The Next Generation Will Do What We Couldn't

By John Fea 11-10-2016
Image via RNS/Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

As someone who once called himself an evangelical, and who has spent the better part of his career studying the history of evangelicalism, I am sure I will have much to say in the coming days.

As a historian, I imagine that at some point, once there is time to gain some perspective, I will write about what the results of this presidential election mean for American democracy, our two-party political system, our failure to meet the demands of an educated citizenry, and the future of American evangelicalism.

I am upset by the results of the election, and I am particularly saddened that 81 percent of white American evangelicals got into bed with a monster on Nov. 8. But I am also encouraged and have not lost hope.

Here’s why:

Around 11:15 p.m. Tuesday, my 15-year-old daughter, frustrated by all she was seeing on the television, stormed out of the room and announced: “Dad, I am going to bed. I am embarrassed for my country.”

As much as my daughter’s remark brought me pain, I was also proud of her.

She has suffered during this campaign. She has wondered, with a sense of righteous indignation, how the GOP nominee could say the things he has said about women. She knows that Donald Trump’s world is not the world she wants to live in or grow in.

At midnight, I got a text from my 19-year old daughter. She is a freshman in college. This was her first election. We had been talking all night, and she shared with me the sadness she was experiencing as the evening went on. “Dad, what do we do now?”

I am grateful that she is asking this question. Indeed, there is a lot we can do.

When I woke up, I found an email from a former student and friend — a veteran public school history teacher. He reminded me of something I wrote a few years ago.

“A democracy needs citizens — individuals who understand that their own pursuits of happiness must operate in tension with obligations and responsibilities to a larger community. Citizens realize that their own success, fate and ability to flourish as humans are bound up with the lives of others. Such a commitment to the common good requires citizens who are able to respect, as fellow humans and members of the same community, those with whom they might disagree on some of life’s most important issues.”

And then he added: “As I attempt to discuss this election and the results today with my students, thanks for these words. As historians, teachers, and humans, we’ve got work to do. Let’s get to it!”

Another former student challenged her Trump-supporting Facebook friends to think seriously about how their support for his candidacy will influence their Christian witness:

“Is aligning yourselves with people who are associated with intolerance, bigotry, racism, misogyny, anger, and countless other inherently negative qualities really the best way to communicate Christ’s love and forgiveness to the world?” she asked.

I told this student, someone I have known to be very quiet about politics, that I appreciated her courage.

Still another former student, one I have worked very closely with over the years, wrote a note of apology to her “LGBT and minority friends and others who will be the most affected by a Trump presidency.”

She added “I am heartsick that Americans, and apparently my fellow Christians, have done this to you. I will do my best to stand beside you as your ally in the coming years. What has happened is not normal and it is not OK.”

And these were only a few of the notes, Facebook posts, and tweets I have received or read since Election Day.

Today, I am discouraged by the current state of evangelical political witness, but I am encouraged by its future.

Via Religion News Service.

John Fea teaches American history at Messiah College. He is the author, most recently, of The Bible Cause: A History of the American Bible Society (April 2016, Oxford University Press) and blogs daily at www.thewayofimprovement.com.

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