By David Hegg
In two days, America will begin the chore of finalizing Election 2020. With early voting, vote-by-mail, and election day in-person voting, chances are good we won’t know the outcome by sunrise on Wednesday, and maybe longer. And then what?
For over 200 years our republic has prided itself in peaceful transitions of power as incumbents give way to those chosen by the people to replace them. For centuries it has been customary for those on the short end of the ballot count to show maturity and class while congratulating their opponent’s victory. We’ve always been a country that prized collegiality, knowing that e pluribus unum was not just a slogan, but the very fiber of our national strength.
But I greatly fear things have changed.
I recently read that 56% of the population believe there will be violence after a winner is confirmed in the race for president. Sadly, this comes as no surprise. After all, we’ve watched riots and violent protests, arson and looting, and even the attempted murder of law enforcement officers in the last six months on a scale largely unseen before.
Scenes from Seattle and Portland make us think we’re watching some Third World country battling on the streets. Is this the America we all want? Are we so immature that we believe violence is the best way to bring about change?
Here’s the deal: Injustice is wrong even if those perpetrating it are doing so in order to bring about justice. Seems to me this is just plain obvious on its face.
At issue is this great ethical question: Is it ever right to do wrong in order to do right? Of course, this question actually sits atop a mountain of ethical questions that we don’t have the time to list, much less answer.
But, if we turn to just one facet of this ethical dilemma, I hope we can agree to this: It is always unjust to do in the name of justice what we call injustice when others do it. If you were unjust to burn down my house, then it is not just for me to burn yours down. Two evils do not justice make.
And that brings us to the issue of what will transpire in our country, in our states, in our cities, streets and neighborhoods after the election. Will our political leaders continue the tradition of a peaceful transition of power? I pray they will since the stability of the country is much more important than any candidate or party. And will those whose candidates win celebrate with humility, decorum and class? I pray they will, and in so doing show why those who put them in power were right to do so. And will those whose candidates lose congratulate the winners and pledge to pray for, and honor them in a sincere attempt to heal the divisiveness that now plagues us? I pray they will, but my fears persist.
And if my fears are fulfilled, we will watch those who loudly crowed about their love of country and their desire to serve and heal our land prove, by their selfish actions, who they really are, and — perhaps — why they lost the race.
So, friends, after enduring a long political season, and having voted our consciences, we still have work ahead of us. Let us pray for our nation regardless of who wins. Let us serve our neighbors regardless of our differences. And let us strive to be the best examples of ourselves, despite the circumstances, lest the promise of “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” become just a dream in our collective rear-view mirror.
Local resident David Hegg is senior pastor of Grace Baptist Church. “Ethically Speaking” appears Sundays.