From the Editor—Friday Reflections

Getting Ahead of Voting

The Friday Reflection by James M. Kushiner

October 23rd, 2020

Martyrdom of James the Just, Menologion of Basil II, tenth/eleventh century.


e patient, therefore, brothers, until the coming of the Lord. See how the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, being patient about it, until it receives the early and the late rains. (James 5:7)

We usually reap what we sow. We can't control all outcomes. In May, my garden was anointed with repeated early rains, preventing me from planting. Because plants were sold out due to a spike in rookie gardeners inspired by Covid-19 lock-downs, I resorted to planting seeds, even some 2-3 years old.

In July, a broccoli plant emerged from an old seed. In September, it had a very small head. I waited, fertilized, and regularly watered it. Today, it's a respectable head capable of feeding several diners.

This week, the garden received what must be the latter rains—two inches on Wednesday night and more today. The forecast is for highs in the 40s tomorrow and the foreseeable future. I will harvest the broccoli. It's not a miracle; it's the nature of God's creation.

During today's early morning storm, I went to the early-voting polling place. Other mornings this week, the lines stretched down a full city block. There were no lines during the storm. I tried to vote like James.

Soon, all the political work done by candidates, staff members, media, and others will be harvested in counted votes. Then, both incumbent and new leaders will take office around the country and in Washington. It's a seasonal thing. Some political seeds sprout; some don't. Some grow briefly and die; some make it to a bountiful harvest. Sometimes there are surprises in the political garden, including weeds.

In 2020, resentment and anger boiled in the streets of our cities. Candidates often campaign on making radical changes. I wish that all politicians, legislators, media pundits, tenured protesters, paid activists, street fighters, and revolutionary agitators, would read the Epistle of James and take it to heart. Especially this, from today's reading in the St. James Devotional Guide:

Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God. (James 1:19-20)

The "righteousness of God" is James' way of saying God's will being done on earth—justice is a good part of that. James warns, the anger of man does not produce justice. Anger may help bring down a wicked tyrant, but the justice of society afterwards will depend on more than wrath. The righteousness of God is justice that permeates the spirit of a society over time; it is good soil that results in righteous fruit.

Granted, politics is a messy business, not an arena for many saints. But after the verbal brawls end, I pray that patience, humility, and "cooler heads" will prevail and govern. Planting the seeds of resentment, rancor, and anger may pump up a crowd or inflame a mob, but this dynamic is more likely to do harm than good. Politicians are persuaders, not leaders in righteousness, using material promises or pandemics to win votes. History is littered with bread-promising scorpions.

James led thousands of Christians in Jerusalem by powerful example. Second-century Christian writer Hegesippus wrote of James that because of his "excessive righteousness he was call 'the Just' and 'Oblias,' that is in Greek 'Rampart of the People and righteousness.'"

It is said that James would enter the Temple, and hour after hour knelt interceding for the people and for the salvation of the world, so that his knees became hard as stone. Also, that he drank neither wine nor strong drink and like John the Baptist, he ate no flesh meat. This is what churches should be doing in 2020. Praying and fasting.

In about 62, after the death of Governor Festus, "disorder and anarchy reigned in Judea," and a mob killed James the Just after he confessed Christ in the Temple. The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church. James's words remain:

And a harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace. (3:18)

Not a political harvest, but one pleasing to God, regardless of the results the rulers of the earth promise but can't deliver. The patient Lord of the Harvest has them in derision.

Yours for Christ, Creed & Culture,

James M. Kushiner
Executive Director, The Fellowship of St. James

—James M. Kushiner is Executive Editor of Touchstone: A Journal of Mere Christianity, and Executive Director of The Fellowship of St. James.