Dear sisters and brothers,
Although it’s sometimes difficult for me to know where I belong these days, I thank you for always including me and being such warm mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers in the faith. We have shared one another’s tables and sat in each other’s living rooms. We’ve had unforgettable times of worship and communion over the years. So many embraces of joy, laughter, and healing. I treasure your wisdom and feel pride for all of the gifts I’ve received from so many of you who would drop everything to help a friend. And yet today I have something kind of challenging to communicate–it’s about your support for Donald Trump.
Just to be clear, I’m not going to suggest that you vote for Hillary Clinton or that anyone should act against their conscience. In fact, that’s my main objection to folks like us participating in this circus. Yes, a vote for Trump (or your favorite candidate) may offer certain Christians some political power. But God hasn’t called us to rule the United States or any other form of government. Frankly, my wish for us Christians is that we would abstain from the polls altogether. How cool would it be if we expressed our allegiance to God’s kingdom alone rather than leading others to vote for someone who is personally indefensible.
I’ve chosen to focus on Donald Trump’s candidacy since many leaders in the white Evangelical family have gone public with their support (Wayne Grudem, Dutch Sheets, Tony Perkins, Jerry Falwell Jr., etc.), not to mention recent data indicating that “nearly seven in ten (69%) white evangelical Protestant likely voters” express support for Donald Trump. I suppose many of my arguments could also apply in a broad way to progressive-leaning Christians who will vote for Hillary Clinton, but that’s for another time and a different audience. Here I have chosen to write about what is familiar to me in my personal upbringing and church tradition.
One of the most annoying things about this whole election is the friction it causes between personal relationships we treasure. As I read comments and have had conversations about highly politicized positions (more than I can remember), I’m struck by the difficulty of moving beyond our own perceptions. Someone who I disagree with may write about God or their favorite candidate with amazing gusto and patriotism, meanwhile I only tend to hear their ideas as suspect. Likewise, I may share some of my sincere convictions about God or peacemaking only to find that these same words unwittingly shut down our conversation. So it seems, during this election especially, we have turned away from Christ and “put our trust in princes” to persuade those we oppose (Psalm 146:3). It really should not be this way for Christians who follow a crucified messiah.
Jesus could have done many things to alter the course of Jewish or Roman politics, but to the surprise of almost everyone he allowed himself to be executed as a criminal. He refused the people’s call to be their King and taught his disciples to serve instead of rule over one another. Ultimately, he gave up popular opinion for a path toward forgiveness that was almost universally rejected. His was a “kingdom of nobodies”. The scary part is that Jesus began calling regular folks like you and me to a similar cross-shaped future. Nobody then (or now) votes for a national leader like him.
Please don’t misunderstand me, I’m not advocating passivity. Silence does not equal peace. Neither do polite words. Each one of us are called by faith to comfort and accompany our travailing world through its birth pains. So I continue to resist the society that causes God’s beloved creation to groan (which is another way of being political). And yet I still worry about how things will turn out. It’s hard not to feel confused and sad for our loss of witness and integrity.
Contrary to campaign slogans, these political movements have no time for our stories. They simply want our votes. Indeed, each party promises security and prosperity in exchange for my vote. And every candidate claims their messiah-like plan is the best one around. Yet wishing for some powerful leader to “make us great again” is in direct conflict with the peace of God. The scriptures call it idolatry. Governments obviously matter and their decisions will affect you and me. Yet our votes do not somehow increase God’s willingness to protect and care for those who are most vulnerable among us. His kindness and upside-down justice have already “brought down the powerful from their thrones” and “filled the hungry with good things” (Luke 1:52-53). Instead of paying my tribute to a wrathful executive office, I pray we honor the Human One who handed over his power to forgive both the terrorist and imperial soldier without condition. No election is necessary to begin this work. And no election is worth giving up such an amazing story.
I’ll admit that sometimes it’s hard to be honest with you. And it’s clear we have a tendency to fight about politics. So I really didn’t want to spoil the mood by commenting too much on your candidate. But then I reconsidered my reluctance because Donald Trump has insulted my friends and family members. I cannot ignore, for example, his scapegoating of “illegals” or his contempt for women and still be a Christian. Is it naïve to think that we might have this conversation in a peaceful way? Either way, please take this letter as my invitation to discuss things out in the open. I leave you with my sadness and grief, but also my joy and these reflections on how we can be in step with God’s kingdom.
May our lives continue to bless all our neighbors, both enemies and friends, in Jesus’ name.