Nov. 10, 2016
Dear Hyde Park Family,
We are now in the wake of the most captivating, bewildering presidential election of our lifetime. The unexpected results from last Tuesday defied predictions, as a fitting end to a campaign season that upended conventional politicking. The election of Donald Trump comes as such a surprise to so many that it is fitting to henceforth question much of what we thought we knew about presidential elections, especially the reliability of polling and pre-election predictions.
I acknowledge that the responses to Mr. Trump’s election are varied in this congregation, and it is not my intention to wade into partisan conversations during this tender time in our democracy. What does intrigue me is mutually answering a question that can bring about healing across the divides: “If so much of what we thought we knew about this election has been disproven, what can we claim as factual?” Put more simply, “What is still true?”
So here are a few thoughts, by no means comprehensive:
What’s still true is that democracy worked. In one of the highest turnouts in history, millions of people cast their ballot, participating in a free and open exercise of their right to vote. As the results became clear, Hillary Clinton gave a concession speech that was both gracious and aspirational. And next January, there will once again be a peaceful transition of power that will be the envy of many nations in the world. Regardless of how you feel (and are still feeling) about the result, we can still marvel at the democratic process.
What’s still true is that we will pray for President-Elect Trump. Just as every other president has warranted the prayers of God’s people, we can pray for our new president and all of our leaders. The prayer that I was determined to pray before Tuesday, even before the results were clear, is just as important now as if Hillary Clinton were elected: “Lord, may all our elected leaders exercise a wisdom that comes from humility, and a pursuit of justice governed by love.”
What’s still true is that we need to be agents of peace, healing, and reconciliation. The list of people groups who took offense to certain aspects of Mr. Trump’s campaign feel too numerous to count. There have been contentious disputes about his rhetoric vs. his motivations vs. his media portrayal vs. his agenda for governing. But in the time and energy it takes to debate those matters, there will still be Muslim-Americans fearing for their wellbeing, immigrants fearing separation from their families, poor and uninsured people fearing loss of insurance, gay and lesbian persons fearing loss of their right to marry, women fearing the loss of their personhood, minorities fearing the rise of white supremacy, and so many others. What is still true is that this election has caused harm. There is nothing more important to debate at this time than what needs to be done for all of us to seek the welfare of our common citizenry, and to translate those intentions into actions of justice, love, and peace.
What’s still true is that we don’t know how to talk across our differences. As much as social media has brought us together, it has made us forget how to live together. It is too easy to assign whatever voice, tone, and intention we choose to someone’s Facebook comment, tweet, or email. It is much harder to look someone eye to eye, over a cup of coffee, in order to see the image of God within them. And as much as 24-hour news keeps us constantly wired to what is happening, it has fostered a red vs. blue tribalism fueled by contentious surrogates and talking heads.
Because we have too few models of serious, open dialogue, we have become bluer and redder. Blue people have underestimated and misunderstood the serious concerns of red people, just as red people have done the same with blue people. We have forgotten how to talk, how to listen, and how to respond.
What’s still true is the mission of this church. As “strangers and aliens” in this land, we acknowledge that our primary citizenship is to the Kingdom of God, which crosses political boundaries and transcends manufactured tribalism. Nothing from last Tuesday’s election changes what is at the core of this church’s mission. We will continue to make God’s love real through expressions of warm-heartedness (an embrace of a diversity of people) and open-mindedness (an embrace of a diversity of ideas). Anyone disillusioned by the unpredictability of life will find in this place the steady reliability of the one thing that is ultimately always true: the faithful love and sovereign grace of God, given to us in Jesus Christ. And at the end of the day, and now more than ever, it is still good to be the church.
Grace and Peace,
The Rev. Magrey deVega
Senior Pastor, Hyde Park United Methodist