An Open Letter to the Presidential Candidates about the Season of Lent

Dear Presidential Candidates,

You’re all very busy these days. Going from city to city and stage to stage. Practicing speeches. Shaking hands. Staying up late. Waking up early. You’re doing your very best at a task you feel called to do. You must be exhausted. 

Everyone needs rest. You need rest. In order to be your best self and make your best decisions, you need a dose of renewal amid all the mud-slinging. And that’s exactly why I have a special invitation for you. A 40-day invitation. 

Are you familiar with Lent? A little background: it’s 40 days of preparation. Before the glory of Easter morning, we all get some collective time to reflect, ponder, and pray.

There’s one particular Lenten discipline that I think would be very helpful to you at this particular juncture. It’s called repentance. 

It’s probably not quite what you’re thinking. The word “repentance” can conjure up all sorts of penitential guilt and shame, but that’s not really what the word means. And that’s surely not what I’m inviting you to do for the next 40 days. 

The original Hebrew word for repentance is nacham, and it’s used throughout the Old Testament. It has many layers of meaning, but the root of the word means to take a deep breath. 

That’s a good starting point. Do that. Now. And then again and again throughout every day of this campaign. 

To repent in a biblical sense is to turn back, to change one’s mind, to relent from doing something destructive, and to think differently than one has thought before. 

Would you consider taking up a spirit of reflective repentance for the next 40 days? I get that it’s counter-culture. It probably won’t garner you any headlines. I recognize it’s a risk. But think of it as an investment in the emotional intelligence of our entire human species. 

For 40 days - I don't want to hear you say any other candidate's name. I don't want to hear you talk about their voting records or lack of experience. What if you didn’t cast any judgement of any kind until after Easter? What if what our country needs most is for you to lead from a different vantage point for a couple weeks? 

I invite you spend the next 40 days turning back. Look backwards. At your life. At the lessons you’ve learned through family, business, and politics. Specifically, I encourage you to tell stories about times you changed your mind. Tell us examples of when you learned something and it caused you to think differently from that moment forward.

For a few weeks, stop telling us all the ways you’re the best. Instead, tell us about ways you’ve learned, grown, and changed. Tell us stories about how you’re willing to spend time with people who think differently than you - and not just spend time with them but be truly changed by them. 

Perhaps there's a time and a place for stubbornness, ego, and self-righteousness. But I’m convinced that that time and place is fairly limited, and I'd venture to say - now is not that time. 

Instead - what if now is the time for a different kind of courage? Courage expressed in self-reflection, humility, and repentance. 

The world needs leaders willing to admit that they don’t know it all. The world needs leaders who freely tell stories about how they’ve made mistakes and what they learned from those mistakes. 

Model this for us. Show us that you’re capable of changing your mind. 

Perhaps you're concerned about expressing this sort of vulnerability. Maybe you think that admitting you’ve changed your mind in life is a sign of weakness. I’d encourage you to reconsider that perspective. 

When I hear that you've had the same opinion on every issue for many, many years, it does not make me trust you more. Instead, it makes me suspicious of you. It makes me wonder if you're incapable of taking in new information. It leads me to believe your ego will prevent you from the kind of learning and growth needed to build a more just, equitable, and peaceful world.

If you're thinking that to change one's mind is to appear weak, I'd like to persuade you otherwise. Looking for a biblical example? Try God.

God repents in the Bible. God turns back. It doesn’t just happen once. It happens on multiple occasions (see Exodus, Jonah, and several prophets). God literally changes God's own mind. 

If that point doesn’t convey the legitimacy and value of mind-changing, I don’t really know what would. 

Even God repents! The Creator of All Things recognizes the value of pausing, breathing, taking in new information, and allowing for a personal change of opinion. 

How about you? 

Show us all that you’re capable of repentance. Model it for us. For just a little bit, could you release the need to be the smartest, loudest, and most experienced? It’s so noisy in our current political climate. 

Use this season of Lent to show us that the presidential candidates are real people. Remind us that you’re actual human beings with lived experiences who are capable of maturity, growth, and self-reflection. 

May you use these sacred weeks in intentional ways. 

Be courageous. Perhaps in ways you’ve never been courageous before.

And don't be afraid to repent.  


Rev. Emily Carson