Last week Donald Trump became the president-elect of our nation. Some were joyful; others saddened. One thing everyone agreed on was that this election campaign had an incredibly negative tone that exposed, if not caused, deep divisions in our nation. While our nation has never had total consensus on any issue, I find the level of discord disconcerting. I ask myself: Where do we go from here? What does it mean to be the church in such a divided society? I would like to offer three suggestions for how we move ahead, together. Listen to each other We need to listen to each other. In an era when we can choose our TV stations, internet news sites and social media friends, it becomes very easy to listen only to people who act, think and vote like us. I hear many conversations about why other people voted a certain way, but fewer conversations between people about why they voted as they did. We quickly break down into us-them discourse instead of you-me. You can never make “we” out of us-them; but you can get “we” from you-me! Although the election was bitter, we can still speak to each other about it. In fact, this election was so difficult that many want to speak about it, to process and almost confess how they voted. Even if you do not want to discuss this election with anyone, we still need to find ways to listen to each other. This is not easy, but as Paul commends us: “Do you not grow weary in doing what is right” (Galatians 6:9). Our nation will descend into competing demographic tribes if we cannot find ways to listen to people who are different.
Pray for the nation, the church and the world As Christians we are commended to pray for our leaders (1 Timothy 2:2). I believe we are called to pray for our leaders, whether we voted for them or not, in fact, even if we view them as our enemies. We are also called to pray for ourselves and our congregation, that we may be filled with God's peace and hope.
To return to the importance of listening, I have developed a new hope and prayer for the church: That Christians would become known as great listeners. Wouldn’t this be something – if people said of us: “My Christian friends are great listeners. Where do they get that sense of peace, hope and guidance?” Or if people said, “Our school was so divided, but then a group of Christians began listening to people and bringing people together.”
Protection of Religious Freedom – for all I agreed and disagreed with various policies enacted in the past eight years; I expect the next years to be no different in this regard. However, I do believe the church has a special calling to speak out on behalf of minorities, especially religious minorities. The Bible, both Old and New Testament, records God’s people, a religious minority, being persecuted in all sorts of ways (enslavement in Egypt, oppression in Babylon, death of Jesus and early followers). We have already seen in the past week a number of examples of targeted violence against minorities, both racial and religious. This is unacceptable. As the percentage of people in our country who are Christian declines, Christians have become increasingly vocal about protecting our own religious freedom. We cannot speak for our own religious freedom and prohibit that of others.
I am a Christian and as such I reject the claim of Islam and all other religions that Jesus is not Lord and Savior. However, I believe it essential to protect the rights of those with whom I disagree. America is at its worst when it targets minorities for religion or ethnicity (Japanese internment camps; Jim Crow laws). Christianity is at its worst when it fails to stand up to the state as the state persecutes religious or other minorities (Holocaust; but sadly many other examples could be given). On the other hand, Christianity is at its best when, inspired by God’s Word and Spirit, it listens, prays and then speaks out for those who are suffering.
I pray for our president-elect and our nation, that it might be “one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”
Pastor Rob Myallis November 16, 2016
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