The reactions from Donald Trump’s election win have been messy. While the President-elect’s unconventional and oft-repulsive campaign — and behavior — alienated and ostracized many, it didn’t stop Evangelicals from supporting him in droves. Now, days after the shock of the election, generational and philosophical divides have never felt more palpable within the church. Here’s why I’m shocked, scared… and inspired.
The taunting, the cursing, the names. Just words, but they hurt like hell — lingering in her head, disrupting the semblance of peace she’d hoped to find as the day began.
Before the day began to unravel.
She sat on the grass, her back up against the side of the building, her face in her hands, peeking through her fingers to make sure she had lost them.
Sniffling at first. Nearly bleating now. Chest heaving from the cry, streams of tears slicking upper lip. Slicking lower lip.
Words hurt more than sticks and stones today.
Over the din of her weeping, she didn’t hear them as they met her on the edge of the grass. One by one, they surrounded her.
Mustering just enough strength for defeat, she looked up, scanning the group, blinking through tears. Her mouth opened but words failed to form. She wanted to ask, “Why?” or “Stop!” or “Leave me alone!”… But she couldn’t talk at all.
One arm slowly raised toward her, a finger pointed at her face.
“Go back to your country, Mexican!”
The group roared in appreciation.
In unison, more jeering swelled.
“That’s why we’re building a wall. To keep you people out!”
“We don’t want people who speak Mexican!”
“You need to stop acting white!”
She put her head down and sobbed.
The taunting, the cursing, the names. Just words, but they hurt like hell — ripping through the air, smashing against her eardrums, coursing through her brain.
“Build the wall!”
“Build the wall!”
“Build the wall!”
She felt every limb go limp, her cries drowned by the clamor.
Reaching a cadence that broke her spirit.
She had heard the hollering and harassing for the past year. But not like this. Never like this.
And then, as quickly as it started, a loud whistle broke the crowd apart. The jeering subsided in every direction — blades of grass trembling where the tormentors trampled on by.
Squinting through tears, she didn’t recognize who blew the whistle. It didn’t matter. It was a woman running towards her.
And in one motion, arms swung around her, embracing her tightly, holding her close, crying with her.
The girl sobbed against the woman’s arm.
The taunting, the cursing, the names. Just words from other first graders, but they hurt like hell.
The 4 Emptiest Words
If I had a dollar for every time I saw “God is in control” emblazoned across my Facebook feed over the last 36 hours, I’d have a billion dollars — which I would weasel my way out of paying taxes on.
Just kidding. I’m not President-elect Donald Trump.
The reason for this post — and most of what I ever write on this site — is disappointment.
Nope, I’m not disappointed in “the system.” The electoral college didn’t fail me — just as it didn’t fail me four years ago when I got what I wanted… And four years before that when I got what I wanted… Aaaand four years before that when I got what I wanted. (Yup, I’m not proud of it now, but I voted Dubya in 2004. Mostly because I wanted to make sure I could put food on my family.)
And nope, I’m not disappointed in democracy. Mostly because America is a republic and not a true democracy. (You could even argue that it’s more of a civic oligarchy, because — oh, y’know — rich people profoundly affect our government’s major decision-makers. And I’d tend to agree with you there.)
Wanna know what I’m disappointed in?
Do you really wanna know?
I’m disappointed in you, Self-Righteous Christian.
You know who you are.
The people that look at a little girl in first grade who’s getting mocked for the way she rolls her letter R‘s and think the appropriate response is to just tell her “God is in control.”
Wanna know what I’m disappointed in?
The people that look at a father of three who just found out his cancer just came back with a vengeance and think the best thing to tell him at that moment is just “I’ll pray for you.”
I know the title of this chapter is “The 4 Emptiest Words,” and that the right thing for me to do is to tell you my single least favorite 4-word combination or something.
Too tired for it.
Go ahead and find me any amalgamation of wimpy Christian 4-word cliches to throw out there, and I’ll tell you why they’re all often more robotic than real.
And no, I’m not referring to people who use verses and passages as actual driving forces for actual life-changing action in the world around them. I’ve got friends and mentors who do that, and I love them.
We need people actually trying to make the world a better place to live in.
But in many cases — for those too busy making a stance — it’s four words here with good intention.
Ways to get out of taking the time to understand somebody different from you.
Ways to get out of taking the time to have a conversation that’s uncomfortable.
Four regurgitated words that mean little when they’re uttered every single time something harrowing stirs our loins and then we end up doing nothing about it.
And, really though. Isn’t that when we use these phrases?
How about a classic five-worder: “God is on the throne.”
Yes, he’s on the throne. He’s on the throne when somebody’s legs get mangled in a car accident, but when you arrive at the scene, loving them like Christ would matters way more than throwing Christian Hallmark card greetings at them.
I’m disappointed in the lack of tact, in the lack of basic human decency, and in the lack of Christ-like love that abounds in the church.
Y’know. The kind of people who made Mahatma Gandhi say:
“I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ.”
Wanna know what I’m disappointed in?
Not offering to hear out the suffering and speaking over them instead. And not offering to give somebody a hug when you know they could really use it and saying your four words and passing them by.
If you want to know why hundreds of thousands of young people (including Christian millennials), disenfranchised, and people of color are disappointed, it’s because Trump’s rise to power legitimately hurts, frightens, and wounds us, people we care about… and people we don’t know personally, but who we can feel are languishing like we are.
Self-Righteous Christian, your response now shouldn’t be “God is in control,” full-stop.
Rather, it should be “We won’t stop until we can help you with this hurting and even hurt with you until we get there.”
This election proved that America is bruised, broken, and busted. And if we, as Christians, believe that the country needs to heal, then what are we doing about it?
Put down your bedazzled Donald Trump bullhorns and hop off the Trump-branded soapbox you’re standing on for a moment.
Understand why many would like the chance to speak their piece.
Got a few minutes? It’ll help all of us, I promise.
Why Trump Disturbs Me
Early Wednesday morning, as Trump’s victory was all but assured, CNN’s Van Jones put into words what many people around the world couldn’t properly explain themselves — on account of that giant pit in all of our stomachs as we realized what was happening:
“You tell your kids, ‘Don’t be a bully.’ You tell your kids, ‘Don’t be a bigot.’ You tell your kids ‘Do your homework and be prepared.’ Then you have this outcome and you have people putting children to bed tonight, and they’re afraid of breakfast. They’re afraid of how do I explain this to my children. I have Muslim friends who are texting me tonight saying, ‘Should I leave the country?’ I have families of immigrants that are terrified tonight.”
Those texts from Muslim friends wasn’t some sort of imaginary, anecdotal pull on our emotions.
Muslims are scared about wearing their hijabs in public:
My mom literally just texted me "don't wear the Hijab please" and she's the most religious person in our family….
While bigotry and xenophobia have been hallmarks of the good ol’ USA for centuries now, Donald Trump’s presidential campaign invigorated and emboldened xenophobes who feel like this country is finally theirs again. Digging deeper — based on exit poll data — in general, Trump fed uneducated, old, rural, straight, Christian, white men lines, and they bought them hook, line, and sinker.
It’s something comedian and The Daily Show host, Trevor Noah, reflected on in 2015:
“When people are starving, you can sell them any story. Hitler did it in Germany. [Hitler] said, ‘You know why you’re hungry — because of those people.’ That’s the best time to mobilize anyone, is when they’re hungry, and they’re scared. You can give them any story because people want change, and you can give them that change.”
Now, obviously, Trump pandered to more than just the Rust Belt’s old white men… And it’s more fun to list all the people groups he publicly demeaned and taunted — at least 282 if you’re just counting Twitter insults.
Unfortunately, I don’t have time to go through everybody on the list, because I have a life and I need to sleep eventually. But here are a few:
Women without big boobs
Women who are victims of sexual abuse
10-year-old girls who aren’t quite women yet, but one day will be women who he’d like to gallavant with for a night on the town
Oh, and Rosie O’Donnell. He’s not a big fan of hers and I felt like she needed to be called out separately here.
You want to know why people like me feel like we got hit by a truck this week?
Because somebody genuinely repulsive and unfit to babysit 10-year-old girls in my family just got elected to the highest office in the country — and a ton of church leaders and church friends are complicit in his debauchery.
Sure, you believe he’s changed. Duh, he said sorry to all of us in a pre-recorded video and his wife blamed his TV host buddy for his behavior. Duh, he didn’t really mean it. Duh.
But, Self-Righteous Christian. C’mon.
You can’t even leave a mustache on your face that vaguely resembles Hitler’s without people giving you the stank eye and general look of “Whoa, that dude’s a little shady, ’cause he’s rocking that Hitler ‘stache.”
Ask Pam Beesly:
Even rocking that ‘stache would make people feel icky around you.
If you’re kinda sorta okay with Trump on some level, then you’re kinda sorta okay with the moral failings that color his plumage.
On a wall of the pedestal on which the Statue of Liberty stands, there’s an inscription — a poem — that reads:
Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”
“The New Colossus” by Emma Lazarus
You can win an election, or win a basketball game, or beat somebody in Hacky Sack, and still have the decency to say something like “Yeah, that was definitely not how it was supposed to go down, but I barely won and you’re all hurting, so let’s figure out how to make the best of things now.”
To those who are saying that? Props. I have much respect for that. Because we’re all in this together now. For better or worse, he’s our President. This is life for four years. (I have many, many friends who share this sentiment, and they are truly awesome people.)
But, Self-Righteous Christian: when you share an empty sentiment of “God is in control” followed up by some variation of “He believes in the Bible, and so yeah, duh, he should be President”… you repulse me. And you repulse many like me.
Oh, and maybe even Jesus.
Pro-Life vs. Pro-All-Life
Let’s face it, Self-Righteous Christian.
Donald Trump is your champion because his platform was against abortion.
In fact, many pundits have been shocked at just how much Trump’s anti-abortion stance may have tipped the scales leading up to election night. Consider the fact that, for years, Trump has vacillated between pro-choice and pro-life.
And I absolutely hate throwing old video footage to prove a point, but this is an important one to dig up from the Trump annals:
Joining forces with Mike Pence steered Trump toward the more hardened pro-life stance we’re all familiar with today. And that one stance was so singularly important this election cycle, that no amount of xenophobic campaign trail diatribes and resurfaced “Grab Them by the Pussy” quips could keep Evangelical women and Christians from the polls for the guy.
So here’s the question that Christians — myself included — need to answer: Are we pro-life or are we pro-all-life?
Everybody’s got an opinion when we bring up abortions, but four out of five white Evangelicals just voted for a dude who’s been married three times and blatantly disrespects both people carrying babies in their wombs and people who were — y’know — once babies themselves.
There’s obviously more nuance here, and not all white Evangelicals solely care about pro-life discussions when deliberating on the fate of the country’s executive branch. I get that.
But anecdotally, through messages I’ve received or posts I’ve read, it’s clear that the stance on abortion drove a major wedge between whoever the GOP nominated on their end and whoever the Democrats nominated on theirs.
After a while, none of Trump’s public relations nightmares and sexual assault scandals and impending fraud trials managed to make a dent in the machine that became “Hillary is an ungodly woman and she sold our country’s secrets to Russia.”
That was it.
Trump said he loves babies in the womb — maybe not as much as he loves 10-year-old girls, though — and that was it.
The disconnect was so bizarre that Seth Meyers even made a brilliant joke about it (at the 6:17 mark in the following video):
As Christians, here’s what should matter to you.
That young person coming out of college without many job prospects on the horizon to write home about.
That Mexican family that’s been harassed and told to leave the country before the wall gets built and they get forced out of here.
That Muslim family that’s been humiliated, taunted, and demonized — labeled as terrorists.
Black people who may be further marginalized in this Trump America.
I think that rhetoric is useless, I think it’s insensitive, and I think it’s incendiary to many.
Here’s the thing: If you met Jesus at a party, and you sat there and all you had to talk to him about was how anti-abortion you are and how conservative you are… I’m telling you he’d get up and walk away from you and go to the back of the room to tend to the Muslim woman who’s crying and humiliated on the floor because she’s spent the last 10 minutes fighting off taunts that she’s a terrorist.
To give her a hug. To hold her close. To stare down the rest of the self-righteous who dared to eschew love in favor of hate.
And you’d be too busy bragging about how Christian and how conservative you are to have noticed.
Morality was so nuanced and so important to Christ, that he had hoes for friends and he hung out with 12 guys who were treacherous, vengeful, greedy, and untrustworthy.
I don’t know if Jesus would vote Republican, Democrat, or Independent — or if he’d just write in Chuck Norris’ name for laughs. I really don’t know.
But I can assure you that being Christian means believing in a man who died on a cross for you and a bunch of other people who ever lived.
That? That’s bigger than “pro-life.” That’s loving all people — even when things get complicated.
(I’ll save the pro-life vs. pro-choice argument for another day, but here’s the truth: this is far more complicated than you think it is. Seriously. There are Christians who are pro-choice (myself included), and some pro-choicers even vote Republican. Dismissing this as some easy, black/white topic gets patently more absurd every year, and it’s worth a deeper dive than what I can afford it here.)
I’m hoping that every doubt I’ve ever had of this guy will be proven wrong.
I. Won’t. Even. Be. Mad. If. That. Happens.
And, Self-Righteous Christian. Pardon me, but I feel like, sometimes, you just don’t get that last part.
If I’m wrong about Trump, I’d be elated. If he ends up not being a giant turd, and he makes the country live in harmony… C’mon. Of course we’d be thrilled.
But at least allow me the time and the space to gather my thoughts, vent, scream, get the bullshit that’s been gnawing at me off of my chest. Please.
And understand that in choosing to patiently accept that this man is our leader for four years, it’s crushing to know that he spent years unapologetically trying to bury the first black President we’ve ever had.
Self-Righteous Christian, don’t be alarmed. I won’t call you out, and I won’t call out the other self-righteous just like you. Because I just don’t have the patience or the brainpower to pick-and-choose all of the “Obama is a Muslim” and “Obama is an Anti-Christ” posts that have littered my social media feeds over the last eight years.
Christians. Christian leaders. Perpetuating complete and utter unsubstantiated crap.
Understand that for me — and many who are broken this week — taking the high road is easy when the bar was set so incredibly low for the last eight years by you, Self-Righteous Christian & Co.
Because this is the guy who you smeared for the last eight years, offering his antagonistic successor nothing but grace:
Donald Trump may never be somebody I hold the highest regard for, but I know I’ll be rooting for him to prove me wrong.
Every. Single. Day.
At least give me — and everybody else who hasn’t been able to sleep right this week — some credit for that.
In a lot of ways, TNT’s Ernie Johnson said it better than most of us could:
There’s no running away to Canada. No hoping this was all a bad dream.
Because there’s work to do.
And you know what? The part that strikes me most is that last burst of realness:
“I’m going to pray for Donald Trump. I’m gonna pray for all those people right now who feel like they’re on the outside looking in, who are afraid at this point. And sure, I’m praying for America and I’m praying that one day we’re going to look back and we’re going to say, ‘You know what? That Donald Trump presidency? It was alright.’ But I’m praying.”
Don’t get on your Facebook high horse and tell me to chill out. The next four years will require soul-searching, breathing through the nose, and praying.
Not just because the Bible says we should pray for our leaders. But because praying is the only way I’m going to wrap my mind around what transpired this week and what may challenge my confidence over the next four years.
So, rest assured there will be praying.
For the leadership.
For the nation.
For love to win.
Really, God Is in Control
I’m a Calvinist, for goodness’ sake. Of course I believe God is in control.
For the record, I also believe that he is on his throne — during the Bible events, and during the Holocaust, during the World Wars, during 9/11, and also when LeBron won that 2016 championship for Cleveland.
But telling me those 4-word and 5-word cliches is often just a way to try and shut me up — and that’s offensive. Because you and I both know you just want to avoid the real issues around us.
Self-Righteous Christian, please understand that my relationship with Christ means I cannot sit idly by as my brothers and sisters around me get marginalized more and more every day. The Christ I love spent his time pissing off the self-righteous and loving the broken, battered, bruised, homeless, useless, sick.
But sometimes, we can’t just say that and expect things will work out on their own.
God’s still on his throne, but your engine breakdown requires you to find a way to fix it.
God’s still on his throne, but mold in your bathroom still requires you to find a way to fix it.
Sometimes, we have to get our hands dirty and just try. Especially when really terrible things threaten to close the book on love.
Often it starts with a hug. Sometimes, it’s a conversation. Sometimes, it’s getting somebody some coffee because they look cold on 42nd Street.
And while it’s easy to do Christian stuff when we have reasons to — when we’re out with the church group doing ministry, or we’re on a mission trip, or when we’re playing ball with the youth group — it’s a lot more revealing of our capacity for shouldering others’ burdens when our love for somebody is wholly unprepared and yet unrelenting.
Because we often don’t have time to rehearse 4-word cliches when our six-year-old niece comes running into our arms, sobbing because she was ridiculed for being the dark kid in class.
Sometimes, our being unprepared and our being unrelenting with the love we lavish mirrors the guy who hung out 2,000 years before we did, doing whatever he needed to, whenever it was needed.
I’m inspired by people like Ernie Johnson who are willing to allow faith to usurp fear — and actually do what’s needed. Even if it means boldly taking a stance for something in public so there’s no more turning back.
So it’s not just telling somebody you’ll pray — it’s taking the time to actually do it.
It’s not just quoting Bible verses — it’s taking the time to actually find out why many LGBTQ, people of color, and women are reeling.
It’s not just telling somebody it’ll be okay — it’s taking time to help young parents with young children who don’t know how to talk to their kids about a man they saw on TV get rewarded with a pretty sweet gig just for being mean, rude, and a bully.
Do I believe Donald Trump is the champion of the church?
No, I don’t.
But I believe love is.
And for that? I’ll give it four years and then some. ■