I was one of the 19 percent. Nineteen percent of voting white evangelical Christians did not choose Donald J. Trump to be president. And, like most non-Trump supporters, I spent the first days after the election in grief and fear over what a Trump America would look like. The morning after the election, I was shocked the sun still shone, my infant son still grinned at me nearly bursting with joy, and the blue sky dared be so blue.
As a Christian woman, I felt betrayed. I couldn’t bring myself to attend church that Sunday out of fear the service would be business-as-usual. People of color were suddenly tweeting out of their wounds, such as African American sister Yolanda Pierce’s tweet: “White evangelicals: you’ve decisively proven that you love your whiteness more than you love your black & brown brothers & sisters in Christ.” (Yolanda Pierce @YNPierce Nov 8).
I feared being tainted by association.
As a writer, I needed to write it all out. I wanted to add my voice to the cacophony of noise rising in volume. Like the catharsis of screaming into an on-coming train, I wanted my voice to be swallowed by the anger, fear and grief of the voices on the internet.
But I read some words¹ that morning from a wise old king that tempered my impulse.
“Tremble [with anger or fear], and do not sin;
Meditate [speak] in your heart upon your bed, and be still.
I needed to pause, breathe and exhale. If I had spoken, it would have been out of hate, not love. Anger, not activism. Bitterness, not hope. My lament was too raw, too tender.
I desperately wanted to do something. The next words I read suggested this paradox:
Offer the sacrifices of righteousness,
And trust in the Lord.
In other words: before doing, first die. What are the sacrifices of righteousness? Love. Joy. Peace. Patience. Kindness. Goodness. Faithfulness. Gentleness. Self-Control. This response conflicts with every impulse, feeling and emotion I have right now. I don’t want to love a man who uses fear as a motivator and hate as power’s fuel. And I don’t want to trust a God who would allow evil to win.
But I will put down my sword. Loving right now is counter-cultural, revolutionary, even.
Sounds like Someone else I know.
And so I trust not in our president, Congress, the media, the hundreds of articles debating fact and fiction or even in myself. I lean on the One who spoke everything out of nothing. The One who whispered words into my womb and molded a little life. The One who brings down nations and kingdoms, but also coaxes the butterfly out of its chrysalis. The One who outwitted death, sadness, evil and despair with pure, exquisite, soul-washing love.
We raise high the banner words spoken by Desmund Tutu: “We are a resurrection people.” In death, we live on.
Many are saying, ‘Who will show us any good?”
The media would like us to believe we are doomed. Our hearts jump into that weaving car, clutching the seat in front of us as the world spins faster and faster out of our control. We are losing hope in humanity.
But perhaps our hope was misplaced all along?
Lift up the light of Thy countenance upon us, O Lord!
A dancer knows to seek out a focal point as they twirl so they are not overcome by dizziness. The only way to stay upright is to fix my gaze on a person so much bigger, higher and more stable than Donald Trump or the United States of America.
We are making our way in a dark room, and yet even here there is light. In the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that” (A Testament of Hope: The Essential Writings and Speeches).
We are a resurrection people, a people who love in the dark. I will fix my eyes on Jesus—His face, words, actions, prayers, pleas and platitudes. I will focus on his humility, but also on His fierce strength. The light of the world will not be extinguished.
Thou hast put gladness in my heart,
More than when their grain and new wine abound.
I’m not quite ready to lay down my lament and accept this “gladness” yet. But these words are a reminder that my joy is not dependent on government, economy or society. The gladness of the Spirit transcends our momentary terrors. Our source is from magical waters, from Holy Spirit springs that do not run dry.
In peace I will both lie down and sleep,
For Thou alone, O Lord, dost make me to dwell in safety.”
How can we sleep at night when hate crimes are on the rise, the KKK, alt-right, and even Nazi rhetoric fill our headlines? While families now fear deportation, marginalization and registration?[But when did we start believing God is so concerned about our safety anyway? In our prayer meetings as we prayed for “safe travels” and “smooth journeys”? In our self-help books that urge us to “trust ourselves” and “follow the way of happiness”?]
God is not safe. Neither is love.
And yet we are promised the sacred gift of Presence. Jesus is with the African American terrified he may be the next traffic violation victim to be shot; the devout Muslim studying in America, who has traded her hijab for a hat; the teenager who now wonders if the notes passed to her during physics class are “just locker room talk”; and the follower of Jesus who no longer feels kinship in the pews.
Only Jesus can empower us to love those we no longer understand. He loved the unlovable, touched the untouchable and redeemed the irredeemable. Even in the midst of a government led by the evil men who had him unjustly slaughtered, God was not thwarted. Love does not lose.
And God is not thwarted now.
And so it is in this belief I will fight—not with fists swinging, but willingly sacrificing my human right to wallow in anger, fear and sadness. I will choose to love boldly. I will choose joy, peace and patience. I will choose kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
I will pray for this man (for he really is just a man) and for our country. But in the spirit of love, I will also make phone calls, attend meetings, continue to educate myself on race issues, speak up for the marginalized and talk to my children about loving the paradoxical way that Jesus does—not just with words, but in actions and in truth. Not loving those who are deserving of love, but loving those who are hardest to love. And how will I begin? I’ll begin by going to church this Sunday. And I will love my Trump-supporting sister right there in the pew.
¹Psalm 4: 4-8 (NASV)