Is this really the time for unity in America?
From a spiritual perspective, the answer might be Yes. Typically, I’m a hopeful, glass-half-full kind of person. So my default answer to such a question will almost always err on the side of peace, unity, and healing.
At this moment in our country, however, I am not convinced these are the ideals to pursue above all others — especially after the whirlwind of recent events in Washington, D.C. and elsewhere. They leave me seeking a place where not just unity and healing, but also truth, justice, and fearless love all intersect.
I wonder: can there be genuine unity or lasting peace so soon after our Capitol has been violently attacked by supporters of the soon-to-be-former president? Is this not also a time for truth telling and justice seeking in regard to the perpetrators of debunked conspiracy theories, planners of violent destruction, and active encouragers of insurrection? I believe it is.
A sacred text shared by Jews and Christians has a great deal of wisdom to offer at this moment in our history. In the third chapter of the Book of Ecclesiastes (Qohelet among Jewish people), the writer speaks of seasons for every imaginable eventuality:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted (etc.).
As the writer indicates, however, these seasons are appointed by God, not us. Our spiritual work is to figure out which God-given season we’re in and discover our role in the midst of it. In a time of intense conflict, the “right” spiritual work for some might be the pursuit of truth and justice. For others, it might be dialogue to encourage greater understanding across our many lines of division. Meanwhile, others might feel compelled to run for elected office. All these things can be holy and sacred pursuits, and all can contribute in their own ways to eventual healing and unity.
Lately, I’ve also been reminded of wisdom from a British clergyman, William Jay. In the early 19th century, he lamented the many divisions among his fellow Christians. Noting that Jesus prayed for his followers to “be one” as he and God are one, Jay asked poignantly that if his hearers “cannot be of one mind,” isn’t the next best alternative to be “of one heart”? The spiritual effort most needed now is to hold our fellow citizens in our hearts, even when we adamantly disagree with each other’s ideas.
This is my prayer for our nation:
O God, you know we are not of one mind regarding what’s best for our country. Help us, in the midst of our unhappy divisions, to seek to be of one heart. God, you know this better than us: we’re one people trying to live together in one nation on one planet. Show us that only an unshakeable love of truth, justice, and all our neighbors will be able to carry us through this time of trial — together.