Well, it’s over, or close. We find ourselves either elated or discouraged, or just flatout exhausted. The real question for me is what now? As a nation sailing through all this turbulence; as individuals struggling to regain some balance; as institutions and businesses, schools and churches, valiantly seeking to step out from under the Covid cloud—where do we go from here? I find myself yearning as well to step away from all the hatred we’ve spread around.

We need a breather. Back away. We need to do some serious thinking.

Where is our nation is headed? Tragically, in my opinion, we are a nation teetering on the brink of collapse. One key issue for me is that we seem to be trying to cut ourselves from our roots. A nation cannot survive when its history is dismissed, its traditions trashed, maybe most of all when it stops telling its stories. We are finding ourselves with our soul hollowed out, lost and wandering, yearning for something better. Yes, we’re an exhausted nation.

Well, what from our roots is worth preserving?

I am a Christian. Naturally I turn to my own roots first to answer such a question. Is there a vision in the Christian faith for what human flourishing might look like? I think there is.

It all begins with love, says the deepest roots of my faith, our love for God, and our love for each other. Both are necessary. Before dismissing this as mere fluff, imagine this: What if we could reorient everything—our policies, our education, our philosophies and theologies, our personal behavior, our families—around love? What if we could tell new stories about how love changes everything?

What then if we could focus our best energies on building up healthy communities, neighborhoods, organizations, schools, families most of all, certainly churches. Maybe we should forget for a while what is national and global and just focus closer to home. If we can’t animate our communities with love, we will die of starvation of the basic human need to belong.

My tradition also teaches, at its deepest roots, to think hard about human life, to be thoughtful, to regard some things as true, to think on things that are good. We start with the sanctity of life. How can we possibly flourish unless we do everything possible to protect and cherish all of life, the life of the helpless unborn, the life of those who approach death? We must learn better all the time how to honor the dignity of people across all races and ethnicities, the homeless, the struggling poor, those challenged physically, those who are ill, those addicted and depressed, those who languish in loneliness. My tradition insists, even as we fall short, that each of us is created in the image of God.

So how do these fundamentals translate into a better society, a more healthy nation? If we can truly adopt these things, I believe we might witness the beginning of spiritual renewal, a revival of sorts. I am convinced such a revival is necessary to begin building a better future.

I often think of that extraordinary sermon delivered by John Winthrop, as the ship Arabella approached a landing spot, in 1630, on the shores of New England.

Now the only way to avoid this shipwreck, and to provide for our posterity, is to follow the counsel of Micah, to doe justly, to love mercy, to walk humbly with our God. . . . We must uphold a familiar commerce together in all meekness, gentleness, patience and liberality. We must delight in each other; make other’s conditions our own; rejoice together, mourn together, labour and suffer together, always having before our eyes our commission and community in the work, as members of the same body. So shall we keep the unity of the spirit in the bond of peace. . . . If we shall deal falsely with our God in this work we have undertaken, and so cause him to withdraw his present help from us, we shall be made a story and a by-word through the world.

This is a Christian vision for our future. It’s one of the deep roots of our nation. I’d like to live in a world like this. I know cancel-culture, and just ordinary secularism, will want to airbrush such foolishness out of existence. Woke culture will point to the treatment of natives already living on those shores. I wish that part of the story was different.

But just maybe, after the election, after all we’ve been through, maybe we’ve been brought to our knees as a nation, and as individuals. Maybe that’s the best place, the only place, to begin again. I am thinking this morning how I might better walk humbly with my God. That’s a simple place to begin. That’s at least a place to think about rebuilding.

Painting: William F. Halsall , ”Arrival of the Winthrop’s Ships in Boston Harbor”