again. It is a grace that will not discriminate according to political affiliation, race, gender, orientation… and it will not allow us to do so, either.

God’s table is for everyone. That was far and away the best news I received on election night.

7 thoughts on “My election night

  1. Beautiful. Thanks, Ben, to you and to the other pastors for starting this amazing movement… I pray that it doesn’t just stop with one night but that our Oneness continues to the point where it becomes the norm rather than the exception…

  2. I don’t know if there is anything that can or even should be done about this, but I’ve been thinking lately – I don’t feel like the political divide is actually the greatest divide among Christians. The last two churches we attended both felt politically conservative, but there were still certainly more than a few liberals in attendance too, which is great.

    But they were not diverse in terms of education. Our current church actually has “University” in the title, and it seems like nearly everyone there has some association with the local university. Our previous church was not a university church, but it was still highly educated – I remember the senior pastor saying at one point that the most common profession among congregants was teacher.

    Neither church, of course, had a sign at the entrance that said “you must have a bachelor’s degree to pass this point”. If you had approached the senior pastor and said “I dropped out of high school, may I attend this church?” I’m sure the answer would have been an emphatic “yes”! But, as welcome as they may have been in theory, in practice they were not there. And I think if they did attend they would have felt uncomfortable.

    So, maybe this isn’t a problem. Maybe it’s a benign example of people associating with other people they can talk to easily. But I do think, sometimes, that there is this “wing” of Christianity I just never see, at least at church.

    Of course the other big divide, more commonly discussed, is the ethnic divide. Maybe, again, this is a benign example of hanging around people whose culture we share… but sometimes it troubles me. I still remember a little conversation I had in undergrad, when I was less schooled in the ways of the world,

    Friend: “You should check out this Korean church in town sometime.”
    Me: “Oh, I don’t speak Korean!”
    Friend: “Oh, they don’t speak Korean silly. It’s just attended by mostly Korean people.”
    Me: “Then why do they need their own church?”
    Friend: …awkward silence…

    Anyway, I know that was not the main point of your post, but just some thoughts that bounce around my head from time to time. I will say that I saw two of my friends, on in Missouri and one in Florida, post about Election Day Communion.

    • That is funny, I was reading your comment and thought “that sounds like Lansing” and sure enough that is where you are from. We moved from Okemos a few years ago so I recognized some of what you were writing. Your point is an important one and my big question about Eday communion, namely what happens now? It seems likely that most of the participants will go back to “their churches” on Sunday morning and the church will remain as functionally divided on Monday as it was before election day. Events likes this are an important step but they really are just a baby step in a long road we need to travel.

      • David, I think both of the divides you mentioned are real issues in the church. Perhaps a close cousin to the educational divide is the economic divide. How comfortable, for example, would a low-income family feel in a church with a high average family income? Sometimes the divides aren’t intentional; we just settle into a pattern of association with people similar to us…and we inadvertently forget the church is supposed to be an entity that breaks down those barriers.

        I do think political division is a real issue in our churches. Many of the nearly 900 churches that participated in Election Day Communion described the tension between conservative and liberal members of their congregations. Hopefully this event did something to relieve that pressure. And then, of course, there are politically conservative churches where no liberal would be welcome…and vice versa.

        Arthur, that’s my biggest question about Election Day Communion as well. In fact, I just wrote this for the website: http://electiondaycommunion.org/2012/11/08/now-what/

  3. Thank you for sharing, Ben. I had the same sense of peace fall on me as we walked into Taylor’s Election Day Communion. It wasn’t big, it wasn’t fancy, it wasn’t long. But it was symbolic of believers coming together and claiming our oneness in Christ over all other things.

    “When we who are knit together in Christ’s sacrifice break fellowship over political differences, we have swallowed the lie that ballots matter more than the people who cast them.

    When we who kneel at the altar of a crucified servant despair at our candidate’s defeat or gloat in his triumph, we have bought into the world’s propaganda that says it’s more important to win than to love.”

    WOW. Thank you for putting it so eloquently and helping us remember and refocus.

  4. Election day communion was a necessary place of peace for me last night as well. I actually slept through the night and woke up this morning ready for whatever news there was. I appreciate this reflection. Thank you.

  5. Ben, I’m so grateful to have learned of Election Day Communion through your blog. As a fellow politics junkie it was a great time of healing for me. I’m also grateful that my pastor saw my excitement for having such a service as an indication that it was something God had placed in my heart and he asked me to plan the service. The time spent planning and preparing the message I would share was time spent in peace in the final and harshest weeks of campaigning.

    Our gathering was also small, but the Spirit was strong. We lifted songs of praise that focused on God’s sovereignty and our surrender to Him, I shared my message, our pastor led us in an awesome time of prayer, and then we shared the Bread and the Cup. Some of those in attendance approached me as I was packing up my guitar and worship team equipment to thank me for the words I’d shared. They told of how they had been so caught up in the election and what a blessing the service was to them, so I thank you on their behalf as well.

    I’ve followed your blog for a while and I’m brand new to blogging myself, so forgive me if this is some breach of blog etiquette, but you are a Christian writer that I appreciate and I wouldn’t have known about Election Day Communion without reading your blog – so I’d be really thankful if you took the time to read the message I shared with my church on election night. It’s not long, and of course I invite your thoughts in response. Thanks, again.

    http://justinbasham.wordpress.com/

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