I voted for Clinton this presidential election. I did so for various reasons, including that I wanted to do everything in my power to prevent Trump from taking office. California is a blue state with or without me, so voting was more expressive conduct than anything else, but it nevertheless expresses my convictions. My distaste for Trump has little to do with politics and is instead based on the following:
As a woman, I am heartbroken by Trump’s misogyny and sexism. I walk through life every day with a keen awareness of the gender inequality that pervades society. It is exhausting to be continually second guessed, dismissed and treated as less than, both personally and professionally, in overt and subtle ways, because of a second X chromosome. While society has made progress toward gender equality in recent decades, there is much more work to be done. In this regard, the election felt like a crushing setback because it showed me that America prefers an unqualified man over a qualified woman.
As a sexual abuse survivor, I find Trump’s objectification of women disgusting and unacceptable. While many of the most offensive behaviors and statements he made were from years ago, his attempt to minimize and normalize his words show me that his view of women as instruments that exist for his pleasure, and over which it is appropriate for him to exercise power and control, has changed little since then. This demeaning view of women seems to be shared by many of his supporters. I have seen them wearing “Hillary is a cunt” t-shirts, for example.
As a person of color, I am grieved by Trump’s racism and the racists who feel validated by his victory. Many Trump supporters have interpreted his win as a green light to terrorize people of color and purge them from society, as evidenced by the drawing of swastikas and messages like “Make America White again!” This is particularly objectionable to me because now-deceased members of my extended family were in Japanese internment camps in California and concentration camps in Germany during WWII. Their experiences are not a piece of history I wish to see repeated in any way, shape or form.
As a descendant of immigrants, I am deeply saddened by Trump’s attitude toward persons of other nationalities. Immigration is a part of my family’s story. Some of my relatives were prohibited from entering the United States because of the Chinese Exclusion Act, and my grandfather was a so-called “paper son” who feared deportation. So when Trump talks about building walls and deporting people, that hits home. I celebrate our country’s melting pot diversity as a strength, not a problem we should eliminate by erecting barriers and deporting people en masse.
All this is to say that the election left me feeling many emotions, including angry, disappointed, grieved and horrified. In the midst of my pain, I hoped our church would be a source of solace, encouragement, truth and hope. Instead, I have observed silence and inaction.
My small group leader asked all of our members to not talk about politics out of consideration for one person whose family member lost a local election race. I understand the origins of that request. But I felt let down by the fact that my small group was not proffered as an acceptable place to discuss any of my grief.
I would like to think of our faith community as a forum where people with divergent or even polar opposite ideas can nevertheless have civil discussion about the election, or at least about how they are feeling in the aftermath of it. I believe we are capable of a reasoned, non-judgmental conversation on this topic. Conversation carries the risk of allowing conflict to bubble up, but if we want to be authentic with one another, we have to take that risk over wholesale silence, which only conceals disunity.
Prohibiting discussion is not an effective approach if we want to create an emotionally safe atmosphere of inclusion that promotes meaningful dialogue. What message about Jesus and about Christians would it send to, for instance, Muslims exploring Christianity or undocumented immigrants if they came to our church in pain, searching for hope, wondering whether God believes their lives have value, and then they were told, “You can’t talk about that here”?
I have been rather disappointed with the church’s response to the election in general. While I certainly recognize that there is diversity of political ideology among our congregants, and that the church does not need to and perhaps should not take a hard stance on political issues or align itself with a particular party or person, I had hoped for more than “we’re Christians, so let’s love one another and everything will be OK” in Sunday’s sermon.
This election does not exist in isolation. Politics are politics, yes, but this election has unquestionably raised issues about sexism, racism and xenophobia, among others, which are social ills that exist independently of politics and that affect all of us, regardless of whether/how we voted. We cannot compartmentalize the goings-on of American politics from the rest of our lives, including our faith, if we are to live “in but not of” the world.
The leaders of our church have been glaringly silent this past month. I have not heard any authentic acknowledgment of the election-induced pain, confusion, or fear people may be feeling right now, or any affirmation that sexism, racism, etc. are wrong, irrespective of politics. The church seems to have glossed over the election, its effects and potential consequences.
I have no interest in being part of a church that is going to sit on the sidelines, remain silent in the face of injustice, and sidestep messiness that is affecting the members of its community. From my perspective, our church has utterly failed to be relevant insofar as this election was concerned.
Please share your thoughts about all this. I need to know if everyone is going to give me canned, cliche Christian responses and tiptoe around politics, or if there is a genuine willingness at our church to grapple with these very relevant issues.