to my Christian brothers & sisters saying “get over it and give Trump a chance.”

IMG_1097 (1)First of all—hi. Warmly. Because that’s how you’ve always greeted me—with love. Remember me? I’m Jen. You were a big brother or sister to me about a decade ago when I warily stepped into church—intrigued by Christ, frightened of Christians—and you shocked me with how kind you were and how closely you listened.

That one night—when we stood next to each other in church singing he loves us, oh how he loves us, he loves us all, and it felt like the very air was swimming with that love—I still experience a kind of residual wonder when I think of that.

Those weeks on end when we got together in our friend’s living room, lounging around eating too many cookies and Kahlua brownies and delving into the book of James—you were so honest about your own faults. You modeled humility for me.

Together we organized Thanksgiving dinner for that shelter, and you made five pounds of mashed potatoes. When I was pregnant, you put your hand on my belly and prayed for me. When I preached my first sermon, your hugs were fierce and your joy was real.

It’s been hard for me to read some of the things you’ve been posting on Facebook as we approached Inauguration Day.

Get over it already.

Shut up and stop whining. 

Or Grow up, protestors.

Or If you don’t like it, leave.

Or milder, but still hard to read: We need to move forward. Just wait and see. Give Trump a chance.

The few and quiet thoughts I offer here are not a comeback or smackdown. You will find no insults here. None. You’re still my brother or sister. I just wanted (humbly) to “share my heart” with you, as they say around church-world.

I know the things you’ve written lately aren’t directed at me personally; you’re not even thinking of me when you write that status or comment. I can’t imagine you would ever say these things to my face. In fact, I know you wouldn’t.

It’s not that I can’t abide robust discussion. I used to work in Washington, D.C. Part of my job involved answering hate mail. I’ve heard worse. And spiritually, I’m grown-up enough in my faith now to not be deterred when I see human beings being human.

How, then, to explain the source of my sadness? Let me try this.

One of the things that convinced me Jesus might be real—very early on in my skittish, super-skeptical churchgoing days—was gathering in those living rooms with people completely unlike me, week after week, and realizing that we had come to love each other. It became clear from our conversation that we did not all vote alike. Our personalities and interests were sharply different. I remember looking around the room one night and thinking something along the lines of: “I never would have chosen these people as friends. But somehow I started loving them. Is Jesus real? Maybe this stuff is real.”

Here was a big part of it: In the days when we used to gather around someone’s coffee table eating brownies and talking about the Bible, we always ended the night by praying for each other. I prayed for your uncle with the biopsy coming up, even though I never met your uncle. You prayed for the novel I was writing, even though you’d never read it, and it included tattoo shops and fake psychics and lesbians and you weren’t really sure how you felt about lesbians… but you knew you loved me, and that was enough.

And to this day, if something hurts or endangers you or the people you love, that REALLY MATTERS to me.

Your uncle with the biopsy. Your son who’s a police officer. Your mom and her small business. They matter to me because they matter to you. And I hope you feel the same way about me.

So I want you to imagine that I came to small group one night and said to you: There are some people who are really important to me who might be hurt in the four years to come. And then I named several people, from all eras and realms of my life—childhood, college, work, friendships, hobbies—specific people who are now facing specific dangers to their jobs, their safety, their kids, their medical care, their civil rights, their treatment by the justice system, the legal status of their marriages and families. People I love who are afraid.

One of the people I’d name, in fact, would be my own son. He’s six. This kid has a heart like no one I have ever met. My husband and I are happy carnivores, but this child, out of his love for God’s creatures, voluntarily became a vegetarian in kindergarten and has stuck to it for over a year. And he is really concerned about the future of the earth we live on. At one of the Smithsonian museums, we saw an iMax movie that showed the effects of climate change and it stuck with him. He knows this stuff is real. His love is bigger than himself. And what he’s worried about matters.

The very phrase “America First” worries me. Jesus himself warns: You cannot serve two masters. If, for American Christians, America’s supremacy in the world comes before our commitment to Christlike love, then yes, I am worried.

When someone you love is worried, you don’t say “Get over it” or “Stop whining” or “Shut up already” or even “There, there; there’s nothing to be afraid of, you’re overreacting.”

I think what you say, if you love someone, is “I’m listening. I believe you. What can I do?”

Just as when your uncle needed a biopsy, I didn’t say Oh, grow up and get over it, biopsies are no big deal or Tell your uncle to stop whining or I wouldn’t bother with a biopsy now, just wait and see, just give it a chance.

I’m not saying Trump is a worrisome lump. (I promised no insults.) What I’m saying is this: Sometimes our worries are founded, and sometimes not, but they are worth compassion, and attention, and never silencing.

I want you to say to me—or not so much me, but whoever you were directing your Facebook posts to—the very same thing I said to you about your uncle with the biopsy: I will pray. What can I do for you in the mean time?  

Does it sound sentimental to talk about Love on a day like this? I don’t know, is it? If our God is Christ, and not a politician, then our allegiance today is to Love.

So if you’re my brother or sister in faith—the adherent of any faith, honestly, that holds love as its highest value—

I want to submit to you an alternate Facebook status for today.  

It would blow my ever-loving mind if some of you posted something like this. My heart might explode.

It’s Inauguration Day. You’re really upset/disturbed/worried about President Trump. I voted for him, but I’m still your brother/sister. What are you most worried about right now? What is one thing could I do these next four years so you know I have your back?

That is a Facebook status that would blow me away. Those five sentences, writ large, are the kind of thing that maybe could accomplish One Nation Under God. Because surely “one nation under God” doesn’t mean “there was a red nation and a blue nation under God, but one got the other to finally shut up and now we’re back to one.” I think one nation under God might mean—for those of us who believe in God—one nation living like the God who is Love. The kind of absurd love that says: I won. What do you need?

I’m not as starry-eyed about Christian love as I used to be. But five sentences like the ones above—that would be the kind of startlingly kind, shockingly loving thing that first made me say of Jesus, way back in the beginning: “Maybe this stuff is real.”

9 Comments

  1. K Damon
    Jan 20, 2017

    thank you. More oft then not, privlage means never having to think about it. Thank you, for helping those who can’t change their lense , possible change their words.

  2. Lisa Cronin
    Jan 21, 2017

    So spot on. Thank you for this!

  3. Paul
    Jan 22, 2017

    You write with calm and reasoned compassion and logic. However, one thing may be misinterpreted. “America First”, is not solely “supremacy”, but that we consider helping those in our country before we send money overseas. So often it seems, we send “aid” to countries that do everything they can to disrespect and kill us when people at home- wounded veterans for example, need help. It is one thing to show compassion to all the world, it’s quite another to keep getting kicked for doing so. I would hope the US supremacy stifles totalitarian efforts of others. Our weakness does not help spreading compassion and rights around the world.

    • jen
      Jan 23, 2017

      Hi, Paul. Thanks for that thoughtful response. I appreciate your reading my thoughts! My intent in writing was not so much to engage in policy debate, but to make a plea for empathy. My take differs from yours, and of course I have counter-thoughts, and we could probably talk all night. :-) But I am aiming for something different. The policy points here are given so that Trump-voting Christians might understand the fear and anguish of those who didn’t. There’s been a huge conversation on the left about cultivating greater empathy for Trump voters and their reasons for voting as they did. It’s a beautiful thing, actually. I would love to see the same on the right. The thing about being a winner, though, is that winners don’t need to have that conversation if they don’t want to. But for Christians–a faith founded on the sacrifice of a God who chose to lose, the man with all power who chose to put that power entirely to the good of those without power–how can we choose otherwise? That’s basically what I’m asking for–again, humbly–from the winners of this election, and those who want America to “start winning again”: to think of what the effects may be, then, on the “losers.” The “losers” abroad; the “losers” here. I am a grateful American, but my first citizenship is to something bigger. So I still extend my invitation to you: to say to the non-Trump-voters on your friend list: “You are upset. What is one thing I can do for you these next four years?” All my best, Jen

  4. Rod Bigner
    Jan 22, 2017

    Hi Jen. You probably don’t remember me from Craftlab. I’m not even a pastor anymore. But I really enjoyed your article. It was heart-felt, inspiring, humble and most of all, really “prescriptive”! It shows the “other” a way to love, if they choose to. Peace to you.

    • jen
      Jan 23, 2017

      Rod, hello! Thank you so much! This means a lot to me. I’m terrible with names but if you told me your story or a question you asked that weekend, I’m sure I WOULD remember you. (Better with stories. :-) ) What ARE you doing now? Send me a message through the Contact link, I’d love to know. Thanks for your encouragement.

  5. Todd Reeder
    Jan 22, 2017

    Romans13:1.

    Berean Study Bible
    Everyone must submit himself to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which is from God. The authorities that exist have been appointed by God.

    • jen
      Jan 23, 2017

      Hi Todd. Thanks for your response. It’s clear you care about these things and you’re a fellow lover of Scripture. :-) Yes, I do plan to keep following the laws of this country, as I have my whole life. :-) But I think there are lots of Scriptural examples of people who didn’t, when the laws went against their conscience (plus modern day examples like MLK). Isn’t this what happens in the book of Daniel, when King Darius orders everyone in the kingdom to worship him, and Daniel flouts the law? Isn’t this what happens in the early church, when Christians are seen as a threat to the powers-that-be because they refuse to worship Caesar? Is this not what some Christians want to do today (whether or not I agree with them) in changing previous rulings of the Supreme Court? I say this with affection and shared interest in Scripture. You and I could probably sit down for a long, leisurely meal and talk about how all these stories and scriptures fit together, including the one you mentioned, and have a deep and interesting and fruitful conversation. :-) But that’s not really my intention in writing this little essay. My plea is still the same: that the winners of this election seek to love and even serve the losers, because at its core, that was the example Jesus gave us. Blessings, Todd–Jen

  6. Joan White
    Jan 23, 2017

    I love you so much and for so many reasons. I hope everyone reading this understands that you would be making this same plea if the election results had been different. I don’t believe you are making a political comment, but a human comment in support of those suffering, no matter the reason. I love your courage to speak what is difficult to face and may not be popular. I love your compassion. I love your kindness. I wish you peace and rest today. ❤

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