Advent Reflection: Four Areas of Possible Post-Election AgreementNovember 29th, 2016
Donald Trump will be the 45th President of the United States. Millions around the country are rejoicing, while millions of others are in deep lament. Christians, like Americans in general, were also divided about the choices we were presented with. I wonder if, despite the polarization of this election, there might be a few points upon which all Christians could find agreement.
First, As Christians living in a post-Christendom country, certainly we can all agree that our hope must transcend whoever occupies the Oval Office. Throughout history, Christianity has learned how to survive, and even thrive, under a wide array of political situations. Our faith was birthed in the context of the cruelty and paganism of the Roman Empire. It has also languished in the context of its full enshrinement by the State. I suspect that Christians will learn how to be Christians in our day, just as we have done throughout our storied history. I take even more comfort in that we are now linked by a global communion of believers from around the world who can give us perspective during this period in our history.
Both major candidates were deeply flawed. The challenges posed by a Clinton administration might have been different than those which will presented to us by a Trump administration, but we faced serious challenges with either scenario. We will thrive if we remember the source of our hope and that, in the end, Jesus Christ is Lord of history. America may be under God’s righteous judgment. If so, we can even learn from Jewish history how to thrive in the midst of Babylonian exile.
Second, it is vital that Christians find fresh ways to affirm God’s redemptive, sacrificial love for all people. There is no place for hate in the church, or in our society. There are particular sectors of our society who are fearful and the church needs to be a beacon of hope, love and refuge. Whether someone is a Muslim, a black, an immigrant, he or she needs to know that they are loved by the people of God. This is as basic as John 3:16: “For God so loved the world…” Christians can unambiguously affirm and embrace all people as bearers of the image of God, and objects of God’s sacrificial love. It is categorically wrong, for example, for someone to spray paint a woman’s car with a swastika and “KKK” because she wears a hijab. It is categorically wrong for a man to be beaten senseless because he was wearing a “Make America Great Again” hat. All Christians should affirm this, regularly and publicly. The church must be a voice of reconciliation. We must be a bridge of hope. We must be a light to the nation.
Third, it is also important to recognize that this election was a reaction against many cultural changes in our country which the vast majority of Christians here and around the world find discordant with historic Christian faith. Christians want the freedom to share the good news of Jesus Christ with our friends and neighbors. Christians want the freedom to believe that same sex marriage and gender reassignment are signs of cultural decline, not cultural advance, without being told that this is hate speech. Christians want the freedom to affirm traditional Christian marriage, even as we stand up for the dignity of those who disagree. Christians want to live in a culture where expressive liberty allows us to be genuine Christians, even in the midst of a pluralistic, multi-religious environment. I do not expect an increasingly pagan culture to affirm Christian values. I do not expect the wider culture to recognize the immoral, destructive abyss we are slipping into. But, I do want the freedom to express my faith on these, and many other points. I am not content to live in a culture where we must all give our full-throated approval of all these cultural changes, or we are dismissed as angry and dangerous demagogues. We should all be determined to live as authentic Christians in the midst of whatever cultural and political context we find ourselves in.
Fourth, we need a renaissance of civil public discourse. The uncivility of both sides of the political spectrum during this election cycle has been embarrassing and deeply abhorrent to Christian values. The emergence of “false news” and “position by Twitter” has degraded the necessary thoughtful exchange of ideas which is crucial to a healthy democracy. To caricature vast groups of Americans as “unredeemable deplorables” is no more acceptable than to castigate all those who work in Washington D.C. as a “cesspool of elitists.” We must move away from broad caricatures and 140 character twitters and, as Christians, engage in deep cultural and issues analysis. Christians must become known as the most thoughtful people in the country. People should turn to us for the most reflective analysis. Large sectors may disagree with us, but we should at least be known as those committed to respectful, thoughtful discourse.
Christians face several daunting challenges in our day. However, perhaps we can find some common ground and begin to create new culture in our day. After all, isn’t this the message of Advent? The world was broken and needed rescuing, and so we needed the first advent. The world is not moving towards a cultural utopia, but towards an apocalyptic rebellion against the rule and reign of God, therefore we long for the second Advent when Christ will return and set all things right. It us upon these two Advents that our hope finally rests.
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