After months of anticipation (some may say trepidation), the 2020 presidential election will finally take place next Tuesday. This year’s Election Day, however, seems much different than years past, due partly to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many people have already cast their ballots days, and even weeks ago.
One does not need to look far to see how this year’s election has been tainted by incivility, vitriol and deceit. Even the forms of communication, which seek to inform and persuade voters, are sprinkled with deceit, as a story in this week’s Compass describes. (See “Unofficial Catholic newspaper mailed to homes,” page 3.)
Yet, Election Day soon will pass and give way to Inauguration Day on Jan. 20, 2021. These days will give us time to turn our attention to mending relationships that may have been tarnished due to political disagreements.
Last Monday’s first reading from Ephesians reminds us that our faith is what binds us together as children of God: “Brothers and sisters: be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.”
In preparation for this year’s elections, the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops launched “Civilize It: Dignity Beyond the Debate.” The initiative sought to help Catholics to “model civility, love for neighbor and respectful dialogue.”
Whether or not you made the pledge to model civility before the election, it’s not too late to get aboard the post-election civility train and help heal a divided country.
Here are the three ingredients to make amends with others and honor human dignity through civil conversation.
Civility: Pledge to recognize the human dignity of those with whom you disagree, treat others with respect and rise above attacks when directed at you.
Clarity: Pledge to root political viewpoints in the Gospel and a well-formed conscience, which involves prayer, conversation, study and listening.
Compassion: Pledge to encounter others with a tone and posture which affirms that you honor their dignity. Listen to their stories with empathy and strive to understand before seeking to be understood.
The Civilize It initiative offers a prayer that calls for fasting and feasting. Read and study this prayer in the coming days and months. Reflect on how you can put these words into practice:
“God of all compassion, you call us to love one another as you have loved us, especially when we face division in our communities. Help us to see our sisters and brothers as beloved children of God.
“Help us to fast from incivility and feast on your love for each one of us. Help us to fast from discord and feast on the knowledge that you have created each person in your own image. Help us to fast from fear of those with whom we disagree and feast on the joy community brings us. Help us to fast from timidity when we hear hurtful language and feast on sharing the good news of our God-given dignity. Help us to fast from the desire to win arguments and feast on compassion shared in understanding. Help us to fast from assumptions and feast on listening deeply to the stories of our community.
“Lord, our God, be with us in this time of hurt in our communities. In our fasting may we grow closer to you. In our feasting, let us find healing. Let us turn to you as the source of our joyfulness and our first giver of love. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.”