Bloomington, Champaign, Decatur, Peoria, Springfield – these Illinois cities were all visited in the last few days by candidates vying for the U.S. presidency. As the March 15 Illinois primaries loomed so did the candidates.
I had the opportunity to attend one of these rallies, where I was packed into an auditorium with other would be voters. It wasn’t my first political rally, but I was struck as always by the sense of camaraderie displayed by the participants. You may not know anyone there, but you know you belong. You can speak freely with total strangers who won’t shout you down for your beliefs.
As we waited for the candidate to take the stage, organizers led us in enthusiastically chanting the candidate’s name. A local pastor came to the platform and lead a prayer for the nation. Then it was time to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. I almost said “amen” at its conclusion.
The candidate finally appeared on stage to much cheering and applause. As the speech continued the candidate’s voice fell into a rhythm as any good pastor’s would. Elderly women could be heard shouting, “Amen,” when something was said that they agreed with strongly. Soon they were joined by others. A few men even held their hands in the air as some do during worship services on Sunday mornings.
I realized then that for many, this was something akin to a religious experience and wondered if the churched and unchurched in the room knew it too. It frightened me in a way, and saddened me too. When was the last time I had been in a church service filled with such excitement? When had I last experienced such a sense of camaraderie and acceptance among fellow Christians?
There has been much debate lately about how Christians should behave as citizens of this nation and as citizens of heaven. Such debate is good and should take place. But what I’ll continue to ponder is how to be more loving and Christ-like to others inside and outside the walls of the church.
Lisa Sergent is a contributing editor to the Illinois Baptist.