* Note* This post was originally published on November 10 at Purcells In Omaha.
I am a missionary and missiologist so I’m always thinking about how people experience Jesus and Christians in light of what is happening in the world. This election cycle has given me much to think about. I am curious about what this election communicates to people in the US and around the world about who Jesus is and what it means to be a Christian, especially because many Christians have argued that a vote for Hillary Clinton would be a vote against God’s standards. Or as Dr. Ben Carson, argued, the country is in such bad shape that we should set aside some of our Christian values to elect Donald Trump. And because I am from the Evangelical tribe, I am particularly interested in understanding what Evangelicals think this election communicates about Christianity.
Evangelicals voted for Donald Trump en masse and largely celebrated his victory on November 9 with comments about God being in control, prayer working, sentiments that God’s will was done, and “Praise the Lord”. But there are a whole lot of people for whom this presidency is bad news. And many of these people are Christians. Did God not answer their prayers? Are they just misinformed about God’s will? But, more pointedly, what are people who do not believe in Jesus supposed to think about this? One of the distinctives of Evangelicals is a commitment to global evangelization, so I think this should be an important consideration for us. What happens when our politics commingle with our faith in such a way that our concern for the well-being of the empire, outlasts our desire to faithfully walk with our neighbors in the way of Jesus? Or when our political leanings pit us against other Christians and non-Christians in such a way that we demonize them? And finally, how do we defend our position as the “Christian” one, when so much of what Donald Trump stands for is in direct opposition to what Jesus taught? (And to be fair, how do we defend our position as the “Christian” one, when so much of what Hillary Clinton stands for is in direct opposition to what Jesus taught?)
Earlier this summer I had a conversation with a friend of mine about the work we do. She is a young woman with a huge heart! She is giving her life to working on behalf of displaced people, helping them to assimilate, stabilize and feel human again. She’s traveled the world working for marginalized people from Asia, the Middle East and Latin America. She is not a Christian or someone who knows a lot about Jesus. As I shared with her about our work as missionaries and people who train others to tangibly share Jesus’ love from a posture of sacrifice, powerlessness and honor, she asked me a surprising question. “Is proselytizing a part of your religion? Is that something Jesus told his followers to do?” “Yes,” I said, “he instructed his followers to teach other people to follow him, believe in him and love like him.”
After the election, this is what she wrote on her Facebook page.
Feel low today. Feel this pain, shame, and sadness. Feel those tears in your eyes and that pit in your stomach because our social progress has just been side swiped. Feel empathy as deeply as you can for our brothers and sisters this truly influences. For all the precious children who wake up today with so many questions, for all our Muslim families with a very real reason to feel fear, for our gay, lesbian, and trans loved ones, for families who exist in a fear of being deported, for HRC who has earned her f*ing time, for your mothers and sisters who every day feel sexually harassed, unsafe, and unsupported. I'm letting myself feel it because apparently this is real. Apparently we're not waking up to some strange dystopia. Apparently we have so much more work to do, kind and loving friends. We need to exit the comfortable bubble many of us love in and work in and live in and we need to be better. We are powerful. Live in that.
To all my students: You are pure light on this earth. Keep your head up and your hearts open. I love you to the moon.
I find it hard to look at her life and the people she cares about and not think that Jesus would be cheering her on. I’m not asking you to agree with her or her politics. But, given the overwhelming Evangelical support of Donald Trump, I am asking you to consider how she might feel right now about Jesus and those who follow him. I am asking you to consider how those she cares deeply about—refugees, immigrants, women, LGBTQ, undocumented, Muslims— feel right now about Jesus and those who follow him. Is Jesus good news to them? Are we faithfully representing Jesus to the world? His Power? His Hope? His Love? It seems to me that we're offering the world something more on the lines of a culturally driven, political ideology with a "Jesus" label.
Or maybe I am mistaken that our allegiance is first to Christ and not to Country?