“This Presidential election is the most important we’ve faced in American history.”
This bold and dramatic claim is made in the run-up to every presidential election. And it is always true, to varying degrees. Simply because it’s the executive leadership choice our nation is making at the moment.
But few would argue the decision we’ll be making as a nation on November 3, 2020, is like any other. Opinions on which presidential candidate will be best for our country are as strongly and passionately held as they have been, perhaps, ever.
But what about November 4, the day after the election? Whatever happens, we will have roughly half of the nation celebrating, while the other will certainly not. Emotions will be extremely raw. But here is an equally important choice we must all make as citizens in light of that outcome: How do we move on as a nation as “We the people” after this decision is made? To be sure, the answer to this question will be just as important and consequential as which President we choose.
This critical challenge is being taken up by a new citizen-based effort entitled With Malice Toward None developed by an interesting mix of unapologetic Red and Blue Americans who make up the volunteer organization Braver Angels. It’s an effort to encourage religious and civic groups, as well as college campuses and universities, to come together in the days and weeks following our November election to collectively ask “Now what?” toward the end of healing our nation and becoming a people, to use the vaunted words of Abraham Lincoln, who enter the future ‘with malice toward none, with charity toward all.”
Consider the context in which these words were spoken. Doing so is instructive for our time. It was at the close in Lincoln’s second inaugural address, a call to a nation where more than 600,000 lives where taken at the hands their fellow Americans, too often brother against brother, father against son. Citizens killing fellow citizens. Our national rift was brutally raw, miles deep, and inexpressibly tragic. We must be able to engage and seek the same healing today, even as we disagree deeply on how to solve the problems that confront us, those that are a lasting extension of what led to that great war in the first place. We must find a way to collectively, as the Great Emancipator called us to, “bind up the nation’s wounds” toward “a just and lasting peace among ourselves.”
With Malice Toward None takes this challenge seriously and is well-poised to engage it.
What the Effort Does?
The project’s goal is to create thousands of locally-directed events for citizens to confront their emotions (positive and negative) stemming from the outcome of the election, to establish and build our capacities for working together across passionate disagreements to address our common civic challenges, and to commit ourselves to a renewed citizenship and patriotic empathy moving forward. It is not about watering down our passions, heart-felt political convictions, or calling anyone to get “on-board” behind the election’s victor. It is an opportunity for each of us to ask ourselves how we can, along with our own friends and neighbors, recognize and live out the “better angels of nature” as citizens and become the architects and agents for a more perfect union, realizing the unique and essential ideals of our collective calling as Americans.
To this end, churches are invited and encouraged to hold a special gathering for their own congregation on November 4th, the Wednesday evening following the election, to set a stage for that group of citizens to move forward as a redemptive and unifying force in their community in the 77 days moving up to Inauguration and beyond.
These events will give citizens a collective opportunity, with like-minded friends, to deal with their strong emotions while making a commitment to move forward as citizens, resolving to hold malice in their hearts toward none. In the event, hope will be given, a vision cast and practical, hands-on behaviors outlined for how each congregation can serve as an agent of grace and hope where they live, working to help bind up the wounds of our nation and its citizens who see the world differently than we do.
Just as President Abraham Lincoln encouraged citizens to bring healing to a nation divided against itself in a bitter and deadly way, With Malice Toward None is a call the church to do the same in our day of great need and challenge.
Is this something you see your own congregation being worthy of?
How to Get Involved?
Churches and community leaders can begin planning their own With Malice Toward None event in their town quite easily. First, visit the project’s website (here) as well as reading this one-page executive proposal and the effort’s core values and mission.
This short introductory video is also a nice, inspiring resource explaining the mission of Braver Angels, the organization launching With Malice Toward None. (Disclosure: I happily serve as a founding board member of Braver Angels.)
Prayerfully consider whether hosting a With Malice Toward None event might serve as a strategic and redemptive outreach of your church to your community.
Photo from Patrick Perkins
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