Tuesday, November 08, 2016

Election night, 2016

Well, needless to say, I'm stunned. I was sure Hillary would win handily and I was wrong. My confidence was based on two things: 1) Analytics-driven sources like Nate Silver's FiveThirtyEight and Sam Wang's Princeton Election Consortium, which have been so accurate in the past; and 2) Faith in my fellow Americans to do the right thing. Both let me down.

At this point it appears that either we will have a contested election--in which case if Clinton wins it will be by a very slim margin--or Trump will have won by a very slim margin. Even the best case scenario is nothing like what I expected.

If Donald Trump becomes our president, here's what I'm going to do: I'm going to do my best to be inclusive and kind and to advocate and be present for those who are now (rightfully) feeling very vulnerable. If Hillary Clinton becomes our president, I'm going to do the same. 

And if Donald Trump becomes our next president, here's what I'm *not* going to do: I'm not going to expend time and energy over the next four years bitching and moaning (and posting) about it.

Who knows, Trump and Pence may surprise us. I doubt it, but who knows... (See, I'm an eternal optimist)

I find politics fascinating to watch, and I've enjoyed this election season--although I wish it could have been less ugly. As a theology-minded person, the aspect of this election cycle that has fascinated me the most has been how it affects people of faith (and how people of faith affect it). In particular I've been trying to discern how this election cycle plays into the well-documented current trend of Christianity losing influence (and adherents) in North America. Here's what I've concluded:

1. It is indisputable that Christianity on the whole is in decline in the U.S. But it seems to me that in the midst of that overall decline, progressive Christianity is finding a clearer voice. I think that this progressive, inclusive (and, I would say, Christ-like) voice will become even clearer and more winsome now. I was somewhat amazed by how religious the Democratic National Convention was--how much visibility faith (not just Christianity but Islam, Judaism, etc.) was given; the high point being the powerful message delivered by Rev. William Barber (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aw3PUghqlAA)--which it might be good to re-watch now. The personal faith of Hillary Clinton (a Methodist) and Tim Kaine (a Catholic)--and how that faith shaped their politics--was prominently featured in this election season. In the days ahead, Progressive Christianity has an opportunity to articulate an authentic and passionate way of following Jesus in the 21st century (for more information on Progressive Christianity, go to: http://progressivechristianity.org/). That's what I intend to focus on.

2. Regardless of who ultimately wins the election, in the long run I believe the biggest loser will be white fundamentalist Evangelical Christianity. I think ultimately this will be one of those "won the battle but lost the war" scenarios. By aligning with Trump, 70-80% of conservative Christians very publicly sold their collective soul for the hope of anti-abortion Supreme Court judicial nominees. What the world has seen is a religion not of grace and love and compassion but of cynicism and gullibility and fear. This has discredited Evangelical Christianity, especially in the eyes of Millennials--the next generation. By supporting Donald Trump, white conservative Evangelical Christians lost any claims to moral authority. In the aftermath of this election--regardless of who becomes president--it won't be forgotten that so many white conservative Evangelical Christians supported a crude and graceless man who was a serial adulterer, a sexual predator, a congenital liar, a tax cheat, a business fraud, a thin-skinned narcissist prone to casting insults instead of forgiveness, and a promoter of racism, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, religious discrimination, and mob violence. White conservative Evangelical Christians in the year 2016 will be remembered for lining up behind that, and even calling his victory (if he wins) a miracle from God. If Trump's presidency (assuming he wins) is as damaging as about half of Americans think it will be, white conservative Evangelical Christians will own that too.

3. Despite the setback of this election, I believe it is a momentary blip in a grander trajectory of progress that God calls us to, which continues to incrementally nudge the moral arc of the universe toward justice.

I was thrilled to have had the opportunity to vote for and see our first black president 8 years ago (who I think history will record as being one of our better presidents, despite the unprecedented obstructionism he encountered) and I was just as thrilled to have had the opportunity to vote for Hillary Clinton this time around.

And now, there is much work to be done.


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