I sometimes underestimate my role in leading a church community. Chalk it up to poor self-esteem or a strong desire to seek humility, I forget that folks arrive on Sunday morning to hear what the pastor has to say when the world turns upside down. It was true after Sandy Hook, when Adam Lanza shot 20 children and six adults in their elementary school. Congregants waited to hear what the Sunday message would be: how could I as pastor help them understand how such a travesty could take place? How does God let young innocent lives be taken and suffering exist? That Sunday morning, I was clear that I had no clue what to say. I talked about God being present in the grieving, but my God would not condone or allow such evil to take away those tiny children.
Yesterday, I felt a similar pull to the pulpit. We had a planned message brought by a wider church minister already scheduled. I wondered if I should say something or not. I know that, by most measures, we are a liberal church. However I know that politics are a strange thing, and that we probably had a mixed electorate in the sanctuary. So, I spoke of the one thing that unites us, rather than what divides us: our testimony and commitment to the gospel of Jesus Christ. Its call is deeper than loud mouth accusations and sky high promises, never to be realized. It requires us to do more than share a post or sign an electronic petition. The Gospel says that we must stand up for the downtrodden, the oppressed and the outcast. Simple. No vetting, no questionnaires, no political party affiliation check. It’s dirty work that leaves us depleted and uncomfortable.
I tried to be encouraging. I tried to be strong. But I am frightened too. As the cabinet and transition team of this new administration begins to take shape, I worry desperately about my reproductive rights. I worry about LGBTQ rights. I am terrified for my friends, who are Muslim, who have non-citizen or non documented family members and who are people of color- these are the very groups whose people who work hard to bring back my broken town, eulogized in the book Hillbilly Elegy. I worry because this new elected administration has emboldened the prejudice, sexist, homophobic, Islamophobic and xenophobic striations that run through the ground of our nation. One could attempt to assuage my fears, but I take words seriously. So when a person talks about sexually assaulting others, it’s not locker room talk. When one heads an Internet news website that compares cancer and feminism as equally destructive, I pay attention. When one makes it their mission to legalize discrimination against the LGBT community, it’s no joke.
So, I guess I find myself wondering where God is in all this. This election, contrary to popular evangelical belief systems, was not God’s creation. This is all us, America. We created a world that elevated Donald Trump and his celebrity- mean tweets and all- to the status of president elect. We have emboldened a media structure that vets truth based on the entrenched side that station/site longs to promote. Everyone’s interested in their values and forgets that it will be our children who have skin in this ridiculous game we have played. They will inherit this nation divided under God.
I know God will be with us as we raise our voices in protest. God will be with us when we stand up for the oppressed. Not only is it liberation theology, by glory it is Exodus scripture, my friends. The children of God cry out and are heard. Pharaoh’s heart will be hard until the day we are redeemed from oppression. Be good to one another. Stand up for one another. Do not let yourself be drawn into factions, but keep your eyes on the disciple’s path- which, fair warning, isn’t smooth. God has not abandoned us, but is using us as hands and feet of love in a nation that revels in bigotry and division. Do not be moved or drawn into anything that doesn’t reflect God’s loving light- including a Twitter battle. There is much work to do.