It has been less than a week since the most seismic election in U.S. history, and the dust is still far from settling. To half the country, the dust is more like nuclear fallout, and they are walking around like zombies, some out for blood. Then there is the other half, awakening like Dorothy in the land of Oz, blinking with bewilderment as she stares at a color-filled world and the beginnings of a yellow brick road that leads to the Emerald City, saying, “Toto, I don’t think we’re in Kansas anymore.”
To all the zombies and all the Dorothys out there, I have been where you have been, and even now I struggle daily between cautious optimism and grave misgiving. And that feeling would have been the same even if the outcome of the election had been different. Such is the nature of the choices we were given. Yet despite all the frustration, confusion and trepidation this election has elicited in me, there are certain truths I have discovered about politics that have taken shape over the past twelve or so years:
- My relationships mean far too much for me to jeopardize them over something like politics.
In the current frenzy to “unfriend” anyone with differing political views, I submit to you to remember that friend who brought you a meal and ran errands for you when you were eight months pregnant and on bedrest. Remember your crazy uncle who is the life of the party at family gatherings, the one who never fails to make your kids giggle uncontrollably. Remember the colleague who always brings donuts to your weekly staff meetings. Though they may have different views than you and may express them loudly, sometimes obnoxiously, they are still people, worthy of respect.
Despite the popular notion that differing viewpoints posted on Facebook never change anybody’s mind, sometimes a thoughtful post from a different perspective has challenged me to question how I see things. Sometimes I have even altered my way of thinking as a result. This is called growth. Let us, therefore, refuse to put ourselves in a bubble, filled only with people who agree with us. The alternative is to become more and more alienated and mistrustful of anyone we perceive as different, and that can’t lead to anything good.
- I am in general wary of throwing my endorsement behind a human being who, in all likelihood, will inevitably let me down.
Over the years, it has dismayed me to see many evangelical Christians, of which I am one, get in bed with the Republican Party. Even more dismaying was seeing prominent leaders of the evangelical church tout a candidate who often exhibits behavior antithetical to Christ as the new “savior” of our country.
Just as Dorothy discovered that the Wizard was not all he was cracked up to be, our political leaders are only human, which means they are flawed and have a propensity to sin. Church, you should know not to place your faith in humans and human institutions. Instead, focus on the reason why you were put in this world in the first place—to usher in the Kingdom of God by caring for the poor, the marginalized, the lonely, the grieving. Speak to the issues you care about, but don’t stake your reputation, our reputation, on humans and human institutions that are imperfect at best and at worse, corrupt. Because the world is watching.
- I am too complex a human being than to be defined by my political party.
I have been saying for years that extremes in either direction on the political spectrum are dangerous. Neither of our political parties holds the monopoly on truth. Each has its share of strengths, and each has its share of shortcomings. Neither gets it all right. There is no doubt that I have definite leanings in one direction over the other, but a lot of my views tend towards the middle and may even (gasp!) cross the line at times. I would like to think that I don’t blindly cast a vote for a party but that I vote based on the candidate’s or the issue’s merit. I guess I’m coming to the realization that I’m one of those Independents that every politician wants to “court” each political season. Wow, that kinda makes me feel special.
- The people who scream “tolerance!” the loudest are often the most intolerant.
Once I was yelled at, cursed at even, by someone who had the mere perception that I held a different political view. Now, I understood where it came from, that the person doing the yelling had been deeply wounded in the past and that all that baggage suddenly got projected onto me, but that didn’t stop me from crying buckets of tears for the rest of the day. I felt betrayed, humiliated, dehumanized—all from someone I considered a friend. It took every ounce of God’s grace I could muster to forgive and to love this person who had so hurt me, but somehow He helped me to seek reparation of the relationship. That experience made me look at whether or not I rush to tar and feather others in my heart, refusing to see them as something more than Democrat or Republican.
Contrast that experience to a conversation I had recently with a friend of mine from church (and how refreshing is it that we can differ politically and still worship together in the same place?). I knew she and I had differing political views, yet as we breached this sensitive subject over lunch, we discovered that, lo and behold, we had much more in common than we imagined! I think most of us want basically the same things: peace, prosperity, equality, a healthy environment—we just don’t always agree on how to get there. And let’s face it, the “how to get there” part can get really messy. Yet true tolerance is like marriage—you don’t always feel love towards your spouse, but you make a conscious decision, an act of will, to love and respect that person, to not be mean and call for their head on a platter, even when they drive you crazy.
And this leads to my next insight:
- We as a society have bought into the lie that to disagree with someone is the same thing as hating them.
I’m sure there are many out there who would disagree with some of the decisions I have made in my life: where I send my kids to school, who I cheered for in the last Super Bowl (Go Broncos!), and the fact that I choose plastic over paper in the grocery store (Don’t worry, I recycle religiously. I figure it takes less time to recycle plastic than to grow a tree). But if I assumed that all these people hated me because we don’t see eye-to-eye, then my list of friends would dwindle very rapidly, and I don’t even think my husband would be among them.
Back when I was going through graduate school, all of us future therapists had to go through group therapy ourselves. Through that process, I was confronted about my beliefs and attitudes. No one coddled me in order to spare my feelings. It was raw and it was hard and there were tears. But it also challenged me, and I am grateful for the enormous personal growth that came as a result. None of that would have happened if my fellow students hadn’t been willing to risk upsetting me. And not once did I see their confrontation as hateful. In fact, when later I was an actual psychotherapist and had to confront my adolescent patients and their families about a behavior or attitude that was concerning to me, I did so because I cared about them.
- The only person who has earned my full and complete endorsement is Jesus.
Far more important than any banner I may wave or any political party I belong to, my ultimate allegiance is to the one who died for me. He is the only one who always keeps His promises, has never lied to me, is always fair and just, and who truly desires what is for my good. He will never let me down.
- I can therefore trust Him with the results of this election and elections to come.
It is comforting for me to know that Donald Trump could not have won this election without God’s permission. Now, God may be using Donald Trump as a judgment upon our nation, like he used corrupt kings to bring judgment upon the ancient Israelites when they turned away from Him. Or maybe, something good will come of it, that Donald Trump is not the monster he has been made out to be, that God is going to use this new administration to bring about His purpose in the world. We as limited human beings can’t see the big picture, but we must trust that ultimately God is using whatever happens, good or ill, to bring the world closer to Him.
- If you want to make the world a better place, stop looking to our leaders to fix things and do something productive yourself.
One thing Dorothy learned when she finally made it to the Emerald City, it was not the Wizard who could ultimately provide her desires—she had possessed that ability all along. And so it must be with us. Ultimately our hope is not in any political leader. It is in the God of the universe who loves us and desires a relationship with us. If we want a better world, perhaps we need to look inwardly and let His love transform our hearts so that we will pray for our enemies, forgive those who have wronged us, and serve others who don’t look like us.
If you are happy with the results of the election, show humility. Don’t gloat. For the past eight years, you have known what it feels like to be on the losing team, so be kind to those who now feel like they are walking around with a target on their backs. And for those who are not happy with the results, may your deepest fears not be realized, and instead may they be replaced with a growing sense of peace and hope.
I would venture to say that God is neither a Republican nor a Democrat. However, I think His heart is just as broken when an innocent baby’s life is taken in the womb as it is when we refuse to aid the downtrodden and oppressed, and when we hate others simply for the color of their skin. God has given us all certain sensitivities, and I think He expects for us to use those natural inclinations to help advance His Kingdom in this world. This is good news. And we could all use some of that.