November 18, 2016

November 2016 - Words and Actions

The election is over, but we are most certainly not over the election. The drama continues. While it was Donald Trump who voiced doubts about the legitimacy of the electoral process, it has turned out that Trump and his supporters are not the only ones to harbor such doubts. Everyone seems to be running for cover. The pollsters are trying to explain how they could have been so wrong in predicting the election. Hillary Clinton is attributing her loss to James Comey's late announcement of the possibility of further investigations into her use of a private email server. Many "white evangelicals" I know are trying to explain that they did not, in fact, vote for Donald Trump, and are wondering if the term "evangelical" can ever be fully respectable again. Most poignant of all to me are the particular responses of fear and deep discouragement I have seen from alumni and students of color and those who work among refugees and ethnic communities. 

It will take time to sort everything out. It is not as if everyone was excited about a potential Democratic win. It's just that most people had prepared themselves for that outcome. At this point, no one knows quite what to expect.

As we approach the seasons of Thanksgiving and Christmas, it might be tempting to simply walk away from all the questions, puzzlement, and pain of the election season and take refuge in the familiar rituals, the sentimental good feelings, and the cultural avenues of escapism (e.g. shopping) that are so readily available during this time of year. I hope we will not do that.

This election has posed a challenge that we who name Jesus Christ as Lord must not run from. We must embrace with new intensity the task of ensuring that everyone in our country has reasons to rejoice and be thankful on the last Thursday of November. Even more daunting as we come into Christmas is the challenge to help our world understand the gospel of Jesus Christ as truly good news – not just for a category of people that the press calls "white evangelicals" –  but for ALL the people of our country and our world.

This past weekend, I talked with someone who was writing a public statement attempting to redeem the term "evangelical" after the election, as well as with someone who was devoting himself to community development among the refugees and African-Americans of Buffalo. We need both written statements and community activism if we are to truly be people of the good news in 2016. As I reflect on the weekend, I cannot help but think of Jesus’ response to John, who from prison sent his disciples to Jesus to ask, "Are you he who is to come, or shall we look for another?"  Jesus’ response to John might well suggest the most convincing apologetic for our world today: "Go and tell John what you hear and see; the blind receive their sight and the lame walk, lepers are cleansed and the deaf hear, and the dead are raised up, and the poor have the good news preached to them. And blessed is he who takes no offense at me." [RSV version]

May the election and its aftermath motivate us to both words and actions that make the good news of Jesus’ coming both welcome and believable in our time.

 

Shirley A. Mullen, Class of 1976
President


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