We Are Only 'Divided' if We Give up
No doubt because of where I live and where I serve, I fully recognize a certain distance from the sorrow and spiritual anguish experienced by so many Christians faithful to the gospel vision of gracious welcome to all people. The very real grief and fear felt by so many cannot be diminished. Still, as a someone seeking to be faithful to God, I feel a certain need to repent.
I woke up Wednesday morning to have my own fear confirmed; though perhaps amplified by the scope of Mr. Trump's victory. I find little consolation in the final results of the popular vote. Mr. Trump will be president. Once the waves of shock and grief have washed over us, it is time for Christians to come to terms with our own responsibility for this. Even as we seek share our own stories, we need to be faithful enough to listen to the stories of those members of our families, communities, and churches who cast their vote for Mr. Trump. Because, despite our desire to believe so, they are not all bigots and racists and white nationalists and misogynists. Some are people who have simply come to the end of their capacity to hope for something better; who perhaps understood that this election would do nothing for them. No matter who won; they would still lose. Perhaps being called 'deplorable' by the nominee of the party who claims to have their interest at heart angered and embarrassed to the point that they lost perspective. I confess that I don't know, because I have not bothered to listen enough to stories different from my own.
And that is why I feel the need for repentance. If we are shocked by the results of this election. If we cannot believe why Mr. Trump defeated Mrs. Clinton; if the results defy logic and overturn expectations we held onto so tightly, then I suspect some reflection on our part is in order.
I have no illusions about a Trump presidency. I don't believe for a moment that he will be elevated or transformed by the office. He will no doubt diminish its dignity in new and astonishing ways. But that is hardly the point.
The point, I suspect, is that we have the capacity to rise above this, both as Christians and as Americans as well. As I said to my congregation on Sunday, the news media has taken a fondness to speaking of America as a 'divided' country, in a way that suggests the 'divided' is a condition over which we have no control. But we are only 'divided' if we give up on the willingness to listen to one another and to be honest in those points on which we disagree.
Which is no way to suggest that there are not points upon which division is necessary. We can certainly agree on being divided over expressions of violence and hatred and bigotry, over actions that diminish the dignity of our brothers and sisters.
Again, I recognize that in largely liberal New England, we enjoy a safe isolation from much of the immediate effects of the election, from the understandable fear of violence, the pain of exclusion, the tragic experience of losing friends and family members. The sorrow is real and the pain will no doubt linger. But as a faith that articulates an eschatological faith, we are invited and called to see promise and possibility beyond present circumstances and to lend our lives to the future that God opens to us.