On November 8, 2016 this country elected a man to the presidency who has never held public office. He has never served in our military. No major network or news group predicted his win. This historic event has troubled many. Some have expressed anger and rage, while others are confused and fearful. The future is unclear and for this reason my thoughts go to a story in the book of Samuel.
The people wanted to be ruled by a king. The advantages of a monarchy were idealized; a strong, centralized government with a strong leader to make the people feel secure. But Samuel pointed out a monarchy would also bring heavy taxation, forced labor, and conscription of their sons into an army and their daughters into servitude.
But the people were looking for change and a new model of leadership. The people felt their voices were not heard. We learn from Samuel that the citizens who bear the burden of government tend to be those who are the least able to speak up. Samuel warned that when they were servants to God’s demands God still heard them and made allowances. But now they will be exploited by a king who will not judge them in mercy and love. (1 Samuel 8:17).
Samuel prayed to God for guidance. God told Samuel “heed their demands and appoint a king for them.” (1 Samuel 8:22). And so he did. And Samuel’s warnings came to pass – the people were burdened greatly by heavy taxation and forced labor; but they also built great cities because of the vision and leadership of the king.
Samuel’s warning rings true today. The vision and strong leadership of a new administration creates an obligation to ensure that that government does not exploit those who cannot speak for themselves. We must ensure that all voices are heard.
I recently organized a unity prayer service in Huntsville, Alabama. I gathered together more than 200 people from all walks of life, including various faith leaders and elected officials. This group of souls gathered to march on their soles to show unity and love for all. Together we set the example of our highest selves by marching seven times around Temple B’nai Sholom, just as the Israelites marched around Jericho until the walls tumbled, to symbolically break down the walls which divide us from one another. To me, this concept was perfectly illustrated by the participation of leaders from our Protestant, Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, LGBTQ, and Atheist communities. When we reach out to others we recognize the divinity in them and create an I-Thou relationship.
For me, the highlight of the service was the shaking hands and hugging between Rep. Phil Williams (R) and Rep. Laura Hall (D) from the Alabama Legislature. They both rose to the occasion to demonstrate what leadership should be – working together for the benefit of everyone they serve.
I am personally inspired and filled with the renewed hope that President-elect Trump’s presidency affords us by underscoring the need to create I-Thou relationships.
My hope is that we find the courage to travel this new path together where we can sing the songs of unity.