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Last Sunday’s sermon time was a somber and sobering experience considering it was Reformation Sunday, one of the big celebration Sundays for Lutherans. The context of the message was posited in a series of tragedies all within 72 hours: the apparently racially motivated murder of two African-Americans in Kentucky, the apparently politically motivated attempted assassination of more than a dozen political figures by mail bombs, and just the day before, the killing of 11 people at a Jewish temple in Pittsburgh apparently motivated by anti-Semitism.
The extreme examples of division and extreme hatred were in stark contrast to the message of the day, which was to be one of God’s grace re-forming us, re-joining us and re-fashioning us into the common humanity, the whole family of God, as all are created by the same Lord and Savior.
The obvious conclusion: If even the most juvenile understanding of God recognizes God as the divine creator of everything, then that makes every person a child of God. That message is one of hope, but the wave of tragedy certainly made that message a hard one to lift up.
My own frustration was encapsulated in the simple catch-22 that in speaking out against those who are against various groups of peoples by race, politics, gender or any of those other dividing lines, then that makes ME one of those negative people in that I’m now against someone! And the irony is that the feeling of being painted into a corner is very much the same kind of emotional trap that Luther felt 501 years ago in trying to preach the unifying grace of the one God in Christ that inadvertently ended up splintering the church into multiple factions!
So with all this in the background, I saw a sign which my mind read as “Get out and Veto!”
Now, as you might guess, my mind had done a semi-dyslexia twist from “Vote!” But it brought to mind that interesting literary oddity, the antigram.
An antigram is a subset of the anagram (a word or phrase formed by rearranging the letters of a different word or phrase), but in this specific case, resulting in the opposite meaning.
I hadn’t thought of this one before, but had often contemplated the obvious confusion especially when spellcheck is at work for the confusion of Satan/Santa and Unite/Untie. And now, I can add, Vote/Veto, especially since I found this combination along with a whole bunch of others as typical examples of antigrams.
But the more I thought about it in the context of last week, the more I thought that the “vote” of the last election was more of a “veto” of one candidate or another. And as we approach Election Day on Tuesday, I’m suspicious that there are more people who are making a statement of disgust against one side or the other rather than real enthusiasm or hope for the one they are voting for.
But, here is another catch-22 (one which many would argue influenced the last election): to not vote at all gives the choice to the extremists! And though it is not how it is intended, perhaps rather than leave these perilous decisions to the extremists out of a sense of integrity, perhaps it is more important to do something.
In the 16th century, Martin Luther was pretty confident that there was no perfect course of action he could take. In fact, the only thing he was almost sure of was that everything he did was tainted with sin. Recognizing this fact, he came up with a phrase that has been quoted and twisted in many different ways through the years.
But, in choosing between imperfect and sinful choices, Luther’s advice was to take a stand; be bold; be assertive and confident; and “Sin Boldly!”
So, as we live in messy and unclear times, it probably is not so strange that voting this year may seem messy and unclear also. Are you simply going to vote for one party against another to note your veto to what you see going on in the world? Can you make that sacrifice of a vote for a particular person who, regardless of who else or what else they represent, would be the best candidate to make a statement for the greater good?
Neither I nor anyone else could tell you how to decide. However, I’m pretty sure that the choices are less clear these days, but the choices are for everyone.
If everyone exercises their choice, there is a much better chance that the will of the people will be heard. And as far as I know, all of those people are children of God: the God who in an era of anti-everything actually made everything and is FOR not only everything, but also everyone!
Pastor Zach Harris has been an ordained minister for 27 years and currently serves Ascension Lutheran Church in Wilson. His column, “Through a Lutheran Lens: A Pastor’s Perspective,” appears regularly in The Wilson Times. Previous columns are available at WilsonTimes.com.