Surreal might be an overused word, but it’s the one that probably best describes the feeling of travelling recently with a satellite TV MSNBC screen in front of me with endless mention of Steve Bannon, President-elect Donald Trump’s trusted adviser, soon to be White House official.
For a block of months four years ago, I co-hosted a radio show with Bannon. It was the idea of the priest who was working on programming at the time at The Catholic Channel on Sirius XM. I always thought it was an interesting team-up, so I went with it.
And I’m grateful. We had a fun quick run at talking about some more enduring questions than political campaigns and got to love and appreciate one another’s talents and quirks. We had some common ground in baptism, and bouncing around from city to city in ways that would give others whiplash (we never did figure out a regular recording time…or town).
Believing as I do that everything happens for a reason, and has God’s guiding hand — whether directing or allowing — I always knew there was a reason for our short-lived go at it. Besides the joyful human encounter and the blessing of anyone who got anything from the substance in the audience, seeing his name and face over and over again in the news lately I was reminded of the reasons we are ever a part of anyone’s life: to love as God does, and to pray for them.
A common ground a lot of us have right about now is either not having been enthused by either presidential candidate or having fallen out with friends and family because of candidate choices. Now is the time for praying for one another, with one another – for our leaders, for those, perhaps, we aren’t particularly fond of politically or otherwise.
I noticed a lot of people praying the night before the election – the Archdiocese of New York, for one, but not alone, had many a holy hour. Don’t drop those now that the election is over. Whomever you voted for – or if you didn’t (or, as in my case, voted for someone else, who was never going to win and maybe not even on the ballot), pray for those who are now headed to public office and those who will advise them.
Pray for wisdom. Pray for temperance. Pray for courage. Pray for clarity.
Seeing Steve’s name and face over and over again, and just tastes of the things people were saying about his supposed utter unacceptability, I found myself praying for peace, as I had as the post-election protests started breaking out. And while understanding is not something necessarily within our reach right about now – understanding one another, understanding the roots and reality of some fundamental confusions in our culture about life and gender and so much else – a true tolerance may be plausible.
We can see one another even with our flaws and try to do good while encouraging the good. That was my experience with Bannon for our short radio run.
That we each have our roles is something Rush Limbaugh was told by a wounded warrior at National Review’s 50th anniversary party, when he was humbled by the vet’s gratitude to him for his work in radio. And it’s true. And really believing it can help make us holy and let God work miracles through us.
It also means having some respect for people’s freedom to explore God’s will for them. Can we encourage one another in doing so?
Crucial to that endeavor is probably stopping the bad habit of seeing people constantly through the lens of ideology and category and caricature. I’ve also had the blessing to have known Rush Limbaugh a bit now and again in my years at National Review, and not only do we all have our roles, we all have our love and our struggles and pain, too.
We’re only human, people. I can say the same for well-known people such as Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, who were highly critical of conservative critics of Donald Trump, some of my dearest friends and colleagues.
The election is over. And maybe right now God is most asking us for a doubling down on love and trust in Him. Even for those you have comfortably and even legitimately categorized – it can serve to dehumanize, however unintentionally, and that’s definitely not what we’re called to do.