The Way Things Look From Here
Pastor Vern Christopherson occasionally writes a big-picture letter, The Way Things Look From Here, to explain Zumbro's mission and direction. Read his most recent thoughts, or click on the links in the sidebar for past topics.
Some Thoughts on the Election
I’ve shared with you before a favorite phrase of my dad: “Help, help, what’s this world coming to?” My dad was capable of saying this at any time, including when his children were acting up or when a neighbor’s car ran into the ditch. But he tended to use it most often when something big happened, such as when the Beatles came to the Ed Sullivan Show with their long hair and rock-and-roll music or, more sadly, when President Kennedy got shot at a parade in Dallas.
Help, help, what’s this world coming to? Early Wednesday morning Americans woke up to the news that Donald Trump was going to be our next president. Roughly half the country greeted the news with excitement and hope, thinking we had finally elected someone – albeit an outsider – who could bring real change. The other half of the country was shocked, disappointed, and even angry to hear the news. I suspect we had plenty of people at Zumbro on both sides of that divide.
So how deep is the divide we are facing? If you’re anything like me, you found the campaign season to be exhausting, mean-spirited, and deeply divisive. I heard any number of people say that, in this presidential election, it didn’t feel like we had a good choice. That’s a matter of one’s perspective, I suppose, but the high disapproval rating of both candidates probably reflects that sentiment. On the Sunday before the election, Pastor Adam Hamilton offered some cogent thoughts to his congregation: “In elections, no candidates are as bad as their opponents paint them, nor as good as they believe themselves to be.” I find this helpful. At the same time, I wish we could find ways to make our campaigns more honest and constructive than the one we just witnessed.
What’s this world coming to? I was encouraged by Donald Trump’s acceptance speech. It conveyed a spirit of humility, a willingness to work together, and a desire to represent all Americans. Along those same lines, I appreciated Hillary Clinton’s concession speech which, despite great disappointment, expressed a confidence in America’s future. Those speeches, combined with President Obama’s warm welcome of Trump to the White House, assured us that we would have a peaceful transition of power. These actions might not seem over important, but honoring elections is at the heart of our democracy.
So now what? There are many challenges ahead. Governing is infinitely harder than campaigning. A number of promises were made on the campaign trail. They involve important issues affecting millions of people: Should we build a wall on our southern border? Should we round up illegal immigrants and start departing them? How should we respond to Muslims – should we be monitoring the activity of mosques in America? Should we stop all Syrian refugees from coming here? If we don’t have Obamacare, will there be anything to take its place? What about a woman’s right to choose--should abortion be criminalized, either for the woman or for the doctor? There are lots of issues that were brought up. The current protests going on in our country are perhaps an important reminder that our words carry weight. Rather than bringing us together, they often further divide us.
In his book Surprised by Hope, Anglican bishop N. T. Wright shares a thought that I find hopeful. In describing the world of first-century Christians, Wright holds up the importance of the claim: Jesus is Lord. Caesar is not. The book was written in 2008, so it had nothing to do with our current election per se. Still, the viewpoint is important, perhaps especially for Christians. Wright says: “Confessing Jesus as…Lord frees us up from needing to pretend that this or that program or leader has the key to utopia (if only we would elect him or her). Equally, it frees [us] from the despair that comes when we realize that once again our political system has let us down.”
By including the quote, I am not meaning to denigrate President-elect Trump even before he has a chance to govern. Instead, I am offering a reminder for myself, and for others, that we tend to get our hopes up so high in these elections, only to realize after a few short months that the one(s) we have elected will not be able to lead us to the Promised Land after all.
As we go forward, I encourage you to join me in praying for our elected leaders, whether you voted for them or not. Pray for our country, and for the great divide we are facing. Spend time listening to those with different points of view. Be careful about getting all your news and information from only one political slant. Practice forgiveness, kindness, and compassion at every turn. Do what you can to build bridges of understanding and peace.
On Wednesday morning, one Zumbro members made an entry on his Facebook page that sounds like bridge building to me: “The presidential election did not go the way I hoped it would…. Here’s how I plan to deal with this: I am going to work. I am going to be especially kind to my co-workers. I am going to find joy in focusing on helping as many people as possible, both inside of and outside of work. [Finally,] I am going to recognize that, from a political perspective, things do not always go my way but, at a local level, there is still much to be done.”