I woke up this morning and decided that I was done grieving.
I’ve spent the last ten days or so in an incredulous fog. It began about 9pm last Tuesday when swing state after swing state started going red. It wasn’t because I was devastated that Hillary would eventually lose, it was because it was such an extreme shock that I just hadn’t prepared for the eventuality of an orange presidency. Nobody had him winning except the dark corners of StormFront and Breitbart.
As the voting demographics came out, I had to take a hard look in the mirror. I guess that’s when I moved from denial toward anger. How could so many people that look like me and worship at the same churches I do vote for someone so antithetical to the things I believe? Bargaining only lasted a few minutes, while a couple of online petitions circulated suggesting that electors could overturn the vote and an article came out reasoning that Bernie could still win thanks to an obscure loophole. But I’ve spent most of the past week wrestling with some form of depression.
I’ve alternated between two things that I’m grieving, but neither of them is that Hillary is not our President-elect, so please don’t rush to dismiss this. I am grieving that people I love are now being threatened with their lives and livelihoods. I don’t mean to appropriate the pain of my brothers and sisters who would destroy me in the Oppression Olympics. As an educated, straight, white male I will be the “beneficiary” of many of Trumps bold promises, so I have come to recognize what this is. It is an empathy that comes from taking Jesus seriously when he demands that we put the interests of our neighbors on the same levels as our own. It comes from the basic act of human decency in solidarity with those who are unfairly threatened or persecuted that injustice weighs heavy on my heart. It is descriptions of what shalom means, a communal well-being that threatens the agendas of those who try to divide us. In the scriptures that many Orange voters read, the striving that has been defined as an individualized peace in our own spirits is just a co-opted version of a peace that comes from just living between all members of a community – even and especially the marginalized outsiders.
I’ve also been grieving that hard look in the mirror, wondering how my shared demographics elected someone so far from what I believe. The details may be a little malleable still, but exit polls showed that 81% of white evangelicals voted for Orange. Have I not been shepherding enough? Have I not been prophetic enough?
There has obviously been a miscommunication somewhere. If we are reading and being shaped by the same Bible, which parts are one of us not reading? I’m wondering if it is the part that reminds us that we are to care for the immigrants and the refugees, because we were once aliens in a strange land too. Perhaps it is the part where the economic system was set up in ways that didn’t exploit labor, and made room to empower the poor through gleaning laws? It is probably about the Year of Jubilee, where we are called to forgive our debtors. Maybe it was the tithe meal, or the New Testament version called table fellowship, where we are called to make room at our tables for those different from us, so we can share in the mutuality of eating together. Or was it the Kingdom of God, the thread that ties together the whole narrative that calls us to be partners with the Messiah in healing the world and helping New Jerusalem pour through the cracks? Is there something that I’m missing? If your theology is all about self-preservation, I shouldn’t be surprised when you vote that way too. Guess we have a lot of work to do!
But today I’ve come to acceptance – the final and lasting stage. It has come with a realization and an opportunity. If we are going to continue to be the church, then it’s time we have to start BEING THE CHURCH. No more relying on the government to protect the vulnerable. No more relying on the government as our vehicle toward more just and peaceful living. No more relying on the government to help us love our neighbor. It’s an opportunity for revival, a chance to practice what we preach, to put our bodies and our wallets on the line.
Nobody can do it alone, are you in?