Post-election: a Time for Reconciliation

"Were not the right man on our side, our striving would be losing."

In every congregation in our conference, voters from both presidential candidate's camps will sit next to one another on Sunday. We as Church stand independent of politics, yet, because we live as Church in a political world, and because God issued and Jesus exemplified a call to be prophetic, we are impacted by and must speak to political realities around us. Sometimes these two worlds align, sometimes they don't, and sometimes we live in the limbo of wondering. That's part of what Jesus was getting at when he challenged us to live in the world without being part of the world, [1] and when he said “See, I am sending you out like sheep into the midst of wolves; so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves." [2]

This morning I drove to work wondering how many among you were feeling like a sheep among the wolves. I wondered if some of you feel like the disciples huddled in the upper room on Saturday after Good Friday - shocked, wounded, threatened, terrified. I wondered if some of you feel like the disciples on resurrection morning - stunned, relieved, joyful, safe. Then CNN radio caught my attention again. The popular vote may not reflect the electoral vote this time. [3] The lopsided electoral college numbers might lead us to think this election was not nearly so competetive, or that as a people, Americans are not so deeply divided. The exit polls tell us that most of us, almost 57% of us, are "concerned or fearful" of a Trump presidency. [4] "More than half the nation needs serious pastoral care this morning," I said to myself.

The truth into which we must live now is that Donald Trump will be our 45th president, and his political party controls Congress. The election was free and fair. We owe it to ourselves to give the new president and Congress the chance to govern for the good of all Americans. I know that for many of you reading this, that seems, at best, very hard, and maybe even impossible to imagine doing. But we are not alone in our doing it. We are people filled with and led by the Holy Spirit. That "power at work within us is able to accomplish abundantly far more than all we can ask or imagine!" [5]

Did we in our own strength confide, our striving would be losing
But there is one who takes our side, the One of God's own choosing.
You ask who that may be? Christ Jesus, it is he,
with mighty power to save, victorious o're the grave,
Christ will prevail triumphant!

Several weeks ago I met with the other bishops and executives in Phoenix. Our conversation turned toward 'what ifs.' What if Donald Trump won the election? One colleague envisioned being put in prison and being persecuted in light of the xenophobic, sexist, and homophobic rhetoric of recent campaign speeches and rallies against which he would take a stand.  "It will be Nazi Germany all over again," he said. (his words)

"I may seriously need to think about moving out of the country and seeking standing with one of our international partners," I said.

"But we are called to stand with our flocks and face whatever comes," he responded. He eluded to the Confessing Church in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s. [6]  "If you are right," I said, "you may be feeling called to be a Bonhoeffer or a Niemoller, but as a gay man, I am feeling like one of the Jews." That doesn't seem like an overreaction in light of the cost Jesus associates with living in what one perceives as a sheep-sent-out-among-wolves moment. [7] 

Telling our own truth, and making room for the personal truth of ones who have a different truth, must be part of what we offer one another in the Church. My truth is that this campaign cycle has been personally traumatizing.  I have a very deep empathy for people who feel threatened. It's not a threat based on a candidate's words alone, but on the systemic racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, and Islamaphobia within and expressed by our society. I just need to put that out there. For me, and maybe for some of you, that trauma will require real reconciliation efforts for healing to happen. Reconciliation begins with acknowledgment of wrongs done, and pain heard.

We are, as Church, in the business of second chances, forgiveness. We are a United and a uniting Church. We owe it to ourselves to give our new president a chance to repent - to change the direction of his campaign by governing for the common good.

My sisters and brothers in Christ for whom today is a celebration, please give the ones around you who do not share your truth time and space to heal and grow into feeling safer. Please do all you can to ensure that our nation is governed so as to promote justice-doing, mercy-showing, and humble God-walking. Remember that you have neighbors -  on your street, in your workplace, and in your pew - deeply afraid as a result of this election.  They need to see that they don't need to be afraid of you.

For my sisters and brothers for whom the election results are anything but good news, remember with me that "there is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love." [8] It's not in our being or feeling loved that fear is released, but in our own doing of love that we lay aside our fears.

What the election was not is also important. This election was not a referendum on our values as people of faith or as the United Church of Christ, or as progressive Christians. God's call to us "to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God." [9] has in no way changed. Whomever the president, whatever party controls Congress, we are called to speak truth to power. We still are called to advocate for the marginalized. We still are called to witness to and embody the Gospel. Elections cannot change any of that.

God, help us find a way forward together that unites us for the common good of all human beings. Help us heal from the trauma of hate speech, racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, misogyny, and Islamaphobia. Remind us that we will find that healing in proportion to the love we give, the justice we do, the mercy we show, and how humbly and closely we walk with you. Help us stay true to our calling to be a united and uniting church.

Rev. Dr. Bill Lyons
Designated Conference Minister

 

[1] John 17:14, 16

[2] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Mt 10:16). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[3] Reflects the popular vote at the time of writing. http://www.cnn.com/election

[4] CNN news report, Nov. 9, 2016

[5] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Eph 3:20). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[6] http://www.christianitytoday.com/history/issues/issue-9/christians-against-nazis-german-confessing-church.html

[7] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Mt 10:17–22). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[8] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (1 Jn 4:18). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.

[9] The Holy Bible: New Revised Standard Version. (1989). (Mic 6:8). Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers.