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Nov 27 2016

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On four years of Christian hope.

After 18 months of the most divisive presidential campaign in recent history, it’s been 18 days since the most bizarre election—possibly, in all of American history—upended our reality and shattered our country’s social landscape. No matter whose supporters, it’s all anybody still talks about. Some are triumphant, others terrified, but everyone is stunned, and everyone’s uncertain as to what is to come.

elections-ahead

This blog is not a political platform, which is not about to change, but my stands on a number of social issues are no secret to my long-term readers, so I imagine you can easily guess my vote. My circles of friends and family are mixed in their allegiances, though a majority are Clinton supporters, and for the past 18 days the mood among them has been beyond gloomy: despondent, frightened. Some are preparing to fight, others to flee, yet the third are wallowing in grief. I, too, have been trying to process what feels like a brave new world we are starting to live in, and I would like today to talk to those who are scared by the near future of the Trump administration. If you feel the opposite, however—if you are a Trump supporter and believe the future he is going to bring is bright—you don’t have to leave. I am not about to call you deplorable, racist, or stupid. Realizing that reasons people vote for one or another candidate are both simpler and more complex than the candidate’s most scandalous feature, I am not about to go into that now. I just wonder if you will find in my words a way to reconcile your joy with your opponents’ fear.

elephant-and-donkey

The idea, which now partly defines my thinking about this political season, came to me on my way to church a week ago, when I overheard somebody say on the phone, referring to Hillary Clinton: “She got crucified! Crucified!”

Well, I thought, she didn’t really get crucified. She suffered a complicated and unexpected defeat. We use the word so casually now… Walking into the church, I looked at the crucifix over the altar. Still and unobtrusive, it overwhelmed the space, as though from two millennia ago its meaning hung there, waiting for us always to feel it. And I thought: Isn’t this a quintessential Christian moment for those who are frightened and despaired? Isn’t this time exactly what the Christian left should be prepared to deal with?

crucifixAll great religions have some things in common: they are based on love, which brings about some similar rhetoric in their scriptures; they seek meaning beyond the individual; they revere examples of great teachers, leaders, or prophets. And then, they are different. Christianity is unique in having built its existential hope on the darkest moment in a human narrative: the Innocent betrayed and murdered, who triumphs over death by the transcendent power of Love. Christianity is unique in having made the very symbol of its faith a dead man on a cross, in his most defeated and humiliated—the symbol through which we worship God in all of God’s glory. The symbol that reminds us how it works. What it’s all about.

If you take away the trimmings of the Passion and Resurrection story, the tradition that grew up around it, all the ecclesial terminology, what’s left is the crux of the Christian hope: God brings good out of the deepest, darkest bad. Even when it seems that all is lost, that the prophet’s mission has gone wrong, that the messiah was false, that his friends abandoned him and his enemies are gloating and screaming “Crucify him!” Even when life is unfolding in bizarre and painful ways completely contrary to every plan you’ve made, and it seems that the future can only be disaster and persecution, God is working through the confluences and currents of the unfolding universe. Good will come out of every bad. Life will triumph over death in a way you may not immediately recognize, but listen—it will call you by name, if you listen, and then you will know what to do. It may seem wrong now, but it’s not. Everything that happens is supposed to have happened, if you gave it your honest all. There may still be persecution, and not all will be nice or even good, but the Good will grow through and live forever. Even the worst day of your life will one day be referred to as Good Friday.

Don’t misunderstand me, I am not precisely comparing Hillary Clinton to Jesus Christ. Certainly, we are having a much, much milder problem than the apostles did two thousand years ago, and some of the reasons for our defeat are very different. And yet, having thought about it, I am finding more parallels between their emotional challenge and that of the Clinton supporters than I originally thought. They’ve put their hopes into a leader who was strong and good, but libel, bigotry, misinformation, flawed strategy, and arrogance (on both sides) led to her sudden and complete demise, and now some friends are turning on her and others are lost without her, gathering in upper rooms and planning for manhunts and vigils. And they mourn for their country that appears to them lost forever. And they mourn for the world.

It is all right to grieve for our frustrated hopes. But I take heart in my Christianity, in the aftermath of this historic election. I think, perhaps, if God brought salvation out of the death of Christ, we can count on some lesser good coming out of this much lesser bad. Half of this country has made an uncommonly, maybe uniquely radical, unprepared choice to run this state. Its opponents, having seen no value in the choice but only threat and jest, are equally unprepared and terrified. But there is a reason for everything, a message, a lesson, and a direction we will be going in. No one knows what will happen next: not we, not Trump supporters, not Mr. Trump himself. When we look back upon this time, we will see something very different than what we’re seeing now. And as long as we—all of us, on what used to be both sides—give it our honest all, it will have been what is supposed to have happened.

 

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