November 8, 2016 by Alex Johannigman
It goes without saying that this election has brought out the nastiest parts of many of us, has consumed our thoughts and activities (I’m far from the only person who has been compulsively checking fivethirtyeight.com over the past couple weeks), and made us fear for the future of our country. Many like myself believe that the top two choices are awful, the major third party candidates not much better, and the obscure ones (such as my personal favorite) that we actually like stand no chance of winning. Yet once the election is called, half of our country will be relieved, the other half a mixture of angry, afraid, and disappointed, and many of us just glad it’s all finally over.
Throughout our nation many of our religious leaders have made their opinions about who to vote for clear, and I’ve noticed a theme among many commentators: fear. We should be afraid about what might happens if Clinton or Trump becomes president. We should be afraid about what will happen to our country and the world. We should be afraid of how our lives will be impacted. We should fear the consequences of our side losing this race.
How ironic it is to hear this message over and over from the followers of the God who told us repeatedly “Do not be afraid.”
Jesus’ message was one focused on hope. He repeatedly talked about how we are made for something beyond this world. That his kingdom was different from that of Rome. And his followers took him seriously. Many of them, martyrs from the 1st century through the 21st, cast aside their fear even in the most horrifying of situations and have died recognizing the truth that no matter how bad life gets here on earth, they will be with their Lord in the next. This realization helped them keep all of the events of this world in their proper perspective, just as we should today.
On October 16th, three days before the final presidential debate, Pope Francis canonized such a man. St. Jose Sanchez del Rio was a young boy who stood against a Mexican government that was oppressing Catholics in the early 20th century. He didn’t see corruption and evil in the government as a reason to despair, but rather lived his life as a saint would amidst a hostile environment. I encourage you to learn his story.
“On the way to execution, soldiers struck him savagely with sharp machetes. With every blow, the young boy cried out, “Viva Cristo Rey!” When he got to the cemetery, he was bleeding heavily. His torturers had also cut off the soles of his feet and forced him to walk on salt. The boy screamed with pain but would not give in. As the road was nothing but rocks and dirt, the stones where he had walked were soaked in his blood. The soldiers said: “If you shout, ‘Death to Christ the King’, we will spare your life.” He only answered: “Long live Christ the King! Long live Our Lady of Guadalupe!”
The commander ordered the soldiers to bayonet Jose. They pierced his body. But with every stab he only shouted louder and louder: “Viva Cristo Rey!” The commander was so enraged that he pulled out his pistol and on February 10, 1928 killed Jose on the spot. There was no trial.”
Those who think that history hangs in the balance of this election have it all wrong. Humanity has survived corrupt governments. So has the Church. But it wasn’t because the Church won enough elections, but rather because she raised enough saints.
My prayer for the aftermath of this election is that we stop identifying as Republicans, Democrats, Libertarians, etc. first and turn our focus towards our vocation as Christians first.
It’ll be hard. It’ll require you to recognize the dignity and humanity of the candidate you’ve been taught to hate and those who voted for him or her. But if we want to truly love our enemies as Jesus exhorted us to do, this is one of the best places you can start for the next few weeks (and the next four years).
Putting our Christian identity ahead of our political one and focusing on heaven more than earth will be challenging. It’ll require us to focus less on the actions of others and more on our own behaviors and thoughts. It will challenge us to look beyond the failures and evils of this world and towards the life that comes after it. We will need to constantly remind ourselves that we are pilgrims on a journey towards God, walking through a land that is not our own.
Please, go out and vote if you haven’t yet. And then after that take a few minutes to pray for our country. But at the end of the day either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will win today’s election. More people will be upset about it than are happy about it. Let’s get back to loving them all, looking towards heaven with a grin on our faces, and recognizing that no matter who is our president, Christ is still our King. Viva Cristo Rey!