Bishops of the Diocese of North Carolina Respond to Post-Election Events
We are in a season we when we want to be focused only on the joyous anticipation Advent brings and the peace of Christmas. This year, especially, we want to take a break from the strain of the past months and lay down the stressors and worries.
We join you in that wish. But sometimes the events of the world do not allow us to take the break and instead demand our attention and response, to stand as we have pledged to do with those who are being injured or made to feel afraid.
As your bishops, we recognize that fearful and anxious energy permeates our political sphere in our post-election environment. The discipline of social psychology has long demonstrated that fear and anxiety, particularly around change and the unknown, can inspire violence. However, violence - inspired by fear and anxiety - is antithetical to the Christian way of life, which is the way of love. Unfortunately, this is the violence we are experiencing, through word and action, in our post-election environment.
While the 2020 presidential election has concluded, the divisive nature of this election continues to shape our common life together. Though former Vice President Joseph Biden and Senator Kamala Harris are projected to win the presidency and vice presidency [1, 2], President Donald J. Trump has refused to concede the election and has levelled baseless claims of fraud against the electoral process and even against election workers themselves. Thus far, all of the president’s claims of fraud have been rejected by the courts and individual state legislatures. This, therefore, is not a question of partisan politics. Rather, we understand it to be a question of truth telling.
Naming this truth is important because the rhetoric of the president and his supporters not only calls into question the legitimacy of our electoral process, but it also instigates growing threats of violence against state officials and election workers. The real and perceived threats of violence against innocent people who simply worked tabulating votes led Gabriel Sterling of the Georgia Secretary of State’s office to declare:
"Someone's going to get hurt, someone's going to get shot, someone's going to get killed," in a press conference held on Tuesday, December 1, 2020.
Sterling was particularly concerned for the safety of a Georgia poll worker who had been falsely accused on Twitter of dumping votes. His identity had been released to the public and calls have been made for him to be “hung for treason.” This is one of many cases of violence in our post-election environment, and Sterling is not alone in his concern.
Thus, what we are experiencing today is not walking in love as Christ loved us (Ephesians 5:2); but, rather, walking in fear and anxiety. For some, this violence is inspired by a fear of change and the unknown. For others, it is inspired by their sense that the historical control of society by persons of European descent (whites) is being eroded. No matter what the source of the fear, it is perpetuating unjust violence in the wake of an election. Love for neighbor has been removed from our democracy and supplanted with skepticism, mistrust and disinformation. This is not our Christian way of life.
No matter how you voted in the 2020 presidential election or where you fall on the political spectrum, as Christians we must reject any calls for violence against people due to their political views. Furthermore, as Christians we have a particular responsibility in this historical moment to call for calm and a reduction of the hate speech that has been associated with what has been and continues to be one of the most divisive periods in American history.
In our pre-election message, we spoke to you about the notion that while the church takes no political position, we do take moral positions. In this post-election message, we reiterate the core themes of our pre-election message that we persevere in resisting evil, seek to serve Christ in all persons, and strive for justice and peace. We can and must do these things in the days ahead with God’s help.
If today you find yourself afraid - either of the unknown or change, or of a threat of physical, emotional, mental or spiritual violence being cast upon you in the wake of our presidential election - may we be clear that:
- Reactionary violence is not the Christian way, and
- You are a beloved child of God; the God who, in the words of Howard Thurman, is both the God of religion and the God of life, who cares for you.
As always, it is our life of prayer that continues to guide, shape and form our actions. We offer this prayer as an invitation to all of us as we follow in the way of Jesus:
Grant, O God, that your holy and life-giving Spirit may so move every human heart, and especially the hearts of the people of this land, that barriers which divide us may crumble, suspicions disappear, and hatreds cease; that our divisions being healed, we may live in justice and peace; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.