We live in a culture where it is often not OK to have feelings. We constantly see memes and decor that say things like “Life is too short to be anything but happy,” or “the prettiest girl is the one who wears a smile,” or … Continue reading Life Lesson: Feel Your Feelings
I know everyone is sick of these posts, but I have to say my piece, and be done with it.
I’m going to go ahead and talk about my feelings after the election, so if you’re at the point where anything containing the words “election” and “feelings” make you gag, go ahead and stop reading now. But to make it more bearable for the three of you who choose to continue, I’ll go ahead and type “gag” every time I type “feelings.”
I’m going to talk about why I felt the way I did, and why I think it’s important. Then I’m going to talk about what I think we ought to do now, assuming we want to ameliorate some of the division happening in our country and our church. I am directing this toward evangelical Christians..
I am, obviously, disappointed about the results of the election. I am disappointed in my country’s choices, but I have felt that way since the primaries.
After Trump actually won though, something changed. It actually really surprised me. I realized at about 2:30AM on November 9th, how personal and overwhelming my feelings (gag) were of being betrayed by my own demographic – evangelical Christians, who exit polls showed voted for Trump in record numbers.
I’m not angry at any individual for the way they voted, because this was a tough choice and there are myriad, complex reasons why people made the choices they did. And because I’ve had some time to process my feelings (gag). And because my evangelical pastor directly addressed the fear that people like me are experiencing in a loving and affirming way, and because I believe that most of the Christians I know prayerfully, painfully, and carefully considered their decisions, and reached a variety of conclusions.
What I am talking about here, is the broader demographic of evangelical Christians throwing their enthusiastic support behind a candidate whose character is so clearly antithetical to basic Christian values.
I thought that at least a wide margin of Christians would vote against Trump, and I was painfully disappointed when the opposite happened. I didn’t expect tons of them to vote for Hillary Clinton, but I did expect many of them to vote for a person of character even if that person couldn’t win. I even had a very far fetched fantasy of so many people voting third party that neither candidate could get the necessary 270 electoral votes. Because you know, America, if we all voted for people we actually wanted that could really happen.
Anyway, as the wife of a Mexican immigrant, and as a woman, it sort of just felt like my own tribe simply must not care all that much about me or the people that I love. They care that my children will be born and not aborted, which I do appreciate, but after that, apparently they can be mocked, belittled, groped, sexually assaulted, threatened, stripped of birthright citizenship, and deported. And hey, if they were on the other side of the world they could be bombed, and that would be just fine too.
I realize this sounds extreme to some of you, but I’m simply stating my initial feelings (gag) here, and I know many others who feel the very same way. It’s not about a republican winning. It’s about a person winning who has attacked certain groups of people in a very personal and demeaning way.
Don’t get me wrong: I am pro-life. I think that abortion is a huge moral blind spot in our society. But you know what other issues the Bible addresses at least as clearly if not more so? Welcoming the foreigner in your midst; Defending the weak and vulnerable who are walking among us; God desiring mercy over sacrifice; The fruits of the spirit including kindness, gentleness, faithfulness and self control; The importance of leaders living upright and godly lives; The equality of all people, made in God’s image; A man’s words reflecting his heart; The necessity for every one of us to ask forgiveness for our sins.
So whatever justifications we have (and there are many, ranging from the legitimate to the bizarre), I’d say it is fairly clear that Trump, who has consistently demonized the foreigner, mocked the vulnerable, displayed a lack of the fruits of the spirit, used words that embolden and condone violence against minorities and women, and never asked for forgiveness, is not the type of candidate we would expect “Bible-believing” Christians to support. So I was particularly struck with a feeling (gag) of dismay when I saw that a whopping 81% of evangelical Christians who voted, voted for him.
Based on my own post-election sentiment, I think that our support of a clearly un-Christian candidate has probably alienated many individuals in communities that have been belittled, objectified, or directly threatened: People of color; Muslims; Women who have been sexually assaulted; Immigrants; Refugees; LGBT folks, People with disabilities, and others. If I, a committed Christian and white person, woke up the day after the election having the initial feeling (gag) that I wanted to convert to a more loving denomination (and I did have that feeling [gag], for a little while), I’m sure anyone in these communities who wasn’t already a Christian did not exactly have the burning desire to go join an evangelical church. In that way, we have damaged our witness by supporting an ungodly man. Regardless of how noble our intentions may have been, this is a real consequence that I believe we ought to consider.
I realize that a lot of Christians stayed home because they didn’t feel they could, in good conscience, vote for either candidate. I realize that a lot of Christians voted for Trump because they felt the alternative was more frightening. I realize a lot of folks who identify as evangelical Christians, probably aren’t practicing Christians who put a lot of thought into the religious aspects of their vote. Finally, I realize that Trump is not a caricature, but a person (and a showman for that matter), so no one really knows what is going on underneath those downy, champagne locks. But regardless, we are perceived as having put a hateful man in office, so the onus is on us to show the love of Christ to our neighbors (particularly our neighbors who are disturbed about the election) in clear, tangible ways.
I also know that America is frustrated. I know that rural and small town Americans, particularly in communities where poverty abounds because all the jobs have been replaced by technology or gone overseas, feel hopeless and forgotten by the media and the government, because they are. Otherwise, we would have had a clue about what was going to happen with the election. We know that things are bad in the inner-cities, and sometimes we talk about it in all the wrong way, but at least we talk about it. For these forgotten people, Trump is a big orange middle finger raised to the establishment, and maybe they deserve it.
And there are other, varied reasons that people voted for Trump, that have nothing to do with racism or sexism or any other isms. Some people wanted supreme court judges who care about the constitution. Some people feel that their religious liberty is being threatened. Some people are desperate for change. Some people see abortion as genocide. Some people may not have liked the candidate, but they liked the republican platform. A lot of people felt a combination of these things and/or just had really major concerns about Clinton.
For those of us who feel horribly offended by all things Trump, we can’t just paint all these people as “deplorables.” For one thing, we know where that got Hillary. The left’s tendency to disregard anyone who disagrees with them as ignorant and ethnocentric is a big part of how we got here. For a second thing, it simply isn’t true. And thirdly, it’s hypocritical. We can’t ask people to listen to our point of view while blithely dismissing theirs.
We keep saying that God is in control, and that is true. But we also know that sometimes God allows suffering. And I think some of our most vulnerable people could be in for some suffering as a result of this election. And fear is a natural reaction. So if you encounter people who are in pain or fearful, and you want to show them love, please listen before you tell them to relax because God’s got it covered. Resist the impulse that we all have, to believe that your experience is the only one that matters, or the most important one, and try to empathize. We need to stop dismissing one another.
Let me say that again: We need to stop dismissing one another.
Oh, you voted for Trump? You must be a racist misogynist. Oh, you’re upset about the election result? You must be a snowflake crybaby.
We have lost the art of respectful dialogue, and nuanced thinking. I don’t know if it’s our collectively shrinking attention span, or just too much looking at tweets and memes and too little conversation. But we seem to be lacking in the ability to respectfully disagree and truly consider opposing viewpoints. Maybe it’s just easier to be dismissive.
So here is what I think we ought to do now. If someone feels forgotten by the government, and worried about losing the moral foundation of our nation, we should listen to them. If someone is afraid because of the blatant racism that has been exposed and emboldened by this particular election, we should listen to them. Maybe we haven’t walked in their shoes, and maybe we won’t change our opinion about the issue, but we can still seek to respect and understand one another. (As a quick aside, I’m not saying we indulge nastiness, name-calling, etc. That stuff is not worth a response.)
We should let people know that we care about them in ways that are personal, and seek out friendships (not just facebook friendships) with people who are different from us. That is how we take some of the rancor out of this event. It sounds simple, and it is, but it’s hard work, and no president is going to do it for us. So let’s get started.