There’s a tree that has been standing since the beginning of this nation. Tall and proud, its branches stretch out far and wide to provide shade and covering to those that it loves. It looks enticing, like a beacon of freedom and the American dream. But the closer you get, the more you see that it was planted with seeds of supremacy, hatred, racism, misogyny, and sexism.
Generation after generation, people have resisted this tree. They have rejected its message that not all lives are sacred and worthy of protection and have refused to give in to an “us versus them” theology. They have managed to break off its branches and throw away spoiled fruit. They have held hands with the ones that this tree rejected and have done the good and the hard and the holy work of reconciliation. They have done everything in their power to cut it down. But its roots are long and deep and strong, deeply entangled in every facet of life and woven into the hearts of people.
So still it stands.
This is a tender time for our country. The division is real and palpable. I myself have never felt such conflicting emotions before. I have simultaneously breathed a sigh of relief that Hillary Clinton is not president while also grieving what a Donald Trump presidency could potentially mean for millions of people, some that I have come to sincerely love and care for during my career.
For some this election was an easy option, for others not so much. While many were delighted to see the possibility of having our first woman president, others were adamantly #NotWithHer. And while many were hopeful to see an end to the establishment and career politicians, others were #NeverTrump and spoke out against what they believe he stands for. Lifelong Republicans and Democrats crossed party lines for the first time because they weren’t satisfied with their options.
But what is clear is that the evangelical church came out in droves in support of Donald Trump, and one of my greatest fears is that the unwavering Christian support of our president-elect despite his fear-based rhetoric and marginalization of minority groups and sexual assault admission and allegations will have strong repercussions for the reputation of the American church for years to come.
Please hear my heart. I fully acknowledge the danger of Hillary Clinton’s policies and what they could have meant for the safety of all citizens and for all religious freedom. I do believe that she may have done more damage to our nation as a collective body. I understand wanting to vote for the other option simply to ensure that she didn’t win.
And I believe that a lot of people who voted for our president-elect did so based on their moral and religious convictions, believing that he was the best choice and identifying the Republican party as the Christian party.
I understand that not every person who voted for Donald Trump is a racist/misogynist/sexist/white supremacist. Many who voted for him are my very own dear friends and family. So I know personally that the generalizations about his supporters are false, ignorant, and unfair.
While some absolutely did, I know that not everyone who voted for Mr. Trump did so in support of bigotry.
But if you didn’t, now is the time to say that. Loudly.
Because the truth that cannot be denied is that Donald Trump ran a campaign based on fear and hatred and whether or not his strategy reflected his own heart, his words exposed the worst parts of humanity that have long existed but had remained secretive until they were emboldened by a powerful man.
And so we look back to this tree. The one that refuses to die. And we recognize that while our president-elect did not plant the tree, he watered it with his words and said nothing against it as it began to grow even stronger and show us its ugliest parts.
If you can’t seem to understand why others might feel afraid or nervous about the outcome of this election, then its possible that the tree has shaded you and protected you your whole life and the plans that have been promoted won’t directly affect you or your family.
The people who are nervous about a Donald Trump presidency aren’t just those who at this very moment are protesting in the streets and are easy to write off rather than listen to what they have to say. They are also your neighbors and your friends and your co-workers and the people you lead worship with on a Sunday morning.
And whether you feel that their fear and concern is real or justified doesn’t matter. You owe it to them to listen. To acknowledge their concern rather than laugh it off or reduce Mr. Trump’s rhetoric to “mean words” or say that they have been influenced by the biased media.
It is possible to say that you support a Donald Trump presidency and stand by the moral values that his party represents while at the same time rejecting and speaking out against the hate and the fear and the bigotry that his campaign has fostered as well as his admitted abuse of his privilege and power and money.
As the body of Christ we have to find that balance because now more than ever the church must stand up to protect the marginalized, vulnerable, and oppressed in our communities and champion the cause of racial reconciliation. There is so much work to be done.
We cannot rejoice that our candidate won and throw around words like “God’s sovereignty” and talk about God using Mr. Trump to turn this nation back around while at the same time staying silent when Hispanic elementary aged children are being told at school that their parents will be deported. Or when students are creating human walls and not allowing minority students to enter their own schools. Or when students are chanting “build that wall” in the middle of a school cafeteria. Or when Muslim women are having their hijabs ripped off in public.
(And while I know that Hillary Clinton supporters are also doing horrendous things this week, the church didn’t ask for her to be their president.)
The evangelical church has been asleep for far too long, but now is the time to come alive. The world is watching, waiting for our next move. Waiting to see us care more about people than we do about our stances. Waiting for us to care more about people than we do about certain policies. Waiting for us to protect the outcasts as much as we do our own rights. Waiting for us to want freedom and safety for others as much as we want it for ourselves.
We let our collective voice be heard loud and clear at the polls, but a hurting world is waiting for us to show that same commitment to the hard work of social justice and standing in the gap for our neighbors. They think they know who we are, but it’s time for us to let our lives prove that we can stand by our moral convictions while also pouring ourselves out for the least of these. For the ones who are scared that their families will be broken up. For the LGBTQ community who fears violence. For the Black community looking on stunned and afraid as the KKK has celebration rallies.
So how do we as the church find the balance between supporting our president-elect while also rejecting the undeniable growing movement of bigotry in our nation?
We honor the office of the presidency. We respect the man who will lead this nation and thank God that we live in a country where we have the right to voice our opinions and then see the peaceful transfer of power. We cover him in prayer and ask God to protect him and give him wise counsel and turn the course of his heart towards the ultimate plans of the Father.
And then we rise. As one body, forming a human shield around those who are marginalized and oppressed and vulnerable and scared. And we raise our collective prophetic voices, speaking hope and love and light. Laying ourselves down as bridges between others and the solid rock that is Jesus Christ. We speak up for the voiceless and defend those that the tree never would. And branch by branch we tear down systems of power that have stayed in place by crushing other people beneath them.
And we don’t stop until one day we realize we have uprooted the entire tree.