Culture,  Life

An Election Reflection

CNN’s John King and Wolf Blitzer are doing the electoral college map as votes roll in while I write this. I’m not paying attention really. It’s just noise in the background.

My wife is dozing off on the reclining sofa beside me. I realize my whiskey is empty and I need a refill. It’s already past my normal bedtime. I get up at 4 a.m. after all.

It’s 9:28 p.m. on Tuesday, November 3, 2020. Election night in America.

Probably the most important election of my lifetime. And maybe yours.

Four years ago on Election night, our living room was crammed with students from the honors program where my wife is one of the faculty mentors at the college she teaches at.

We ordered pizza, bought soda, and prepared snacks for all the kids. And we all sat in our tiny living room glued to the TV and eventually stunned into silence as unbelievable history was made and Donald Trump was elected President of the United States.

But this year we’re in the midst of a global pandemic. Everything has changed. Even my career has changed. I’m no longer a pastor like I was back then.

Weird how life can change — how the world can change — in such a short time.


Most Bible scholars think Jesus’s public ministry lasted three years. Considering we’re still talking about Jesus and Christians all over the world gather to worship him every Sunday some 2,000 years later, that’s pretty impressive.

Interestingly, by modern metrics important to most churches, Jesus’s public ministry was a cataclysmic failure. Sure lots of people believed in him. But lots more people rejected him and his message. Some people – including his own family — thought he was crazy. The religious establishment thought he was a dangerous heretic. Ultimately the religious leaders plotted to kill him. And they succeeded.

And when the disciples met in the upper room to pray in Acts 1 and 2, the Bible says there were 120 believers there. Who could have predicted that a world-changing movement would be launched from that motley crew?

The point is, really important things can happen in a short amount of time and from the most unexpected people and places. And those things can be good or not so good.

My own view is that the last four years with Trump at the helm has been devastating for our country and the world. You may think quite differently. That’s okay. I have my reasons and you have yours. We likely won’t convince each other. So let’s leave it at that. Future generations looking back at our history will be the judge.

But I hope that whoever wins this election we can figure out how to come together as a nation. The partisan politics, ideological chasms, and utter gridlock in Washington D.C. are nauseating. We have to do better. I want to believe we can.

Early this morning I posted this prayer from the Book of Common Prayer on Facebook. I thought it especially poignant and appropriate for this Election Day and our current cultural moment:

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.

Book of Common Prayer

I really love this prayer. I pray it often. But here’s the thing.

It starts with you and me. Regardless of who wins the election. It’s about you and me and how we treat each other tomorrow and the next day and the day after that and on and on. It’s especially how we treat those with whom we may vehemently disagree.


One of the unfortunate byproducts of the last four years has been a steady decline in basic courtesy, kindness, and compassion. We’ve lost the ability to see the other as a person — a human being created in God’s image with all of the beautiful complexity and messiness that entails.

It’s become disturbingly commonplace to dismiss and demonize those who see things differently. Relationships have been damaged. Even family bonds have been strained or broken.

All because of politics and different ideas about what’s best for our society. This is something to lament.

But there’s a different way to be in the world and be with others. Paul says it this way in Colossians 3:12-14:

12 Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. 13 Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. 14 And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.

Colossians 3:12-14

What if we actually did this? What if we actually lived this out?

How might our conversations be different?

How might our social media posts and comments be different?

How might our relationships and interactions with others be different?

How might this change us and make us better versions of ourselves?

It seems to me something worth striving after. No matter who wins the election.


  • MikeS

    Sam, although our time together was short, I was impressed with you and your outlook on life. While we definitely differ in our political views (I consider myself a die-hard conservative NOT a Republican), I can respect your views and will defend your right to them to the death. I just want to say that I would like people to truly look at which side is creating division in the nation. Not an individual, but ideologies. I’ll just leave it at that. God bless you and yours.

  • Sam Ochstein

    Hi Mike! Thanks so much for reading and leaving a comment! I actually agree with you regarding the divisiveness of our ideologies today. Unfortunately those ideologies — be they more “liberal” or “conservative” or whatever — are believed in, articulated by, and lived out by real flesh and blood people. We will have ideologies. It’s inevitable. We all tell ourselves a story about the world and reality and what matters and our place in all of it. That’s called a worldview. It’s how we make sense of things. But ideas and words are powerful. How we express ideas matters. And how we treat those with whom we disagree matters. When we see the other as an enemy rather than a fellow human being first and foremost, let alone a fellow citizen of the United States or of our community, we have lost the ability for intelligent, constructive reflection and dialogue. And that is not a “Left-wing” or “Right-wing” thing. That’s simply a human thing.

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