Sorry, I Don’t Feel Your Pain

The election was not about Christian theology or practice; it was politics. That's all it was. Just politics.

Two weeks ago the Florida Gators defeated the Georgia Bulldogs. I did not feel the pain of the Bulldogs, not because I lack Christian compassion, but because they are Bulldogs and I am a Gator. Last week the Texas A&M Aggies put a big time beating on the Gators. The grief I felt was football grief, and I did not ask the Aggies to feel my pain. 

 

Donald Trump was the last of the Republican possibilities I wanted to see nominated as my Party’s candidate for President. Once he was nominated, I was certain that he would lose. I thought his defeat would lead to the loss of Republican control of the Senate and possibly to Republican control of the House. I expected post-defeat infighting to break out in the Party and wondered whether or when the Party would rebuild itself and compete for the Presidency again.

I told my wife that once we passed Labor Day I did not want to watch news and political analysis on television. I would find it too depressing and anxiety producing. On election night, I, recovering from a total knee replacement a few days before, went to bed very early, figuring I could wake up and hear that Mrs. Clinton had won rather than stay up and watch her victory unfold. But I had a restless night, woke up, and found myself unable to sleep at 11:00. So I got up, turned on the TV, and watched the Trump victory unfold.

For a long period after Trump was nominated I was very doubtful I would vote for him. I was embarrassed by him. I wondered about his competence to serve as Commander-in-Chief. Could I do what I had never done and vote for a Democrat for President? Would I “throw my vote away” and vote for a third Party candidate? Perhaps I would not cast a vote for President.

But slowly in fits and starts I came to the decision that I could and would vote for Trump. Why? I did what a lot of voters do on Election Day. I came home. I toyed with the other possibilities, but, as a lifelong Republican, I decided I would not leave home. I’d vote for my Party’s candidate and hope for the best (though I still felt certain he would lose).

I would like you to notice that I did not study the Scriptures or pray for guidance till I felt I knew what God wanted me to do. I did not vote for Trump to advance the cause of the Kingdom of God. I voted as a citizen of the United States and a member of the Republican Party. I did what I thought would be best for the country and my Party. Might I have made a mistake? Yes. Might I come to regret my vote? Yes. But did I sin or avoid sin by my vote? No.

This brings me to the feelings of distress being expressed by some evangelicals about the 80% of white evangelicals who voted for Trump. Thabiti Anyabwile wonders “what rough beast, its hour come round at last, slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?”: “Congratulations white evangelicalism on your candidate’s win. I do not understand you and I think you just sealed some awful fate.” Jemar Tisby invokes the lamentations of Job and Jeremiah to give expression to the anguish he and others feel. Muta Mwenya finds the election of Trump evokes a cry from his heart for the apocalypse now: “We win at the consummation of all things in Christ Jesus our King. That is my only consolation in these quiet hours of the night. Donald Trump is president. Even so, come Lord Jesus.” Mike Higgins raises the possibilities of real or metaphorical civil wars as a consequence of Trump’s election: “Pray that we don’t have an active aggressive civil war on our hands in the country. Protests or civil disobediences that raise the visibility or volume over what’s being abuse, ignored or forgotten in our country may be warranted, but the church should be present in these events to keep the event at a manageable ‘temperature.’ Pray that we don’t have a passive aggressive, clandestine civil war on our hands in the US Church. Pray that gains in Racial Reconciliation are not lost. If the numbers are right, there is a definite split between Black and White Evangelicals…”

As these brothers see it, the reality is this: Blacks and other minorities have experienced abuse. Blacks in particular can identify with Israel, an enslaved and abused minority in Egypt. Unfortunately white evangelical Christians have themselves been the abusers of African Americans or failed to speak up against their abuse. White evangelicals have aligned themselves with the Republican Party which has not been sympathetic with the concerns of minorities but rather has become a home of racists and nationalists. Lately, however, there has been progress as black and white Christians have worked toward racial reconciliation. But this election has exposed the reality that white evangelicals have not come so far as black evangelicals hoped. The black minority feel they have been betrayed by white evangelicals who voted for Trump.

Thabiti Anyabwile describes the problem:

At 80 percent, white evangelicalism en masse sided with Mr. Trump over and against the concerns of fellow evangelicals weary of his alienating and divisive rhetoric and campaign promises. Based on correspondence during the campaign and following the election, it seems clear to me that that voting decision will likely put a deep chill on efforts at reconciliation and co-belligerence in the culture. For many, evangelicals expressed solidarity (again) with some of the worst aspects of American history and culture while abandoning brothers and sisters of like precious faith. Coming back from that may be difficult.

The perspective of these brothers is the same as that of Falwell, Kennedy, Criswell, and the Moral Majority. They were on God’s side, and God was on their side. Their champion was Ronald Reagan. The election of Reagan moved forward the cause of Christ and his kingdom.

These brothers believe that God is on their side and they on God’s. Their cause(s) is the cause of the kingdom of God. To them Trump was not just someone they disagreed with but the enemy of the kingdom of God. The 80% of white evangelicals who voted for Trump voted against the interests of the kingdom of God, betrayed their black brothers and sisters (who ask, “How could you?”), and proved themselves unreliable allies in the righteous causes highest on the list of black priorities.

All this was hogwash in the days of Falwell, and it’s all hogwash today. This is not about Christian theology or practice. It’s politics. That’s all it is. Just politics. The joy that the Moral Majority felt when Reagan triumphed was not righteous joy but political joy. The grief felt by these black brothers is not righteous grief but political grief. The reason most white evangelicals voted for Trump is that most white evangelicals are conservatives and Republicans. The reason these black evangelical brothers feel betrayed is because they are liberals and Democrats.

Two weeks ago the Florida Gators defeated the Georgia Bulldogs. I did not feel the pain of the Bulldogs, not because I lack Christian compassion, but because they are Bulldogs and I am a Gator. Last week the Texas A&M Aggies put a big time beating on the Gators. The grief I felt was football grief, and I did not ask the Aggies to feel my pain.

Now, if you are licking your wounds because the Democrat candidate lost and the Republican candidate won, I understand your feelings. Been there, done that many times. But your pain is political. Sorry, but l don’t feel it. The candidate I decided was best for the interests of the country and my party won.

Bill Smith is a minister in the Reformed Episcopal Church. He is a writer and contributor to a number of Reformed journals and resides in Roanoke, Va. This article appeared on his blog and is used with permission.