Coming to Terms

At first I didn’t want to write about the election. There’s already too much noise out there, and much of it only giving people reason to dig in their heels. The conversations, if you can call them that, are not productive. They are actually destructive to the cohesiveness of our friendships, family, work relationships and of course, our nation.
 
But I cannot remain silent. It feels disingenuous to post an essay on a topic that feels irrelevant right now. The only meaningful topic is finding a way forward.
 
But first, a full disclosure. I will go on record saying I was very disappointed with the election results. This may shock many of my fellow believers. I might even lose readers. So be it.
 
But I’m not writing to defend my vote. I’m writing to better understand how to move beyond the discord in ways that don’t damage the relationships we care about.
 
I don’t have answers, but I have observations. And a couple of suggestions. And maybe that’s a start.
 
First I want to state the obvious. Both candidates had characters that were flawed and policies that were vastly different. These flaws and differences were deeply meaningful to people, thereby providing plenty of ground for disagreement.
 
And from the beginning, it wasn’t respectful disagreement; it was divisive disagreement. It wasn’t a good beginning and only got uglier.
 
I’ve noticed that many of us had our “deal breaker” issue. For some it was Hillary’s dishonesty, for others it was Trump’s treatment of women. For some it was policy issues such as abortion and the incoming administration’s influence over the Supreme Court, and for others it was immigration or foreign policy. Many of our votes were a complex calculation of the flaws we were willing to accept and the policies we believed were best for our country. And for others it was less clearly articulated, but instead a gut level dislike for a candidate.
 
Priorities came to the forefront. For some, those priorities reflected big picture issues such as national security, or the economy, and for others the priorities were tied to personal circumstances such as healthcare or taxes. Some issues, such as women’s rights and immigration, straddled both.
 
We won’t always agree with each other’s choices and priorities. But somehow, we need to move forward with respect. If the current level of acrimony is left unchecked it will fracture relationships and divide our nation. The damage could be lasting or irreparable. Some don’t believe this, but I do. I’ve already seen it separate friends and family.
 
So what can we do?
 
All eyes and attention must now be on the President-Elect. To continue arguing the merits of a candidate who lost is pointless, although by no means should anyone stop advocating for the policies she supported that they feel strongly about.
 
But it’s important to remember that as Americans, we have certain rights and responsibilities.
 
We have the right to protest, but the responsibility to do so lawfully.
 
We have to right to engage in vigorous discourse, but have the responsibility to do so with respect.
 
We have the right to our opinions, but have the responsibility to allow others theirs as well.
 
But what exactly does that look like? How can we engage with each other more productively?
 
Here are some concrete ideas:
 
1. Be fair. Not everyone who voted for the President-Elect is a racist, nor was every supporter for HRC a communist. Using labels or name calling based on a person’s vote will only incite further hostility and bitterness. The words of the reckless pierce like swords, but the tongue of the wise brings healing. Proverbs 12:18
 
2. Watch more than one news channel. There is bias on each side. To better understand an issue it’s important to understand different perspectives so you can take an informed position. And while you’re at it, read primary sources so that you can spot the spin toward either agenda.
 
3. Listen to those who are in fear and emotional pain because of the election results. The fears are real and valid. A “Suck it up buttercup” attitude is not helpful and only further deepens feelings of frustration and hopelessness. It’s a dismissal with distain. It does not build a bridge. People need to be heard to know their lives, and experiences, matter.
 
4. Be vigilant and ready to speak out about statements or policies you find offensive or incongruent with your values. Criticizing the candidate you voted for is allowed without compromising your particular reasons for making your choice. Brothers and sisters, do not be weary of doing what is right. 2 Thessalonians 3:13
 
5. Get involved. Now is not the time to sit back and see how everything unfolds. Although I believe in giving the new administration a chance, it’s important to stay engaged and vocal if policies are not consistent with your values and beliefs. I’ve heard quite a few people who voted for the new administration believe he will moderate his tone and compromise on his promises once he’s in office, or that our country’s system of checks and balances will prevent extremism. My hope is that anyone who is counting on that and sees otherwise, is strong enough to object.
 
6. Trust. In the end, God is sovereign. That doesn’t mean he determines the outcome of an election, but it does mean He can use all circumstances to accomplish His will. If we truly embrace this belief, then we can move forward with conviction and hope.
 
I’m going to be totally honest here. There are days I struggle to implement my own ideas. There’s a very strong temptation to categorize, generalize, stereotype, judge and to look with suspicion at the “true” motives of those who voted differently. But we have to fight against these temptations. Otherwise, the real Enemy wins by luring us away from Jesus’ command to love one another (John 13:34).
 
As Christians, we are also called to bear each other’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2) Now is the time for those who profess belief in these words to extend the compassion Jesus modeled. Since 81% of evangelicals voted for our President-Elect, ministering to those who are in pain and fear because of his policies is going to look hypocritical to some. Recognize and respect that perspective, but minister anyway.
 
As a nation, we cannot look away. We cannot be afraid to admit we were wrong. We cannot be silent in the face of injustice.
 
And that goes for both sides.
 
 
For those who are interested in reading the posts of other evangelicals who did not vote for the President-Elect, you may be interested in the following bloggers:
 
Wendy Alsup
Bronwyn Lea
Wendy Alsup
Jen Hatmaker

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