A recent story in The Christian Science Monitor, “Election 2016: Why is everyone so angry?” points out that anger seems to be a driving emotion in the 2016 election campaigns. This got me thinking about praying about elections: Is anger ever justified? What’s my role, as an American citizen, in preparing for elections a year from now? And as a global citizen, how can I best prayerfully support elections throughout the world?
I turned to my Bible, and read one of King Solomon’s proverbs: “A hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but he who is slow to anger quiets contention” (Proverbs 15:18, English Standard Version). I reasoned that this meant we can either stir up strife, which increases it, or we can respond patiently, which “quiets contention.” This is true in everyday life as well as in how we choose to respond to political campaign messages and media coverage of the elections.
The basis for our choice lies in chapters 1 and 2 in the book of Genesis in the Bible. In the first chapter, we read that God, Spirit, created man in God’s image – spiritual, good, perfect, and whole (see verses 26, 27). The allegorical second chapter represents man as created out of matter and given license to commit evil and to suffer punishment as a result. It is used to explain why we see sorrow, suffering, and anger in the world. This materialistic account, though, is a contradiction of the first chapter of Genesis, in which creation proceeds from the goodness of God and manifests that goodness, and in which man is God’s spiritual image, the perfect reflection of His nature. This foundation of goodness and perfection firmly supports taking a stand for the goodness of man.
Mary Baker Eddy, the Discoverer of Christian Science and founder of this newspaper, wrote a poem titled “Christ My Refuge” that provides beautiful guidance about how to respond when tempted by or confronted with anger: “And o’er earth’s troubled, angry sea/ I see Christ walk,/ And come to me, and tenderly,/ Divinely talk” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 397). The Christ is the active presence of God speaking to human consciousness. We can hear and feel the presence of the Christ when we silence negative human emotions; we make room in our heart for God when we refuse to entertain worldly peer pressure to respond angrily or hatefully in any situation – in or out of the campaign season.
I turned to prayer in my own experience when an acquaintance lashed out at me angrily. She misconstrued an action I took and yelled at me. Startled and hurt, it was tempting to respond angrily, but I recognized this as not being the answer to the problem. Instead, I walked a short distance away and turned my thought to God, good. Almost immediately I felt the ministering, healing power of the Christ. I saw clearly that as God’s children, both this individual and I were made innocent and had no natural inclination to stir up strife. I was able to return to her and speak calmly and patiently, while also listening to her concerns. As a result, we were able to peacefully resolve the situation. The best part, though, was the lesson I learned about the power of Christly compassion to quiet and heal a situation, compared with an angry response, which would likely have inflamed it and caused greater hurt.
As the 2016 elections continue to gain steam, I’ll be praying with this verse in the Christian Science Hymnal to remind me that God leads us away from hatred and anger:
We thank Thee, heavenly Father,
For Thy correcting rod,
Which guides us in our journey
And leads us home to God.
It tells us not of anger,
The weapon mortals sway,
But Love divine, that helps us
To keep the better way. (M. Fannie Whitney, Hymn 376)
With anger stilled in our thoughts, we will not only be helping ourselves, but will be prayerfully contributing to a calmer, more patient atmosphere – during election season and beyond.