BY THE EDITORIAL BOARD
On the night of the elections, a close friend of mine posted on his social media that “we certainly live in interesting times … at least we can all agree change is coming” followed by a smiley face emoji. Most of my friends were tracking the election results via their Facebook and Twitter feeds while simultaneously providing commentary as states were won or lost. In the weeks before, we had only just barely survived a caustic campaign season and a series of debates marked by two relatively unpopular candidates, president-elect Donald Trump and the now defeated Hillary Clinton. But as the night wore on and the reality of a Trump presidency loomed ahead, my friends and I scrambled to rationalize the shock, and looked for any explanation to mitigate the grief and anger.
“Hopefully, many of us have recovered from the shock of this past election. Of all the elections that I have been through, this one has been the most frustrating and disheartening. With every election that I have participated in, I have always had a strong conviction about the person to vote for (not always from the same political party). This year, I struggled with the choice.”
-Matt Chae, ODPC Elder
I immediately took to mainstream news outlets to survey the post-election analysis when one of my favorite social commentators, Paul Krugman of the New York Times penned an article entitled, “Our Unknown Country“. In it, he perfectly captures the alienation he feels by his fellow Americans – my sentiments exactly. But I couldn’t let it rest there and instead found myself incredulously asking, just “who are my neighbors?”
It is the same question that is asked of Jesus and what follows is the well-known parable of the Good Samaritan. In it, we expect the neighbor to be the presumably Jewish traveler who is stripped, beaten, and left for dead when in fact, the real neighbor proves to be the Samaritan who shows the man mercy and compassion. In true subversive form, Jesus turns the question around and implicitly asks, are you a good neighbor? The take-home message is that friends and neighbors aren’t determined by their identities, but ours.
“The result of the election was a major wake up call to how divided our nation is, not only across partisan lines, but race and class lines as well. While the issues that divide our nation are deeply complex, I personally feel challenged to not give in to divisive sentiments and attitudes, but instead to find ways to work towards being a peacemaker on a local level.”
-Brian Mendoza, NextGen Pastor
In my small group the following week, a number of relevant issues came up in our discussion. One of them was the oft-quoted “echo chamber” effect or the phenomenon where information, ideas, or beliefs are transmitted and amplified in a closed system. The problem with echo chamber-type dynamics is that anything that deviates from social and cultural norms are either underrepresented or missing entirely from the conversation. In other words, the neighbors that we both know and love are people who look, act, and think just like us.
“Our small group had a smaller turnout that week. We have some professionals in our group who do politics for a living. Inside the Beltway, most of us are connected indirectly somehow. We listened, we shared, and we prayed. I’m thankful our group has some good listening habits after a few years together, so it didn’t seem that different to talk about the election.”
-Sarah Oh, Alexandria Small Group
The other talking point in our small group was the idea of what it means to be “evangelical”. The great irony here is that we as evangelical Christians are not immune to identity politics in the public forum. This then points to a larger question of how to reconcile faith and politics. Pastor John Cha proffers some answers in his sermon (“A Word to the Elected“) when he directs us to live out our “politics” locally, and stand for justice and righteousness. Hot-button issues like economic and immigration reform may be overwhelming but we are encouraged to “start with where you are.”
“Ephesians 4:15 famously says that growing Christians should be ‘speaking the truth in love.’ This seems fairly straightforward, yet it is difficult enough to consistently do one or the other (speak in truth or in love), let alone both simultaneously. Perhaps out of fear of failing to do so, over the years I have found myself ‘speaking truth’ less than I might have in the past. But if I am honest with myself, I realize that this has less to do with a fear of failing to speak in love than a fear of being disliked. The recent election was a jarring reminder of the need to speak out and not be silent. Speak in as much truth and in as much love as you can, without regard for mere popularity or social standing.”
-Gene Lee, Threshold Contributing Editor
The final challenge in our gathering was to describe one way that we can live out our politics in our spheres of influence. The moment is indeed ripe to consider taking this action. So in the spirit of America, my answer is derived from Theodore Roosevelt’s speech “The Man in the Arena” (and incidentally, Cadillac’s brilliant marketing campaign) to dare greatly. Because we, as citizens and elect, are the men and women in the arena who strive valiantly for a God we believe in, and a people that Christ died to save.
“The divide that separates the opposing political sides in our country may seem huge, but it’s very small compared to the chasm that Christ has crossed to meet all of us.”
-Raymond Shin, Maryland Small Group
On November 8th, Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of America.