Long-term or short-term profit? Who benefits and who loses?
These are two of the key questions that I try to keep in my heart and in my head when we go into an election campaign. And this fall we are in two electoral campaigns at the same time! Certainly, there are different questions to ask in a federal election than in a municipal election, but the two at the beginning of this column apply to both. And sadly, I’m not sure the answers are always clear. So I pray for wisdom to discern the best way forward.
In the biblical book of 1 Kings, Solomon succeeds his father David as king of Israel. In a dream, Solomon is asked what gift he would ask God to give him. Solomon chooses to ask for “an understanding mind to govern your people, capable of discerning between good and evil.” God promises to bestow this gift, and in tradition, Solomon has been counted as a model of wisdom ever since. In our world, where we help select those representatives who make decisions on our behalf, we still need that gift of wisdom and discernment, although we hope that the people we elect will also have that gift.
As we enter this election season, I believe that we must stop and listen. Not the candidates (that’s a later step). We need to stop and listen to the world around us. Where are there groans and wails in the world? Who and what is crying out for relief, change, comfort, and healing? I firmly believe that when we hear these things, we open a window where God’s voice can speak to us. God has long spoken to God’s people asking for a new world, asking for a better world, asking for relief for those parts of God’s world that are struggling. We need the wisdom to resolve the various noises in our world to help us discern the best way forward.
What do I hear when I pause to listen? What could help guide me through this election cycle? I hear groans from the earth itself regarding climate change. What is the wisest way to deal with that reality? I hear the cries of the people at the base of our economic and social pyramids. What wisdom could help us create a world where everyone has what they need to meet basic needs, where poverty is left behind? I hear the groans of people tired of dealing with an ongoing pandemic. What is the path to the end of the pandemic? Which way do we go to reboot and rebuild later? I hear God whisper to me that some things have come to an end, that some things (maybe the things I love, maybe the things that make my life easier) need to be left so that new things can be started.
The path of wisdom can be found on political platforms. Or it may not be. There is no political platform on the face of the earth that corresponds to the Kingdom of God. As we listen, reflect, pray, and discern, we can make different decisions. The 20 of Septemberth, and on October 18th, people of sincere faith will vote for different parties, different views, different individuals. There is wisdom and folly on all sides of our politics. Anyone who tells you otherwise is playing fast and loose with their definitions. Still, our task is to look beyond rhetoric, beyond promises, and seek wisdom, vision, and hope.
I asked two questions at the beginning of this column. I want to endeavor to consider them as I seek wisdom over the next several weeks. When I hear the voice of wisdom calling in the streets, I am forced to admit that we are too good to think of short-term benefits rather than a long-term plan. I’m just as sure we’ve gotten good at asking “what’s in it for me” and not “what’s best for everyone.” I am sure that God calls us to look long term, to see how we can lift everyone up. The whispers I hear in my soul tell me that God wants us to think beyond the next cycle of elections, or beyond our own lives, or beyond our individual bank accounts.
The world is in a difficult place. To move forward, we must listen to the needs of the world and discern a way forward that takes those needs seriously. I end with one of my prayers, taken from a hymn by Henry Fosdick: “Give us wisdom, give us courage to live these days.”
Gord Waldie / St. Paul’s United Church