Throughout the hellish week that was Election Week, some Christians relied on numerous platitudes to help navigate the various emotions and tensions they struggled with. One common platitude, mentioned by Christians across the political and theological spectrum, focused on God’s sovereignty.
I saw numerous Facebook posts, Instagram memes, and tweets expressing a variation of “No matter what happens, no matter who is elected, God is in control.”
On the surface, I can see why claiming God is in control provides comfort for some people.
If God is in control of everything that occurs that means that God has a plan and eventually things will work out. No need to lose hope.
And for some Christians, the idea that God is in control provides them with the motivation to continue fighting against injustice, knowing and believing that eventually compassion and justice will prevail.
But too often the platitude that God is in control becomes a way of silencing those who are speaking out about the pain, suffering, and injustice they have experienced in a society marred by white supremacy, sexism, and various other forms of oppression. Especially in this election, when so much was at stake for Black and brown people, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and disabled people, being told not to worry because God is in control, provided very little comfort.
In fact, intentionally or not the platitude regarding God’s control and authority, came across as dismissing the very real anxiety and fear that the most marginalized and vulnerable groups in society felt at the thought of another Trump presidency.
What does it mean to say God is in control when 238,000 people died in the US from COVID?
What does it mean to say God is in control when white supremacists’ militias are threatening to spark a race war?
What does it mean to say God is in control when police officers continue to murder with impunity unarmed Black and brown men and women in broad daylight and on camera?
What does it mean to say God is in control when thousands of Americans are facing hunger and homelessness as they struggle to pay their bills?
Simply saying, “God is in control” does nothing to mitigate the fact that in the here and now people are suffering and dying. People are struggling now. People need help now.
The idea that God is in control should not be turned into a cliché used to shut down difficult conversations.
Nor should it be an excuse for inaction.
Instead, what if we framed the idea of God’s sovereignty as an open invitation to really grapple with the pain and messiness of life?
What if instead of framing God as a puppet master pulling all the strings and controlling every single thing that happens, we view God as inviting us to work with God to create the future we so desperately desire?
What if, in lieu of reducing the idea of God’s authority to a simple platitude, we focus on how God has instead called and empowered each and every one of us to work towards creating a more just and equitable world?
What if, rather than imagining a God that calls all the shots while we sit around helpless, we recognize that all the pain and injustice in the world are not the result of some preordained plan but because we, as a society, as a global community have made intentional and strategic choices regarding which lives we deem to be valuable.
Instead of laying all the blame or responsibility on God we recognize that we too are responsible for creating the world that we want.
When the projected election results were announced on Saturday November 7, 2020 many of us-at least many BIPOC received the news we desperately hoped to hear-no second term for Trump.
We celebrated and recognized that the ouster of Trump did not occur because people did nothing while repeating the mantra “oh well God is in control.”
Biden was elected because people mailed in ballots and stood in line for hours to vote.
People went out to the streets and organized disenfranchised voters.
People made phone calls and sent text messages urging their fellow citizens to vote.
Pastors and religious leaders encouraged their parishioners to love and care for their neighbor and those with extra cash donated money to grassroots organizations.
Many of us do not have the privilege to simply say, “God is in control, no need to worry.” Our lives are on the line and we have no choice but to actively work to create a better world.
We express our faith not by saying, “God is in control” and leaving it at that but through our actions.
We believe that when we demand that cops stop killing us and that we be treated as human beings’ worthy of life, love, and respect that we are working with God.
And we have hope that our efforts will produce results.
Continuing to fight for a world where Black Lives Matter, where disabled people are cherished and not viewed as burdens, where Indigenous people are not continually harassed and bullied by the state for trying to protect their land, where members of the LGBTQ+ community can be who they are without fearing they will be fired or killed, is an act of faith.