I didn’t watch the returns Tuesday.
My excuse was that we don’t have cable. But really, it was because I was afraid. I hadn’t processed what would happen if Trump won, but something told me…I don’t know. Maybe not. I didn’t check until after 9.
I listened to Slate’s live feed. And I heard it wasn’t going like we thought.
I flipped open my computer and checked FiveThirtyEight. The potential was vanishing.
And the very first thought as I stared at Ohio and North Carolina turning was this.
Our work just got harder.
The work of proclaiming the gospel. Bringing good news to the poor. Healing the sick.
And not because of donkeys and elephants. Not because of partisanship and elections. Or even the barbaric shout of the electorate.
But because now hate is emboldened.
I certainly don’t believe all Trump supporters hate. But those Trump supporters who do hate have been shielded. They feel like they have a voice speaking for them for the first time in half a century. And they have declared victory.
White Supremacist websites are showing up in my Facebook “People are sharing” feed.
And as a priest, my work is harder. Opening the door to the disenfranchised and destitute somehow now seems awfully partisan.
I once stood in front of a congregation and confessed that the political environment in our world means that I fear for my livelihood any time I say something we all claim to believe. Like simply saying that I was grieving the death of a young black boy named Trayvon Martin. That it should be OK to say that he shouldn’t be dead right now and the person who killed him should be punished.
Yes, I caught flack for even going there.
And Tuesday night, I felt that way again. Only more so.
Too much hay has been made about individual votes and how voting one’s conscience works. Who we’re voting for and who we’re voting against. We’re not looking for answers, just scapegoats in this.
But too much focus is also placed on simply making nice, as if we should just put a tiny bandaid over a gaping, festering gash across our abdomen. Let’s all just play nice and get together without working for it.
Like we can just all be happy right now. If only.
There’s too much work for us to do.
In the day-after-election autopsies, I heard a question which struck me. On Slate’s Political Gabfest, they were talking through how President-elect Trump might be able to deliver on his promise to blow up Washington. Figuratively, that is.
Of course they couldn’t think of how it actually could be accomplished.
This was his promise. That he’d be different, an outsider, going against the elites. Early evidence proves this to be wholly untrue.
But there is one thing. It’s part of what made me afraid Tuesday night. It accompanied that thought of how much harder things will be.
He might not blow up Washington or get rid of lobbyists, but he can blow up the social safety net. He could dramatically reform who our government serves and how. We might see more people on our streets and in our soup kitchens.
That’s one way to transform Washington.
Making it less useful to those who depend on it.
I thought of Vigo County in Indiana, which has an unemployment rate twice the national average and well over half of our students are on free or reduced lunches. Our homeless shelter had a fire a few weeks ago and our work with the homeless coalition has been an ongoing, uphill battle.
We won’t be fighting for the money we need to eradicate homelessness in our community. We’ll be fighting to keep the money we have. With potentially more people on the street.
Sister Simone also came to mind. When she and the Nuns on the Bus drove through town and stopped at St. Stephen’s. She talked about visiting with Rep. Paul Ryan in 2012 to talk about his budget proposal. How he likes to talk about churches and religious groups being better than the government at dealing with poverty.
Of course, she came prepared, saying in response that every church, synagogue, mosque, and faith-based agency in the country would have to find $50,000 more every single year just to make up for the cuts to food programs in his budget. If we’re to pick up the slack, we’re going to need way more money than we have.
Just for poor kids to have something to eat tomorrow that they get today.
So there’s too much work for us to do. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t do it. That’s our work! There’s too much work for us to do on our own.
We need to do our work.
And that means loving and fighting for the poor and the disadvantaged. It means standing up to the bullies who’d destroy our children. And welcoming in those with no other place to go.
It means putting the gospel before our country.
- Resisting evil and choosing love.
- Fighting fear and giving hope.
- Shunning hate and embracing the unknown.
It means avoiding cheap grace and acts of piety which silence the hurting and ignore injustice.
And it means reminding our friends that the gospel isn’t for white men only. It isn’t for the maintenance of privilege in the midst of a changing world. And it sure as hell isn’t about whether or not you should bake a wedding cake.
Christians aren’t being persecuted. And even if we were, Jesus doesn’t need our protection. He can take care of himself.
This is about white privilege. This is about the celebration of rural life and homogeneous culture. Self-preservation and protection of tradition. An idealizing of a past which wasn’t so simple and a life nobody really lived.
But none of that is gospel. None of that is about proclaiming the good news of Jesus the Christ. Or being Christ for one another.
We need to live the gospel.
Ten years ago, we worried about our young people leaving the church. And we were shocked to find that nearly all of them think Christians are hypocrites. True too of young adults in the church.
We need to stop proving them right.
And we need to stop with the bigotry and obsession with sex. The infighting and the trashing on other denominations. Or worrying more about our buildings than our neighbors; about the people who show up each week and not the homeless in the street or the students across it.
We need to stop thinking that faith is defined by the culture we grew up in. But instead prove that it is a daily dying to ourselves and transgressing our culture on behalf of the one who is hurt and broken and left for dead.
We need to stand up to evil to protect the weak. To stand in the breach and bring peace to people at war. And make our churches sanctuaries for those needing healing once again. Not temples in exaltation to the powerful people among us.
After this election, I don’t know why anyone would respect our faith. I don’t.
So our work today is to prove us all wrong.