This is the third draft that I’ve written of this post. Coherent words have been a bit hard to find. I've written about the election a lot this week and after this one, I'll be taking a break.
I’ve been praying a lot more this fall. It has been out of necessity more than any sort of piety. Being a stranger in a new town and working in a church for the first time will do that to you. Sometimes these prayers are my rambling conversations with God and other times I lean on the prayers of others.
This week my prayers have steered into the skid that is the fallout from the election. A prayer that keeps popping up in my mind is one commonly known as "The Prayer of Saint Francis." Francis probably didn't author this prayer, but it echoes the ethos of a man whose faith and compassion for those around him is still a marvel today. I love this prayer and have for many years. In a time when people are frightened and filled with turmoil, "Lord, make me an instrument of Your peace" seems like the thing to pray.
It's what I want to pray, but parts of it are so difficult. It's not the beginning. I want to sow love where there is hatred, pardon where there is injury, faith where there is doubt, hope where there is despair, light where there is darkness, and joy where there is sadness. I desire that with my entire being.
And I want to not so much seek to be consoled as to console because as disappointed and concerned as I am, I'm going to be alright. There are people who are legitimately and rightly concerned for their safety and whether their families will get to stay together that need to be consoled, but in the time and the way they need that consolation. I can't just follow my impulse of saying "Everything is going to be alright." That comes from a place of privilege and it's not helpful. There are many who truly need consolation out there and I hope in some small way, I can aid.
The wrestling begins when I pray to not seek to be understood as to understand nor seek to be loved as to love. I know this is critical in my head. Understanding those with whom we disagree is the only way we can take the first step out of the raging trash inferno that is our national dialogue. Yet it is so difficult because we want understanding and love to be a two-way street.
People who voted for Trump want us to know that they are not all bigots and misogynists. And that's true. I know that. But there are those in that camp, and they're usually the outspoken ones, who do not afford the same understanding to those who vote differently from them. I don't think that Democrats or Republicans have the market cornered on good ideas. Both have platforms that align with people of faith, run against religious beliefs, are neutral, and in a gray area. I hate that I have to state that, but if I don't then someone is going to interpret that I think the Christian faith is on the side of one party or another.
Barack Obama was the first Democrat I voted for and while I did and I do stand by that vote, my Southern evangelical Christian community made me feel great shame and guilt over that decision. I was fairly quiet about that choice. Because you couldn't be a Christian and vote for a Democrat. It was a godless and atheistic way, as Franklin Graham said even just yesterday. They did not understand how you could be a Christian and vote that way.
On paper, I understand why someone who isn't hateful voted for Trump. You thought he was the better choice. But in my heart, I don't understand how a Christian could vote for a man who boasted about sexually assaulting women, who called Mexicans rapists and drug dealers, who proposed banning an entire religion from the country, who was endorsed by the KKK, who insulted and demeaned countless people, who had supporters who wore t-shirts and had bumper stickers that said horrible, profane, and hateful things and never really tried to put a stop to it.
You can say that's the man, not policy, and you voted on policy. But you can't divorce the two. We all know that policy comes out of our hearts and minds. And I want you to know that celebrating his victory as Christians sends a message to many that you do not want to be associated with Christ. That is what I want you to understand. I'm not upset because the person I picked lost. I'm upset because people are rightfully hurting and scared and they see the American church as an enabler for that reality.
So I've gone against Francis there and I've tried to be understood rather than understand. I hope that's okay. Let me close by saying that those who voted for Trump, I don't understand you, but I want to. More importantly I want to love you. I hope you will love and show grace to the many people who legitimately need to know that others are with them. If you don't want to be aligned with the more hateful aspects of this campaign, you've got to be on the front lines for those who are scared right now. As a Christian, my love is not contingent on that response, but that's what I ask.
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying to self that we are born to eternal life.