We Do Not Have to Reconcile with Our Abuser

Celia Riley
Washington, DC
United States

I never imagined how deeply affected I would be from an election, deeply afraid of a Republican president, despite having worked in electoral politics for the Republican Party for years. In 2010, after three campaign losses in a row, I vowed to never be emotionally invested in an individual campaign again — at least, not to the point of tears or taking a loss, personal. After all, I am a professional and ultimately, I find my hope, joy, and identity in Christ, and I know that there is so much more to our great country than the people we elect.

Tuesday changed that. Not only did I cry, but I inconsolably wept, and continued into Wednesday. I wept in privacy and in public. I wept with family, over the phone who couldn’t imagine stepping into a church for the damage done from the pulpit this election cycle for what Christians were willing to support. I wept with strangers at a prayer and reconciling service within a church, though not my own. Many of you had similar experiences. While some wept for the dashed hopes to make history with the first female president, many of us wept for children who deserve equal access to education and health care. We wept for neighbors who have been targets of hate speech and crimes because of their ethnicities, religions, and origins. We wept for our country who has fought too many wars, killed too many innocents, and spent too much money. And, we wept for ourselves, as victims of racism, violence, sexism, and xenophobia, who watched as others from within the church propped up Donald Trump, an abuser and accuser of all that is hurtful of not just our country’s past but our personal pasts, into the highest office.

I long ago, drew the line on who I could personally support in an election. Even with my Republican leanings toward free markets and personal responsibility, during the primary I listened in horror to the misinformed opinions of the candidates about refugees, immigrants, and Muslims. Anyone who could speak in such ways about another human being would not earn my vote. Anyone who would devalue, dehumanize, and deem others as less than worthy of safety, civil liberties, or citizenship, were not bearing fruit, nor upholding our Constitution. I chose a candidate outside my party with hopes that this cycle would be a lesson for those who stood by, and eventually push the Repubican platform towards inclusion, tolerance, and equality.

Then Tuesday came, and a man who had not just stolen the identity of my political party but also damaged the legacy of many leaders within American conservative Christianity was elected. Trump supporters began to celebrate and gloat, and while there are many impudent beliefs of these supporters, one cut me deeply.

As a woman who has experienced the trauma of violence, sexual abuse, and a lifetime of harassment, this is personal. I must confess, I feel re-traumatized by those voters who supported a predator because you so loathed "the elite." His supporters chose a man who has openly objectified women, little girls, and even his own daughter. A man who has repeatedly cheated on multiple wives, and admittedly has pursued other people's wives. A man who has been accused of assaulting several women, and intentionally walked in on naked teenagers and bragged about it. A man who only sees value and worth of a woman if she is attractive and not flat-chested (his own words), and who thinks it's appropriate to deem women ugly and fat, and rank them according to number. A man who did not take his opportunity to apologize for encouraging the sexual assault of women. Instead, he and his supporters dismissed the importance on educating men and women on the issue of sexual assualt. There are no excuses for this. NONE.

Last night, I sobbed into a pew, and watched as men and women of all ages and creeds held their loved ones and tried to comfort. I saw millenial members of the chorus walk the processional red-faced and weeping while singing the words to "Oh Beautiful for Spacious Skies" in perfect harmony, and a "baby-boomer" female minister, publicly admit her disappointment.

Through tears and prayer I have resolved that we, the people who have been targeted by Trump's candidacy and his supporters, people of color, women, victims of sexual assault and violence, Muslims, refugees in America, first and second generation immigrants, and our allies, must now fight even harder to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty. And we, as followers of Christ, must continue to defend the rights of the poor and needy, do right, seek justice, defend the oppressed, take up the cause of the fatherless, and plead the case of the widow with or without the support or acknowledgment of many members in our churches. This is not a passive or inactive position to take; to gain equality and liberty for all, we must wage on, and we must forgive. However, we do not have to reconcile with our abuser.

At least, not until there is a place to be heard and an admission of wrong-doing. Until then, we are free to shake the dust from our feet.

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