I have had the great pleasure of visiting the United States of America many times and it is a nation I love very much indeed. It is an exceptionally beautiful and varied land and when the people say “have a nice day”, they really do mean it.
Today, that great nation will vote in the Presidential Election. It is a climactic and deeply important day as this nation has to make a decision. As somone commented on the radio yesterday morning – America is not voting for a President; rather, it is voting for it’s very character.
Over the last four years, a spirit of division and deep polarisation has swept across America, touching and poisoning much of what is beautiful about this land. It has seeped out of politics and into so many other areas of national life – and not least of all, into the religious life of the nation.
A great chasm has opened up across the two distinct fault lines of politics and religion, so that they have become the de facto means of characterising who a person is and what they believe. And in this way, the whole nation has become divided upon itself.
At the same time, there is an intermingling of religious belief and political belief – for many, there is absolutely no distance or difference whatsoever between the two; politics has become religious and religion has become politicised. And this adds further to the spirit of disunity; America is now a nation of two halves – each one entirely antithetical to the other.
It seems to me that in these past few years, something dark and unpleasant has grown and spread within this land, such that the nation itself has changed. I am not alone in perceiving this, and this view is now changing the way in which Amercia is seen by the world outside. Respect for America, and what she stands for, is diminishing.
And so, regardless of the outcome of the election, America has a lot of work to do. Division such as this will not be healed simply by either candidate winning. The nation needs to work toward finding a real way forward, a way that allows encounter and dialogue and – through this – some kind of healing.
The United States needs to become precisely that – united.