Sunday, November 13, 2016

Election 2016 - Compassion for the Fearful

Christ commanded us to love our enemies. How much more, then, should we love those who aren't our enemies, but with whom we merely vehemently disagree about almost everything?

St. Paul told us not to destroy the faith of others, to not insist on our rights, but rather to place others above ourselves.

The Bible is full of exhortations of mercy and compassion. Jesus taught by his divine example that love (which must necessarily include love for our enemies) is sacrificial. He suffered and died for those who mocked him, flogged him and spit on him.

Jesus had many hard teachings.  He expanded the definitions of murder and adultery. He called for meekness, humility, compassion, sacrifice; the taking up of our cross.


Presidential elections seem to present a real challenge to our being Christ-like.

It's not exactly a state secret to those who know me that I was vehemently opposed to both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump. So, I feel like while many on the two sides continue to shout at, or past, each other, I can understand both sides to some extent. Both sides are right about some things and wrong about others. Neither side is 100% right nor 100% wrong. Accepting that reality is a good first step toward moving forward. Take all the time you need. I'll wait.

Now, when I see people gripped by fears that they and others in their various identity groups are entering a period of darkness and oppression, that they even fear for their personal safety, I don't think those fears are invalid after the excesses of the campaign. But even as someone repulsed by the excesses of Trump and some of his supporters, I do think those fears are exaggerated. Some will say that's easy for me, a safe, white Christian male, to say. I'll concede that, and will gladly refrain from Trumpsplaining, or explaining to you how you feel or what it's like for you to be who you are.  But I will say that there is such a thing as objective truth, and whether a thing is true or not does not depend on how easy it is to say. Even a scoundrel can speak truth. And if you know me, I'll ask you if you really think privilege precludes empathy and compassion, because if you do, I'm saddened by your low view of me.

Anyway, there are a number of reasons I think the present fears are exaggerated, quite apart from my privilege. I won't go into them here, as those with those fears don't really want to hear explaining right now.  They need to work through their feelings. This fits in with my goal of doing more listening and thinking. I was going to add "and less talking," but here I am, talking, and talking, and talking. You can't have it all, people.

At long last, here's my point. If people are expressing fears we disagree with, it's okay to comfort and encourage them, if that's what they want. But if we just want to discount, to minimize, to justify, to argue, then remember, silence is golden. If we feel that the fearful ones are snowflakes that need to be toughened up for their own sake, fear not - if necessary, life will do that for them without our assistance. If you don't care about the person, shut up and go away. If you do care about them, shut up and stay.

If we think they're the enemy, I think we need to put down the politics and back away slowly. But at the very least, remember that thing about loving our enemies. And remember that love isn't a feeling, but an act of the will. Act in love, even if you're not feeing it. Jesus probably didn't have warm and fuzzy feelings as he was committing the ultimate act of love on the Cross. Be merciful as He is merciful to us.

This isn't about those committing violence and hate with Trump as an excuse. What they hate is America, and democracy when it doesn't give them the result they want. They'll get no defense from me, no matter how righteous they think their rage is.

And it's not about politics, but about filtering our politics through the Gospel if we believe we can't compartmentalize our Christianity, but must make all our thoughts and deeds captive to Christ, that the Gospel must permeate our lives and thoughts and deeds, that we died with Him to live in Him, that in Him we live and move and have our being.

It isn't easy.

But this is how we be the face of Christ to those those who are hurting and feel marginalized, because they have, rightly, or mistakenly, internalized what they believe to be hateful messages from Trump and many of his supporters. From the point of view of Christian ethics, if we're going to be skeptical of people's fears in the wake of the election, it's incumbent on us to 1) have compassion for them and 2) work to make sure their fears are never realized. Instead of telling them they're wrong, work quietly and lovingly to ensure they are and will remain so.

Speaking of Jesus, Matthew 12:20 says "a bruised reed he will not break..." and I am positive he never sneeringly called anyone the Aramaic equivalent of a "special snowflake." Filter any objection you have toward this through the Gospel. You may cringe at what you perceive to be the virtue-signalling of the safety pin, but the meaning behind it (I will protect you) is unassailable, isn't it? I may not wear a safety pin, but shame on me if I don't defend someone who needs defending.



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