Dear Sisters and Brothers,
I don't know your stories. I don't know what has uniquely shaped you, what you are passionate about, or your dreams for your future. My guess is that we disagree about at least a few things in how we interpret scripture. But at the end of the day, we have this in common: we worship the same God. With that to unite us, I'd like to share a few thoughts about the presidential race, even though I'm not entirely comfortable entering into political conversations.
When Donald Trump first announced his intentions to win the Republican nomination, I thought it would be a short-lived, albeit entertaining, attempt. He couldn't possibly gain enough support to last longer than a few months, right? But then he gained momentum and started winning primaries. And, rumour has it, he has more support from Evangelical Christians than any of the other candidates do.
I've been scratching my head, wondering how Trump could be taken seriously by anyone, much less by Christians. To me, he seems to stand in stark contrast to what Jesus was all about (humility, service, and loving your enemy, just to name a few).
But I think I'm started to understand. Since the events of September 11, 2001 (and perhaps earlier?), Americans have increasingly lived in a culture of fear. It's the air we breathe.
Scrolling across the screen when I was trying to watch the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade were the words "No Credible Terror Threats for the Holiday." Do you think these words assuaged fears or heightened them?
For the ten years after the September 11 attacks, any time you'd travel through a US airport, you were sure to be greeted with an announcement about the current terror attack risk. Apparently, no one ever heard that the risk was green (low) or blue (guarded) because the lowest risk ever announced was yellow (elevated).
When a culture has been fed a steady diet of fear for over a decade, its people crave safety and protection. We have become convinced that the enemy is out there, beyond our borders, trying to destroy the American Dream.
Trump does a good job at naming our fears and pointing to the enemies. It's the illegal immigrants from Mexico who are the rapists and thieves. So we'll build a wall to keep them out. It's the Muslims who are the terrorists. So we won't let any Muslims come into the country. When the enemy is outside, it makes sense to build a fortress.
Building walls and keeping out the "enemy" make us feel safe. Trump becomes our protector, with his broad shoulders and his brash comments.
But the truth is, these things won't make us safe. How will a wall protect kids from school shootings (there were over 50 in the US in 2015)? How will keeping Muslims out of the country address systemic racism? Or domestic violence? Or human trafficking? These are threats that come from inside, not outside.
We have somehow become convinced that the enemy is outside, and in so doing, we have failed to confront the brokenness and evil that exist in our own communities and in our own hearts. We continue to live in an "us" versus "them" mindset, where the "other" is always wrong, and we are always right. It's easier to live under this illusion; facing our own demons is hard work.
We long to feel safe, so we look for what feels strong. But the gospel I read turns all of this on its head. The gospel is so revolutionary that it promotes crazy things like: love your enemy, bless those who curse you, take care of the widow and orphan, welcome the outcast and foreigner, lose your life in order to find it, put the interests of others ahead of your own. The thing is, I actually believe these values are meant to shape the way we live, the way we function as a society, the way we govern. I'm not convinced that the sought after American Dream is what we're meant to spend our lives pursuing.
The gospel I read says that we are all pretty messed up and need forgiveness, yet Mr. Trump, who claims to be a Christian, declares he doesn't ask God for forgiveness. I find this troubling, to say the least, in anyone who professes to follow Christ.
Not to mention how he speaks about women, a group that Jesus specifically honoured, going against the social norms of his day.
So, my sisters and brothers, I understand that we are all just trying to live our faith the best way we know how, and I know you and I will differ in what we think that means, but I beg you to consider how Trump's views, actions, and comments line up with the gospel. If you were to imagine Jesus and Trump sharing a meal, what do you think they would say to each other? Where do you think they would agree or disagree?
Please don't vote based on your fears. Please don't vote based on media sound bites. I don't claim to know who you should vote for or who the best candidate is. But I will ask that we all do the hard work of studying the issues and the candidates to make a well-educated decision.
Do the hard work of prayer--for the candidates, for wisdom, for the country, for your enemies, for refugees, for Muslims, for illegal immigrants, for Christians, for your city, for victims of racism, for those who have hurt you, for the current president, for the people you disagree with.
If, after researching and soul searching and prayer, you believe Trump is the person you should vote for, then I guess that's what you need to do. And while I will likely disagree with your vote, I will respect you for the way you made your decision. And I ask you extend the same respect to those who vote differently from you.
P.S. I welcome dialogue that is respectful.