I Finally Understand

To date, I have found two things for which to thank Donald Trump:

  1. For the first time in years, some Republicans broke ranks during the election and engaged in something which could be interpreted as bi-partisan activity. Once upon a time, the Democrats held a position and the Republicans held a position, and the two sides got together to find a working compromise that was good for America. It’s been years since that’s happened, which has not been good for America. Strength comes from standing on common ground, not from polarizing issues.
  2. I finally understand why folks wield the Word of God like a weapon against those who hold positions contrary to their own.

I tend to think God speaks to each of us in a voice we can hear and understand. I also tend to take St. Paul quite literally when he writes (in Romans and I Corinthians) about the body having many parts. My bone-deep acceptance of this has been reinforced by personal experience: I have also seen the way folks with different skills and perspectives can contribute to a common good.

In addition, some of the finest people I know hold political opinions that are different than my own. I can’t say I understand their perspective, but I can say that knowing them, I trust they are voting for what they believe is best. Since — as I just said — I believe we contribute to the common good because of our differences, I trust their judgment.

However, in the past couple weeks, I’ve had to delete whole sections of blogs I’ve written. I have lifted verses from the gospels I love, and I have bludgeoned Trump supporters with them, laying out with logic that was irrefutable — to me — how they had transgressed the Word of God. And then, I remembered some of the folks I love who are good — truly good — church-going people who love God every bit as much as I do, and (in all likelihood) voted for Trump, and I have deleted those passages.

It shocks me and it shames me that I have resorted to a practice I abhor!

Jesus said quite clearly and irrevocably, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce, you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get” (Matt. 7:1-2, RSV). It’s a constant battle for me not to slip into the habits of my childhood home, where my dad’s unspoken rule of thumb seemed to be: “If you can’t belittle someone, don’t bother opening your mouth.” However, I fight that battle because I believe we should treat all people with respect whether we like them or not.

And yet, for the past couple weeks, I’ve been so overwhelmed by helplessness and grief that I didn’t have the energy to fight that battle. Even worse, I have been tempted to use something I love to injure others. I understand now how helpless and vulnerable those who bash others with the Word must feel. They think that if God is on their side, their opinions will matter more, their fears will be justified, and they will find a safe place on which to stand.

But, it really doesn’t work that way. God loves all of us, but he did not create us with cookie cutters. He created us to be unique and different, and that means we’re going to find ourselves encountering people and situations which are uncomfortable sometimes. We can only increase our comfort at these times by placing our trust in God; attacking others will only increase our discomfort. I know this, and I am grateful I’ve found enough peace in recent days to remember this, but I’m also grateful I’ve learned a lesson that will increase my compassion.

I reserve the right to disagree with those who actually believe Trump has something positive to offer our nation, and I reiterate my commitment to bear witness to his presidency. However, as we move  relentlessly toward what I suspect will be one of the darkest periods in our nation’s history, I will pray every day for the grace to be a beacon of light and only light. I will pray every day for the grace to write honestly, but not hatefully. I will pray every day for the grace to love all of my neighbors — all of them, not just those who agree with me.

And, I will pray for the grace to place my trust in God.