In the coming week, Americans will cast their vote (if they haven’t already), and the selection of the national leadership of the United States will be initiated.
In this already odd year of 2020, no one expects to know the results of the election on November 3. It’s possible several states will need to recount their votes and that the courts will once again be involved in making decisions that will guide the election process as each state determines which candidate will receive their votes in the Electoral College.
As we approach Election Day, and its anticipations of recounts and debates in the courts, we are reminded, in all the channels of our society, of the enshrined principle of a democratic republic: “There must be a peaceful transfer of power.”
Whether such a transfer happens is the talk of the nation. And, of course, such a conversation has been marked by an intense discourse over the temperaments and abilities of each presidential candidate.
As a broader part of this conversation, we have heard a lot about transfer and of power: Will the incumbent accept the election results if he loses the election? Will his contender? Will their supporters?
And while some mention has been made of possible protests and riots, such considerations are predominantly placed within the context of transfer and power, especially power.
What we have not seen in the civic discourse is a serious discussion on peaceful. Will there be a peaceful transfer of power? Will there be peace? When peace becomes the emphasis, the shift and focus of efforts is drastically changed.
The Christian faith, and the intellectual tradition that flows from it, teaches us that peace is not merely the absence of violence or tension. Certainly, we want such an absence, but peace goes much deeper. Peace is the tranquility of order.
Peace begins in the heart of God. It’s a divine gift that’s given to every man and woman. As such, peace is an interior logic of the human soul. It dwells in our hearts. Peace flourishes by grace and virtue.
Peace plays itself out, and is expressed in our human action, by an acceptance of human dignity, a love for truth and justice, a cherishing of authentic freedom, a prudential trust in our neighbor, an affection for the common good, an acknowledgement of subsidiarity, an obedience to just laws and policy, as well as by humility, mutual respect, mercy, shared dialogue, kindness, and a generous civility.
In addition to an absence of violence and tension, therefore, peace yearns and labors – amidst the fallenness of humanity – to bring about this joyful and rejuvenating state of affairs within the human family.
As we approach Election Day, our hope is for peace. Not merely a peace of this world, but a peace that goes beyond what this world can give. We petition God for the peace that comes from above. We ask for a tranquility of order. We pray for a peace that fulfills justice and inspires love.
As Pope Francis has written: “Every threatening situation feeds mistrust and leads people to withdraw into their own safety zone. Mistrust and fear weaken relationships and increase the risk of violence, creating a vicious circle that can never lead to a relationship of peace.”
And so, we ask the Father of Lights, who gives every good gift, to allow the threatening situations of our day to be healed and to become occasions of civic friendship. We ask to be drawn out of our comfort zones and to share open-hearted fraternity with all people. We pray that fear and mistrust will be cast out and fully replaced by a vibrant civilization of love.
In order for peace to triumph, human hearts must let it work.
Just as citizens dwell in a society and cast a vote, so they must also see themselves as tasked with being peacemakers. And, knowing the challenges of a holistic peace, the responsibilities of a peacemaker is never easy. It requires great faith in God and neighbor, a hope in eternity, and a selfless love that’s always ready to serve and forgive. It is because of what is demanded of a peacemaker, that the Lord Jesus calls them “the children of God.”
Pope Francis observes that the world does not need “empty words but convinced witnesses, peacemakers who are open to a dialogue.”
And so, will there be a true peace in the selection of the national leadership of the United States? Will such a peace last? As a vote decides an outcome, so it will be the citizen-peacemakers who will decide. Peace is in our hearts. Will we let it work?
Follow Father Jeffrey Kirby on Twitter: @fatherkirby