"The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness did not overcome it." (John 1:5)
"Just awoke from a nightmare! Dreamed that during the Prayers of the People we prayed for 'Donald, our President.'"
Well, guess what I did yesterday? Yup. Prayed for "Donald, our President-Elect." And far from a scripted reality show, this is our new national reality. On January 20, 2017, Donald J. Trump will be sworn in as the next President of the United States.
After rapidly moving through Dr. Elisabeth Kubler Ross' ubiquitous five stages of grief (denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance), I've come to a sixth stage in these last 24 hours: unabashed joy. Wait, what?
Well, first, let's define "joy." The Biblical concept of "joy" does not equate to "happiness." It has nothing to do with a superficial, in-the-moment, fleeting sense of satisfaction. Joy as in "rejoice in the Lord always" is rooted in a profound and abiding trust in God's merciful presence.
So, yes, in this sense I am joyful and believe a Trump presidency will be the best thing that could have ever happened to the Church. Not the country or people on the margins or the world, mind you, but the Church. Because we have a unique and Biblical opportunity to seize the moral initiative and offer a powerful counter-voice to the forces of violence and oppression. The Church that takes seriously Jesus' radical message of inclusion will not only be relevant but will play a critical role in shaping the future trajectory of our nation.
Oh, this struggle won't be easy. My sense of "unabashed joy" is severely tempered by the knowledge that many will be hurt emotionally and spiritually and financially and even physically along the way. And the Trump Administration will be especially difficult for vulnerable populations, however we define them. I'm not suggesting Donald Trump alone is responsible for the systemic racism and sexism that pervade our country -- these sins (let's call them what they are) were present long before the 2016 election cycle and would have remained with us whoever was elected president on Tuesday.
But this will be the defining moment of our ecclesiastical generation. We have an opportunity to reclaim our identity as people committed to the way of justice and peace in God's name. And that is "good news" in the gospel sense of the word.
How exactly is a Trump presidency good for the Church? Here are some ways I believe Election Day can be a transformative event moving forward:
Reclaim Our Prophetic Voice
The prophet Micah (6:8) puts it simply when it comes to the Lord's requirements for the faithful: "Do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God." Do. Love. Walk. These are not passive acts but calls to discipleship. The prophetic voice does not come from the seat of power but calls those in authority to account for sinful behavior. The Church must be this voice in the world.
Recognize Our One Lord
Like the grass that withers and the flower that fades, temporal kingdoms come and go. But the Word of God, as made manifest in Jesus Christ, endures forever. We are subjects, first and foremost, of the Kingdom of Heaven. We can never forget from whence our true authority derives. Truth is found not in ideology or partisan politics but in the transforming and redemptive work of our Lord.
Stand with Those on the Margins
We remind ourselves continually of Jesus' call to stand with the marginalized and dispossessed. We remember Jesus' ministry to and solidarity with the "least of these" (Matthew 25). We embrace movements like Black Lives Matter and Standing Rock. We listen and stand in the trenches and pray with those on the margins such as the LGBTQ and immigrant communities, the poor, the physically disabled, and the mentally ill, among others. For white Christians, this means stepping aside and allowing our brothers and sisters to lead the fight and write the narrative. For the sake of authenticity, their experiences must inform our actions.
Yes, we must stand with others. But the privileged among us, especially white men like myself, also must be willing to make sacrifices. Otherwise we're just offering platitudes from a safe distance -- through official "statements" or blog posts or on social media. Real change demands true sacrifice. What privileges are we willing to forego to make justice -- economic and otherwise -- a reality.
Embrace Fear and Grief
Be aware that for many people in this country, Tuesday's result was devastating. A patronizing pat on the head and a "don't worry, it'll all be okay" response is not helpful. As a female friend of mine put it, "The Church must be willing to let people be afraid and discover what might help them feel less afraid. The Church must be willing to allow people to feel grief and despair. I am feeling the grief and anger of hundreds of years of well-qualified, talented women being pushed aside for mediocre white men to take center stage. Those feelings will not go away, but they can be transformed by God and a Church who recognizes its complicity in oppression and beings to work for justice."
Be a Resistance Movement
Yes, we are the Jesus Movement but we are also now a Resistance Movement. One that speaks truth to power even when it means leaving our comfort zones to stand up and mobilize for hard gospel truths. Racism, sexism, misogyny, homophobia -- these are not acceptable either among an intimate group of friends or in the halls of Congress. Loving our neighbors as ourselves does not mean giving in to the powers and principalities without fighting for justice. It means speaking up even if people refuse to listen. It means subverting the political process in the name of justice.
Love Our Enemies
We must fervently pray for President Trump, for his cabinet, and for all those in power. And we must love them not only with our lips but in our lives. We must listen to the concerns of those with whom we disagree. Not out of arrogance or judgment but with open minds and hearts. This doesn't mean accepting or enabling hate speech -- that we unequivocally call out -- but we are to respect the dignity of every human being in our daily and online interactions.
We must tear down walls between people who are different -- politically, culturally, racially, religiously -- rather than building them up. Relationships matter. Fellow children of God matter. We have been given the ministry of reconciliation (2 Corinthians 5:18). It is time to practice reconciliation with reckless abandon.
As Barbara Harris, the first female bishop in the Anglican Communion, once put it, "We are an Easter people living in a Good Friday world." Now more than ever we must embrace the promise of hope embedded in Christ's resurrection. Out of darkness, there is light; out of death, there is life. We must embody hope with the utter conviction that love will indeed prevail. Through the resurrection, Christ has trampled down the forces of death and destruction. This is not a denial of the pain involved, but a reminder that all our hope on God is founded.
This will not be an easy time. There will be times of trial and persecution. Times when all feels lost and hopeless. But we are a Resurrection people, imbued with a sense of hope that can never be driven out. We will be sorely tested -- sometimes to the breaking point -- but love will prevail. Love born of hope in the living Christ always does. And that is the true source of my joy.
My friends, never forget that at the heart of our common life stands "faith, hope, and love. And the greatest of these is love." (1 Corinthians 13:13)