This election has me at a loss. The hatred and vitriol oozing from the pores of society is tangible. The physical and emotional violence leveraged against minorities as a direct result of the legitimacy granted to the rhetoric and actions of Donald Trump is astounding. The misunderstanding of metropolitan Clinton supporters who have never met a Trump supporter, who now justify hatred against the rural pool by construing them as racist, hick, white trash, will no doubt lead to more divisiveness as well.
My 14-year old sister said her bisexual friend at school was physically assaulted for fighting back when he was called a faggot. Yesterday a Muslim woman reported another woman coming up to her in a Walmart parking lot and ripping off her hijab, saying, “this is not allowed anymore, so go hang yourself with it around your neck not on your head.”
I could write articles, essays, even books on the ways that this election cycle has increased racism, sexism, ruralism, xenophobia, Islamophobia, and all kinds of fear of people who we describe as “other” in ways that justify violence against them.
But the election is over. We must grieve the legitimacy granted to the hatred Donald Trump’s platform is based on, and mourn the hatred that many who oppose Donald Trump have towards those Hillary Clinton called an irredeemable “basket of deplorables.” There needs to be appropriate space to lament the real and profound ways people are hurting now, before we move on.
If you don’t believe that people are justifiably hurting, then you need to do a better job of listening. I don’t say this to be patronizing but because I am hurting, my sister and her LGBTQ friends at her high school are hurting, people of color are hurting, people who have been told by this election that their rape doesn’t matter because society doesn’t care about assault are hurting, the rural poor who want a better life for themselves and have been written off as southern trash that don’t matter are hurting, immigrants, refugees, Muslims, sexual and racial minorities are all hurting — you don’t have to take an agree or disagree stance with either candidate to acknowledge that people are hurting. We should follow the example of Solomon and the prophets as they lament hurt:
“Moreover, I saw under the sun that in the place of justice, even there was wickedness, and in the place of righteousness, even there was wickedness. I said in my heart, God will judge the righteous and the wicked, for there is a time for every matter and for every work. I said in my heart with regard to children of humanity that God is testing them that they may see that they themselves are but beasts. For what happens to the children of humanity and what happens to the beasts is the same; as one dies, so dies the other. They all have the same breath, and human has no advantage over the beasts, for all is vanity. All go to one place. All are from the dust, and to dust all return. Who knows whether the spirit of humans go upward and the spirit of the beast goes down into the earth?” – Ecclesiastes 3:16-22
Originally this article was going to be an analysis of what it means to be an evangelical voter. I was going to discuss how to move forward and how we need to show God’s love. That article is coming. That discussion needs to be had, and desperately so. We can get there in the next few weeks. But I am not ready to write that article, and many are not ready to read it. For those of you who are ready to move on, take the next step to be there for those who hurting, and love actively and overtly; you are needed. But please do not be upset if people are not yet ready to join you.
God is love, and there is always joy to be found in the Gospel, but that does not mean we cannot grieve and lament. Expecting people who fear for their physical and emotional safety to immediately rally and overtly spread joy is unreasonable. My church is doing a series on emotional spiritual health right now and the first sermon of the series was done by Keith Baird, a world renowned clinical psychologist. In his words, “What is emotional health? Is it happiness? … Mental health is flexible adaptation to change. It is when your emotions match your circumstances. You are more likely to reach emotional health when you become more courageous and lean into every emotion that comes up in response to your circumstances, whatever they may be.” If your circumstances give you reason to be sad, to be angry, to be anxious, it is important, and in fact courageous, to lean into the despair and anxiety. Moving on too quickly is not necessarily a sign of trusting God. It might mean that you do not trust God to be with you in pain and love you while you let yourself acknowledge your own suffering. Disassociation might be okay short-term, but disassociation in times when you should be upset often leads to the resurfacing of those feelings in the form of mental health problems long-term. The prophets emulate this kind of resounding grief in response to unfavorable circumstances:
“Oh that my head were waters, and my eyes a fountain of tears, that I might weep day and night for the slain of the daughter of my people! Oh that I had in the desert a travelers’ lodging place, that I might leave my people and go away from them! For they are all adulterers, a company of treacherous people. They bend their tongue like a bow; falsehood and not truth has grown strong in the land; for they proceed from evil to evil.” – Jeremiah 9:1-3
In this time, it is justified for us to grieve and imperative that we acknowledge the hypocrisy of fellow brothers and sisters in Christ in humble honesty. I am not saying that we should be hateful or that hatred is ever justified, but we can be angry. We can be critical. There is a space for Christians to spread awareness of bad behavior in both anger and love. We can follow the example of Jesus condemning the Pharisees, scribes, and hypocrites, recognizing that we all at times fall into that category:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you build the tombs of the prophets and decorate the monuments of the righteous, saying, ‘If we had lived in the days of our fathers and mothers, we would not have taken part with them in shedding the blood of the prophets.’ Thus you witness against yourselves that you are children of those who murdered the prophets. Fill up, then, the measure of your ancestors. You serpents, you brood of vipers, how are you to escape being sentenced to hell?” – Matthew 23:25-33
When people do not follow the call, “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?” (Micah 6:8) there should be outrage and despair and we should act on it, coming from a place of love. But, that love can and should manifest in lament, anger, protest, and concern that is not joyful for the sake of joy, but joyful in the hope of the coming Kingdom of God that will make the Kingdom of Man, which is shrouded in brokenness, obsolete. We can have hope in Christ without having hope in humanity. We can attempt to actualize the Kingdom of God here and now as best we can by grieving when we fail and eventually getting back up to keep trying after we have taken the appropriate time to mourn and rest.
I want to challenge us to make sure that we do act out against injustice. That we do take the time and energy to feel the burden of dehumanization and fear mongering manifesting in hate. If we do not, we become the “white moderates” Martin Luther King, Jr. references in the Letter from Birmingham Jail. This letter applies very much to race, but it applies on a grander scale to all justifications of hatred:
“I have almost reached the regrettable conclusion that the Negro’s great stumbling block in the stride toward freedom is not the White Citizens Councillor or the Ku Klux Klanner but the white moderate who is more devoted to order than to justice; who prefers a negative peace which is the absence of tension to a positive peace which is the presence of justice; who constantly says, ‘I agree with you in the goal you seek, but I can’t agree with your methods of direct action’; who paternalistically feels that he can set the timetable for another man’s freedom; who lives by the myth of time; and who constantly advises the Negro to wait until a ‘more convenient season.’ Shallow understanding from people of good will is more frustrating than absolute misunderstanding from people of ill will. Lukewarm acceptance is much more bewildering than outright rejection.”
Making wish-washy justifications for the violence and hostility that the United States as a whole is participating in is unacceptable. We cannot accept the status quo. We cannot embrace the current trajectory. We cannot remove culpability and place responsibility on other people. We are the hands and feet of Jesus and we must mobilize and take action, not against Trump or Clinton supporters, but against hate. We must love so aggressively and ferociously that people will be able to feel the strength of the love of the Church, as so many right now are feeling the strength of the hate of the world.
Right now, showing that love means despairing at the current state of affairs and repenting for our apathy–for not praying hard enough, demonstrating love purposefully enough, or abandoning ourselves with enough commitment to let Jesus work to His fullest through us. We have failed. And we must work to change that; but, acting in haste without full recognition of our failure cannot possibly be effective. I implore you to take a few moments — contemplate the state of affairs of our world, of our country, of our Church, of our school, of our friendships — most importantly, we need to take the time to truly interrogate our own hypocritical minds.
“Beyond this, I am in Birmingham because injustice is here. Just as the eighth-century prophets left their little villages and carried their ‘thus saith the Lord’ far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns; and just as the Apostle Paul left his little village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to practically every hamlet and city of the Greco-Roman world, I too am compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond my particular hometown. Like Paul, I must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
“Moreover, I am cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Atlanta and not be concerned about what happens in Birmingham. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial ‘outside agitator’ idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider.” – Martin Luther King, Jr.