Just when the news leading up to November 8 couldn’t get any worse, the BBC broadcaster referred to this election season as the “civics lesson from hell,” leading up to “America’s political Chernobyl.” As disgusted as I am by recent political rhetoric, I don’t have an equivalent Geiger counter or iodine tablets.
The recent political climate seems more like a natural disaster due to incoming fecal matter of massive proportions – a storm, really, but I won’t use the word for it here, for all kinds of reasons. Come November 9, we have to begin digging out, and we are in for a long haul. But we are not without hope.
Scripture reminds us that contemporary Americans are not the only ones who act atrociously towards each other. People in the Bible, especially siblings, could be murderous, as in the story of Cain and Abel that you will hear this Sunday. Thirty-three chapters later in Genesis, Joseph’s brothers stop short of killing him; instead, they sell Joseph into slavery. (The text tells us they sneered, calling him a “dreamer”; I’m sure they used some other choice words, too.)
What could be worse than your brothers selling you into slavery? Yet Joseph works his way out, becoming an important Egyptian official. When famine hits their home, Joseph’s brothers show up to ask him for food, but fail to recognize him.
Joseph doesn’t immediately forgive them or reveal his identity. He tricks them into leaving his closest brother Benjamin with him, only to break down, finally, with compassion, working out a plan that moves his family to safety. By the end, Joseph tells them, “You meant this for harm, but God has used it for good.”
God can still use the awful things we humans do and say for good. As we move closer to the election, cleaning up after an epidemic of mud-slinging, we can also look for good things God is growing in the mud. As one person’s (Trump’s) words reveal new depths of bigotry, sexism and racism among us, we also have opportunities to dig out of the muck and reclaim the work of justice and human rights, to practice love of neighbors and enemies!
Our shovels will need to be strong and our own strength rooted in faith that God is still at work, that nothing – especially not human hatefulness – is stronger than God’s great love.
Let’s keep digging,