Oct  2016 25
Why I'm Fasting on Election Day

Many religious traditions include the practice of fasting as a means to cleanse body, mind, and spirit. On Tuesday, Nov. 8, Election Day, I’m going to fast and I’m encouraging the seminary community to consider doing the same. I’m feeling a strong need to reflect, to cleanse, and to repent.

I’ve read self-descriptions from persons, and I’ve been around many friends and acquaintances, who are saying this election cycle has caused them to feel icky, yucky, dirty, and that they need to take a shower.

In recent weeks, Facebook friends have either refrained from any political discussion or otherwise slimmed down their Facebook diet. They could not handle the negativity and vitriol returned when commenting on anything political.

I share the feelings of ick, yuck, and needing a shower. I offer the following reasons on why I am feeling that way.

Perhaps it is needless to say, but these are MY perceptions, given my moral and religious and cultural sensibilities. And while I use examples from both candidates, I am not asserting an equivalence between the amount of “yuck” in what one said and what another said. Sometimes, one person’s speech is simply worse or better, in comparison to the other.

  • The American public has been degraded in this election. Currently, The New York Times is tracking Mr. Trump’s insults. They’ve counted 281 people, places, things Mr. Trump has insulted. And Mrs. Clinton’s “basket of deplorables” comment upsets me deeply.
  • There is so much anger, and shame. Anger is an expression of pain, hurt, a sense of injustice. How we the American people frame justice and injustice has not been addressed. Combine the anger with the insults and we should expect to find shame—that sense that there is something wrong with me. And shame can be the mother of violence.
  • “The other side” (and why is that binary, as if there are only two sides?) has become the Enemy rather than My Worthy Opponent.
  • Race has been, arguably, a larger issue for the last two years in American public life than at any time since the 1960s. There was little constructive talk in the campaigns about race, and there needed to be such talk.
  • There are people in the U.S. being left behind in the global economy, in Appalachia, in the cities, in rural areas, and in not a few suburbs. For years, sociologists have been talking about the creation of a permanent underclass. Where was that discussion?
  • The rhetoric about women from Mr. Trump has been disgusting. Disgusting.
  • We Christian folks, from whichever side (and there are multiple, not only two), have not been able to change the rhetoric into something more helpful and civil. In my opinion, we Christians lack the power and perhaps the will to change the rhetoric. Too many of us have bought into the demonization of the other. I don’t think there were many examples in the campaign of “going high when they go low.”
  • The so-called debates—absolutely, hands down, the poorest excuses for debates I can recall—were, yes, nasty.
  • Whoever wins is going to have to deal with the residual negativity, the vinegar amply poured into the public well. We saw no evidence that either candidate will have the moral capital and potential trust to change the political, rhetorical culture for the better. Anger evoked into public life, from multiple points, may look for new champions (or a resurrected losing candidate with his own TV network) and new expressions of resistance and revenge. I expect the talk of “the revolution we need” to strengthen after the election. Who will change the quality of the rhetoric? I fear the election won’t end the stream of vinegar souring our well and pickling the American spirit.
  • There were so many words, so little wisdom, and—according to the fact-checkers—many instances of bearing false witness.
  • The damaging connection between money and dirt was reinforced. Now, I hate the Citizens United decision. Foundations should be above-board in all their dealings. We the Public should see candidates’ tax returns and, if someone makes a great deal of money speaking to one interest group, it is well that We the Public know about it. But money is not, in and of itself, dirty and neither are the people who have wealth. How in the world are we going to rebuild the nation’s transportation and energy systems, reform and fittingly fund education, re-tool various economic sectors, and offer good quality and affordable health care without more money?

So, I will fast on Nov. 8, and I’ll ask the seminary community to join me. I’ll take some time to reflect: What were my own small contributions to a failed process? What were the ways I got hooked and then blinded to all but my own opinion? For which actions or inactions do I need to repent, to turn and do differently, regardless of who is elected?

How about you? Will you join in a fast, for similar or your own reasons?

Next week, I’ll publish the litany of repentance that will be used in chapel on Election Day.

 

Browse more posts by: Gary Peluso-Verdend, Phillips President
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