Not always right: thoughts on Trump, mourning, and learning grace

Watching the election results unfold, my stomach churned out of fear for what a Trump presidency could mean.

This empathy wasn’t for hypothetical American versions of me who would have to call Trump their leader for the next four years. It was for America’s immigrants, people of colour, women, religious minorities, and basically anyone who doesn’t want to get shot.

Despite personally subscribing to ‘socially conservative views’, it felt appropriate to mourn in solidarity with these fellow humans. You don’t have to be a Democrat to care about minorities. I’d like to think that anyone with an ounce of compassion – especially those who call themselves Christians – would want to protect people groups who’ve only just started to make their voices heard.

I understand that the election result won’t affect me to the same degree as those actually living in the USA. But in the hours and days after the announcement was made, I dealt with a torrent of thoughts and emotions about universal human issues that needed processing.

Being neither a fan of Clinton’s self-destructive progressivism nor Trump’s general lack of sensibility and empathy, I knew there would be no winners at the end of this race. Intellectually, I already held the theology that was supposed to undergird my post-election mindset. “Jesus is still on the throne” and “Neither candidate is the Saviour” were memorised like Bible verses and neatly tucked away.

Trump taking office never seemed like a real possibility because I didn’t expect many Americans to look past his racist and sexist campaign. But then he won. And he won by a lot.

Those slogans about Christ’s reign, that I thought I had internalised, didn’t immediately come to my rescue. The ideas were in my heart, but remained quiet and still for a time – as if joining me for a minute of silence.

When minds don’t meet

In the hours that followed, I did what you’re not supposed to do: go on Facebook.

What frustrated me most was not the fact that Trump won the election – but that he had won the hearts of people I assumed would see through his narrow vision and rhetoric. I was disappointed to see these friends going out of their way to defend him. Reluctantly choosing the lesser of two evils is one thing, but how could they validate a man so horribly unqualified – in both character and job experience? How could they not see the cultural ramifications of their endorsement beyond the walls (!) of their single-issue lenses?

Dealing with reality

The unnerving disconnect between what I innately felt was right and the lack of support I got from those around me was difficult to sleep on. It lingered well into the next day, and manifested as an unhealthy need to see my position justified in writing by someone with credibility and compassion.

But as I exposed myself to various posts, stories, and articles from across the spectrum, I picked up a few silver linings that others have been graciously pointing to for quite some time. Here’s a summary:

  • We should celebrate how the democratic process (in theory) gives a voice to all people – not just the ‘qualified’ elite.
  • Now that the USA’s anti-establishment sentiment is resoundingly clear, inequity in some form might actually be challenged.
  • Not everyone who voted for Trump was a myopic single-issue voter.
  • Trump’s administration will likely include appointing (comparatively) morally sound advisers to positions of influence.
  • It’s too easy to condemn Trump before even giving him a chance.
Lessons learnt

As the shock over Trump’s win lessened, I’ve had time to gain clarity over where I stand and learn a thing or two.

I’m still convinced of my initial convictions – that it’s simplistic and unwise to equate political conservatism with Biblical beliefs, and that sometimes the right thing to do is simply “weep with those who weep” when you can find common ground (Romans 12:15). This is something that must be done if we truly want to validate and value our opponents’ worth as equal human beings.

I’m still concerned with the message evangelical Christians make by endorsing candidates whose campaigns are marked by violence, bigotry, and a lack of understanding. And I still think it’s right to express that concern.

But in communicating all this, humility is needed – even when you don’t see it on the other side. I’ve realised that my emphasis needs to shift from trying to be right all the time towards genuine graciousness to everyone. After all, a truly nuanced position will accept reality, look for positives, and move forward.

Politicking isn’t supposed to dominate our souls. It can become toxic for our friends, our opponents, and ourselves. With how bitter this election season has turned out to be – even for those outside of the US ­– I’m sure we can all agree that poison in the human heart is the last thing this world needs.

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