America is waking up to the news that you have defeated Jon Ossoff in the special election to become the Congressional Representative for the 6th District in Georgia. While the rest of the country will begin to analyze what this means for our new Administration, its agenda, and what this means in a very divided nation, it is my hope that you will take moment to pause and reflect on what being elected in the place where you are, in a time such as this means to those people that you represent. I’m sure that no one has to tell you the election results were much closer than anyone would have predicted when this race began. And while you are the winner in this race, you do not have a clear mandate.
I am writing to you as someone who doesn’t live in your district, but as someone whose job has put me into a situation similar to the one in which you find yourself in now. I am not a politician. I am a pastor. I am one of the pastors of a large church that has people on both sides of the political spectrum and all of those in between. I am a pastor to many individuals who live in your district, some who supported you and some who worked very hard to #flipthe6th. With that said, here is what I would ask you to remember: You serve and represent ALL of them. ALL of them, whether they supported you or not. All of their concerns are now your concerns.
As someone who has made missteps in leadership in this divided time in our nation, it is easy to ignore the divisions that exist in our political districts and even our churches. Every Sunday, I stand before a congregation that, along with their hopes and joys, bring their burdens and especially their fears with them into the church. Some fear they will lose their healthcare, and some fear that the ACA will continue. Some fear that the current immigration laws will allow the US to be overrun with terrorists, while some fear that if our country does not allow for broad policies of immigration the humanitarian crisis in our world will become a crisis of an epic scale. Some of my parishioners fear the pervasiveness of guns in our society, while some fear that their second amendment rights will be stripped of them and they will lose the right to protect themselves and their families. Ms. Handel, I often have to remind myself that I have been called to be a pastor to all of them, with all that they bring with them. But here’s an even more important lesson that I have learned, while the people that I serve are all over the political spectrum, they are all part of a Christian congregation. They all stand shoulder to shoulder on Sunday morning, confessing their sins, confessing the Apostles Creed, and they all come to the altar to receive Holy Communion. The people that you are now elected to serve have diverse political beliefs, but they are all Georgians, and they are all Americans.
My hope for you is that you will begin your service to the people of this State with the courage to make fair and just decisions that will benefit all of your constituents. I am sure that it will be tempting, and perhaps even easy, to go to Washington and live inside an echo chamber with those who believe exactly the way that you do. As pastor, I can tell you that temptation exists even for myself. Again, it is my hope that God will give you the courage to govern with wisdom to do what is right instead of what is easy.
Finally, I want you to know that each week my congregation prays for our elected officials. We will be praying for you.
The Rev. Karen Stephenson Slappey
Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, Atlanta, Georgia