Burundi’s story is wrenching, but tragically common. My colleagues at HOPE International are praying for the best and preparing for the worst.
The freedom to vote should not be taken for granted. It is a gift enjoyed only by a small percentage of our planet’s residents—past and present. In a country like the United States, our founders quite literally entrusted the power to the people. We can complain about our system’s effectiveness—about powerful people wielding too much influence or about the unhealthy marriage between faith and politics. But despite its flaws, our system stands in contrast to countries where all the power is controlled by a handful of self-appointed tyrants.
And it’s not all bad news. Often because of the work of Christian missionaries, many developing countries feature thriving democracies. Nations like Botswana, Ghana, Chile, Uruguay, and the Philippines have proven the merits of democratic rule, even with its shortcomings.
Election Season Generates Meaningful Discussions
Many of us have been instructed to avoid discussing politics and religion in order to remain polite and amicable. Broadly speaking, this is terrible counsel. To be sure, we should avoid becoming petty, coercive, and disingenuous while talking about religion and politics. But to heal our deepest divides, we need more honest conversation, not less, about what matters most.
The issues unfolding on the political stage affect us all. The big ideas we’ll see in campaign ads and on debate stages have consequences. They will impact our wallets, communities, and families. The more that sane people discuss and disagree well, the better off we all will be.
Let’s not succumb to cynicism this election season. Lambasting the democratic process often does little more than make us grumpier. It makes our republic feel less human. So let’s not confine ourselves to the sidelines or the heckling section this political season. Rather, let us embrace the season with a more positive outlook. It won’t be easy. But that doesn’t mean our democracy is not worthy of our best efforts. In a way only she can, Marilynne Robinson wrote artfully about the heart of what election season is all about:
Democracy, in its essence and genius, is imaginative love for and identification with a community with which, much of the time and in many ways, one may be in profound disagreement.
While many of us will disagree profoundly this election season, let’s do so in a loving, Christlike manner, resisting the urge to unleash our inner cynic whenever a friend or family member mentions the campaign strategy or policy proposal of a candidate we find unfavorable.