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Reflection on Trump Discussion at church

November 14, 2016
Benjamin Spalink

New York City, I'm sure you've noticed, is distraught. People are visibly upset.  There is a sense of collective shock - how could this happen?  This is a historical moment, and it is a time to pay attention to how God is moving in his church. So yesterday we broke protocol. I didn't give a sermon. Instead, we opened up that time for an open forum discussion.  I wanted to check our pulse, to see how people are feeling and reflect on the events of this past week. Most importantly, I wanted for us to try to hear God's voice at this critical juncture in history.

As the discussion began, one young NYU student spoke up first, sharing boldly his distress and that of his friends. Many fears are already being realized around the country as hate crimes and racist comments are on an upswing.  Another shared personally how family members could be negatively affected by Trump's policies.  Many were hesitant to share. Some, I suspect, had very strong feelings - rage, anger, frustration, confusion - but were too upset to share.  Some were shocked by family members who voted for Trump, but saw a way forward through honest and humble discussion of differences. We're one in Christ, so we need to accept each other's differences.  Others believed that the conciliatory approach was not enough. How could a Christian vote for Donald Trump in good conscience knowing all the hateful things he's said?

One wisely suggested that the election of Trump is a time for collective soul searching. What got us here? How did this happen? Donald Trump's ascension to the White House says as much about us as a country as it does about him.  As a society, we enabled him. He's a reflection of "us."  However, this whole process has revealed a significant rift, one many of us were unaware of. Half of the country voted for Trump, but many of us know hardly a single Trump supporter. Are we isolated, living in the biggest city in the US?  Perhaps we don't know our neighbors very well or haven't been listening.

Some urged for calm, for trusting in God.  Thankfully, our identity as Christians is grounded not on who sits in the oval office, but who sits on the throne of Heaven. I completely agree. If our trust is in Christ, then existential fear is not necessary (wrong, even).  It's much easier, however, to cry for "peace and calm" when you're not the one being harmed by racist policies, police brutality, discrimination and harassment.  The call for "peace" must be lived out by seeking justice, especially for the marginalized, the oppressed, and the underprivileged.  If even a handful are not getting the justice they deserve, can we really sit on the sidelines and act like everything is going to be okay?

Attendance on Sunday was higher than usual.  I was fearful of a battle ensuing in the conversation, but things stayed respectful and thoughtful.  God is at work.  It was great to see people sharing different perspectives and wondering together what God is saying.  The challenge now is to continue the conversation and to continue to listen to what God is saying to us. My sense is that this historical moment is a defining one for the church, for Christians to clarify to the world the Bible's vision for our collective humanity.  It's time to redefine "evangelical" or perhaps move away from that label.  We need to engage the political process knowledgeably, not sit on the sidelines. We also need Christians in politics who will champion Biblical values and promote true peace and human flourishing for all people.  We need leaders who will lead, who will live by example, and who will offer examples of integrity and excellence in their craft.  Most importantly, the church needs to come alongside those who live in fear, to offer shelter when there is none, and to protect the most vulnerable from forces that would seek to hurt them.  No one should have to live in fear.

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