Who saw that coming? I know I didn’t.
I haven’t been very active on social media the last few days while I let things sort of sink in. Oh, I’ve “liked” some stuff, wished a few “happy birthdays,” and shared some articles on important things other than politics. I have read a lot of reactions in blog posts and FB statuses (stati?).
What I have intentionally not done is to comment, or post anything myself about the election.
I think I will now.
You may think there’s really nothing more to be said, and you may be right, but there a few important things that I hope we don’t miss.
What follows is sort of a hodge-podge of things that have been swirling around in my head since the wee hours of Wednesday morning.
First of all, now that Donald has won the election I have to recognize that he is my president. He’s not just president of the people who voted for him. He’s president of the ones who opposed him. He’s president of those who hate him. He’s even president of those who are demonstrating and protesting against him right now.
This is not a sporting event where one team wins and one team loses and life goes on. This is a decision we made. That’s right. We. All of us. I am disgusted by the gloating posts declaring the hope that some celebrity or other will keep their promise to leave America now that Trump won. I am angered about being accused that it’s my fault that Hillary lost because I voted for an independent candidate. If the election had gone the other way, I’m sure I would receive the same, but opposite accusation. I’m troubled by those who are claiming that, even though he was elected, Donald Trump will never be their president.
And, what about those who supported him?
There are too many easy false narratives to accept. Certainly, there are many Trump supporters who fit Hillary Clinton’s description. Vladimir Putin, David Duke, the KKK and other white supremacy groups, all these and others, who think they have found a champion in The Donald are most definitely “deplorable.”
However, there are others. I am friends, good friends, with many. They are emphatically not deplorable. They are not racists. They don’t hate women or Mexicans. They care about the less fortunate and prove it by their many acts of service in their community. They truly love this country and want what’s best for her.
But they certainly saw this election differently than I did.
I appreciate what Ed Stetzer wrote:
“Trump’s supporters—like many Americans—are complicated.
I don’t know them all, but I know some—including some members of my church.
The ones I do know don’t hate immigrants (though they think illegal immigration is an economic and criminal problem), think a multicultural society is a good thing (while they are quite tired of politically correct speech codes), and they really do want what’s best for the country (though we might differ on what that is).
Still they support Trump.
I may not agree with that decision, but I do care about them. In part because, for some Trump supporters, I am their pastor.”
I find myself in a similar situation.
Those of us who, for whatever reason(s) couldn’t vote for him, now have a choice to make.
We can pray for him, or we can hope he crashes and burns. Back in 2009, Rush Limbaugh famously made the statement that he hoped Barack Obama would fail in his presidency. His comment was taken out of context, but most people thought he was saying he was not accepting him as “his” president. That seems to me to be about the most unpatriotic, not to mention unchristian, thing that a person could do.
This command from the pen of the Apostle Paul comes to mind:
1 Timothy 2:1-4
I urge, then, first of all, that petitions, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for all people— for kings and all those in authority, that we may live peaceful and quiet lives in all godliness and holiness. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all people to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.
Correct me if I’m wrong, but I believe the Roman Emperor at the time Paul wrote this was Nero. Christians were instructed to pray for their emperor. Their persecutor. Seems to me that God likely expects us to do the same for Donald Trump.
Now, unlike many, I am not naïve enough to believe that Donald Trump has become a believer and follower of Jesus. I mean, I don’t know what Dr. Dobson was smoking when he claimed that he did. (He does live in Colorado.) Although, to be fair, he did dial back that claim a bit.
But, I would also be the last to say that change is not possible. It most certainly is. God specializes in changing people. It happened in scripture, it happens today, and it happened to me.
I admit that I have a natural tendency toward optimism. In fact, this is the shirt I’m wearing as I type this…
So, is it possible?
I know it seems highly unlikely, but is it possible that, instead of feeding his already out-sized ego, the office of the presidency could actually be a humbling experience for Donald Trump? Could he walk into the Oval Office and be awed by its history, and by the past presidents who have used it, and commit himself to serving the people like many of his great predecessors? Is it possible that after decades of living the life of a hedonistic playboy he could find redemption in service to his nation, and actually do what he claimed he could do? Namely, face down the special interest groups to which, unlike many politicians, he has no allegiance; stand up for those who feel betrayed by their own government? For the good of our nation, and for the good of those who feel they have no opportunity, who have lost hope, I pray he will.
And what about those folks who feel hopeless? The ones who are so fearful?
During this campaign I have been struck by how much fear and anger seemed to be out there. I didn’t quite get it. I still don’t, to be quite honest. Sure, I have some concerns about some things that I think ought to be different, but I just don’t understand what is so utterly terrible about our national situation that the answer is to blow it up and start over. Don’t concern yourself with temperament or character, just get it done. I never got it because, you know… optimist.
Consequently, I never believed Trump would get the Republican nomination. Then when he did, I thought they had nominated a candidate that was completely unfit. Not only that, I believed he was unelectable.
Why did I think that? Why did the pundits think that? Why did almost everyone I know think that?
I’m certain there are many reasons, but surely one major reason is the divide that exists in our country. It’s really more of an invisible, impenetrable wall. I’ve been thinking about this a lot.
I recommend this whole article by David Gushee, but here’s a pertinent quote:
“The election results show that there are (at least) two Americas, not just one. Anyone with the faintest interest in this country or in commenting about it had better get to know the other America rather than remain hermetically sealed in their own monoculture.
There are three places in my life in which I must engage that Other America — my extended family, my classroom, and my church. In those three sacred communities I encounter people that I care about and am called to serve who did not view the politics of 2016 through the same prism that I did.
As human beings, we all face a basic choice — whether to remain in relationship with those who voted differently than we did or to cast them into outer darkness for having done something that is from our viewpoint incomprehensible.”
There are people who are hurting, and many of us are unaware of it. Sadly, many of us don’t even care. We talk about caring for the outcast and the hurting, and here’s a whole category of people right under our privileged noses that we aren’t even aware of. And if we are aware of them, compassion is not what we feel. It’s more like disdain. (Incidentally, I’m preaching to myself right now, but if the shoe fits…)
As I was thinking about all of this, I was reminded of a challenging piece I read back in March of this year, when Trump’s rise was just beginning. In it Michael Kelley writes:
“We naturally congregate with people who look like us, think like us, earn like us, and even vote like us. Facebook even does it for us… Or to put it another way, if left to ourselves we will always do for ourselves what Facebook does for us right now – curate our lives so that everything that comes into our sphere of vision squares exactly with our belief system.
But Jesus has called us out of that. He’s called us to go into the world – all the world – and meet hostility head on with compassion, judgment head on with love, anger head on with service. But we must know our tendency to flock together well enough to know that we cannot be trusted with this assignment. We must take direct action, knowing that if we do nothing, we will always and forever surround ourselves with people just like us…
Regardless of what happens in this election, it has shown me that there is a great chasm between the people I’m most comfortable being around and everyone else. And it is a chasm that I must be willing to step into for the sake of the gospel.”
So, the outcome wasn’t what anyone really expected, and it wasn’t what many of us desired, but, cockeyed optimist that I am, I believe there are things we can and must learn from it.
Things that can make us better.
If we fail to learn them, I fear we can anticipate the same kind of thing every four years.
I’ll close with another quote from Ed Stetzer’s outstanding article:
“We won’t soon forget 2016.
Whether in emails the sender thought would never see the light of day, or tweets heard around the world in the middle of the night, we’ve been exposed to some of America’s basest instincts and darkest thoughts. It’s hard to recover from that. But we must remember that this election isn’t the turning point in our story…
Christians should never forget the bigger picture.
The turning point in our story never fell on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. It fell on a weekend, when the veil was torn in two on Friday and the stone was rolled away on Sunday. No elected official can fix all of our problems and no elected official can undo our hope. Christ made a way so we don’t have to trust in chariots.
God has a mission and it hasn’t changed. Donald Trump cannot stop it. Hillary Clinton cannot stop it. The media cannot stop it. The Director of the FBI cannot stop it. And Vladimir Putin and Julian Assange cannot stop it.
What happens now? We wake up tomorrow and live in light of what we know to be true. The mission remains and the end is certain. It’s time to come together and get back to work.
A divided nation needs a more united church focused on a common mission.”
It’s right there in our name: The United States of America.
To the church I say, “Let’s show them how it’s done.”