Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Why Many Other Christians and I Are Grieving Trump's Victory - Jeff Wiersma

It feels like our yearning for what Jesus called "shalom," our desire to live out Micah 6:8, and our allegiance to what Jesus taught in the beatitudes has been rejected by 80% of our own faith community. It feels like our core beliefs have been rejected in favor of the pursuit of power by evangelical leaders and a candidate who built his campaign by stoking fear.

I will begin with my standard 2016 election disclaimer: "I didn't vote for Hillary either. In fact, I have never voted for a Clinton."

Ok, now that we got that out of the way ... here is my best attempt to explain - to those of you in my faith community that voted for Trump - why exactly it is that many of your fellow faith community members are feeling discouraged and alienated in the wake of Trump's win.

Many people I know who voted for Trump are people I worship with each week, people whose kids hang out with my kids, people who visited me when I was in the hospital. I know them to be people with good hearts and caring souls on a personal and community level.

So in the time following election day, I have been determined keep an open mind to the possibility that many of my friends - who chose to vote in favor of Donald Trump - could have been doing so as much to cast a negative vote against Hillary for ideological reasons as they were wholeheartedly endorsing who Donald Trump is as a person.

As for more specifically political reasons that some who have supported Trump have told me where among their determining factors ...

*  The economy and Washington corruption: The upset that many Trump supporters feel with how the economic policy has played out over the last 36 years - and how crony-capitalism disadvantages 99% of the U.S. populace - is understood and shared by many of us.

* Pro Life: I understand the tenacity with which the abortion issue is reiterated in evangelical church culture and how that is often the lone issue around which many choose which candidate they will support (more on that later, or check out this link).

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But here is what I would like to ask these friends who voted for Trump - can they empathize with those of us who are devastated that Trump won and hear the reasons why? Can they see why we would be discouraged by the fact that a candidate whose values are antithetical to those Jesus lived out and taught - for which the candidate was criticized by many across different political and theological spectrums - will now be our nation's leader?

It's worth nothing that famously conservative publications like Christianity Today and World Magazine made the same critique of Trump's character deficiencies and hateful rhetoric. Conservative church leaders like Russell Moore, Max Lucado, Alan Noble, and R. Albert Mohler Jr did as well, to name but a few.

Please, try to see how it is confounding to many of us that a group of celebrity American preachers actively campaigned for Trump. They weren't merely rooting behind the scenes for "anyone but Hillary." Exasperatingly, the ethical and moral deficiencies of Trump - which they so readily shrugged off - were the very same ones that they had cited as disqualifying factors in previous candidates and presidents.

As a result, many of us feel sold out by the established Church which compromised its moral authority for the promise of power.

In addition, the perpetual insistence by Jesus that we are to "love our neighbors as ourselves" appears to have little effect in chipping away at the evangelical support of a man who degraded women based on their physical appearance and vilified entire ethnicities and faiths.

It is disheartening that a man who advocated for torture and the illegal killing of civilians during his campaign was so overwhelmingly approved of by American Christians.

Along those lines, our fear for the safety of those fellow image-bearers of Christ who comprise the "least of these" that has left us shaken.

(Did this statement trigger any of you to ask the valid question, "What about abortion?" If so, I'd urge you to read "Why I'm A Pro-Life Liberal," which can be found here.)

Our fear is valid and reasonable. Trump's candidacy and rhetoric were heartily endorsed by the KKK, Neo-Nazi groups, and white supremacists. While it is true that no one can control who supports them, it is also true that those groups have felt moved to support Trump because his rhetoric often echoes and amplifies their message. That these are groups that cause harm would be grounds enough for our apprehension. That these groups do so in the name of our faith tradition is exasperating.

That the president-elect has tapped prominent white supremacist-sympathizer Steve Bannon to be his Chief Of Staff has not helped to allay our fears.

These are some of the key reasons why our lingering grief and upset is unique to this particular election. We aren't grieving that a preferred political ideology didn't win the day or that we didn't get what he want. We've all had the candidate who we preferred to see win end up losing.

This is different.

It feels like our yearning for what Jesus called "shalom," our desire to live out Micah 6:8, and our allegiance to what Jesus taught in the beatitudes has been rejected by 80% of our own faith community. It feels like our core beliefs have been rejected in favor of the pursuit of power by evangelical leaders and a candidate who built his campaign by stoking fear.

These aren't things we need to "get over" or to "stop being crybabies" about. These are serious questions about the validity of the missional priorities of the American Church and whether there's much saltiness or light left in its public witness.

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In the midst of all of this, the good news is that Jesus is already on the margins. Jesus is already present among the very people that our president-elect degrades as weak and targets with hate-speech. When we stand in solidarity with the despised and the suffering, we're standing where Jesus is already present.

Most importantly, we don't have to abandon Jesus to abandon the unholy marriage (whether of genuine affection or ideological convenience) between Donald Trump and a large segment of the American Church.

Just as we love all of humanity as instructed by our Christian faith, we love Donald Trump. Were he about to step in front of a bus, we'd pull him back to safety, etc. We hope that the light and life that we all possess inherently will come to the surface in his life.