Well, the election is over; Donald J. Trump is to be our next President. Quite a few of my evangelical friends are thrilled, or at the very least, rejoicing that Satan’s emissary Clinton has been defeated. Some are despairing, like the fellow that shared this with me early this morning:
“It looks like American evangelical Christians have spoken. And they have chosen Saul to be their king so that they might be just like all their neighbors.”
Many others are taking a wait and see attitude. One friend confided that he knew and opposed everything that Clinton would have done and he is now praying that Trump will come through on at least some of his campaign promises. I must say that Trump’s acceptance speech in the wee hours of the morning was the best, and most irenic, thing I’ve heard him say.
For weeks now I have worried that the so-called religious right would, if Clinton won, be bitter and hostile. I’ve always feared that, after years of fighting tooth and nail for our own rights to the exclusion of those of others, that the movement might explode, implode or simply sulk. But instead Trump has won and I’m sure there is a big sigh of relief. It appears, we hope, that on issues like abortion, religious freedom and the selecting of Supreme Court justices that good things will happen.
Oddly enough I’ve heard many fellow evangelicals include defending traditional marriage on the list of things to be happy about. I am not sure why that is. In this long campaign I’ve been unable to find anything that Trump has said on that issue that gives them this hope. His affirming reaction to the Pulse nightclub killings (which I agree with) and his invitation to Caitlyn Jenner to use the women’s rest room at Trump towers tell me that they should not count on him to champion these sexual issues.
It is a tricky thing to act with wisdom after a hard fought election. It’s clear that many agree with me. I received the admonition “If you win, don’t gloat, if you lose don’t despair” on my Facebook page several times, along with other exhortations to act with grace. And, indeed, grace is a good reaction, particularly for winners. But it is not easy. I had to laugh at Trump’s tweet this morning urging grace: “Remember everyone, even though nobody was gracious towards us during these previous 16 months, WE must be gracious winners.” It was an artful way to stick in a nasty jab about “them” while being the soul of grace.
For Christian culture warriors this is time of challenging grace. How can we respond with grace when there is a big victory after a long string of losses? Do we have that sort of real grace in us? Our land is truly divided. Notwithstanding the big electoral victory Trump had the popular vote was amazingly close. As of a few minutes ago, with 98% of the popular vote in, Clinton had a 289,000 vote lead out of over 118,000,000 votes cast. It is fair to say that fully half the electorate is hurting. The temptation, after such a nasty race, to rub salt into those wounds is great.
But I have another fear. It is clear through the apocalyptic warnings we’ve heard in the entire campaign that among our culture warrior friends there was a great deal of terror about what would have happened had Clinton won. There was an endless string of warnings about the end of religious freedom if not America. Those fears will not go away by winning one close vote. The country is still divided, the terror is still there. Yes, we should be gracious to those who mourn Clinton’s loss. But even more we should be on guard as to what our defensive stance has done, and may still be doing to us. The real terror is not in the things we are most afraid of, but what the things we are afraid of can turn us into.