A Look Ahead to 2016
They tell me that 2016 is a leap year of 366 days. That it starts on a Friday means there will be fifty two Sundays. Weather prognosticators say it will be warmer and dryer, at least here in the Northwest. A space probe, previously launched, will touch down on Mars and another will arrive at Jupiter. For the first time babies will be born with the genetic material from three parents.
Elections will dominate our news. Washington State will have elections: Jay Inslee will face his announced opponent Bill Bryant for Governor. Patty Murray will have to stand for re-election and there are already four contenders for her Senate seat. Cathy McMorris Rogers will face opposition from Marine Veteran Tom Horne within in her own party and her Democratic challenger Native American Joe Pakootas.
And of course, there’s the Presidential Election. Despite news of current events: ISIS or ISIL; gender issues and abortion; environmental warming warnings and immigration aren’t highest on voter’s lists of concerns. The big issues for the coming elections will be the economy followed by criminal justice (race and weapons); health care (medicare, affordable care act); personal privacy and safety (technology and domestic terrorism); and education.
Before the end of 2015 there were over 50,000 gun violence incidents in the United States in which over 12,500 people were killed and nearly 26,000 were injured. In that number were 317 ‘multiple victim shootings’ and over 1,800 accidental shootings. Guns were used in over half of suicides nationally. Deaths by gun exceeded deaths by automobile accidents for the first time. It is a symptom of fear and mistrust tied to the notion that violence is the antidote. It reflects on how we value life, our own and other’s. On a similar note, deaths by drug overdose hit an all time high in 2015 as people found life intolerable.
National demographics are changing in dramatic ways. The number of people choosing non-Christian faiths will grow as the number of people who identify with Evangelical, Catholic and Mainline churches continue to drop. Frictional growth will be seen in ‘unaffiliated’ churches where those who have fled churches with traditional theologies and values have gone. Weekly attendance in worship will continue to drop in line with the shrinking number of Americans who say they believe in God. Only three Roman Catholics, Al Smith, John Kennedy and John Kerry, have run on a major party ticket for chief executive and all three were Democratic candidates. Yet, the current crop of Republican candidates boasts six. And that is in the face of a Pope who seems a bit more ‘progressive’.
While most of the Christian world will be dealing with issues of embedded racism and questions about women in ministry, issues that are old hat to Quakers, our issues will be of religious ‘authority’, accountability and seeking a way for practiced fundamentalists and those committed to continuing revelation to stay Friends. This is particularly a concern for our Yearly Meeting and its leadership. And we should pray for God’s grace and the willingness to be humbly led by the Holy Spirit.
During 2016 the world will remain full of hope and sin, success and failure. Hopefully we will grow wiser, like parents do thorough practical experience. We will gain a dose of reality about what politics can and cannot accomplish. Political action will not deliver utopia, conquer sin or change human nature. But it might make a difference in seeing that justice is found in the courts, make a difference between rampant crime and safer neighborhoods, make a difference between hungry families and economic security and finding alternatives to naked aggression and violence. These are spiritual issues. So let’s pray together in 2016 that we will remember who we are and how we will practice our faith. Christmas is a bridge to a new year – In Dickens’s Christmas Carol Scrooge pledges “I will honour Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year. I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future. The Spirits of all Three shall strive within me. I will not shut out the lessons that they teach!” and we can remember that it was Tim Cratchit who said “God bless us, everyone.”