I'm a moderate who leans democratic, a minority among fellow Christians. I've been questioned on my faith because of it. As a Christian, and democratic leaning moderate, it seems obvious that I would be less than excited about the results of the recent election.
I am far less than excited. In fact, I share more in common in regards to my feelings about this election with my friends who have experienced sexual assault, or have skin of a darker shade than white, than I do with the majority of Christians in this country. And, I'm terribly troubled by that fact.
I feel a sense of grief at how much of what has gone right (in my humble opinion) over the last 8 years may be undone in the next 4. Unemployment has dropped from over 10% to under 5%. Hundreds of thousands of jobs have been added to the economy every single month. America's stature and respect amongst foreign countries (Russia and the Philippines excluded) has improved. Concrete steps have been taken towards improving the US' negative contributions to climate change. Abortion rates have dropped. Consumer protections are improving. Big businesses and banks have seen increased oversight through bipartisan regulation, 20 million more Americans have healthcare. Home prices are on the rise. And, finally, wages of middle class Americans are starting to increase. Our President-elect has vowed to undo everyone of those gains in the first 100 days.
What's even more disturbing to me though is how someone who told virtually no truths to America in any debates or speeches, offered little to no policy, and lacked transparency more than any other presidential candidate in history could pass moral muster and garner the support of so many Christians. I need to expound on that comment.
People support candidates for all manner of reasons. We call them "the issues." People across America base their vote through many different filters: taxes, gay rights, wages, healthcare, abortion, war, international relations, terrorism, national security, social security, retirement, my parents were from this political party, I don't trust him/her, I believe everything I see on T.V., my Uncle Bill told me he's a satan lover, etc. etc.
My observation is that Christians are far more narrow in their selectiveness. There have classically been 2-3 "hottest" button issues from my vantage point: abortion, gay rights, and taxes. The latter of these is a little bit of an outlier among the 3, but it broadly encompasses social welfare, the budget, etc. For sake of conversation, let's take abortion.
In part, I choose abortion because of how many Christians (and how many Christian leaders) I heard bring this up as a primary, or THE primary, reason they would vote for Donald Trump. And truthfully, I want to believe that one issue has been the primary reason the Christianity and Conservative Republicanism have been so synonymous since I've been old enough to pay attention.
It's an honorable value. Being pro life is something Christians are proud to trumpet, even if the definition is largely reserved only for unborn babies. But here's where it gets complicated. In order to expound, let me stop for a minute...
My wife and I were having a conversation with a friend of ours from another state about the results of the election recently. Nat is a Christian woman who has experienced sexual assault. As someone who grew up in a Republican home, but had experienced what she had, she could not bring herself to vote for Trump, especially after the Access Hollywood tape was released and several women came forward to accuse him of assault. She started a conversation with us about her experience and her frustrations with everything.
Amidst the conversation, we all took time to read an article in Christianity Today about Bill Johnson, the lead pastor of Bethel Church in Redding, Ca, and his justifications for voting for Trump. Quoting Bill's Facebook page, the article points out that Bill's quest began with a decision to vote for Trump, followed with a challenge to be sure that was a morally acceptable decision, and concluded with justifications from the bible.
Now, here's where I bring this back to what I was saying about the way Christians vote on issues. See, I've been asked many times how I could vote the way I do and be a Christian. So, I've had lots of opportunities to dig deeper into my own convictions. And I have a conclusion. Here's a snippet from the aforementioned conversation, then I'll take some time to break it down:
I did read the Bill Johnson article and frankly I think he's pretty wrong on this. Truthfully,it surprises me from someone who otherwise seems fairly in tune. He falls pray to the same failure as many Republican Christians I know: shortsightedness.
Too many Christians vote based on stated policies rather than on what's effective. You're against abortion, and taxes? You're my candidate. All the while they pay no mind to the fact that abortion rates drop under Democrats and increase under Republicans. Reductions in taxes under Republicans go overwhelmingly to the wealthy and the middle class shrinks. Not to mention tax cuts typically come at the expense of social programs that help the poor, and oh by the way, help drop abortion rates.
The question is never one of what does the bible say? The question is one of how do we get there? Christians rely too much on passing laws to outlaw things and not enough on laws that solve problems.
Matthew 10:16 says "look, I am sending you out like sheep among wolves: therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves."
We get the innocent as doves piece, but not the shrewd as snakes piece. I translate that as, it doesn't just matter what you say in public (I'm against abortion), but what results you actually get. I had a 4 hour debate in a very public way in a coffee shop in one of the conservative areas of Minnesota several years ago. At one point I asked my friend, "if we manage to pass all laws that make us live as the Bible calls for, does that automatically make all Americans Christians?"
To me the clear answer is no. And honestly, we live in a country with a lot of religions who all share the same freedom to hold their beliefs and worship God in their own way (or not). You can't justify laws for the whole country based on what the Bible says. Half of America doesn't believe it, and about 80% doesn't read it.
So then we need to come up with legislation that protects people, that solves problems facing a society of religious and non-religious people.
I want to make clear that the points I make in that conversation aren't meant to skewer Christian Republicans. It's just that Christian Republicans tend to be my biggest critics. My challenge to all Christians is threefold:
Vote on more than 1 or 2 issues - I listed taxes as one of 3 common Christian priorities in the voting booth and noted that value encompasses several others, including social welfare and budgets. And budgets encompasses nearly every issue. You may think you are only voting ProLife, but that is more than likely NOT reality.
Consider what FIXES the issue when considering your priorities. Voting for the ProLife candidate does not fix the abortion issue. It only makes abortions illegal.
Consider Matthew 10:16 and think about what policies and candidates actually will do the most to rectify the issue. Be shrewd. Being a responsible Christian in America has nothing to do with advertising your support for the right positions, and everything to do with loving people enough to help solve the contributing problems. That may mean you need to break rank with one party or the other. Be brave.
All of this said, I have to be really honest. I am hurting for many people I know and several more I don't. The tone from Donald Trump during this campaign, and his promises for his first 100 days are painful to hear. The conversations I've had with really good people feeling marginalized and unvalued and their concerns for their minority friends, immigrants, etc., nearly drive me to tears. People are legitimately scared. I've experienced at least 6 presidential elections and my candidate of choice has only won twice. I'm not prone to overblown fear about the direction of the country after a presidential election, but I truly identify with many of the fears I've heard expressed.
This morning the following event was reported in the local news:
My friend Monica shared this Facebook snippet with me this morning as she expressed the following sentiment:
I'm afraid for my Hispanic son- my gay best friend- my minority friends- and every woman I know. How are you dealing??
Many people I know would dismiss these fears as irrational. But, these are real fears stoked by consistent racist and sexist comments by our President elect. The fears are real regardless of whether I acknowledge them or not, and they are only more justified in the face of commentary by many Trump supporters over the last 2 days. White supremacists state that they feel legitimized by Trump. Trump supporters on twitter spew intense vitriol at protesters across the country. Trump himself opened these doors with his campaign. And the scariest thing is that Christians across the country overlooked all of the hate-mongering (bloviated or not), the sexual assault accusations (legitimized by Trumps own confession), and elected the man anyway because his stated position matched a couple of their priorities (he apologized for the rest so it's all good.)
Let me stop for a minute on that last point and address Bill Johnson directly (this will make sense if you read the CT article I referenced earlier):
It is inexcusable for him to dismiss talk about assaulting women as ok from someone seeking to be the leader of the free world. If all it was was an accusation with no recording... ok. He's an idiot, but apologize and carry on. But there's proof! And further, there were 10+ women who came forward and testified that he did just that to them. To so easily wipe that away as, "Hey, he apologized," is appalling from a leader in the faith. I don't even know how to explain that to my daughters who believe Jesus loves them and will always protect them. Sorry girls, you aren't even valued in the church. That's despicable. It's clear that he was using the Bible to justify his feelings, not the other way around; a cardinal sin of Bible exegetes.
You've been reading too long, and you are ready to fall asleep so let me wrap this up. Donald Trump was elected President. That scares me. I'm scared for minorities. I'm scared for immigrants, for the poor, and frankly for all of us (even those who voted him in). I'm scared about climate change progress, about the rich and poor becoming even more of what they already are. I'm scared of what happens to the economy when corruption runs rampant and businesses lack oversight.
I've heard a lot of Christians quote the verses about respecting authority because God put them there. And while its true, its also only half of the picture. When I read back in the book of Samuel, when Israel asked for a King, God granted it. But, it was not long before Israel cried aloud about having a king. God didn't remove the king though. Israel had to bear the fruit of the tree they planted.
Frankly, I think this election may be revelatory for American Christians. Christians have long voted on mostly those two issues. And they assume that a vote truly affects either of those in a positive way. Statistics show otherwise. The economy and abortion rates get better under Democrats. Why, because it's not about the legislation. Its about solutions to the contributing issues. Hopefully, Christians will quickly realize what they've done. If not, it will be the end of Christianity in America as we know it. Maybe that's not a bad thing. Sometimes God gives us what we want and it doesn't satisfy, just so we can give up that pursuit.
My friend Monica asked me how I'm dealing? Here was my response:
How am I dealing right now? I'm avoiding the news as much as possible for a little while. I'm a junky so that still means I'm reading more than I should. I've been pretty down. I got off of Facebook. And I'm tuning out from the news for awhile. It actually feels really good and lifts my spirit pretty quickly.
That's not a solution. It's space to grieve for the moment. Soon it will need to transform into, "What am I going to do to make this country better regardless of politics?" I think I'm realizing some of those answers, and it's largely boiling down to returning to core Christian principles of Jesus (not necessarily the Church).
Loving my neighbors(not for the purpose of salvation, but just because they need and deserve love)..
Being purposeful about embracing and befriending people of other colors and religions.
Creating a safe place in my home, not just for my children, but for anyone who enters and needs support from the broken world outside.
Teaching my children these same principles so that as they enter the world with all their adult rights, they can create a better society from the ground up, not by voting in legislation, but by creating and building spaces, environments, support structures, and organizations that change the world around them just by existing.
This is where Christians have gone wrong for decades, reducing their efforts at making the world better to filling in a little circle on election day when they feel their values might be compromised.
Keep doing your hope for youth. Put your heart and soul into it. That's what really matters.
I'm encouraged by Monica. She shared an idea she had with me this evening. A sexual assault survivor with a hispanic son and gay friends, a Christian, had an idea to promote unity and healing in our country. She's already finding an outlet for her fear. I'm encouraged by people like Monica who can see the forest through the trees and who believe that all people deserve to be loved regardless of whether they are getting it just right or not. Sounds a lot like Jesus to me.
I'm also encouraged by Nat. She has experienced sexual assault in some form or another at least 5 times. 5. She doesn't take talk about grabbing women by the p***y lightly, as you can imagine. Her parents, voted for Donald Trump anyway. That's real pain people. But she is finding life in her local church amongst similarly minded people. Fear be damned.
My wife says that, on average, people won't read a blog that is more than 275 words. I'm over that by, ohhh, 2,293 words. Hope you made it to the end. :)