What a week this has been. I haven’t really had a time to digest it all, make sense of its meaning. That may take years though. not days. So if any of you still feel at a bit of a loss, remember, it’s only been days. It’s OK to not know what happened, where our country is at and what lays ahead of us.
It’s also OK to be fearful, anxious. Sometimes our gut, our emotions are telling us something we can be attentive to. Sometimes the fear comes from a real source and it becomes important to be aware of that and be able to respond accordingly.There is nothing wrong with fear, if we are getting accurate information from the fear.
The kind of fear we want to move beyond is immobilizing fear, the kind that freezes us so we can’t get on with the business of life, and the business of moving ourselves and transforming our world.
And some people are there, they are ready to take on this world to transform it. I saw that yesterday as the anti-Trump rally and the OKC Peace Festival.But some people are not there. There is no set time table that we can impose on others, when it comes to the cycle of grief. Resist imposing a time table on yourself or others. The stages of grief will unfold for folks; it doesn’t have to be pushed.
What I want to do today in this sermon is to give us some theological language to get a hold of what we are seeing and facing now and in the years ahead. The first thing, which the sermon title asks, is this: where was God in this election?
It is possible to affirm that God was not in the election results. That is, to the degree that people’s votes were based on hatred, based on appeals that dehumanized Muslims, immigrants, LGBT folks, women, the poor, God was not there. This is because God is only to be found in what connects us to one another. God is to be found in what builds up the dignity of every person. God is found when the well-being of people are secured and when the walls that divide us crumble instead of being built up.
That is not a partisan statement. I think we might have the tendency to avoid this language because we don’t want to make God a Democrat. And yes God is not a Democrat or a Republican, nor is God even a Green party member or Libertarian.
But this election was not an ordinary election with ordinary candidates. Nor were the things said in this campaign ordinary. The disabled were mocked, veterans and POWS were mocked, Muslims were vilified, women were put down as objects to be used not as whole people. Immigrants were vilified as a threat not as our neighbors who have and continue to build this country up.
That is not of God. We should have the clarity and the language our religious tradition affords us to make this case.
Because we know 81% of evangelicals, 70% of white Catholics and almost two thirds of mainline Protestants voted for this. So the church has failed to be a witness, it has failed to stand in solidarity with every group that was attacked in this season. That is, it has failed to be a witness to God’s love for all people, for the whole world.
So the progressive church has to play that role, to be that witness, and to challenge the church to take on the ministry of reconciliation that the apostle Paul charges us with.We’ll need all the resources of our tradition to do this. And we’ll have to be able to connect our language of God, salvation, reconciliation to a country that is deeply divided, deeply estranged from one another.
What are the first steps in this process?
Many of us will follow the news. The legislative losses will be great, even overwhelming. A sort of shock and awe of bad bills will be passed and bad executive orders will be signed. So I’m grateful for the work of progressive groups, including the United Church of Christ’s Justice and Witness Ministries, who will hold our government to account if they commit an injustice against any person of group.
Follow them on Facebook and online, donate to them, support them. They will keep us abreast and we can share information accordingly. We’ll have to do many letter writing campaigns, public statements, demonstrations, lobbying as we hear both at the state and federal level what our government is up to and we’ll be asked to respond and to bear witness to a more inclusive way.
But as important as that is, there is a limit to that kind for response. For one, it can’t be our only response. Because if it is, the compounded losses will get to us. We’ll soon discover a government that is constantly at odds with our values, our priorities. It can be discouraging to discover how unresponsive our government is. But living in Oklahoma, we do have the advantage, in that we know exactly what that is like.
But we can lose a sense of power and agency, even develop a sense of helplessness. So I think other steps are needed. Epictetus’ Enchiridion makes a distinction between what is in our power and what is not in our power. It’s an important distinction.Right now, the federal government like our state government is not really in our power.But we can start with what is, small things.
Cleaning a creek, Safety pins, Facebook messages expressing love. Calling someone to check on them and seeing how they are doing. I had a Trump supporter, a friend of mine from high school, who was really concerned about LGBT folks in response to this election. I had a Southern Baptist minister reach out to me as a gay pastor.
I know that can be critiqued but I was caught unaware of how important that was to me. It expressed a kind of solidarity that we will have to get used to doing often.What is it like, for instance, to hear Islam constantly vilified by our new president as well as by state officials? Muslims need to experience that kind of solidarity too. So we have included cards to sign, we plan to give these to the Norman Mosque. It’s our way of checking in, showing solidarity, building relationships.
These are personal responses, but imagine if they took nationwide.Imagine that if any group that was targeted, LGBT folks, Muslims, immigrants, the poor, women, the disabled, would have the full solidarity of the church, I can guarantee you that no group would be targeted. No politician could get away with it. So when we think of personal acts as not expressing power, or not having an effect, especially as a national or governmental level, that’s not true.
When Paul wrote that line 3:13 Brothers and sisters, do not be weary in doing what is right.When the Gospel of Luke this Sunday says 21:19 By your endurance you will gain your souls.They were not thinking about the Roman empire. They were thinking, how can I live out the call of Jesus? What is within my power to do that indicates that the call of Jesus more than what any empire could say or do? That original imperative in the New Testament has that same power today. And it could change the world.
Dwight Welch is the pastor at the United Church of Norman, Oklahoma