Can this election end with civility?

by Annette Bridges. ©2008. All rights reserved.

My family’s presidential preferences remind me of a Civil War family’s divisions— with some choosing to wear blue and others gray. The modern-day red and blue distinctions among my family members are indelible and unwavering. “War” has been declared with some anxious to vote early so they can “kill” the rest of our votes before we go to the polls. The implication is that victory will be decided on November 4. Sound too melodramatic?

As election day gets closer, I’m trying to get some fresh inspiration to prepare myself for the results. With all the uncertainty and fears that abound regarding our national security and our current economic instability, emotions and opinions are intense about how to move forward. My daughter says she’s counting on me to keep cool. In fact, she likes to call me an “extreme moderate.”

I’ll admit that prior to this year, I’ve never planned to vote in an election that mattered this much to me. While I’ve always had my favorite candidates, I’ve also been able to respectfully accept the results and resolve to support my new President even when he wasn’t my choice.

I don’t believe God favors one of His children more than another.

This time around, I admit I’ve sometimes allowed myself to be influenced and inflamed by campaign rhetoric, which we all know has often been filled with much negativity. And I do have an opinion about who I think has the best policy plans and abilities.

Still I’m not so sure that any one person or President can really know all the best solutions. And I don’t believe God favors one of His children more than another. Nor do I believe that God provides one of His children with more wisdom than another.

There are many Biblical examples of how peace and unity were achieved in the midst of disagreements and tensions. One that comes to mind was between Abram (later called Abraham) and his nephew, Lot. Abram and Lot, along with each of their servants, shepherds, herdsmen, and families, were traveling to find a new land where a great nation was going to be formed according to God’s word.

Once they’d reached this land, it became clear that Abram and Lot needed to separate civilly for there to be sufficient room for the two of them. Their herdsmen and shepherds argued about which section of land should belong to whom. Because Abram was certain that God would take care of them both, he told Lot to choose the land he wanted. He said, “Let there be no strife, I pray thee, between me and thee, and between my herdmen and thy herdmen; for we be brethren.”

Perhaps the success of America will be determined by the civility and ingenuity of its people.

It seems to me that the time is approaching for us to all remember that we, too, are “brethren”– fellow Americans who share the same dreams, hopes, and vision for our country. We may all have varying opinions on how we reach these dreams, but that’s the beauty of democracy.

We debate, argue, and discuss. We agree to disagree when necessary and compromise for the greater good. Then we unite and aim to have a peaceful transfer of power. And we continue on our course to build an even greater nation.

Throughout my life, I’ve been determined to express respect toward the President regardless of his political party affiliation and despite whether or not I voted for him. Perhaps the success of America in the future will be determined as it always has been in the past by the civility and ingenuity of its people.

A friend recently reminded me that Mary Baker Eddy, the discoverer of Christian Science, once told her students they needed to have “faith in God’s disposal of events” (Miscellany, 281:6). And she shared some of the many definitions she was finding as she pondered the meaning and implication of the word – “disposal.” There were words such as direction, order, placement, management, tending, provision, organization, power to use, as well as settling, getting rid of and weeding out. A plethora of ideas to consider!

We should pray that our leaders are receptive to God’s directing and wisdom.

So I, too, am trying to have “faith in God’s disposal of events” and I must admit it’s a relief to be able to put all my worries and fears in the hands of our Father-Mother God. This makes me hopeful that what seems like our country’s many unsolvable problems are indeed solvable. My confidence grows when I remember these words of Christ Jesus, “With men this is impossible; but with God all things are possible.” All the more reason to pray that our leaders are receptive to God’s directing and wisdom!

So when the dust settles from the “final battle” on November 4, I resolve to stay focused on what I’m going to do next to best support and help my country. No doubt I should consider more wisely how my environmental and financial decisions impact the rest of us. But I’ll also work to have the right attitude and pray to support my leaders–all of them.

When change is not the change you want

by Annette Bridges. ©2008. All rights reserved.

Change is in the air. The cooler temperatures that autumn has been bringing lately have been a welcome relief from the hot Texas summer. But more pleasant days are the only changes I am welcoming this fall.This year’s Presidential campaigns have been filled with promises of change. The problem with this change is that I’m uncertain if who I want to be the next President of the United States will indeed be so. Whether I have cast my vote for a Democrat or Republican, I have cast a losing vote more often than a winning one. Of course, there is not yet a clear indication of who will indeed win this year’s election, since polls are still predicting a close race.

Speaking of polls — are you like me and wonder if you will ever get to be one of the 1,000 Americans who are given the power to speak on behalf of the rest of us? I’ve always questioned whether or not the few voices in a poll were truly capable of speaking for the other 300 million Americans. And for that reason, I continue to be amazed at how much credence is given to polling results.

Psychologists call it the bandwagon effect. You may have heard the phrase, “jumping on the bandwagon,” which is the observation that people often do and believe things because many other people do and believe the same things — regardless of any underlying evidence. And countless research studies have proven the bandwagon effect occurs in voting.

Perhaps this is why new poll results are published daily. Evidence has long proven that some people vote for those candidates or parties who are likely to succeed (or are proclaimed to succeed by the media). Since research evidence affirms that shifts in opinions can occur because individuals draw inferences from the decisions of others, I suspect we will continue to hear and read about polling results — however disproportionate and inconclusive they really are.

But a change of president for our country is not the only change I’m anxious about. Ill health, marriage troubles, career moves and relocation dominate the scene among my family members and propose many changes I’m not looking forward to. And my own age and dissatisfaction with past career and education choices has me indecisive about making future changes myself. Overall — at this moment — change just doesn’t feel like a good thing in my life. Or the anticipation of change fills me with more dread than expectation of good.

And yet remembering past examples of God’s sustaining care brings me to the conclusion that my best solution lies in the affirmation and guiding principle for many Americans — “In God we trust.”

My trust in God grows out of the fact that God doesn’t change. God doesn’t come and go. God isn’t sometimes available and sometimes not. God is good – always. God loves His children – always. God cares about His children and always wants what is best. His guidance will never fail us.

Sometimes change is needed and wanted. Other times change appears to be anything but good. But the only thing I am certain of is that regardless of the circumstances or even the outcome of an election, we can trust in God to lead us and our leaders to better times, to healing solutions, to restored confidence and renewed hopes — to progress.

Perhaps the Psalmist offered us the best assurance when he wrote, “Whither shall I go from thy spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there. If I take the wings of the morning, and dwell in the uttermost parts of the sea; Even there shall thy hand lead me, and thy right hand shall hold me. If I say, Surely the darkness shall cover me; even the night shall be light about me. (Psalms 139)

I’ll be trusting in this promise as I head into unchartered territory this fall. If you are facing changes you’re unsure about, I hope you can also find peace of mind and encouragement in knowing that God is there for you. You are not alone. You can depend upon God’s presence and help. And His promise of good is one thing you can always count on.

Why do we believe the worst?

by Annette Bridges. © 2008. All rights reserved.

Why do we believe the worst?

Why are we so quick to believe the worst? At no time does this seem more evident than during an election season. Yes, I think our leaders often bear the brunt of our worst beliefs, fears and opinions. I wonder if we usually believe the best about our loved ones not necessarily because it’s true but because we want the best to be true. So what of our so-called enemies or anyone we perceive as not on our side of an opinion or preferred political party? Perhaps we tend to believe the worst about them because we want the worst to be true.

Now, don’t get defensive on me here. I’m not talking about anyone in particular. In fact, these are questions I’ve asked myself again and again. I don’t like to believe without question the old saying, “Where there’s smoke, there’s fire.” Some say this saying indicates that rumors are usually based on truth. I certainly concur that there is always a truth to be learned and understood, but it could be that the rumor turns out not to be that truth.

I guess some might call me a skeptic. If I am, then it’s because I want to believe the best instead of the worst.

And I hope my skepticism will help me make more rational judgments.

When it comes to politics, for example, I am trying to avoid selective examination of any evidence or facts. I am scrutinizing my choice of which news programs I watch and listen to and which magazine or newspaper articles I read. I admit that sometimes what I want to be true and what is true is not always the same.

I believe that I can reach a rational conclusion by being willing to accept a position that is based on as much available information as possible. So, I’m trying not to just read and listen to what I think will support what I would like to be true, but rather, I’m trying to read and hear all sides to issues and all viewpoints about all candidates.

It is, of course, difficult to root out cynicism and biases. But, at least I’m trying! I’m finding there are some useful practices that help me avoid the cynicism trap. First, I’ve got my eye out for arrogance. I want to keep this in check. So anytime I am super certain I am right — I stop and ask myself, “What if I’m wrong?” This is hopefully giving me the humility I need to change my mind or change my course when needed.

I am endeavoring to stay curious and assumption-free. I doubt what I first read or hear so I can stay open to allow new facts to emerge and be seen. But I’m not letting doubt become mistrust or paranoia. I’m optimistic and have good expectations. Yet, I want to be willing to be proven wrong, especially when I’m tempted to believe the worst before the best.

I’m often reminded of the time when John, one of Jesus’ disciples, was upset by someone doing healing works in Jesus’ name. The cause of John’s distress was that this individual was not among those following Jesus and listening to all of his teachings. In fact, John told Jesus that he and his fellow disciples told this individual to stop doing his healing works. But Jesus responded, “Forbid him not: for he that is not against us is for us.” (Luke 9:49-50)

What does this have to do with our election season, you might be thinking?

Clearly, the person who was doing healing works had heard Jesus’ teachings and probably witnessed his healing works, too. So, it wasn’t that he was so very different from the disciples who walked along with Jesus as he traveled the countryside. He, too, was evidently a believer and a doer of Jesus’ teachings. He hardly needed to be condemned for his good works and good motives.

I feel the same is true for those who want to serve this country in public office. They are all Americans. They are “for us!” I am trying to remember this important point even when I may disagree with someone’s path or the method he or she presents. And I applaud the candidates’ desire to serve this country to the best of their ability.

I can agree to disagree if need be, remembering that it could be that I myself don’t know the best resolution to a situation. And if the candidate I vote for come November doesn’t win, I can co-elbow with my next President, whoever he or she may be, and still have great expectations for the good of my country. I’m determined to believe the best about my new President before I believe the worst! And I’ll expect the best from my new President, too!

Post Election Day prayers

by Annette Bridges. © 2006. All rights reserved.

It was my first presidential election. And my candidate of choice lost the race.

I felt sad, mad—even dismayed that the majority of American citizens didn’t agree with me. I never imagined this outcome. In fact, I went to bed on Election Day with the conviction that my candidate was clearly superior. But many others disagreed with my viewpoint. They were wrong, I thought. And now the country is going to suffer for the mistaken views of the majority.

How do you feel when the candidate you voted for doesn’t win? How can you deal with your disappointment, anger and fear?

I’ve come to believe that voting provides us the opportunity to agree to disagree and respect each other’s differing opinions. However, patriotism and respect for the democratic process weren’t enough to help me deal with my post-election emotions, especially when my candidate lost. I found only prayer-filled conviction took me to a more centered place and gave me peace of mind. This conviction also showed me what next steps I could take to support social progress.

Divinely given rights are established for all.

My prayers affirmed there is a divine Power higher than the presidency—a Commander-in-Chief for humankind. This overarching Spirit has created a universe that runs on spiritual laws maintaining order and peace. These laws mandate that divinely given rights are established for all.

Mary Baker Eddy, the author of Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures, the book that inspires this Web site, wrote these words during the Spanish-American War: “Pray that the divine presence may still guide and bless our chief magistrate, those associated with his executive trust, and our national judiciary; give to our congress wisdom, and uphold our nation with the right arm of His righteousness.”

As I read these words again recently, I am finding this prayer as relevant today as it was in 1898. I’ve been praying about Election Day in the US this year—both before and after the fact.