All candidates campaign for office by appealing to our overt fears. They promise to change, remove, or prevent things that disturb us. Especially things that cause us to worry about the future. Successful candidates appeal to our latent fears. They know they have to win our hearts, or guts, as well as our minds. They offer to speak on our behalf. They say things we haven’t found words to express. They speak what we’ve been afraid to say out loud.
Sometimes this means we grasp at least the possibility of renewed hope in the future. We trust our chosen candidates to put our fears to rest, or at least help us go on burying them. Sometimes this means our deep fears come quickly to the surface. Since few of us are really emotionally equipped to face our fears, we become angry. We may not know exactly why we're angry, so we look for targets.
Trump says at the Republican Convention, “I alone can fix it!”, meaning the mess he says the country is in. One person created the mess. A crowd of people who are convinced the wrong kind of man has been in power for eight years cheer louder than ever. Clinton quietly tells supporters, every chance she gets, “I’m the last thing standing between you and the apocalypse.” They believe everything will be lost if the other side wins, so they redouble their efforts to stop Trump. Any debate is reduced to ad hominem arguments. The goal is not to demonstrate who will be the better President, but who is the worse candidate.
Every night for the last week or so there have been protests in cities across the United States. Crowds of people have marched with raised fists and bobbing signs, shouting “Not My President!” and “Dump Trump”. If Clinton had won the Electoral College the chants would be “Not My President!” and “Lock Her Up!” Counter-demonstrators shout, "You lost. Get over it!"
If Hillary Clinton were President-elect, there would certainly be demonstrations of white rage and racism in reaction. With Trump the winner those demonstrations are cropping up every day with the energy of triumph. This isn't the backlash of the defeated. It’s celebration. There’s a sense of blessedness among the extremists whose support Trump claims never to have courted, but whose aims he never opposed.
In Canada a Rabbi in Ottawa gets up in the morning and discovers a swastika and a racial slur painted across her front door. In Alberta a female candidate drops out of her party’s leadership race after being harassed because of her gender. On a crowded streetcar in Toronto a man shouts racist slogans at another man with darker skin. Posters calling “Hey, White People” appear on lampposts in East York, inviting anyone “tired of multiculturalism” to join the Alt-Right movement. One of the candidates for party leadership in Canada is proud of her Trump-like policies and personal support for him.
In the United States up to 80% of white evangelical Christians voted for Trump. This can only be because they believe Trump will uphold their chosen key values, notwithstanding the ways in which his personal morality and business ethics violate other Christian values. (The image at the top of this post is from a post-election gathering.) It’s probably also because, deep down, they believe it’s as wrong for a woman to be President as it was for a black man more than half of them insist is Muslim. They take Trump's victory as vindication and crown him Defender of the Faith. President Clinton would have been given another title. (Some Charismatic Christians gave her that name awhile before the election.
So the country is divided, as it would have been after a Clinton victory. The state of the United States affects the whole world, Canada more than any part of it. As Canadians we have to watch carefully what pours over the border every day. We also have to admit the same overt and latent fears are present among us. We can't be self-righteous, as we often are when we look across the international boundary.
As Christians we have to be vigilant. We can't ignore politics now that the election is past. This isn't a partisan, left-right matter. This calls for us to be political as Jesus was political: concerned about the polis, the people, together. Concerned about the good of all. Especially concerned about those without power or privilege. People who are labelled "others", and therefore vulnerable to the will and actions of the powerful.
The politics of Jesus don't embrace or endorse the policies of any party, left, right, or centre. As individuals we participate in partisan political process as our consciences guide us, but we cannot believe any party or leader fully embodies the politics of Jesus. We make compromises every time we vote or run for office. But vote and stand for election we must, with open eyes, for the good of the polis.
Jesus' call to us as disciples, and as the polis called church, is to enact the values of the Kingdom of God, here and now. In that kingdom there is no room for hatred, violence, or the enforced exclusion of anyone. It's a kingdom of peace, of justice that begins with mercy. It's an order in which the poor come first, until there is no poverty.
The whole protracted campaign, not just the election of Donald Trump, has brought voices and forces out of the shadows, into the open. These voices and forces will thrive in the light and air. It's up to us to stand up for Jesus and the values of the Kingdom of God. That means being engaged in our communities and neighbourhoods, prepared to defend anyone who is vulnerable, and demonstrating proactively that there is a better way to live. It isn't possible to live entirely without fear. It is possible to live without being guided by fear, acting out in anger. We can live without being afraid. Everyone deserves that freedom.
Opinions expressed on this Blog are those of the author. This Blog is intended to offer the congregation and friends a look into the author's heart and mind. It does not necessarily represent the Session or congregation of Glenview Church.