It's been a weird week.
I've never been much invested in politics, personally. As a system for which frustration and inefficiency are foundational virtues, rooted in a candidating process perfectly crafted to reliably place the electorate in the position of choosing between "bad" and "worse", it's just not terribly inspiring to me. There's no HOPE in it, ultimately, just moral contortions and legislative risk mitigation. In the end, there's a reason I'm a pastor, and not a politician; the ins and outs of our system of human governance are certainly important but, 1.) that's never been my calling, 2.) I am convinced that the American church has over-invested in the pursuit of political power at the expense of sacrificial, Christ-like servanthood, and 3.) I'm really just not masochistic enough to let myself get that emotionally involved.
That being said, I will confess to you that this election season - and the results thereof - has been emotionally disorienting. I've been uncomfortable before with the fervor and conviction with which American Christians have found themselves able to offer their support to a given political candidate. I've always found that the flagrant pursuit of political power as a means of accomplishing that which King Jesus would pursue through prophetic sacrifice and heart-level transformation is incongruent with, and inherently compromising to, the Kingdom mission to which we have been called. This week, however, my prevailing experience has not been that of simple, cautious, discomfort, but that of shame.
The (white, Evangelical) American Church has been exposed; revealed to be driven in large part by fear and reactionary nationalism, more so than by the transforming, life-giving, other-embracing grace of Christ. This is not to say there was a thoroughly GOOD option presented in this presidential race. (There wasn't) It is not to say that there was a "right" candidate for followers of Jesus to support. (There never is) It is not to "vote shame" those among us who - genuinely conflicted - "held their nose" - as they discerned to the best of their ability between the lesser of respective evils. But when more than 80% of white, self-identified evangelicals offer their support to a candidate, that is not indicative of moral torment; that is the equivalent of an electoral mandate. And in a mandate, we find a mirror. And in this mirror, those of us who love and make up the Church ought not like what we see today. We are exposed, and it is to our shame.
Because we live in a pain-avoidant culture and do not particularly enjoy the experience of shame, most of us will be quick in our attempts to move on from this moment; "what's done is done", "water under the bridge", "the people have spoken", "God's in control". But the ability to move on, ignore, or somehow pretend that the world is other than it seems is a function of our power and privilege, and we must recognize that, too. There are brothers and sisters in Christ - not to mention all those WITHOUT Christ! - who are in a place of genuine fear and pain, today. Not because they are fiery, godless "liberals", but because in the electoral mandate they have just witnessed from their white, evangelical neighbors, they have every reason to believe that they are even LESS loved than they had previously supposed. As followers of Jesus this is a reality that we must not shy away from facing; we must recognize that there is a measure of responsibility that we corporately bear for their pain and sense of insecurity. We must allow our hearts to remain soft with compassion, empathy, and with the capacity for conviction and repentance. We must not allow our feelings of awkwardness and discomfort stop up our ears from hearing their cries. My colleague and friend within the Covenant Church, Rev. Michael Carrion, the pastor of a sister church ministering in the Bronx recently issued this exhortation, and I would ask that we humble ourselves enough to receive and consider his word:
"So many are hurting. To my white evangelical brothers and sisters: don't be so quick to dismiss the lamentation and sorrow of this church of many colors. Don't be so quick to say, "Let's just move on." Rather, affirm this pain (of ours) as Jesus would. Help clean out the wounds and infection that this presidential race has birthed in our country. The recent growing reinvigoration and (legitimization of the) rhetoric of white supremacy has been a direct result of this campaign, and (the influence of) this president-elect. (Please) affirm that, and stop telling us to get over it and go about our business! People protesting across this nation should not be simply dismissed as over-emotional or (political) leftists. It is a cry from the margins, and the margins will not stop crying! (We pray for) healing over our nation; for healing and sensitivity in His church, and for peace in our cities. We need the peace that only comes from the Prince of Peace! Please stop asking us to get over it. (Instead), lament with us, and walk with us, and let US come to Christ, together."
It's been a weird week.
But if we're honest, most of us could be pretty quick to get over it. For our brothers and sisters on the margins, however, the truth is that this week has been a whole lot more than weird; it has been (and remains) a trauma and terror. We could choose not to acknowledge this: that is the nature of our privilege. But that is not the way of Jesus. In Jesus, we find the strength to look clear-eyed into our own corporate responsibility, sin and shame, because in the cross and victory of Jesus that shame is faced and overcome. And so, we have the freedom - and calling - to hear the truth, to speak the truth, and to EMBODY the truth of Jesus' goodness and redemptive, Kingdom purposes in the world. My prayer is that we may find our way to do just that, by the grace and power of Christ. May we find our way in the days ahead to be more than just Americans; may we rather be, truly, fully, profoundly CHRISTIAN. More than ever, that is what our country needs from us most.
It's been a weird week.