A lot has been said about the election, about its outcome and what that means for our nation and the world. Last week, Christianity Today published statements from 20 Christian leaders regarding the election. I’d like to highlight two of them and then share five more. Some were written before the election and some after, but each of them answers the question “How can I be a Christian citizen of the United States of America?” in a uniquely helpful way.
This election was a referendum on the echo chamber, and the echo chamber won. We can choose now to retreat once again into those echo chambers or begin to listen more attentively to one another—to love our neighbors by learning about them and their needs and perspectives whether black, white, Asian, or Latino/a; whether Christian, Muslim, or none; whether upper, middle, or working class; whether voter or one of the nearly half of eligible voters that sat out this election. Following this election, I’m convinced that we don’t know our neighbors well enough to begin to truly love them.
-Karen Swallow Prior, Professor of English at Liberty University
Some polls estimate that 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. As an African American who dedicates countless hours and vital energy to racial reconciliation, I feel betrayed. I mistakenly assumed that American Christians understood each other better across racial lines. This election has shown that we must abandon a feel-good reconciliation that merely adjusts the aesthetics or coddles our consciences. We must pursue robust reconciliation that entails sacrificially suffering with minorities and acting on their insights.
-Jemar Tisby, Co-founder and president of the Reformed African American Network
The most important lesson we should learn is that the church must stand against the way politics has become a religion, and religion has become politics. We can hear this idolatrous pull even in the apocalyptic language used by many in this election—as we have seen in every election in recent years—that this election is our “last chance.” And we can hear it in those who assume that the sort of global upending we see happening in the world—in Europe, in the Middle East, and now in the United States—mean a cataclysm before which we should panic.
Such talk is not worthy of a church that is already triumphant in heaven, and is marching on earth toward the ultimate victory of Jesus Christ. Will we face difficult days ahead? Yes. The religious liberty concerns will continue. The cultural decline we have warned against is now part of every ideological coalition in the country. But the question we must ask is who “we” are.
-Russell Moore, “President Trump: Now What For the Church?”
I have lost my illusions about my political allies. Everyone seems to recognize the world tipping into craziness, and they respond by holding on tighter to their own version of craziness. Maybe this is mine. Roll your eyes if you like. I no longer fear Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton or their fans. This election has taught me to fear God.
-Michael Brendan Dougherty, “This election is God’s judgment on us”
For over a century, the best response to Plato’s critique of democracy has been John Dewey’s claim that precious and fragile democratic experiments must put a premium on democratic statecraft (public accountability, protection of rights and liberties, as well as personal responsibility, embedded in a fair rule of law) and especially on democratic soulcraft (integrity, empathy, and a mature sense of history). For Plato, democratic regimes collapse owing to the slavish souls of citizens driven by hedonism and narcissism, mendacity and venality. Dewey replies that this kind of spiritual blackout can be overcome by robust democratic education and courageous exemplars grounded in the spread of critical intelligence, moral compassion, and historical humility. The 2016 election presents a dangerous question as to whether Dewey’s challenge to Plato’s critique can be met.
-Cornel West, “Spiritual blackout in America: Election 2016”
Meanwhile, Muslims now wonder if the liberties that white evangelicals are eager to protect by electing Trump will extend to their own worshiping communities.
Women who have been sexually assaulted wonder if white evangelicals’ support of Trump means their trauma will be minimized in Christian communities.
Immigrants who have been embraced by churches wonder if said churches will no longer shelter them after threat of deportation.
Trump’s presidency poses a unique threat to the vulnerable — the very communities the church is called to stand beside.
It is not enough for a population or a section of the population to have Christian faith and be docile to the ministers of religion in order to be in a position properly to judge political matters. If this population has no political experience, no taste for seeing clearly for itself nor a tradition of initiative and critical judgment, its position with respect to politics grows more complicated, for nothing is easier for political counterfeiters than to exploit good principles for purposes of deception, and nothing is more disastrous than good principles badly applied. And moreover nothing is easier for human weakness than to merge religion with prejudices of race, family or class, collective hatreds, passions of a clan and political phantoms which compensate for the rigors of individual discipline in a pious but insufficiently purified soul. Politics deal with matters and interests of the world and they depend upon passions natural to man and upon reason. But the point I wish to make here is that without goodness, love and charity, all that is best in us—even divine faith, but passions and reason much more so—turns in our hands to an unhappy use. The point is that right political experience cannot develop in people unless passions and reason are oriented by a solid basis of collective virtues, by faith and honor and thirst for justice. The point is that, without the evangelical instinct and the spiritual potential of a living Christianity, political judgment and political experience are ill protected against the illusions of selfishness and fear; without courage, compassion for mankind and the spirit of sacrifice, the ever-thwarted advance toward an historical ideal of generosity and fraternity is not conceivable.
-Jacques Maritain, Christianity and Democracy, 1944