Hope & Grief After the Election

I am in tears in my dark living room, the clock ticking on the wall beside me. My three daughters are asleep. They begged me to stay up and watch the results of the election, but I sent them to bed, because I had begun to sense that a long night was coming, and tonight wasn’t going to end the way we had discussed this morning when we prayed together as a family for the election.

I hope if you’re reading this you will hear in me a broken longing for unity and understanding, not a partisan axe to grind. I hope you won’t stop reading as I process through this. I am not a Democrat or Republican, in fact I describe myself as a confused moderate. But I will tell you I did not vote for President-Elect Trump, and tonight I am struggling to process it.

There is a small part of me that wants to feel hope, wants to be relieved. Maybe this will mean Supreme Court justices that somehow curb the numbers of abortion. I get why people I know and love voted for this man – I can understand it. They hate abortion, as do I. But my family was scarred by abortion in the days before Roe made it legal, when there was no consent, and there were horrors in that time and in that experience for my very young, very afraid mother that I am thankful do not exist today. One evil does not lessen another. I am for life because my mother was devastated by abortion just as women and children are today in horrifying numbers, but Roe vs. Wade didn’t create abortion, and legislation is not the only answer.

To my conservative friends, please hear me say I understand. But please also don’t paint your fellow believers who mourn tonight as people who rejoice in death. Did you know that statistics show that 30% of people in your church, who follow Christ, are Democrats? Did you know that 30% of people who are Democrats are pro-life? Did you know that under President Obama, abortions are at the lowest levels they have been since Roe?

Please understand why I am sitting here unsettled, why friends are texting me devastated, why people of color feel unsafe tonight. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation, and we have work to do.

This election was many things, meant many things to many people. But can we acknowledge that one of the things it was, one of the things it is, is a heartbreaking  empowerment to the darker undertones of this campaign. I am not justifying any actions of Hillary or Bill Clinton. She lost, it’s over. I understand your rationale for not voting for her. But now that she has lost, can we finally acknowledge the deep and terrible flaws of the man we just elected? Can we, especially us in the church, be big enough to empathize with those who feel afraid tonight? We are commanded as Christians to be imitators of God and have compassion for one another. God is described as close to the broken-hearted, so just for a few minutes, can we draw close as well?

I get that the media isn’t unbiased and that you may see people like me as simply uninformed. But I am not uninformed –  I read the same story at CNN, FoxNews, MSNBC, and sometimes Al Jazeera for an international perspective because I am well aware of partisan bias in reporting. But if you watched speeches Donald Trump gave, completely unedited speeches, you can’t deny some of the racist and sexist things he said, or the racist and sexist factions who support him, who now feel justified in their belief. These are his words, this is the candidate himself.

That this man won is a sobering reality for people of color, victims of sexual abuse, and people who subscribe to religions other than Christianity. Can we hear their fear, and sit with it a minute? Not just dismiss it out of hand? Turn off our partisan minds and listen to the voice of the Holy Spirit speaking about people around us who ache, to whom we are supposed to be loving and ministering?

Rejoice with those who rejoice. Weep with those who weep. Romans 12:15

Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Colossians 3:12

Those of us who are strong and able in the faith need to step in and lend a hand to those who falter, and not just do what is most convenient for us. Strength is for service, not status. Each one of us needs to look after the good of the people around us, asking ourselves, “How can I help?” Romans 15:1-2 (the Message)

Can we find it in ourselves, whether we feel like the victor tonight or we feel devastated, to understand the feelings of those around us?

Several weeks ago, my oldest daughter came home from school and wanted to talk about the election. You need to know that one of the things we love about Houston is the diversity of the area where we live, and the fact that our daughters have friends who are every color and religious background. This is particularly important to me, because I grew up in an extended family that was covertly, and sometimes overtly, racist in the way that in my experience is completely normal in the white South even today. They didn’t call themselves racist, and wouldn’t to this day. The fact that I do name it is offensive to them because they do not see it as racism. But other races were joked about and talked about not only as other, but as less. Less intelligent, less hard working, less real American, separate and never equal. There was an underlying anger to it that made it more than a joke, and it was disturbing. So many Thanksgiving dinners of my childhood are tinted with the racism saturating our family tree.

So you need to know that, for me, racism is visceral, and personal. I feel it. I know the code words, and the fact that they are still used stuns me. The night President Obama was elected, I cried in relief hopeful at the healing of racism in our country that could elect a black man as president, all the while knowing across my city I had relatives who were angry and afraid. I hoped his election would help things. I’m not sure it did.

It was a cesspool of sin, and I was swimming in it. So I love the Gospel, I love the Gospel, because it cleanses me from sin. It forgives my guilt, it imputes to me a righteousness who is not my own, it gives me the Holy Spirit that begins to put to death the old racist nature and open up a whole new possibility of life and hope and joy and justice.” Jon Piper, on racism in the video Bloodlines.

One of the most powerful things I’ve ever watched was this video by Jon Piper on racism and how he grappled with it as he grew in faith, and every time I get chills because his story is my story. Racism crawls up my skin and is a weight in my stomach and a throbbing in my chest because I used to swim in it, and once you step out you don’t just want to be free of it, you want to shine a light on it and banish it because it lurks in the darkness all around you and it is insidious and persistent and subtle in devastating ways. My mother is an instrument of light and grace, and I believe she broke the curse of racism in our family. She taught my brother and sister and I to not only love people of color, but to fight for them and to fight our inherent sinful bias. To shine as lights in darkness to try to overcome the racism of our not-distant enough past, as if somehow by our love we could make up for the bias directed at people of color from the family that we loved.

So my nine-year-old daughter comes home from school a few weeks ago and tells me that her friends were discussing Donald Trump and how much he hates people from Mexico. Her friend from Mexico is afraid of him, afraid he will hurt her family. She asked me if I would vote for him, and if he really thinks “Mexicans are criminals and terrible people.” So we talked about it from that point forward. We talked about how he talked about people from other countries and other religions. We talked about it when he mocked a disabled reporter. We talked about it in very vague terms when the sexual assault accusations and the tape of him saying terrible things about women broke. We talked about it, because she and her friends were talking about it, and she needs to know that this is a safe place to talk about it. (And we talked about whether or not Hillary was a liar and a crook, which my daughter heard as well). My daughters think Trump is a bully, and I can’t disagree with them. In my oldest daughter’s class election she voted for Hillary Clinton, along with many of her friends. President-Elect Trump feels more unsafe to her. She looked forward to the first “Womans” President, as she called it.

And I understand that. To my conservative friends, can’t you understand that? Please tell me you can. Please tell me you get why this isn’t a simple issue, or a simple election. Please tell me you don’t agree with the truly awful aspects of this man’s personality and his speech and his behavior toward others who are different. Please tell me this isn’t a simple victory and the fact that you won doesn’t mean it is all okay.

Because I sit in my living room and write this with tears in my eyes. I cry because in a few hours I will walk into her room, and wake her up, and will tell her that he won. We will talk about it, about why a man who at times acted like a jerk can still win. And she will go to school with friends who are afraid, and they may have good reason to be afraid. And I will tell her to be a light in a dark world, to shine a light on darkness all around her. But it will be an incredibly hard conversation.

I cry because I know Muslim Americans who already are treated as less than, and as other.  I cry because they feel afraid tonight. I cry because refugees who are vetted more than any other group that comes into this country have been and will continue to be vilified. I cry because people of color, who already don’t feel safe and who know the code words better than I do feel even less safe tonight. Their President-Elect literally only talks about them like they all live in hellish inner-city war zones, highlighting the fact that he does not know or understand their struggles at all. I cry because my friends who are gay feel afraid and alone tonight – this was a message to them as well. Political becomes personal when people are hurt or afraid. Van Jones spoke beautifully about the way this feels for millions of people, and I hope we can hear him.

I cry because tonight racists are rejoicing, some of their views mainstreamed. Their sin does not weigh on them, it feels normal and right and now approved. And that makes me grieve, and I have to fight off fear. I cannot imagine how my friends who are people of color feel knowing that.

I cry as a victim of sexual abuse.

I cry as a member of a broken church, so divided. I feel so isolated, as do most of my moderate and progressive friends. We love Jesus and serve him. We are neighbors and church staff members and Pastors and deacons and children’s volunteers and we stand and worship with you and hug you in the lobby or the school, but we keep our political views off Facebook so you won’t think less of us or think we are “baby killers.” We too voted our convictions yesterday, we too prayed about who to vote for, we too truly want the best for this country. This idea that Christians must be Republican confuses empire with Kingdom, and we are family first – citizens of a Kingdom that absolutely without equivocation trumps our party affiliation. If we are questioning a brother’s faith because of their party, we need to repent.

I cry as a daughter of a King. This hurts me. This feels so wrong. He stands for so much of what I completely oppose. I ache, and that you may not feel it makes it feel worse, and makes me feel alone.

Tonight I cry. And I hope, even if you aren’t crying with me, that you understand why I do and you give me and my children the space and permission to grieve, along with the more than 50% of the country who did not vote for this man. I hope that those of us who feel afraid would realize that fear is never from God, and begin to look to Him in hope.

And I pray that tomorrow, we begin to fix this. He is the President-elect, that is reality and I will pray for and honor him as I did President Obama and President Bush and Clinton before him. But everything he stood for in the campaign does not have to be approved by us. It should not be approved by us.

We together as the church need to be a light to banish the darkness. I hope and pray that your endorsement of this candidate is not an endorsement of everything he stands for, that you will stand against racism and sexism with me throughout his presidency. That my daughters will be surprised by joy, that their fears will not be realized, that their friends will not be in danger and if they are, that we will stand and defend them in force and in mass and beat back the danger together. That we will never be silent in the face of oppression. That the racist factions will be minimized and vanquished back to the dark corners where they were before their recent boldness. That even if it costs us, as the church of Jesus Christ we will stand together for the poor and weak and the “other.” So many of you say that the government cannot do what the church was designed to do, and this is our chance to prove it. The church needs to step up.

saint-francis-xavierThere are enormous numbers of people in our country tonight who are afraid, who feel alone, who feel abandoned by the church and the country. They are terrified. Church, these are our people. These are the people Jesus would be walking with tonight, because He always found a way to walk with those who mourned and felt alone. We have to go get them and walk with them (and He will be there already, speaking comfort). And we do this today – there is no time for partisan gloating because the Republican won. All that does is divide and we are to be people of unity. People are hurting, and we are first of all Kingdom people. We have work to do. We have to pray for how to best share hope – maybe it is as simple as a smile and showing support and love to someone, and then we have to act. Maybe we take a meal to a family who feels alone and scared, tell them we stand with them. Maybe it is more – may the Holy Spirit lead us. If we don’t know anyone who is broken or afraid tonight, may that convict us. How could we be so insular when the world is such a beautifully diverse place? Please pray with me that we will know how to minister to the broken.

But we have to do what we were made to do. The church overwhelmingly tonight voted for the government to get out of the business of fixing everything, great, then the church has to fill the gap. We have to step up.

They shall seek refuge in the name of the Lord,
those who are left in Israel;
they shall do no injustice
    and speak no lies,
nor shall there be found in their mouth
    a deceitful tongue.
For they shall eat and lie down,
    and no one shall make them afraid. – Zephaniah 3:13

Jesus, help us. Please speak to Your church. Please speak to our President-Elect, give Him wisdom, lead Him in the ways of righteousness. Please heal our country. We confess our fear, and know You are never the author of it. Please give us hope. Your Kingdom come, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Amen. 

8 Comments

  1. Frankly, I don’t think the White American Church will ever have a prophetic voice again in America.

    My friends of color, my gay et al. friends, my Muslim friends, my sick and lost friends, my friends on the economic margins – what do they hear about me and my faith when they learn that by a vote of 81% Evangelicals voted for a man who overtly despises them and will target them?

    What now of the Gospel? It didn’t change our own hearts as Evangelicals. What would any sane person think when we come to them with our white-skinned white-encultured white-oriented Jesus?

    I’m still gonna follow Jesus.

    I still believe in the church.

    But Holy God in Heaven we have squandered our birthright on Trump.

    Reply

  2. My heart is heavy today for all the reasons you outlined. Now my challenge is to align my heart with God’s. What would He want me to say and do? Love is always the answer, but today is going to be long, hard one.

    Reply

  3. I confess my fear. I have few words to describe heavy heart, the hollow feeling in my stomach. I’m trying so hard to understand why anyone, why any woman, would vote for him, why would any one want this man to represent the United States? but I’m finding this task to be extremely difficult.

    I pray for faith and courage, I pray for this man who is now in charge, I pray that God will take away my anger and help me accept and respect the man that the people have voted the president of the United States.

    Thank you for this post, I read it through tears but I think I needed this.

    Reply

  4. Thank you Jen for your insight, I to am mourning but not able to so eloquently express those feelings!
    Sad but the divisions are so real, we lost a good friend tonight who after ascertaining that we didn’t vote for Trump, even though I said more than once, “please let’s not talk politics”, has decided to disown our friendship!
    I can only hope and pray that this country can come togeather after the elation and disappointment have both been dealt with.
    Somehow though I cannot get over the feeling that we are reaping what we’ve sown, starting way back when we first removed God from the schools!
    Tom

    Reply

    1. Tom I’m so sorry! I so understand, there are parts of my family who don’t speak to us because we don’t share their politics. What a terrible way to decide who your friends should be. I’m really really sorry. I’m praying we would all know how to be peacemakers this week and next and until the Prince of Peace brings us home. ❤️

      Reply

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