For months now, candidates for the presidency have been presenting themselves and their programs, working up to Iowa's recent caucus and New Hampshire's Feb. 1 primary.
As one voter, I've devoted a lot of thought to their efforts. They all seem sincere in their desire to serve. And they've all received their share of pummelings by the media. Sometimes reporters seem more bent on trapping them than on understanding them. But even these pressures have been opportunities for candidates to show what they're made of.
The founder of the Monitor wrote, "To be a great man or woman, to have a name whose odor fills the world with its fragrance, is to bear with patience the buffetings of envy or malice - even while seeking to raise those barren natures to a capacity for a higher life" (Mary Baker Eddy, "Miscellaneous Writings," pg. 228).
Certainly any president will have to face such "buffetings" on a daily, hourly, basis. Jimmy Carter was once quoted as saying that he prayed something like 25 times a day. When asked about that, he spoke of literally turning to God when facing some huge governmental problem and also small matters. He didn't use God as a substitute for his responsibilities as president, but he found divine guidance to be sustaining and strengthening. So have many other elected officials.
The book of Proverbs brings this point out: "All the ways of a man are clean in his own eyes; but the Lord weigheth the spirits. Commit thy works unto the Lord, and thy thoughts shall be established" (Prov. 16:2, 3).
Constituents can "weigh spirits," too, in deciding which candidate to vote for. It isn't a matter of who goes to the most church services. It's more about perceiving the quality of a candidate's thought - indicated in his or her level of honesty, humility, patience, wisdom, morality, and so on.
This isn't about finding a perfect person. Or someone with merely a great personality. Instead, it's an effort to cut through the given failings and successes - and as much as possible the distortions of the spin doctors - to the essence of the individual.
Just to take a biblical example, if you look only at the outer elements of Peter, a disciple of Jesus, you would see an impetuous man, a bit of a show-off, someone who actually failed to stand by his mentor when the chips were down. Hardly an ideal leadership candidate.
And yet, from his mistakes and his willingness to correct his attitudes, the Apostle Peter emerged as a key figure in the early Christian Church. He made a contribution that was vital to the survival and growth of Christianity.
Peter and his colleagues didn't have to cope with instant news analyses and biased reporting. But they had their own share of antagonists, and faced death threats on more than one occasion. They were sustained by a confidence that God was with them and was directing them.
As we seek out which candidate would be the best to serve in the nation's highest office, it's worth asking that God sustain all the candidates, and that all their honest efforts bear fruit - whether they are elected or not. Perhaps one candidate's special insight will inspire the winner to adjust the country's priorities in a direction he or she would otherwise have ignored. Each of us has a contribution to make to this year's primary contests. Yes, by voting when the time comes. But also by desiring the very best for the nation, its present leaders, and those who are working so hard for the opportunity to sit in the Oval Office.
Unselfish desire for good is a prayer. It can help bring to light more of the kindness, honesty, and goodness of each candidate, even as it leads us to support the person we feel will be best for the job.
We should look with pitying eye on the momentary success of all villainies, on mad ambition and low revenge. This will bring us also to look on a kind, true, and just person, faithful to conscience and honest beyond reproach, as the only suitable fabric out of which to weave an existence fit for earth and heaven. Mary Baker Eddy
(c) Copyright 2000. The Christian Science Publishing Society