How to Win an Election in Which Everybody is a Loser
It's going to happen. It's really, really going to happen. Unless something crazy turns up, a week from now, we're going to have one of two terrifically bad candidates as our new President elect.
As this uncomfortable truth has been settling in, most of us have been asking questions about the changes either candidate might bring to our lives. We've worried about the Supreme Court, health insurance premiums, gun rights, religious liberties, the economy--and those are important considerations. We've been weighing pros and cons, looking for the best case of two bad case scenarios.
Yet as Christians, we can also make additional preparations to help those around us in the upcoming months. And because of the nature and platform of each candidate, we might be able to look along the trajectory of the core emotions and policies each candidate feeds and begin to pray that God would make our hearts and souls ready to tend the cultural needs that are likely to surface no matter who wins on November 8.
Of course, we don't want to prepare in a way that negates dependence on the Holy Spirit. Jesus told his disciples, "When they arrest you, do not worry about what to say or how to say it. At that time you will be given what to say." (I don't mean that we're going to suddenly start being arrested for our faith. My emphasis here is on our constant need to rely upon the indwelling God in difficult times.) But Peter also advocated readiness when he wrote, "Always ready to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope you have." So perhaps we can do a little of this latter sort of heart-prep as we consider the next few years of our earthly citizenship.
Below are some of my thoughts. Depending on the part of the country in which you live, and depending on the circles in which you run, this plan may differ some from person to person. I am not asking you to adopt my plan; but maybe looking at some of my thoughts will help you develop ideas of your own? At least for me, something about thinking like this helps bring hope and focus during chaos.
I. If Trump wins, am I prepared to be KIND?
A. Am I willing to live against his campaign's zeitgeist of hateful, fear-based, dismissive rhetoric and engage with the non-believing world with fair, calm, responsible words and thoughts? How can I be a lighthouse in the storm that he and his followers have exacerbated?
B. How will I find ways to listen to the stories of the marginalized and care about injustice they have experienced? How can I move away from categorical dismissal of "people like that" and start to live in compassion for men and woman created in God's image? Am I willing to look for ways to serve them and help their stories be heard? Am I willing to take time to get involved instead of just blaming and ignoring them because they are different from me?
C. Am I willing to engage with women in a way that acknowledges that they have worth beyond their sexuality? Am I willing to see the gender prejudices deeply embedded in our culture and do what I can to help women move from objectification to a place of mutual respect? When friends of mine make comments or life decisions that belittle females, am I willing to be honest about what I see instead of perpetuating the problem with my silence?
D. Am I willing to take a hard look at damage done to American Christianity by politicization? Will I pull my donations and my allegiance away from religious leaders and organizations that valued politics more than faith when forced to choose between them? And will I begin instead to help with causes and pastors who have taught that the gospel produces real social change when a living God dwelling within a living soul starts transforming individuals and communities instead of primarily by to-down legislative power?
E. Will I have the courage to love those groups often considered enemies to conservative politics? Will I begin to pray for them seriously? Will I begin to care what happens to their souls instead of just caring about how they might restrict my life and resources? Atheists? Homosexuals? Muslims? Abortionists? Which people groups cause a knee-jerk reaction in me? What has Christ told me to do for those I consider opponents?
II. If Clinton wins, am I prepared to be BRAVE?
A. Am I willing to continue to do hard things with a grateful and trusting heart as my freedom constricts? In what spirit will I accept hardship? Will I trust God when I am hurt physically or emotionally for my faith? Will I continue to sing hymns and praise God like Paul did in prison, or will I attempt to look like a martyr and find ways to manipulate the news so that I can complain about Christian oppression?
B. Am I willing to continue to speak truth if my culture begins to villainize orthodoxy? When it is considered a threat to share what I know is true, will I continue to share it? How will I do this? When pressure to approve of what God declares wrong increases, will I hold to what is eternal or conform to what is passing?
C. As abortion becomes more and more prevalent, how will I care for pregnant women in crisis? How will I care for women who did not have abortions but who made the hard choice to keep inconvenient babies? How will I tend women who have been so deeply damaged by abortions that they are now emotionally incapacitated? Am I willing to adopt or foster unwanted children, even if this is costly economically, relationally, spiritually?
D. As attacks are launched against the church of Jesus, am I willing to give more of myself to the body of Christ? If tax benefits are reduced, if opposition rises against telling the truth about what the Bible says, will I dig deeper into my community of faith and find ways to support the mission? Will I be loyal? Will I be forgiving and mature? Will I give more heartily than I have ever given before?
E. As our country's safety is increasingly compromised to hostile exterior forces, will I find ways to be a good steward of everything I own to help with the communal good? How can I be a refuge to those who are in need in times of crisis? Am I prepared to host displaced American families? Do I have training in disaster preparedness? Am I ready to offer physical provisions to those who are hungry, battered, cold?
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Some of these possibilities may be extreme. However, in a time when so many of us are being stoked by terror-driven "what if's," there might be some benefit to accepting the worst possibilities and then engaging with those possibilities as potential givers instead of as reactionaries.
One of my favorite family stories is told about my great grandmother. During the Depression, she wandered through the woods to collect edible wild greens for hungry families who had lots of children. She thought the nutrients would be good for the little ones, and this was one way she could continue to be generous when there was so little to give.
By this sort of thinking, we can live a purposeful life, even if dark times are ahead. We can make the most of what is to come and spread the gospel by good deeds. We can let our light shine on a hill and provide hope and resources, no matter which candidate sits in the Oval Office.