Come Out of the Cold This Advent
Praying for someone does not mean you agree with the bad things they do.
I needed spiritual guidance and I didn’t know where to turn. This election and the evils thereof had driven me to hatred and a kind of despair about people and the integrity of many Christian religious leaders.
I needed spiritual guidance, a spiritual friend I could trust to lay bare my soul, to let them into the hurt, the ravaged misery I was feeling. I couldn’t talk about the things that needed saying. I’ve learned the hard way that there are some things, some experiences, that belong between me and God.
I turned to the woman I think of as my spiritual mother. I called her out of nowhere and asked if I could come talk to her. She was busy, but she set all that aside and welcomed me.
She was the one who suggested a Novena. Her suggestion was a simple one: Go to Mass every day for 30 days and pray the prayers of the Mass earnestly. I thought it was a good idea.
I left her feeling comforted. She understood my anger and hurt, didn’t deny the reasons for it, then redirected me back to Jesus and away from the visceral hatreds of our political mess. But, it turned out, God was not done with me yet, not by a long sight. The Holy Spirit kept at me, making me miserable as only the Holy Spirit can when you’re doing something wrong.
I’m not good at being on the outs with God. When the Holy Spirit gets after me, I cannot resist for too long. After a couple of days, I yielded and went off alone and prayed. I asked God to forgive me for the hatred in my heart that this political campaign had aroused, and I asked Him to help me. He immediately soothed and comforted me, sent graces of forgiveness and calm.
But the question of a novena stayed. And the anger remained. With the help of prayer, I came to realize that you do not fight the devil with the devil’s weapons, and hatred is absolutely the devil’s weapon. But the anger that fuels a fight for justice is another animal entirely.
Anger in the face of evil is both just and necessary. It is the human response that Jesus Himself evinced when he was confronted with the leaven of the Pharisees. Anger that does not fester, that does not hate, but propels us into good, positive action to right wrongs, is not a sin. It is a force.
Hatred corrupts and destroys the effectiveness of that force. It steals the light of justice from it and turns it to destructive use that never results in any good thing but only feeds the darkness. God is love. Satan is hatred. It’s as simple as that.
That brings me back around to the idea of a novena, or something kind of like a novena. I am not talking about a literal nine-day prayer. I mean something both grander and less than that. I am talking about repentance and conversion; about turning around. I am talking about coming back to God.
This is the second week of Advent — a time of repentance, of making way for the Lord.
We need, this year far more than most, to take advantage of the opportunity Advent affords us to cleanse ourselves of the evils of this political campaign. I know full well that there are going to be recounts and fisticuffs even now, weeks after we voted. But it’s time for those of us who say we follow Jesus to stop following these little-g gods and get back to actually following Jesus.
Here’s what I’m going to suggest. If you are a Hillary hater, pray and ask God to forgive you for the sin of hating her. Contrary to what you may have told yourself, hating her is not righteousness. It is sin, and it separates you from your Maker and imperils your immortal soul. You can end up going to hell for righteously hating Hillary. Wouldn’t that be an ironic end to all this?
If you are a Trump hater, then you need to ask God to forgive you for the sin of hating Donald Trump. Just like the Hillary hater, you can end up going to hell for your righteous hatred of Trump. For all I know, your special hell may be spending your eternity next to a Hillary hater and battling it out with them forevermore.
Ask God to forgive you and then ask Him to use your good anger at one (or both) of these candidates, the anger at abortion and race-baiting and other sexual and moral depravities, to good purpose. Ask Him to give you the courage to do something useful and helpful to save lives — something real that requires a bit of sacrifice on your part, that makes you pay a price for the innocent victims of our sins.
After you pray your please-forgive-me-for-the-sin-of-hatred prayer, I want you to keep it up. If you are a Hillary hater, I am asking you to pray for her every single day of Advent. If you are a Trump hater, I want you to pray for him every day of Advent.
I don’t have any idea what, if anything, these prayers will do for them. That will depend on how receptive they are to the Holy Spirit. But I know what it will do for you. It will do the same thing that praying for those who hurt you — and they have hurt all of us with this campaign, grievously so — always does. It will clear your mind and heal your soul.
Praying for someone does not mean you agree with the bad things they do. It means that you acknowledge their humanity, that they are, like you, made in the image and likeness of God.
The most important reason for praying for both these people is that Jesus told you to do it. Jesus didn’t tell you how to vote. In fact, He said that His Kingdom was not of this world, meaning, I think, that Christians are citizens of a Kingdom without politics first, and citizens of the political kingdoms of this world second.
We have all bent our knees before the little-g gods of politics these past months. Now it’s time to bend our knees before the real God, the One Who does not want to manipulate or exploit us, the One Who only wants to bless us.
You and I need to pray for both Hillary and Donald because Jesus told us to pray for our enemies, to forgive those who spitefully use us — and we have been very spitefully used in this campaign. We need to pray every day of Advent for the candidate who is not our choice.
That is not a penance. It is obedience. It is doing what our Lord God Christ, commands us to do.
It is time to lay down the nasty name-calling and spiteful self-righteousness. We all have sinned and gone astray. We don’t need more fuel for the hideous fires of hatred burning in our politically obsessed souls. We need the cleansing, healing perspective of the Cross.
This campaign has been one of the many Gethsemanes of our lives, and from what I can see, none of us — including our religious leaders — was able to wait with Him for one hour. We all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God. All of us.
We need forgiveness. And we need to change.
Of all the reasons for going to hell, senselessly hating one of these two people has got to be one of the stupidest.