Tonight, as the tears and the cheers from Wisconsin's vote on Tuesday to keep Scott Walker as governor fade into history, a small group of us will be gathering in a sanctuary near Madison thinking about the words of Micah, that Hebrew prophet who challenged the marketplace and the rulers of his time.
This gathering will be more prayerful than prophetic as we seek to heal the spirits of those present and those throughout Wisconsin who have had their lives, their well-being and their relationships torn asunder by the political machinations of the last year. But we will not overlook the three-part message that Micah left us:
Do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.
All three of those elements have been in short supply in Wisconsin since Walker, in his ill-chosen words, "dropped the bomb" in February of 2011 to do away with collective bargaining for most public employees.
At the same time, the ruling powers in Madison cut back on homestead tax exemptions that helped the elderly, trimmed back the Earned Income Tax Credit that helped the poor and added a few new tax break for businesses.
And for good measure, they tried -- but so far have been stymied -- in making it harder for citizens to vote. (Not that very many citizens were deterred on Tuesday. The turnout in the recall election was among the highest in state history.)
So the issues of justice facing the state of Wisconsin are significant. How this state treats its poorest citizens is clearly a moral issue. Likewise, bringing all citizens to the decision making table, whether as voters or as employees, is a moral issue. That's the "do justice" message from Micah. It's a message for Walker even as he celebrates his ability to hang on to his office.
In the aftermath of the acrimony of the past year, though, the calls to "love kindness" and "walk humbly" are also vital to reknitting the fabric of Wisconsin.
One noted Wisconsin author, Parker Palmer, has written eloquently of "healing the heart of democracy" not by papering over the very real differences that exist among citizens but by a willingness to listen to one another and to live with the tensions while seeking ways to move forward. A bit of kindness and a bit of humility are vital ingredients for that recipe.
A growing list of faith leaders organized by the Wisconsin Council of Churches are signing on to a statement inviting the state into a "Season of Civility" as we move out of our contentious recall into another contentious round of elections this fall.
"As a result of the extreme political polarization in Wisconsin, many in our congregations and communities feel marginalized or demonized by their neighbors on account of their economic status, occupation or political beliefs," the statement says. "Politics in a democracy is not a zero-sum game or a winner-take-all contest. Rather, it is a joint effort to reach a workable consensus on how to advance the common good."
All that work lies ahead. Tonight, we will simply gather in a sanctuary, light a few candles, hear a few words from Jesus and end with one of those great South African hymns called "Bambelela" -- "In times of trouble, never give up. When you're all alone, never give up."
The struggle for justice and for kindness did not end when the polls closed Tuesday night. It goes on ... and on.
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