From Strife to the Better Angels of Our Nature

By Keith Boyette

January 7, 2021

Photo by Leonie Krickhuhn on Unsplash

I planned to write a different article for this first Outlook of 2021. Although 2020 was a difficult year in so many ways, we have much to celebrate in what God has done in and through us, and what He will do in 2021. I will touch on our celebration and gratitude, and our future plans later in this article and in future articles. However, events in the United States of America require a different focus for this Outlook.

Forty-four times in the history of the United States of America the office of the presidency has transferred from one individual to another. Often that transfer has occurred after a hotly, sometimes bitterly contested election cycle. Frequently the transfer has been from a person aligned with one political party to a person of a different party. While there have been disagreements over the way in which an election has been conducted or how the votes were counted, such disputes have always been handled within the processes outlined in the Constitution and through the lawful means which constitute the U.S. system of government.

The transfer of the office should have been no different in 2021 than on all those previous occasions. Indeed, questions were raised and answered by election officials across the United States. State governments recounted, audited, and ultimately certified the results of the election. Numerous challenges were filed in both state and federal courts, some reaching the Supreme Court of the United States. In every instance, the results of such lawsuits were the affirmation of the results of the election. The Electoral College met and votes were cast in accordance with the law. In the early hours of Thursday, the Congress of the United States fulfilled its responsibility to count the votes of the Electoral College, and affirmed the election of Joseph R. Biden, Jr. as the 46th President of the United States.

In many of the forty-four previous changes in the person who is President, individuals have engaged in protest. Among the rights enjoyed by the citizens of the United States, Americans treasure the right to vote, freedom of speech, and the right to peaceably assemble and petition the Government for a redress of grievances. We desire to see such rights ensured and fully available to every person in every nation. They are among the hallmarks of what has made the system of government in the United States an example to be emulated.

What we witnessed on Wednesday of this week included an affirmation of and exercise of these rights. However, the storming of the U.S. Capitol building, the destruction of property, the assault on law enforcement officers and others, the occupation of offices and essential rooms, the disruption of the Congress carrying out its lawful functions, the planting of bombs, and actions which resulted in four deaths is reprehensible conduct which should be rejected by every person regardless of our respective political viewpoints. We are deeply saddened by such conduct.

We celebrate the resilience of the democratic process and institutions of the United States. The Congress was able to complete its business, certified the election of Joseph R. Biden Jr. as the 46th President of the United States, and President Donald J. Trump has now stated that there will be an orderly transition. May it be so.

This is not the first time that emotions have been enflamed around a transition in the office of the President. In 1861, at a time when the United States was deeply divided, Abraham Lincoln spoke these words in his inaugural address, “We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory . . . will yet swell . . . when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.” By the grace of God, the better angels of our nature have frequently prevailed in our civic life. So during this time of transition, let those of us in the U.S. be in fervent prayer for our nation as we work for peace, justice, and the respect for the good order of our country.

As citizens of a different kingdom, who are also citizens of our respective nations, we Christians are called to participate in the civic life of our countries, but we are enjoined in Scripture to be peaceable in our witness and urged to “pray for all people. Ask God to help them; intercede on their behalf, and give thanks for them. Pray this way for kings and all who are in authority so that we can live peaceable and quiet lives marked by godliness and dignity” 2 Timothy 1-2 (NLT). Paul observes that when we do so, we are pleasing God and witnessing to the Gospel. Join me in fervent prayer and the kind of witness Jesus desires.

Now back to a portion of what I intended to share with you in this first Outlook article of the New Year. At the end of November, the WCA set out to raise $150,000 in year-end gifts. I praise God and am exceedingly grateful for your generosity as we received $180,000 in year-end gifts plus an additional $60,000 given to our Next Methodism Fund. As we continue to steadfastly work for the launch of a new global Methodist church, your gifts enable us to join God in His mission to reach people with the salvation He alone provides. Thank you very much!

Keith Boyette is the president of the Wesleyan Covenant Association and an elder in the Virginia Conference of The United Methodist Church

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