By now we are all tired of talking about the election. The polls and predictions prior to the election wore us out, and then the analysis and proclamations after the election have left most of us with a desire to move on. So much has been written. So much has been said. But as we move on to the reality of a Donald Trump Presidency, I wanted to say just a few quick words to Christians.
I speak as one who found both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump to be unacceptable choices as president. However, I do understand the reasons why people might vote for either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton. I believe that good people can disagree on who would be the better President.
And this is my first point for Christians. GOOD people can DISAGREE. It is not a sin to disagree. What can be sinful is how we judge those with whom we disagree, how we handle our disappointment when our candidate loses, or how we express our satisfaction when our candidate wins. If you are a Christian, then the name-calling, stereotyping, and demonizing people who simply disagree with you should not be part of your response to the election. Otherwise, we are diminishing our primary calling to be “Ambassadors for Jesus Christ” in a fallen and broken world (See 2 Corinthians 5:20). Having passionate political views does not justify behaving like a jerk on social media. When we act in ways that are immature, we end up perpetuating the hateful attitudes we condemn in others. In the words of James Allen, we “nourish the cause, but then curse the effect.”
For those who are deeply troubled that Donald Trump is going to be the next President, let’s try giving him our support for now. He is just getting started, so show him some grace. Consider the possibility that you could be wrong about the job he will do and he could end up being a fantastic leader. I can still remember sitting in a college class in 1980, the day after Ronald Reagan was elected President. My professor was deeply disturbed, and spent the entire class time railing against this “Hollywood actor” who was unqualified to be Commander in Chief. According to my professor, Reagan was going to destroy our nation with his reckless policies and lead us into a nuclear war with the Soviet Union. None of those predictions came to pass. Today, many historians describe Ronald Reagan as one of our best Presidents.
I’m not saying that Trump is the next Reagan, but I don’t think it’s fair to call him the next Hitler either. Let’s hold off on the doom and gloom and stop frightening our children with worst-case scenarios. Christians are called to pray for those in leadership, and ask that God will give leaders the wisdom to govern well. Let’s do that. And while we may be concerned with the small minority of Trump supporters who might engage in racist or hateful behaviors, let’s not assume that the actions of a few represent the views of many.
For those who are excited about Donald Trump being our next President, let’s be respectful towards those who are more cautious and concerned about the future. Resist the temptation to call them losers and whiners. Let them process their grief and come to terms with their loss.
Yes, we all wish that some of those on both sides of the political divide would demonstrate civility. Setting fire to buildings and throwing rocks through windows and beating up supporters from the opposing side is no way to handle disappointment in defeat or revel in victory. Those who behave in such ways should be condemned and arrested. Let those of us who call ourselves Christian model for the world what it looks like to be magnanimous in victory and gracious in defeat.
Most of all, let’s all make sure that we keep politics in its proper place. Our primary calling is to be citizens of God’s eternal Kingdom. Nations rise and fall, leaders come and go. No politician will save us. No political party will usher in the Kingdom of God. No set of policies will bring an end to the fallen human condition. I’ve lived through many election cycles, and, in my experience, no President has been as great as his supporters had hoped or as bad as his detractors had feared. When we make politics our religion, we turn politicians into false gods who always disappoint us.
As Christians, we follow the one who said, “seek first the Kingdom of God.” Let’s keep that in mind when we find ourselves watching the evening news tonight, or posting about a political issue on social media tomorrow, or talking about the election over the Thanksgiving Turkey next week. Nothing about last week’s election prevents us from doing the work Jesus has called us to do: love one another, care for the poor and vulnerable, pray for those who are in positions of leadership, and trust God when life doesn’t work the way we think it should.
Elections matter, of course. But what matters most is not what is going on in the White House. What matters most is what is going on in your heart and my heart. Donald Trump may be our next President, but Jesus Christ is still our King. Who has time to either gloat or whine about an election, when we have more important work to accomplish?