I don't know where it will go from here. I don't know how the presidential sweepstakes can get more bitter, produce more blather – and grab more gut-wrenching attention than what we have seen and heard over the summer.
And, God help us, we have thirteen months to go.
Most of us can't come up with a complete list of the nearly two dozen candidates, each of whom is vying to become the center of American life. Each is claiming to identify the central core of what it means to be American, but in fact what most, if not all, of them are selling is silos. The silo of their version of the American dream which, if we follow them and vote for them, we will have entrance into the silo, and will be protected and cared for. And if there is collateral damage – which means that some will be pushed out or not welcomed in – well, so be it.
They sell silos because history has demonstrated, over and over again, that it works. Selling silos produces bounce in the polls. The silos are refuges from fear, and far too many candidates exploit the fear in order to attract people into their silo. And there is a lot of fear frothing just under the surface – and often erupting up and out – with the heart-rending images of homeless refugees in Europe and the grim reality of the unholy trinity of poverty, racism and violence.
We can kvetch and moan about the pandering and the fictions that are presented as facts, but that will only produce yet another silo, if not of fear, then of self-righteousness.
This is where religion comes in. I am not talking about the religion which helps us get what we want, or is a minor aid to self-improvement, which is often what religion has been reduced to these days. Ours is becoming an age of "light communities" (as expressed by Episcopal theologian Dwight Zscheile) which are temporary and have many exit options.
No, I am talking about religion in its classical sense, rooted in the word religio, which means to bind us together to a higher ideal, and which expects a level of devotion and obedience. Jesus sent his disciples out to preach, yes, to evangelize, certainly, but more importantly to break open the silos of fear and to resist creating religious havens of certainty and self-righteousness.
In the distraction and distortion of the mind-numbing presidential campaign, I am tempted to take refuge in my silo of self-righteousness. I can spend a lot of time hanging ecclesiastical curtains and fussing about liturgical fabric swatches. And keeping things safe.
We need each other to resist this formidable temptation, however it plays out in our own lives, and go out to join God in God's work in the world. To listen and learn what God is up. To move from strangers to neighbors. It is a corrective to fear, and a doorway to hope.