An election eve sermon from a passing saint

The lastest issue of The Church of the Larger Fellowship, Unitarian Universalist QUEST has reprinted an election sermon from Forrest Church, one of the UUA’s living saints, called Hope and Fear: An Election Day Sermon. The sermon is from October of 1992, but could be from this week as the themes it hits are about hope, fear and the need for unity and the need for a pastoral, human president:

I want to talk about us. Who we are and who we can be. If the United States of America is about anything it is about that. E pluribus unum. Not one for many, but out of many, one. It is finally far less important that the trains run on time than it is that the passengers are willing to take responsibility for one another’s welfare.

We won’t ever get it right; that’s not the goal. In passing judgment, the early Puritan preachers too often forgot the importance of forgiveness. Of loving kindness. Of self-acceptance. Of honest doubts. But they did remind us that we are accountable — that despite our failings we are accountable, not someone else.

So I’m going to make this election sermon a little more personal than usual. My subject is hope and fear.

First to define fear. Hate is not the opposite of love, fear is. When we are frightened, by others, by life itself, we cannot love. We can hide. We can fight. But we cannot love. Conversely, love casts out fear.

We are good at fear. That’s why politicians play on our fears. Fear gives power to others, and inspires us to try to take power away from them. Fear divides and then conquers us. It feeds on our weakness and envy and jealousy. It leads us to follow those who tell us we are victims. It closes hearts and poisons minds.


I don’t want my president to ask me to believe in him. I simply won’t. And I don’t want her to play on my fears of others. Believe me, I have such fears, I surely do. And I don’t want him to crush my hope by setting up an impossible dream, any more than I want to succumb to the cynics who have lost their ability to dream.

Instead I want my president to inspire hope. I want her to give me faith. And I certainly want him to encourage me to open my heart to love.

I know it is a lot to ask, but that is what I ask of my president. I ask a lot. Not belief, certainty and fear, but faith, hope and love.

It’s a religious request. I know that. But, after all, this is a religious nation, an experiment in religious freedom, founded in the spirit, not the letter of the scriptures. On Election Eve, I am no more ashamed of making a religious request than my forebears were when they fulminated for hours in just as sincere a desire that everything, somehow, would turn out right.

I ask a lot, because our founders and early leaders asked a lot of us. As Abraham Lincoln once said, “The question is not whether God is on our side, but whether we are on the side of God.”

Read or listen to the whole thing. You’ll be glad you did.

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