The election of 2016

Starting out this morning’s journey I have some time to mull. Today I’m mulling over politics and the church.

I’ve been around for a while. I became a Christian in 1983 just about the time the Moral Majority and Religious Right was picking up steam. I had been for the most part politically neutral before this. I remember not liking Carter. By 1984 I was old enough to vote in the presidential election; I loved Reagan and  I enthusiastically voted for his reelection. Throughout the rest of the 80s, 90s, 2000s and 2010s I voted straight ticket Republican,  although I would always vote for each race separately rather than just selecting straight ticket, because I didn’t like thinking of myself as a straight ticket voter.

As just-marrieds my wife and I were thrilled when Bush senior won. We were horrified and disheartened when Bill Clinton won and couldn’t wait to vote against him in 1996, when we voted with as much enthusiasm as we could muster (not much) for Bob Dole, only to see Clinton triumph again. We held our breath for a month in 2000 waiting to see if Bush would win the recounts and were thrilled when he did. We were more thrilled when he won reelection in 2004 and we enthusiastically supported his foreign policy in the wars against Afghanistan and Iraq. Though I somehow knew Barak Obama would win in 2008 we were still so disheartened when he won and won again. In general, we always agreed with the guy leading our Republican tribe and always disagreed with the guy leading the Democrat tribe. Always. As American Christians this was the most natural thing to do, we thought. I simply could not get into the head of anyone, certainly not someone of faith, who supported Democrats.

And this brings us to 2016.

2016 was a kidney stone of a year by all measures for our family. We had a lot of deep issues to take care of and pray over. But in the middle of all that there was a presidential campaign and two inexplicable things happened: the first was that a guy named Donald Trump, who had often been a novelty candidate in previous elections, started taking the lead on the Republican side. The second, and far more inexplicable one for me, was that American Christians, at least the white ones, began to enthusiastically endorse the man.

“This can’t be” I naively thought. I heard all the rationalizations: the President isn’t the pastor in chief, God can use anyone. He’s like King Cyrus. he’s really a good man, just look at how great his kids are, etc. None of these came close, in my mind, to justifying a vote for the man, certainly not a vote by a Christian.

The other side of the argument was given with just as much fervency. “You have no choice,” they would say, “the alternative is Her!” After the election I was talking to a Christian friend (who I respect greatly) and he told me with certainty that if Hillary had won all our religious freedom would have been jeopardized.

I could go on for pages. Bottom line, I realized that for some reason I wasn’t able to hear the same music many of my Christian friends were hearing.

I understand the pragmatic vote for a lesser of two evils. I really do. But I’ve never understood the Christian admiration for Donald Trump. And, to be blunt, here’s why I don’t understand it: he is a liar. There’s not even an argument to be mounted against this charge. He has lied on the deepest matters repeatedly to people he should have loved: his first two wives and, by all reports, his current wife. He has betrayed them. He larded his campaign with lies and started out his Presidency lying about the most mundane things.

He is also cruel, and not in some veiled, “refined” Machiavellian way. He treats people who aren’t behonkus-kissingly loyal to him like manure and, like all bullies, he’s not content to just pound them and steal their lunch money, he has to take their dignity too with stupid fifth grade nicknames and cruel jabs on social media.

Not least, and certainly not last but I’m almost to work and need to wrap this up, he is an abuser. This goes hand in hand with his cruelty. He has abused people sexually and economically and he is proud of it.

I never thought I’d say this, but, doggone it, I miss Barak Obama.

The election of 2016 was the final cure for my red team tribalism. I’m de-tribed now, neither red nor blue. Heartbreakingly, the election also served to unmask the white evangelical church for its nationalistic idolatry, its fear of the Other, and its desire for power.

What the election of 2016 didn’t do, thankfully, was destroy my faith in the church. There is a core, a minority perhaps, in the American evangelical movement that saw what I also saw and renounced it. May that tribe increase.

May the Kingdom of God increase.

I voted in 2016 for a third party candidate who had no chance of winning. And the scores of people online who told me I had to pick R or D because we’re locked into a binary choice can go pound sand.

My bus is pulling up to my building now. Looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day.

 

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