CHATTANOOGA, Tennessee — As the sun set on Friday evening, Chattanooga area residents prepared to enter a fourth day without an answer to which candidate will be the next president of the United States.
Since Tuesday, faith leaders throughout the area have guided their congregations through the uncertainties of the 2020 election, a day that saw record turnout in parts of the country and that has continued to fuel anxious refreshing of election results nationwide.
The local leaders, despite potentially supporting different candidates, are providing a message of calm and focus on matters of faith bigger than a single candidate or election.
In some ways, putting all hope in a candidate is a form of idolatry, said Adam Whitescarver, executive director of the Chattanooga House of Prayer. The house focuses on getting area ministries to work together and see their shared faith as being more important than politics. Last month, the ministry organized a gathering in Camp Jordan to pray for racial unity.
Whitescarver noted that there were disagreements and differing political viewpoints among Jesus’ disciples but they got along because of a shared belief in something greater than themselves.
“There is a higher power that we are appealing to, and that’s where we’re trying to put our emphasis. That’s where we’re trying to put our prayers. That’s where we’re trying to put our messaging,” he said.
Christian scriptures tell believers they are to love and pray for their enemies. Being intentional about these types of prayers can be transformative, Whitescarver said.
“If you view that person as your enemy, whether or not that’s reality, there’s still a transformative power that comes on your heart to love that enemy,” he said. “And it’s not easy. The reason why you’re commanded to love your enemy is because it’s not easy work. You have to do work in your own heart to allow God to do work in your heart to grow to love your enemy.”
In a video posted to Facebook on Wednesday, Dr. Tim Hill, general overseer of the Church of God denomination, said there will be a time and a place to share opinions. But Christians, particularly people in his denomination, have an opportunity to show what it means to follow their faith by being compassionate and in a state of prayer, he said.
“I want to say to you that people are looking at us today. They are watching us today,” Hill said in the video. “And I want to reflect the Lord Jesus Christ in what I say, how I live, what I do, how I treat my fellow man. I want to be reminded frequently that God is sovereign.”
During a livestreamed state-of-the-parish address on Wednesday evening, Father J. David Carter of the Catholic Basilica of Saints Peter and Paul challenged those in his parish to work toward reconciliation in what has been a year of drawing lines and divides.
The faithful should take stock of the ways they have wronged others and been wronged, he said.
“Let us be the first to reach and ask for forgiveness when we are at fault. Let us forgive from our hearts those who have wronged us, even if they don’t ask us,” Carter said. “Let us do an honest examination of conscience about our online presence, the comments we have made in posts or comment threads, the conversations we’ve had behind closed doors, the anger and resentment we have held and harbored in our hearts.”