Well. The internet in most (all?) of our province and most of this island ground to a halt … just before the US election. So while you all have gone to the net to follow news and then run to get away from the online chaos, we have been sitting in a blackout, reeling from the international call that told us Trump won, and wondering how everything was going down back on your side of the world.
Crazy. It was probably healthy to have silence and not be able to get all wound up by feeding off of the media and social media frenzy, but it didn’t take social media to make us horrified, shocked, and worried about the implications of a Trump presidency. In case you haven’t talked politics with me before, I’m a #NeverTrumper and I do indeed think he was a worse option for the country and for believers than Hillary Clinton would have been.
Here are some thoughts I’ve been processing since the elections.
President Donald Trump:
He is going to be President. And so I will speak of him respectfully and disagree respectfully when I disagree with him. I will also speak publicly against actions of his that I think are negative. I wish him well because he is going to be the president of the country I am a citizen of and because that’s what Jesus told me to do. However I maintain my passionate disproval of much of what he's risen to power campaigning for.
Donald Trump Supporters:
I have some serious disagreements with you all, but I do not think you are stupid or racist simply because you voted for Trump. There were two main candidates. I passionately disagreed with voting for Trump, but I understand that there were some rational arguments that could get you there. Now. Most of you told me that you had serious problems with things about Trump, but he was the better option. Now do the rest of us a favor and put pressure on him in the areas in which you disagree with him. Those on the other side have little influence on him, but he needs the support of those who voted for him, and therefore your voice has power (I hope). Speak out on what you want him to do or not do – your voice matters.
For Christmas last year I asked for a subscription to Foreign Affairs magazine, and I already had the latest edition downloaded on my computer when the internet in Manokwari died. That episode was dedicated to the rise of populist movements in the US and Europe, and it was fascinating. It was written before Trump was elected, and many of the writers seemed to be assuming Trump wouldn’t win. That he DID win bolsters even more the need to understand and address the rise of populist movements. For starters, read here and here. However you'll have to log-in (I recommend you do!). If you don't want to log-in, here's a NY Times article on our populist rise.
I’m no scholar on this, but it really helps to understand the context and social movements that have brought us to where we are in America (and in England – Brexit, anyone? And all across Europe!). It wasn’t just Trump’s charisma (does he actually have any real charisma?). And it wasn’t purely the fault of the media and evangelicals. This is a movement that is happening in response to major social changes and massive population movement (immigration, automation, etc.) in the Western world. It also really helps to see the various ways populist movements have played out in the past in Latin America and in Europe.
So we have a populist movement on our hands. Now what do we do in response? I majorly oppose the xenophobia and racism that is present in this movement, and I will continue to oppose it in any way I can. I will oppose much of Trump’s rude behavior. I do not want to go the way of, say, Venezuela, which has gone up in flames economically after Hugo Chavez’s populist rule. I do not want to go the way of populism fanning the flames of fascism.
However it’s important to hear and fight for the good of people in our country, the very population that has elected this populist figure. Purely opposing or scorning a populist movement merely reinforces their conviction that the “elite” is out of touch and doesn’t care for them, won’t fight for them, doesn’t represent them. We have to clearly say that we care about people, we are fighting for the good of this nation, and then to fight for wise policies that will actually cause growth and good.
One of the biggest takeaways from this election is that this changing media scene is chaos. It feels like each side is an echo chamber. I wrote about the conservative media, but there’s also an outpouring of soul searching in the mainsream media that recognized that they did not see or understand or predict the results of this election so they must be missing something. This post by Brett McCracken is great about the changing media landscape, and the situation today with everyone sharing on social media and reading only headlines, which have to be catchier and catchier and therefore reflect even less of the actual usually-mundane truth, well…. What’s a responsible citizen to do in this day and age?
I am resolved to always look at the source when I click on an article or news link. I am committed to actually read articles rather than just the headlines. I am committed to seeking sources that have the capacity to report international news, and also some analytical sources whose presuppositions I think are founded in ideology I agree with. There are no perfect media sources. I want to read more deeply in good sources rather than simply seeing a ton of headlines, but I also want to be exposed to a variety of perspectives, not just my own.
Evangelicals and Religious Identity:
I’m from corners of the Christian world that are frequently called evangelical. Technically evangelicals voted heavily in favor of Trump. My peers have been so awesome. The organizations I am associated with were pretty strongly speaking what I see to be reason. However, despite the educated leaders, speakers, and public figures in evangelicalism being mostly anti-Trump, evangelicals as a broad social group voted for him. And truly, I agree with Katelyn Beaty (former head of Christianity Today) and her article about being unable to defend the evangelical community. What this does for me and many of my peers is further identify evangelicals with things that I (BECAUSE of my faith) stand against. The political hypocrisy of the Religious Right, the racism of white nationalism, xenophobia, etc. The dilemma is complicated by the fact that this time, when we say, “Yes, things are messed up, but the local church is the work of God that is active in the world. Well… the local church in this case seems to have voted strongly for Trump for reasons I find unfathomable.
So, this is a bit of a crisis of religious identity for many in my generation. For me personally, I look back at my childhood and remember the voices of people like James Dobson and Rush Limbaugh and I am now horrified. I have moved, I have changed. The core of my faith, my theology, remains the same, but I don’t specifically identify as evangelical because of what most people think evangelicalism is. Eight years ago when I first voted for Obama I wondered if I was in some rebel swing and I wondered if at the end of his time as president I would regret my choice. I suppose what this election has done for me is that I am less likely to try just blend in or hide where I am different because of being afraid of being judged by religious and political conservatives that I respect (because there are many of those). I will speak honestly about what I think and hope that I will be given the respect that I am determined to give to others.
The other thing is that the past 8 years since I first voted for Obama in the midst of a bit of a faith crisis, a deep love and commitment to the Church universal and the church local, in all of its beauty and brokenness, has developed in me. What this election did in the USA was to reveal more of that brokenness. I was surprised and sometimes disgusted. Now we get to work, faithfully loving and serving in this beautiful and broken Bride of Christ, knowing that the Spirit is working in and through her, locally and around the world. I have been listening to the podcast “Theology on Mission” from some professors at Northern Seminary and it has helped me to mourn where mourning is necessary and also to be committed to faithful presence, in the church and as the church in the world.