I was so ready to write a scalding assessment of the church after election night, about how Jeremiah, the weeping prophet, was told by God to “Go up and down the streets of Jerusalem, look around and consider, search through her squares. If you can find but one person who deals honestly and seeks the truth, I will forgive this city,” and so he went out to search the nation.
“These are only the poor;” Jeremiah (and the media) thought, “They are foolish, for they do not know the way of the Lord, the requirements of their God. So I will go to the leaders and speak to them; surely they know the way of the Lord, the requirements of their God.” And Jeremiah tracked down the pastors and priests of his time, the Jerry Falwell Jr.’s and the James Dobsons, for surely the leaders of the church deal honestly and seek truth. I wanted to rage on, like Jeremiah speaks for God, “Among my people are the wicked who lie in wait like men who snare birds and like those who set traps to catch people. Like cages full of birds, their houses are full of deceit; they have become rich and powerful and have grown fat and sleek.”
I wanted to call out the Christian leaders, call out the church pastors in rural communities who preach politics from the pulpit, who scratch their plastic letters of damnation into church signs, who put the fear of hell and fear of other and fear of suffering and fear of discomfort into their people but forget to preach the message of love, the message of grace, the message of peace, for all people, everywhere. I wanted to embody God’s voice, like Jeremiah, “Their evil deeds have no limit; they do not seek justice. They do not promote the case of the fatherless; they do not defend the just cause of the poor. Should I not punish them for this? Should I not avenge myself on such a nation as this?”
God, I was so ready to condemn your people. As the election results rolled in I sunk deeper into the couch cushions. “This is really happening, isn’t it,” I told my husband. No one seemed to believe it on the national media. Over eighty percent of evangelical voters cast their ballots for Donald Trump, and evangelical voters make up over a quarter of the electorate. Blame the white, born-again, evangelicals! I wanted to rage. But among the Protestant/other Christians, 58% cast in favor of Trump. White Catholics, 60%. Catholics overall, 52%. Mormons, 61%. And even people of other religions cast a quarter of their vote for our new President Elect. As my hopes for a Clinton presidency died Tuesday night, I thought, “What will we do now? We can’t find our hope in this political leader.” All that hope and change is gone. We’re just left with change.
On Wednesday I was ready to rally against the evangelical leaders for the ways they’ve failed their congregants. And maybe that’s still true and necessary; I’ve been horrified from the beginning that our country would allow a man as brass and inappropriate and underprepared to run for office, push him through the primaries and then straight into the oval office. But if I’m honest and have ears to hear I have to also acknowledge the corruption in the candidate for whom I chose to vote. If I’m honest the electoral process proclaims the depth of brokenness in our system and our society that reaches beyond religious demographics. It would have been nice if we had chosen for ourselves better candidates.
Also, this isn’t an election for God. It’s an election to choose which people—with all of their character flaws, mishaps, crimes, and failures—will govern our nation.
So I kept reading in Jeremiah, about a nation of God’s people: “A horrible and shocking thing has happened in the land: The prophets prophesy lies, the priests rule by their own authority, and my people love it this way. But what will you do in the end?”
What will you do in the end? Who is this you, Lord? Is it you, Jeremiah, he speaks to? You, the people of Israel? You, me? You, us?
For months I have been saying Fear distorts. Love transforms. and Love’s greatest opponent is fear. I was speaking to my fellow believers who fear death, fear destruction, fear foreign and domestic threats, fear the other. Now, in the wake of the election results, I turn the same message back on myself and others like me. Do not fear. This may not be what I wanted, but where does my hope come from anyway?
On Thursday following the election, while my pro-Clinton friends chanted the equivalent of Dylan Thomas’s poem, “Do not go gentle into that good night… rage, rage against the dying of the light,” I met one of my many pro-Trump friends for coffee. She falls plainly in the white evangelical category. I voted for Clinton. She works with young moms desperate for community and support. I work at a school that promotes business as an agent of good in the world. We both try to seek justice and love mercy. Among the many Jeremiah searched, I would count her among the righteous, brave, and brokenhearted for people. We talked about the hatred and name calling and labeled it appropriately. We talked about people’s unwillingness to listen, to hear, to consider, and to be changed. We talked about babies and family and mothers and marriage and God. We heard each other, we considered each other’s viewpoints, and we respected one another. Through that open dialogue we were changed.
Where does our hope come from? Our hope comes from God. May he fill you with joy and peace because of your trust in Him.
Where does my help come from? It comes from the Lord, maker of heaven and earth.
In the end, there is work to be done, my friends, with or without the leader of our choice in the executive office. In the end, we will disagree with the policies of every person in charge of our country at some point or another. In the end, we have to eat around the table with people who have different political, social, and religious perspectives. They are family. They are friends. They are people. In the end, the real hope, the real change, is and will always be through Love.
As I read Jeremiah I worried over all of the vengeance, the wrath, and the warnings given when the people don’t follow the way of Love. There’s a lot of it, and God seems really pissed at his people. But turning from the way of Love is a big deal, right? Look at the world and what happens when we resort to anger, dissonance, fear, violence, pride, arrogance, and war. In their wake is death, destruction, grief, and suffering. These are the natural and spiritual and human consequences of turning from the way of Love. They are terrible to read and terrible to witness.
What does the Lord recommend instead? “Stand at the crossroads and look; ask for the ancient paths, ask where the good way is, and walk in it, and you will find rest for your souls.”
What will you do in the end? What does the Lord require of you, but to do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God?
* All Jeremiah references come from the book of Jeremiah chapters 5-7.