There’s a trajectory in America right now, bending toward November 3 and our elections. Especially this year, voting is not a single-day event. Millions across the country have already voted. My ballot is completed, signed, and sealed, and I will drop it off at a county collection station at our local library today.
Many people are doing more than voting. They’re having conversations with friends and families. They’re making phone calls, sending texts, signing up to be poll workers, funding the candidates they prefer, and talking about it all on social media. There’s a lot going on—a lot of what I think of as outer work, being done to preserve and enhance the democratic institution that we call America.
There’s inner work that we need to be doing as well. As a country, we have become more obviously and publicly divided than we have been in many decades. This doesn’t mean we weren’t divided before; many lessons about the lack of racial equity in America have taught me that. The difference today is that the divisions are much more visible nationwide, and are leading to substantive discussions about issues of racism and xenophobia that have always been at play in American history.
The interior work that we need to be doing is related to this history. We cannot change how we were raised, the lessons and perspectives we were taught. But we can educate ourselves, we can continue to learn and grow, and we can change those perspectives and attitudes. We can—indeed, we must—do our interior work.
What does that interior work look like? For me, it involves revising the history I learned in school, rethinking my perspectives, and recommitting to living out, in all I say and do, the fundamental truth that we are all equal in the sight of God. I firmly believe that we are all created equal—not just a class of landowning white men (which was the intent of that phrase, written into the Declaration of Independence by America’s “founding fathers”), but every human who has ever been born, or ever will be, regardless of race, ethnicity, gender, or economic or cultural status.
I believe this because it’s how I read the Bible, and how I understand the tradition and experience of my Christian faith. While those founding fathers were more humanist than Christian, this country has called itself Christian for many decades. This doesn’t mean it’s always acted out of true Christian values, but it has certainly, at times, brought them closer to reality than most nations on this earth.
For me, interior work is crucial to maintaining balance as I do my outer work to bring about more justice and equality. We need to spend time in stillness and prayer in order to reconnect with the God who created us, calls us to act justly, and strengthens us for the work that lies ahead.
What are you doing to reinforce equality, justice, and dignity for every human being? What interior work do you need to include in this process, to keep you strong and connected with God?