We interrupt our not-so-regular schedule of book nerding to address an issue dear to my heart. This is a guest post by my roommate, dear friend, and fellow Christian, Liz Dawson. She would welcome respectful discussion at firstname.lastname@example.org.
To my fellow Christians:
Or should I say, my fellow white evangelicals—a term that I don’t personally use, but that, technically speaking, applies to me.
I don’t agree with you on many political issues, but our (presumed) common faith makes us family. And when family members disagree, they should speak frankly and firmly, but kindly, right? (Colossians 3:15-16) Okay, then.
White evangelicals voted overwhelmingly (81%) for Donald Trump. Maybe you voted for him because you despise “crooked Hillary Clinton” and feared her leadership. Maybe you simply don’t trust her. Maybe you’re a single-issue (abortion) voter. Maybe you were concerned about a Democrat stacking the deck of the Supreme Court against your religious liberties. Maybe you think all politicians are evil, so you chose an unknown risk over a “known” one.
We can discuss all of that another time. What I want to talk about right now is the message your vote sent to America.
I know you think you sent a message to the “swamp” in Washington that party politics as usual isn’t going to cut it anymore. And you did! And it’s a message few would disagree with—I certainly don’t. So many people are right to be angry about “the system” and I know many of you are no doubt suffering financially and in other ways.
But while I don’t necessarily have a problem with the anti-system message, I have a big problem with your messenger. The person you chose as your standard bearer has sent the message that racism, misogyny, xenophobia, authoritarianism, and plain old school-yard bullying are excusable outlets for your anger. I know that many of you think you voted for Trump despite his words and actions, but really you have just told your neighbors—those whom we should love more than anyone but Christ (Matt. 22:37-39)—that you will willingly embrace those things simply because he claims to be angry for you.
Ask yourself this—if you were a teacher, like both my parents, and you had a student who spoke the way Trump does, would you discipline them for it? Yes, I think you would. The mothers and fathers of the students in my parents’ school certainly expect them to. Bragging about grabbing women “by the pussy”, claiming that someone can’t do their job because of their race, mocking the disabled, directly linking skin color to crime, suspecting all Muslims of terrorism, referring to people as “losers”, retweeting white supremacists—those things are not acceptable from an immature 17-year-old boy, let alone a 70-year-old man.
But this is the man of whom nearly half of you said he is a good role model.
Our ideal is “to act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 6:8). Certainly no candidate could meet this standard, but Trump has so far not only failed to meet this standard, he repudiates the very idea. For him justice is an eye for an eye, and mercy is simply a weakness to be shunned. Personal status takes precedence and humility is something for “losers.”
I do not believe everyone who voted for Trump is necessarily racist or sexist. But in voting for someone who is vocally racist and sexist, you bear the burden of demonstrating, in some tangible way, that you aren’t also those things. What did you expect people would think when you voted for someone who embodies those things? And fellow Christians, do you really find it surprising that people of color, the LGBTQ community, Jews, Muslims, and many women are anxious about a man who has not only demonstrated disrespect and disregard for them, but has openly threatened their rights? It is ignorant and self-defeating to trivialize his remarks simply because you are fortunate enough not to have to worry about them.
In my limited capacity as a straight, white woman, I can only begin to imagine how minorities feel right now. As a Christian I am most heartbroken that, thanks to white evangelicals, people’s fears and worst assumptions about Christianity are being realized. The message these “others” have been sent by Christians who voted for Trump is that they don’t matter. This behavior mocks the true Christian values of grace, mercy, love, and reconciliation. It astounds me that people who claim to care about life in the womb apparently do not have the same care for life beyond it—the lives of our neighbors, among whom are the poor, the oppressed, the sick, the vulnerable, and those seeking shelter from the storm. Maybe you voted out of fear for your country and/or to send a big middle finger to Washington, but in the process you sent a big middle finger to people whom Jesus loves, and whom He has called us to love.
We cannot start the healing process of the deep wounds caused by this election until we acknowledge that evangelical Christians by words and actions have become a modern symbol for hate and intolerance. We cannot hold the Bible up to others as a standard while not practicing what we preach, and we cannot preach about good “values” from the moral gutter. We cannot expect people to trust or respect our faith when we excuse actions that go directly against its deepest teachings. We cannot be better neighbors until we all look in the mirror and hold ourselves accountable for the pain and injustices we have either caused or helped perpetuate. We cannot start to ask for forgiveness and wisdom until we are truly remorseful.
I don’t like it, but I have accepted that Donald Trump will be our President come January 2017. Luckily, I believe in someone much more powerful than the President of the United States. I hope you do as well. So instead of dismissing the fears of those who are anxious, instead of celebrating a pyrrhic victory, I hope that you will take a minute to put yourself in the shoes of your neighbor and remember to extend love. I hope that those who voted against Trump will extend the same favor to you as well, and that they will recognize that many who voted for Trump did have valid concerns and fears. We are all going to need a lot of grace and patience and wisdom during the next four years. We are going to need to learn, and we will need to act on what we have learned. We are also going to need a lot of faith and hope. Instead of putting it in politics, where it never should have been in the first place, we need to have faith in the only leader who is truly Sovereign.