Donkeys and Elephants, Oh My!

Who am I going to vote for? Someone even suggested that I could help the congregation discern the right path by using code phrases in my pastoral prayer this week, tipping people off as to whom I think is the better candidate. That’s not going to happen, however well-intentioned the request. I hesitate to even mention it in prayer for fear that someone may read into my words some ulterior meaning. In many ways I really feel like Yogi Berra as he was playing catcher behind home plate. He was watching the opposing batter standing in the box making the sign of the cross across the plate with the bat. Berra said to the other guy, “Why don’t we just leave God outta’ this one and just play the game.”

Wishful thinking or stupidity! I know we can’t leave God out of our national politics, but if there was ever an election year for God to lay low, this might be it. Why? I don’t think God needs to take the blame for the mess we’re in. We’ve done it to ourselves all on our own. Why pray now when God has been bumped to the sidelines for too long already? Democrats and Republicans and every party in-between claims to be on God’s side and leaves my mind reeling. Give me a break! This election season has been nasty and I’m sick of it. I really appreciate the bumper sticker I saw the other day: “The Donkeys and the Elephants are fighting. If you want peace, turn to the Lamb!”

So I don’t want to leave God out! No matter who wins we need to pray that the Lamb wins. The answer to America’s problems are spiritual more than political, and until we get that through our thick heads we’re doomed. This country is always in better shape when we turn to God. I saw proof of that in Washington, D.C. a few weeks ago. Cindy accompanied me to my meeting with the General Commission on Religion and Race. As a group we toured the new National Museum of African American History and Culture. It was a powerful experience. It was easy to see how an oppressed enslaved people turned to God in their abject situation. On her own, Cindy saw more evidence of how people find strength from their faith in tough times. While I was in meetings, Cindy toured the Holocaust Museum and the Museum of the American Indian. These are clear examples of how America’s people have repeatedly turned to God and filled our houses of worship when times are tough.

On a free afternoon together we meandered down Capitol Hill and saw in linear fashion: The National Archives, The Willard Hotel, The White House, Blair House, the World War II Memorial, the Reflecting Pool between the Washington Monument and Lincoln Memorial, which we entered after seeing the Vietnam Memorial and Korean Memorial. The order of our steps held a deeper meaning upon further reflection, pun intended.

I literally reflected on our journey as a nation from lofty ideals to written words to the actions of soldiers and statesmen like Lincoln and Martin Luther King, Jr. whose “I Have a Dream” speech was given from the very spot where I stood. Ponder our journey and see the connections. We started with the archives and viewed the original Declaration of Independence, Constitution, and Bill of Rights. Next was The Willard Hotel where presidents used to go hang out in the lobby and were approached by those who courted favors. It’s the lobby of The Willard that has given us the word “Lobbyist.”

Next we went to the White House, and as many times as I’ve been to D.C., I had never made it over to it. I was shocked by how small it looked. The Executive office Building next door was massive in comparison, and the Blair House, which is home to the Vice-President, smaller still. Then we went further on to the National Mall and the war memorials.

I couldn’t help but connect the dots from the documents of our founding, to the lobbyists who try to use every loophole as an advantage, to the White House where Presidents attempt to lead our republic, and to the war memorials that exist because that leadership either excelled or failed. Commanders-in-chief have often invoked the Constitution goaded on either by higher ideals of freedom or by self-serving lobbyists, both resulting in soldiers having given that last full measure of devotion in blood. Standing near those memorials I couldn’t help but recall how as a teenager I attended the funeral of Bennie Clayton who died as a grunt in Vietnam.

If I can’t vote for God as Commander-in-chief then it’s going to be hard to vote for anyone, but I’m going to vote. I just don’t want us to become a more divided nation of winners and losers with mutually assured destruction and retribution that will consume news channels, court picks, congress, and everything else. A choice between a donkey and an elephant isn’t much of a choice, but the consequences are real. If you don’t believe it, then walk the streets of Washington, Aiken, or stroll the Freedom Trail in Boston. Walk the cemeteries, and see the tombs of those who gave their lives. Pray that there will be hallowed halls in Congress, the White House, and your house. Please, God, help us to do your will. Amen. Help us to pray for the USA and every leader.

donkey-pic

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14 thoughts on “Donkeys and Elephants, Oh My!

  1. Wonderful column. I so enjoy your blogs and your sermons are nothing short of stellar. I always leave the sanctuary with a big smile on my face and an even bigger one in my heart. Thank you, Dr. Tim!

    1. Thanks, Jonathan. Man, I miss our work together and fellowship. If y’all ever take a Southern trek, our door is open! Peace, tim

      Sent from my iPhone

      On Oct 25, 2016, at 9:28 PM, A Potter's View wrote:

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  2. Well written, Tim. I am devoutly glad you did NOT follow up on a Parishioner’s request to use coded language in your Pastoral Prayer to alert people on how you think they should vote. I hope all clergy (both liberal AND conservative) follow your good example.

    Tom Griffith

  3. Dear Dr. Tim, thank you for your beautifully written and insightful editorial! You so clearly expressed what this election should mean to all of us, and how important it is to keep God in our thoughts and prayers as we near election day. Again, thank you!
    Holly Feist

  4. Well said, Cap’n. One of the reasons we’re between this rock and hard place is because someone morphed “Freedom of religion” into “Freedom from religion.” What a difference two little letters make.

  5. Old Potter, you straddled the high wire well with this summary of the political mess we are in. That’s why it’s fun being a Christian, God just has one side, so it’s easy to just stay on his side. Once we vote for him, we don’t have to vote again. Just pray for our country, that we don’t go too far from God’s party!!!!

  6. Tim, this is an excellent article. However, there is one glaring error (at least it is glaring to me). You refer to Blair House as the home of the Vice President. It is not. Blair House is a home for Heads of State who are guests of the President. It also served as the Executive Residence when the White House was restored in the Truman administration. The Vice President lives in a home on the grounds of the Naval Observatory.

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