After the Election: Living Together

{userlink user="morningstar"} asked me to help with a ritual after the upcoming US presidential election. As I wrote last year, no matter what happens, many people are going to be unhappy and angry.

I want to invite people to heal, to build bridges, and to prepare to share our differences as we all live in the same country going forward. I want to invite us all to remember that we're all human; we all share many of the same core values and needs.

How do you do that? Am I really going to stand there and invite someone who has been asked to betray their religious community as a condition of entering the United States to compassionately approach someone who wants to exclude all non-Christian immigrants? Am I willing to ask blacks, fearing for their lives, to compassionately approach someone who thinks black lives matter less? If I am inviting people to do those things, how can I do so while respecting their pain and meeting them with compassion too?

The actual positions on the issues matter. I do think black lives matter. I support religious freedom and a multi-cultural United States. Asking to treat people with compassion cannot be about giving their positions political legitimacy. I don't agree that these are issues on which "we'll just have to agree to disagree." These are issues on which our beliefs are strongly held, often issues for which we would use force to defend our values. Asking for compassion cannot be about asking people to give up that strength.

The paradox between universal connection and bringing strength to our disagreements is an old spiritual quandary. A friend of mine, Thomas Bushnell, did a great job of showing the Christian perspective. He gave a Palm Sunday homily in which he talked about Yahweh's love for his son. When Yahweh looks down on us, he sees the face of his son, who sacrificed himself for our forgiveness, looking back. No matter whether he looks down on someone who has spent their life helping the poor or a murderer, he sees the face of his son. He is reminded of his love for his son and finds that love for us.

Hearing that message from Thomas is particularly powerful for me. Years ago, Thomas also helped me understand the importance of strongly defending what we believe. He was talking about homophobia and said that you cannot be neutral on that issue: you cannot welcome those who would condemn gays into your life while at the same time welcoming gays and offering them your support. In welcoming the homophobic without challenging their position, you tacitly give it support and legitimacy. You create a world in which it is acceptable to hate. It was hard for me to hear that. I want to be a bridge builder and communicator. I want to be able to connect with many. However, when I searched within my heart, I knew he was right. Sometimes, doing nothing speaks as loudly as any action. Sometimes, to stand for the world in which I'd live, I must be strong and defend my beliefs.

Combining these two messages, I think I have my answer and the answer for this ritual. I can offer and invite others to find universal compassion and understanding. At the same time, I can embrace my own ideas and offer them with strength. When compromise and change are the right answer for me, I embrace them. When standing strong and firm is the answer, I can do that too while still offering compassion. I can love even my enemies. Fighting against those we understand and love may be harder, but perhaps fighting and shouting have become too easy. For myself, I choose love and invite others to do the same.

Of course, this idea reaches far beyond Christianity. In my own Venus work, the cauldron remains a well of universal love--remains the potential for what might be. Yet Venus's path is filled with strength and the need to choose the world in which we'd live. Many other paths also embody this concept.