Let me add a few thoughts to those of many of my colleagues on the role of our faith following the volatile presidential election cycle through which we have just lived. Like most Americans, Christians were and are deeply divided in the way we voted and in our reaction to the outcome.
Many liberal Catholics and Protestants supported the more progressive policies of the Democratic Party and its standard bearer, lifelong Methodist Hillary Clinton. Many conservative Catholics and Protestants supported the “change candidate,” Donald Trump perhaps especially because of his promise to appoint strict constructionists like Justice Scalia to the Supreme Court, assuring a halt to the perceived leftward drift of the Court in recent years.
There has never been only one way for committed Christians to vote. It is possible to “agree to disagree” precisely because the issues are so complex and much depends on how one prioritizes the most important ones we face. Is it more important to reverse Roe v. Wade or assure universal health care for all people? Is it more important to combat global warming and the negative effects of climate change or grow the economy to provide jobs for everyone who wants to work? We will have to “agree to disagree.”
One thing we can agree on is this: while it is important, as Christians, to work for a better world which more closely resembles the Kingdom of God, governments — no matter how dedicated and effective — will never usher in that Kingdom, that Commonwealth, that Reign of God. Only God can do that. (While I am sensitive to the patriarchal ring of the phrase Kingdom of God and often use the alternative ways of referring to it, I can’t get away from the deeply biblical use of “Kingdom” and am helped by biblical scholars from John Dominic Crossan to N.T. Wright who continue to remind us that — for Jesus — God is King…and Caesar is not!)
In my tradition, the way we are to live has not changed because of an election. The vows we took at our Baptism and/or Confirmation have not changed. And they are these:
- We are to continue to put our trust in the one God we have experienced in Jesus as Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
- We are to be obedient to the teaching of the apostolic church as we have received it in our tradition, particularly by our commitment to the community, to its sacramental life, and to prayer.
- We are to (non-violently) fight against evil as we perceive it and, when we fall short of the mark ourselves, ask for forgiveness.
- We are to be bold in sharing with others our experience of the loving God we see revealed in Jesus.
- We are to look for the image of God in every person, no matter how different they may be from us in background or ideology, and to love that image.
- We are to treat other people as we believe God would treat them and strive for the peace which will prevail if we respect one another’s inherent dignity, if we do unto them as we would have them do unto us. (See the Baptismal Covenant, Book of Common Prayer, pages 304-305)
As an example, we will have to be as critical of the Trump Administration’s likely punitive policies on undocumented immigrants as many of us were of the Obama Administration’s immoral use of drone strikes to kill suspected terrorists who had never been convicted in a court of law. You will be able to think of many more examples. A guiding prayer for us all might be this one for “The Human Family:”
O God, you have made us in your image and redeemed us through Jesus your Son: Look with compassion on the whole human family; take away the arrogance and hatred which infect our hearts; break down the walls that separate us; unite us in bonds of love; and work through our struggle and confusion to accomplish your purposes on earth; that, in your good time, all nations and races may serve you in harmony around your heavenly throne; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen (BCP, page 815)