On November 9, we woke to the conclusion of a contentious campaign season and—against all odds—a Donald Trump victory. On one hand, it comes as a sigh of relief: no more debates, no more votes, and no more polls. On another it brings to light the multitude of wounds inflicted throughout the election cycle.
All along, we have known that half of the country would watch the results with chagrin, no matter the victor. Many of those feeling frustrated, frightened, and disenfranchised as a result of the election find themselves among our congregations, sitting next to us, communing with us, and sometimes (legitimately) suffering our contribution to their ache.
It was hard to miss the fiery behavior of Christians from all backgrounds throughout the presidential campaign. Opinions blared across social media, names were carelessly lobbed at dissenters, and some even saw fit to use their pulpits as an opportunity to coax a particular vote through the thin-veiled implication that the morality of those listening depended upon it. And it has come at a cost. Today, we find ourselves divided and many have been left wondering what it means to move forward faithfully, let alone belong to a community that appears lacking in humility and empathy.
More Than Bruised Pride
Current exit polls note that 58% of self-identifying Protestants voted for Donald Trump. Within that demographic, 81% of white evangelicals or born-again Christians cast their vote for the Republican nominee, marking the largest percentage of white evangelical support since George W. Bush’s victory in 2004.
In terms of race, 58% of whites supported Trump while every other minority leaned in favor of Hillary Clinton, the black vote favoring the Democratic nominee at 88%. The numbers reveal stark divides among race, education, socioeconomic status, and religion—divides from which the church is not immune.
Many woke fearful and hurting at the news of a Trump presidency. For them, his win legitimized the harmful rhetoric spun throughout his campaign, much of which was explained away by evangelical leaders as personality defects rather than essential character flaws. Today, refugees, minorities, victims of sexual assault, LGBT members, and certain religious communities—among others—feel voiceless and concerned for their future welfare.
As a conservative white Christian who actively opposed Trump, I find their concerns legitimate and feel frustrated by the fact that his victory signals to the GOP a validation of his acceptability.
Nonetheless, here we are.
How do we move forward together?
To start, we ought to acknowledge afresh that God’s primary call on his church is not that of preferential politics, but the preaching of Christ crucified for the sake of discipleship. Part of discipleship includes the charge to “Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep.” Consider your congregation, your workplace, your neighborhood—these places are made up of people crafted in the image of God, many of them belonging to those groups feeling disenfranchised by the election results.
Now is time to weep with those who weep; now is certainly not a time to gloat, but to minister to the broken. After all, a socially progressive Democrat is not our greatest enemy.
Choosing to revel in our division is anti-gospel. The gospel of Jesus Christ is one of reconciliation. It has the power to break down divides between Jew and Gentile, slave and free, male and female, and, most miraculous of all, humanity and God. The church ought to be a place of reconciliation, not predicated upon political affiliation, but devoted to spreading the good news of the Savior.
I find the apostle Paul’s words in Romans 12:15 extremely difficult. They challenge my comfort and reveal my empathy to be in short supply. But they call the body of Christ to an outward focused vision rather than one primarily self-interested. People need to be seen and heard, especially when they differ from us. If you know someone experiencing fear over the election, take the time to ask why. And then listen.
If we claim to subscribe to a reconciling gospel, we have to embody it in the ways we talk about politics, race, sexuality, gender identity, and so on. Heaven will not—cannot—be populated with only those that look exactly like you or me. Scripture promises citizens of every nation, tribe, and language. It also introduces us to the God-man Jesus Christ, the Middle Eastern Jew we have come to know as our Savior. God is at work creating a household of believers, which means white believers ought to be moved at the pain of our brothers and sisters of another race. And vice versa. As a body, we bear one another’s burdens because Jesus Christ bore our own.
An effective way of posturing a faithful commitment to holistic discipleship is through that of a consistent prophetic witness. To do so, we must prioritize biblical conviction in such a way that we rise above our political idols, celebrate what is good, and oppose what is evil, regardless of its political affiliation.
In the days since Trump’s victory, I have seen many a reassurance that God remains sovereign. And he does. God is on his throne, yes, but that does not mean we resign to do nothing.
The love of Christ compels us to cry out against injustice, lift up the weak and powerless, care for the hurting, engage broken systems, and push back on evil all for the purpose of declaring the good news of Jesus.
Russell Moore, president of the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission, recently wrote, “We are not, first, Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or progressives. We are not even, first of all, the United States of America. We are the church of the resurrected and triumphant Lord Jesus Christ.” God has called his people out of darkness to be uniquely identified by love for another (John 13:35) and service to others, even if it comes at the expense of our own selves (Philippians 2:4). Our witness must reflect our citizenship, which is first and foremost anchored in heaven (Philippians 3:20).
Our nation elected a man who may provide a more conservative political future, but he is not our savior. The world needs faithful men and women who will allow scripture to shape their judgments rather than fear. And we need a body of believers united under the banner of Jesus Christ, such that fellowship remains secure amidst political disagreement. We will never find salvation in a presidential election. It exists only through the blood of Jesus Christ. Our message does not rest on political power, but Christ crucified.
The prize of our faith is not cultural prestige, but God himself. His presence liberates us from the need to distance ourselves from one another by way of moral justification. We must be willing to stoop as Christ stooped on our behalf. In the days ahead, I pray our heavenly citizenship would free us from our addiction to power, control, and manipulation so we will boldly declare the gospel and give the world what it desperately needs—hope.
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