taking the words of Jesus seriously


Last week as the election results came in, I watched my daughter, fifteen, go to bed in tears. Just the day before she had gone with me into the voting booth and triumphantly pushed the button in what she felt certain would be a historic election of our first woman president. I let my daughter’s enthusiasm stand in for mine.


I am not a huge supporter of Hillary Clinton, who has been in political leadership almost my entire adult lifetime. Yes, she has a large grasp on world affairs, is brilliant, and is clear-minded. She is also centrist, a political insider, and a machine candidate.


I can resonate with the instinct that drew people out of their doors to vote against an entrenched political establishment. I too yearn for more authentic leadership, bipartisan work across the aisles, less rhetoric and more compromise.


I see and feel acutely the urban-rural divide. I decry the polarization and lack of political dialogue in this country, which I believe has been intensely aggravated by our little social media bubbles as well as the ridiculous insistence by both Fox and CNN news that they are not biased. (Why not just be truthful and have the conservative, liberal, and centrist news sources labeled that way, as in Europe?)


I have very strong opinions on the environment, immigration, the disparity of wealth and poverty, international dialogue and the role of America in the global community, anti-militarism, and overturning institutional racism. At a macro-level, these seem more important and more life sheltering.


But I get that others see it differently. My 85-year-old mother who shows up weekly at a clinic to give women options for the adoption of their unborn children could not vote for a pro-choice candidate. My in-laws voted for the Supreme Court, and who would be choosing the nominees. My uncle voted for the iconoclastic Trump who said anything he thought, and the freedom of that. A cousin feels the sexuality stuff has gone way too far, and that somehow a Trump vote would rein that in.


But I am furious at the existence of a Christian community that elevates some of these concerns over others and uses them as a litmus test for the legitimacy of one’s faith. I hate the Christian world (mostly white, moderately comfortable) that assumes a monolith.


Each one of these very different concerns, “right” and “left, ” has some valid biblical basis. There is no “Christian” platform. There are just different platforms that fervent, rooted Christians support. To put God unequivocally on my side is to replicate the abuse I have endured my entire life.


Could I have voted for Hillary Clinton if she had said sordid, sexually violent comments about men? Racist comments, and then corrected them? If she had no electoral experience at all? If she was narcissist and inflammatory?


And would I have done that because she, on paper, represented my political perspectives? I am so glad I was not faced with this dilemma, but most Christians who were voted for their guy. Maybe I would have done the same.


It was hard for me to understand how moral Christians I know were able to jettison so many of their values in the end to back Trump. Many young people could not, which is why so many millennials opted not to vote in this election at all. I’ve heard from them, shocked and afraid,  in the days since Trump became “President-elect.”


There is a kind of terror at this unmasking of America; at what brought people out to the voting booth. “I have to look in this electoral mirror and see what my country is, and who they would vote for, ” writes one. “This overturns all the justice I have worked for in my life. I can’t think about the life of my children.”


Yet when I look ahead, at the shadows of what might come, I realize I will still count on the love ethic of Jesus. While I’ve known a few granite-hearted, ideological believers, most Christians I know have a strong capacity for love.


If I have been deluded by my own fears, and things go relatively well under a President Trump, I will accept another term of political compromise. That’s the breaks. If others have been led by their ideology over their compassion, I trust the Spirit to be working on them.


But if my worst fears about Trump unfold, and we move toward dictatorship, overt racism and sexism, and increased poverty and world isolation because of his leadership, I will call the Christians I know and ask them to step out of their comfort zones (comfortable in every way) to join me in courageous, costly witnesses to the way of love. Because I only believe in political perspectives that cost one something.


I expect us all to show up.


Politics are murky and struck through with power and ugly principalities. But compassion is never misguided. That is where I hope to stand.


About The Author


Dee Dee Risher’s powerful book, The Soulmaking Room, explores how people of faith and justice grapple with grief, failure and loss in ways that make us more authentic. Dee Dee edited The Other Side and Conspire magazine for many years and lives in Philadelphia at the Vine and Fig Tree community.

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