18 Reflections the Day After the Election
1. I'm grieving today, and frankly not able to do a whole lot else. There's a temptation, I find, to believe the most Christian behavior in moments of disappointment, crisis, or trauma is leaping to statements of hope or action. If notes of sadness are rung, they are quickly counterbalanced with assurances from some that "God is in control and all things will work together for good." Others charge us not to pause but battle on. Friends, don't fall to those temptations. Psalms and the prophetic literature give us wide space and deep resources for entering into the fullness of our emotions without rushing to shallow solutions, hasty strategies, or ameliorative eschatology. Feel and name your pain. Grieve and lament for all the time you need.
2. In my own grief, I've gone to the wailing prophet: young Jeremiah himself. The range of God's emotions channeled by this brilliant poet -- from rage, to compassion, to coldness, to regret, to forgiveness, to judgement -- are helping me identify what's happening in my own troubled soul. They also re-evoke God's vision for his creation, something that get's lost between the lines drawn by our political culture. Tapping into that grief allows me to hurt and to find God meeting me in the valley of the shadow.
3. I fear for my non-Christian religious friends and my friends of color. The uncertainty of our future may be this election's most destabilizing effect. But most of all, I mourn for my wife and the unborn daughter I know I'll have someday. I so wanted to tell my little girl I voted for the first woman president, and to tell my daughter with absolute certainty that she could be whatever she dreamed.
4. As results rolled in last night, I was hanging out with homeless friends down at Network Coffee House -- brewing some Folgers, scrubbing mugs, and swapping stories. Reggie told about how he'd worked at the Marriott downtown doing banquets for 30 years before finally quitting. He just couldn't do it anymore. His 401k ran out after just a couple years, and now he's a 50 year old man on the street. But he's so grateful. "I've never had this much space to get focused on the Lord." A couple Native American homeless men shared with me about their art -- all on 'native subjects' they said. Zeke got pissed at me for interrupting his conversation (it sure looked like a guy was yelling at him), but we both apologized and made up later on. No one seemed to expect the election would make their lives better; no one seemed to think they could get much worse. Everyone prayed for this country together around 8:00pm. That humanity, modeled by folks who rarely get treated like humans, is going to be needed in the days ahead.
5. In that spirit...I've seen social media compare Trump to Voldemort several times recently. That sounds like too much of a villain complement if you ask me. I'd say he's more like Sauron. For starters, they both like building towers and offer a source of power that winds up corrupting your soul.
6. In times of instability, scripture teaches us to return to memory. Who is our God, and how do we know his character through his actions in history and in our lives? What has he carried us through in the past? What has he called us to -- as a people and as individuals? How does this memory inform the ways we show up in the present, and how we lead toward an alternative future? For me, it means clinging to God the liberator, God the crucified and resurrected. It means remembering that I'm called to co-create shalom, and to be a champion for economic justice.
7. Often the dissonance between the Kingdom and American culture (as represented by both parties, the media and entertainment industries, the consumer market, and even the church) is subtle enough to stay beneath most people's radar. Today those incongruities should be on full display. We have to face up to the full complexity of following a tri-une God in a bi-polar political landscape. While the first fuses three together through love into a paradoxical oneness, the other is entrenched in a dualistic framework of irreconcilable opposites. These paradigms are so radically different as to hardly have much to say to one another. Following Jesus lands a person into an alternative dimension. It's time we stop trying to make the two relate, and get on with the revolution Jesus began. Wake up, oh Body of Christ, and be the Church!
8. The defining feature of 21st century Christ-following has to be solidarity with the oppressed.
9. The liberative struggle toward shalom will now be waged in a new reality. Assessing the nature of our historical moment is crucial to success -- even to making little wins. That assessment will need to be theological (peeling back the religious justifications of the new political movements), sociological (studying the ideologies that drove people's votes and interpretation of current events, and how these beliefs are connected to structural reality), and political (new policies, allies, and enemies have emerged). For Coloradans, some of this is as practical as understanding the effect of Amendment 72 on getting policies changed.
10. The "pain" and "anger" pundits claim defined this political season is not just emotional group-think. It is a materially real state of life for most of this country. It often gets missed because you only measure what you value. Macro-economic barometers of GDP, inflation and interest rates, stock trends, the housing market and employment levels all fail to capture the degree of human wellbeing a society is experiencing. I don't have the time or space to expand on this. But the disenfranchisement people are feeling is real.
11. "Vote your values" was a constant refrain the past six months. Values emerge from the stories we hold which help us make sense of this chaotic world and find meaning within it. At root, Trump tapped into this real experience of disenfranchisement and helped people make sense of it through prejudices that remain deeply rooted in white culture. Transforming the dominant culture's guiding stories should be the primary agenda over the next decade of those who yearn for justice.
12. For me, an alternative imagination is found in the Divine, historical Jesus of Nazareth -- God who became incarnate in a poor Jew that lived in a backwater region of the Roman empire. That man is best freed from our dominant cultural paradigms to be his full, authentic, prophetic self when scripture is reread within its historical context through the lenses of creation and the oppresses. We might call this Christology rooted in ecology and marginality. We desperately need new and bigger imaginations, my friends. Let us lean deeply into Jesus and dream wildly into the night.
13. It's been said again and again, but unless we repair the racial divide in this country, we will never heal. Anyone who believes race was not the deciding factor of this election's outcome is kidding themselves. (Not to dismiss sexism at all, I just don't think that's the primary force that reoriented the political map.)
14. As a self-described 'urban-minister,' leaders in my profession have our work cut out for us. If Trump's economic plans -- and plans for the so-called 'inner city' in particular -- are put in motion, decades of research confirm that things will just get worse. I'll have more thoughts on that in the days and years to come I'm sure.
15. The two greatest drivers of climate change since the Industrial Revolution are a growth-oriented economic system and the unrestrained use of fossil fuels. Our president elect plans (with virtually no policy explaining how) to double our economic growth rate and throw the gates wide open for the coal and oil industries. With rates of CO2 parts per million in the atmosphere already 50+ points beyond the safe line of 350, the next four years could decide whether the global ecosystem is tossed so far over the edge that there is no return. We have our work cut out for us with the executive and legislative branches stacked. I would rather not kiss the planet good-bye.
16. If the rhetoric toward Latino immigrants, Muslims, women, LGBT, African Americans or any other minority group is passed into law, the Church needs to be prepared to defend, harbor, and obstruct. I'm talking about a return to a Roman catacombs-esque mentality. We will have to fight for our brothers and sisters, and discover just how radical an ethic of hospitality really is. I'm beyond not taking Trump seriously.
17. Relentlessly build community. Never cease to share yourself in vulnerability. Resist the urge to draw lines that determine who is "in" and who is "out." Rather, point, as one beggar showing another beggar where to find bread, toward Christ in all things. Struggle out from your enclaves of homogeneity. Find relationships with people unlike you. Seek spaces where dignified conversations occur between neighbors who voted different. Build space into your days for quiet, solitude, and contemplation -- pray for courage and renewal. Cling to the Spirit always.
18. No phrase is repeated in the bible more often than "do not be afraid." Grieve but do not fear. There is still the resurrection.
Take care to reflect on how your range of reactions may be a function of your identity. It is only the luxury of not being hated or threatened that allows us to so quickly declare that God is in control. If you, like me, bear identities like able-bodied, straight, middle to upper class, Christian, white or male, then it is your duty to listen, to believe what those without such privileged identities are experiencing, and to recognize that your wellbeing is ultimately bound to theres.