A Canadian Pastor Reflects On The US Election
As I have observed the campaign, election, and post election reaction and analysis, the predominant word that comes to mind is fear. Fear of differing opinions and those who hold them. Fear of the unknown. Fear of the perceived known. Fear of judgement, condescension, marginalization, division, and of losing the ultimate value of our current culture, tolerance (for more on this see str.org, nytimes.com, and D.A. Carsons excellent book "The Intolerance of Tolerance"). Fear that exhibits itself in the perpetuation of stereotypes, misinformation (and at times a complete lack of information), re-writing or ignoring of history and historical context, insults, hatred, and vitriol.
It is present in so many ways and among a wide cross section of the culture. Republicans afraid of Democrats and vice versa. Republicans that were afraid of a Clinton presidency while simultaneously fearing a Trump presidency. Democrats afraid that ground gained on a number of social issues would be lost. Republicans afraid that their rights would be taken from them. In the forward progress of linear history seemingly cyclical patterns appear to emerge, and the United States of America seems once again to be moving away from it's first descriptor. This time though there seem to be two predominant responses as the polarization increases- a cacophony of negative epithets hurled angrily at "the other side" without regard for respect, truth, facts, and decency or a retreat to a "safe space" to color blithely while those that are attempting to engage protect these that are traumatized according to their own self-diagnosis. Both responses are birthed from fear, and neither can bring reconciliation or chart a path forward.
As believers in Jesus as the only remedy for our sin, and thus the only solution to the current situation, fear of this kind should never be a sustained (and certainly never a sustaining) reality. The gospel should be removing from us the fear of those that disagree with us (Matthew 10:16-33) as well as the fear of judgement (1 John 4:18). With the Ultimate Assessor declaring us His beloved child (if we repent and trust in Him), we ought to be able to reach out beyond our selfish fear and share the perfect love of Jesus with all those around us who are hurting, regardless of the labels, arbitrary or otherwise, that have been assigned to them.
It has been repeatedly and rightly asserted that God is sovereign. This reality ought to always soothe our fear. He is the source of all things, by Him all things exist and live life, and to His purposes all will lead (Deuteronomy 32:39, 1 Samuel 2:6-7, Job 42:2, Psalm 115:3, Isaiah 14:27, 45:5-7, 46:9-11, Daniel 4:35).
We should all stop and take a look in the mirror of God's word before we post, rant, comment, or respond with an angry emoticon. Have we been afraid? Of what, specifically? Are we still afraid? How have we dealt with that fear? How have we expressed it? Where have we been hypocritical? Have we demonstrated bigotry by calling someone a bigot? Have we said something along the lines of "I hate intolerant people" and refused to recognize the irony and hypocrisy in that sentiment? Have "Love Trumps Hate" and "Hate Trumps Trump (and all his supporters)" come simultaneously from us? Have we gloated that "our side" won?
Where have we stopped listening to people, especially those that disagree with us? When did a person get replaced by a label, especially unfairly? When did love get replaced with affirmation? When did disagreement and disrespect become synonymous terms? When did respectful dialogue get replaced with oppressive insults, blindly delivered at high decibels? Truth doesn't require an increase in volume. When did compassion get replaced with conformity? When did a celebration of diversity exclude diversity of thought and opinion? One of the true tests of any ideology is what it does with power. Fear dominates and oppresses. Truth appeals, and when believed, frees (John 8:31-32).
So, where to from here? Fill our minds and hearts with the truth (God and His word), become prolific in introspection and repentance, and keep doing what we should have been doing all along- looking to bring the hope and healing of the gospel to all around us, regardless of any categories we think they may be in. Jesus has left us with one task to engage in until He returns- know Him and make Him known (Matthew 28:16-20). That doesn't change no matter who's on "the throne" of whatever nation we are a part of here, as we look to the kingdom that is our real home. My prayers for gospel advance continue as I rest, by His grace, in the reality of the glory of God.
Grace Baptist Church
Prince Edward Island Canada