The head of the Wesleyan Church, the denomination in which I served for 34 years, has written an excellent post-election reflection. While he wrote it for Wesleyans, it is fantastic advice for all Christians.
I am glad I did not vote for either candidate in the presidential election as it gives me more latitude to comment on it. My brother Allen (a Bernie Sanders fan) posted the link to this article on his Facebook page. It is one of the best articles I have read for understanding the election. It does not hit everything, but it covers some of the main topics that are not usually addressed.
Add to this article two additional dimensions and then I believe you will have a pretty complete picture of what fueled Trump’s victory. One dimension relates to Obama’s and Clinton’s identification with and exacerbation of the culture wars. This is what pushed the religious right into an uncomfortable corner. As a whole, I believe they did not like Trump but could not stomach a promised worsening of Obama’s cultural affronts under a second Clinton administration. Secondly, I believe one probably needs to factor in Democratic opposition to NRA positions. I believe that stances in both of these issues would likely follow similar urban/rural geography to the election returns, strengthening the end result.
As I was meditating this morning, thoughts came to me concerning further helpful ways to cope with this election.
Grieve the losses
Grief is a process given to us to help us navigate loss. Today we are more insulated from grief and the associated natural process of recovery because death is much less with us, thankfully, than in previous generations. But there are times, like now, that we need to understand grief better. We also need to know that we grieve for all types of losses, including the kinds associated with this election. For example; there is no doubt as evidenced by the news every day that there’s been a loss in respect for minorities among some because of the election. Also, the principle of respect for women has suffered a loss by the elevation of one who has disrespected women. How do we react? Feelings of denial, sadness, anger (both focused and projected), and second-guessing ourselves and others are normal parts of grieving. Learning to handle our grief in healthy ways is part of the human experience.
Look for the balanced perspective
For those on the Democratic side, remember that anytime a candidate wins the popular vote while losing the Electoral College, it is a sign that the election was very close. Any time a candidate wins as strongly among younger people as Clinton did, it is a strong sign for future elections. Democrats have some things to feel good about too. For Republicans, to gloat is arrogant and counter-productive. A strong majority of urban Americans voted against you and they live in the most influential centers of the country. The Bible urges humility. Humility is a lost virtue today and suffered further loss in this election. But humility helps immensely in human relations. Unfortunately, on-screen it is usually wrongly mistaken for weakness. I would caution us to look for the balanced perspective in our circumstances.
Do not return evil for evil
One of the Bible’s most famous sayings is, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil” (Rom 12:17). Just because the election featured rude, crude, and obnoxious conversation, is no excuse for us to join that party. “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good (Rom 12:21). While Hillary Clinton’s embrace of the “nasty woman” epithet may have been a shrewd debate move, “nasty” is not exactly a winsome characteristic. But kindness is. Donald Trump’s past behavior and attitudes are a problem, not something to be emulated. But if we copy the worst elements of leaders, we magnify the difficulties. If we repay evil for evil we become part of the problem, not part of the healing solution. Instead, “pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance, and gentleness” (1 Tim. 6:11).
Be thankful for what is good
I, for one, am very glad that Thanksgiving follows this election. It will be very healthy for us all if we can get our minds off the divisions and contentious issues of the election and step back and be genuinely thankful for the blessings that we have. It will lessen our stress, it will lower our collective blood pressure, and will help us to have a better emotional and mental foundation for the cooperation in daily life and in government that the people of this land desire and deserve.
All Scriptures from Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2001 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved.
In the wake of a disturbing election how do we cope? Here are a few suggestions from a long-time pastor.
Do not live in fear.
One of the most prominent messages from God to his people in the Bible is simply yet powerfully this; “Do not be afraid!” These exact words occur 74 times in the current NIV translation. The words were spoken in times more uncertain than ours. While this election has elicited fear on all sides for multiple reasons, it is the heritage of believers in all times to “trust and not be afraid” (Isa. 12:2). As Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). Our hope is always in God, not a person or a political process. And when we feel threatened, we look to God for our hope and strength to overcome.
Do something fun
Jesus himself recognized that we needed times to get away from the stress of thinking about things like elections (Mark 6:31). Sabbath rests and time of exercise or recreation help us to keep our perspectives wholesome and they lift our emotions too. Personally, I like to take a long walk in the nearby forest preserve.
Stand firm in your own life for what is good.
One of the most disturbing things to me about this election cycle has been that it has seemed to further legitimize the rude, the crude and the divisive in America. Both parties set new lows in negative advertising. So all of us face a challenge afterwards as to what our vison is for our country and what our behavior will be. Will we be part of the decline or part of the recovery? For Christians, our course is clear. “Show proper respect to everyone” (1 Peter 2:17). “Do not let any unwholesome talk come out of your mouths, but only what is helpful for building others up according to their needs, that it may benefit those who listen” (Eph. 4:29). This is a high calling that affects how we use language to emphasize a point or express anger, what movies we approve, what jokes we tell, how we speak about those with whom we disagree, who we choose as heroes and stars, and how we treat those different from us. Let us be “eager to do what is good” (Tit. 2:14).
A pastor friend of mine referred to this verse this morning in a post. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labor in vain” (Ps 127:1). No matter who is in charge on this earth, peace and blessing are ultimately God’s gifts. This November is also a good time to remember one of our basic prayer verses, “Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:6-7). Pray especially for our president elect whether we like him or not. If you like him, pray that God will use his strengths to benefit all. If you don’t like him, pray that God will protect the country from his weaknesses. (The same prayers could be prayed for every public servant.) Pray for the government transition in the US as well.
There is a time for everything
For younger voters especially, I would encourage a little of the perspective of Solomon. “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun” (Eccl 1:9). I recall a conversation eight years ago after Obama’s first victory. It was a chat between a fervent Republican and a strong Democrat. The Democrat said pointedly to the Republican, “Well, if we can survive eight years of George H. W. Bush, you can survive eight years of Obama.” I thought of that comment again last night as one of the commentators mentioned that it is extremely rare in American history for a party to hold the presidency more than eight years running. There seems to be a cycle that occurs regularly in our sturdy democracy. The pendulum swings repeatedly. I have seen enough elections now to have observed that swing multiple times and I agree. This is why parties in America go back to work and start thinking about next time, like sports teams planning for the next season.
All verses from Holy Bible, New International Version®. NIV®. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984, 2001 by Biblica, Inc.™ Used by permission. All rights reserved.
Most people I talk to are agreed — this is the worst presidential election that they ever remember. People aren’t for a candidate, they just hate one less than the other or think one less dangerous than the other. How is a person to decide what to do in this sorry election? Personally, I have decided to protest by not voting for either one. Here is why.
1. I recall John Maxwell saying, “Everything rises and falls on leadership.” Conservative Christians like me are being urged to vote for Trump because the Republican platform is more to our liking, etc. But if the leader cannot be relied upon to carry out the agenda, the platform is useless. Trump reminds me of a salesman with empty words. He says himself that he tells people what they want to hear. I can’t vote for a man like that.
2. It is time America returned to an emphasis on character in leadership. Neither Clinton nor Trump are people of high character. They are the most distrusted candidates I ever remember. From the moment Trump opened his mouth in debate 1 with a modus operandi of slander, I knew his character was suspect. Normally I am a pragmatist, able to go for the better of two choices. But in this case, neither leader meets the minimum standard of good character.
3. I am not inclined to vote for Clinton to begin with because the strong pro-abortion values she espouses [among others] are not my values. I have great sympathy for immigrant rights, traditionally seen as a Democratic value, and also with the value of helping the poor, but I’m not convinced Clinton would actually work on either one.
4. It is time the parties received a protest vote. It is a protest against the lack of a viable political middle ground in 2016 American politics. It is a protest against the idea that a party can put up some reality show star who has name recognition and expect thinking people to vote for him. It is a protest that says, there is not a candidate offered that I respect enough to vote for them. As a voter, my vote has to have some integrity—some correspondence, some kinship between the values I espouse, the vision I have for my country, and the candidate I vote for.
My protest vote
So what will I do? To not vote, to not participate in the election at all, I consider irresponsible. As a citizen it is my duty to vote. So I will be at the polls, God willing and cast a vote of some kind. I will vote in all the races too. But for the presidential race, I will be writing in the name of a candidate that I consider qualified and of high character. It will be an act of protest against the quality of the two candidates we are offered by the major parties this year.
This is one of the big questions of the 2016 election. It is also one of the hidden problems that needs to be solved if American democracy is going to thrive again. I found this video article that helps explain how it happened. It makes good sense.
The next question is, “What can we do about it.”
1. More Americans need to vote in primaries. Primaries are very influential. It is intellectually tempting to be an “independent.” But the number of people who are uninvolved in primaries is part of the problem. I was an independent myself for several years until I realized the power of the primaries. Then I registered for a major party so I could express myself in the primaries. I can still vote for whomever I choose in the general election.
2. Primary voters need to keep “elect-ability” in mind when casting their ballots. Primary voters who vote for extreme, irascible or unqualified candidates who will be greatly handicapped in the general election are asking for their candidate to lose in the general election. Primary voters must strike a balance between where they stand and how electable the candidate is. And the farther to the left or right a voter is the more they need to think this way. To fail to do so is to endanger the chances of the party of your primary in the general election as is happening to both parties this year. This year it is obvious that either party would have had a cakewalk with a moderate candidate. If two moderate candidates had been put forward, we could have had a real democratic election.
3. This year’s Republican process is making a case for some kind of “vetting” by major parties in order to run in their primaries. A major party should not be put in a position as the Republicans were this year where a person they cannot truly support squeaks through with popular vote. But there is danger with this idea too as it opens the way for power player control and cronyism in the vetting process.
The fact that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the two least trusted candidates in the primary season, are running as candidates of the major parties shows that the American primary system is not working. No doubt one of the chief causes is the debate system. The linked article proposes some good solutions for amending the debate process. This is the kind of discussion our country needs to be having. Unfortunately, it looks like we are going to be stuck with one of these two undesirables in 2016. But if we plan, perhaps we can have a better outcome in 2020.
In the midst of this woeful campaign season where more Americans dislike their candidates than ever before, one wonders about a way to a solution. The system seems broken. Here’s a commentary that I found very hopeful.
My least favorite candidates are winning
At the start of the political process leading up to the primaries, I ranked the candidates according to my own ideas about who was the best qualified and most preferable for me. Unfortunately, and from news reports I am far from alone, the two people who were at the bottom of my original list are at this point the likely candidates of the two major parties. And Trump who was at the absolute bottom of the list is the presumed candidate of the party of which I am a registered voter. Yuck, ten times ugly yuck, gag and puke. Can you tell yet that I am not a fan of his slander sideshow?
Neither Clinton nor Trump are the person I think should be President
I greatly dislike Clinton’s positions and there are ethical shadows following her too. Am I alone in such opinions? Absolutely not. “Clinton is rich, and morally and ethically corrupt. So is Trump,” writes Jonah Goldberg (http://digitaledition.courant.com/launch.aspx?pbid=e1bdb9a0-d9e0-4569-842b-54331efd8091).
As for Trump, I like Jeb Bush’s reported comment. Is Trump the kind of person who should be President? “Donald Trump has not demonstrated that temperament or strength of character,” Jeb Bush said. “And, he is not a consistent conservative. These are all reasons why I cannot support his candidacy” (http://www.bbc.com/news/election-us-2016-36234318). I totally agree. Trump says what he finds convenient at the moment and has no principles about sticking to his word.
How did we elect Trump to represent Republicans?
I have been reflecting on this. How does it happen that the grand old party is set to nominate someone that has the highest negative ratings in history, someone with no qualifications for the office, and someone who does not fit the mold of previous candidates morally or culturally in any way?
- The primary system was skewed by Trump’s media sideshow. Stats show that from the beginning, Trump received way more mentions on media that any other candidate of either party did. He has received interview privileges that even the President does not get. In the Sunday edition of the Hartford Courant that I referenced, Bill Press on the left and Jonah Goldberg on the right come at the same idea from different angles; the media loves Trump for the show and the attention it gets the media and the public like something exciting and out of the ordinary. If memory serves, John Kasich in the first debate opined something like, “Come on people, we need someone who knows how to run a government.” It was what I was thinking as I watched. Such a common-sense idea was too levelheaded for the media so they quickly dismissed Kasich as petulant and uninteresting. Never mind that he was right. Duh!
- Americans have been taught in recent years to base their opinions on performance first, rather than character first. Many years ago colleges washed their hands of any responsibility for the moral and spiritual welfare of their students and focused only on subjects. One result is we have many graduates with great skills who crash on the job because of ethical failures. In hiring, interviewers are forbidden to ask questions that might get to the issue of character so companies widely use probational employment periods to see whether an employee is honest, shows up for work regularly, etc. The upshot of this downplaying of character is that we apparently now evaluate our political candidates sans character, I guess. It would be sad if it weren’t actually dangerous.
- Many voters are fed up with Congress and career politicians. The inability of Congress to get things done, the lack of viable compromise, the perpetual national budget mess, and the low moral tone in DC all have led to voters looking toward outsiders like Trump and Carson. The last Congress had one of the lowest confidence ratings on record. Part of Sander’s appeal is also his perceived greater independence from the Washington circle. When career politicians are found to be morally or ethically corrupt, it reduces respect for others, even those who have integrity.
- Trump channeled the fear and anger of people in our country in true demagogue style. Even people who are not racist are worried about the sheer numbers of immigrants. Since 9/11 Americans find it hard not to be a little suspicious of Muslims. So Trump’s tactic is working big-time. But a true leader has an inner moral framework and a long view of history that guide how they approach subjects that divide people like discussions about the US southern border or racism in our country, subjects that evoke fear like immigration from Syria. I have observed no evidence of such a framework in what Trump says, only a crass trading on the fears and distrusts of the populace for his own benefit. He shows no long historical view, for example, no sense of the impression of the Republican Party that he is leaving for the future; he seems only to look out for his immediate political windfall. Never mind that the country is fast becoming a much more multi-cultural place and that the birth rates of immigrants will probably only accelerate that trend. So if the Republican Party wants to remain viable, it cannot be primarily a party of angry white males and must learn to appeal to the people he is alienating.
What do we do now?
- As a Christian, the first thing I am doing is praying for my country. We believe in the sovereignty of God who rules and overrules, who puts rulers in place and removes them. So I am praying for my country in this election cycle as never before.
- As a voter I am among those who cannot see themselves voting with a clear conscience for either Trump or Clinton. And I really don’t see that opinion being altered by vice-presidential picks either.
- Yet I believe that as a citizen I need to use my vote to express myself. I, along with others who feel as I do, will be exploring ways to do this.
I read this speech by Paul Ryan. It is an excellent commentary on the ideals of the American political system