In prayer group at my church this morning, I gathered with 3 women who voted for different candidates for different reasons yesterday. I tried to avoid the topic of the election, but someone else brought it up. We had a civil discussion about what America voted for and what America declined. In the end, we agreed that as people of faith we can have our differences, agree to disagree and still gather at the Table for fellowship come Sunday morning.
When it came time to close in prayer, I cried. I barely got through the shortest prayer I’ve ever prayed to close our time of prayer. I prayed with a choked voice and tears streaming down my face. I cried because I have such pain in my heart, not only for myself, but for so many loved ones who hurt this morning, too.
I don’t know what hurts the most. I don’t know what I fear the most. As a Christian minister, I have devoted my work to being a prophet. Perhaps what I fear the most is that my voice has not been heard, not my vote, my prophet’s voice.
I had begun writing a sermon for Sunday morning based on the message of the prophet Isaiah. I had thought I would be preaching to a white working class congregation that overwhelming voted for Trump who needed to be assured of God’s work in the world and God’s seat upon the Throne of Heaven regardless of who lived in the White House. I, instead, need to preach that message to myself, a couple others who I suspect voted for Hillary and a couple others who voted against Trump.
I fear that my prophet’s voice was not heard above voices of bigotry, hatred, and exclusivity. In seminary, as I was equipped for the work of ministry, I read Jesus and the prophets with professors who taught me about God’s message of welcome, love, grace and inclusivity. I learned that God’s people were blessed to be a blessing. I learned that God throughout the First Testament taught the Jewish people to care for the poor, widow and orphan, which were the most vulnerable of society. I learned that God judged the people for not honoring the Sabbath’s call to care for the vulnerable. I learned that Jesus was for the poor and downtrodden.
I have continually preached messages challenging people of faith to consider their call to care for the vulnerable of society, to consider what it means to be blessed to be a blessing, and to consider others before ourselves. I have preached that, but I don’t know if that’s what has been heard. Maybe I haven’t lived up to my call to be a prophet. Maybe I haven’t preached boldly enough.
I don’t know. I’m thinking about Sunday’s message. I don’t know what to say. I don’t know why my white working class congregation voted for Trump or against Hillary or against Trump or for Hillary or for an independent candidate. I don’t know if they decided not to vote. I don’t know.
America’s choice was not necessarily between 2 parties or 2 candidates. I believe the choice was between worldviews. One candidate supported a nationalistic worldview and the other candidate supported continued diplomacy harnessing our power to build bridges, build up countries, and build up people to progress toward a peaceful and just world while defending the safety of the homeland and creating opportunities for prosperity and welcome for all people. I believe what America chose was to put ourselves before others, to hoard our blessings for ourselves, leave the vulnerable to fend for themselves and reinforce the privileges of middle class, heterosexual, white, Christian men.
The voice the American people heard that was elected to be our next president was one that does not resemble the message of Jesus and the message of God’s prophets. The voice that was accepted hurt me and many of my friends. The voice that our children heard said:
* We won’t protect our daughters from sexual assault. As a survivor of sexual assault, rape and sexual abuse, I fear the safety of our daughters in a world where a man that bragged about sexually assaulting women has been affirmed.
* There are people that are in and there are people who are out. I keep hearing again the words of a friend whose daughter told her dad that she was afraid a President Trump would deport all her Latina friends. This African-American girl with 2 fathers and a diverse set of friends heard words of discrimination as acceptable.
* We will use our power and privilege to protect ourselves leaving others out in the cold. I hear words expressing fear and discrimination of people who are of different races, classes, creeds, religions, sexual orientation, ages, gender identities, nationalities, and abilities.
* We don’t want to help those who can’t help themselves. I see the faces of widows who need help with their energy bills. I see the faces of young mothers trying to figure out how to work and care for children. I see mothers of children with disabilities worried that their sons and daughters aren’t getting the education they need to have a chance in this world. I see faces of all ages who struggle with food instability. We have heard “entitlement” programs who now help these good people will be cut.
If I had sackcloth, I’d wear it. If I had ashes, I’d sit in them. I’ve shed my tears. I’ve confessed my sin. I asked for mercy for our nation. Now, I need to figure out what I, a prophet, am going to say Sunday morning about an ancient prophet whose words are still true and relevant today as I wonder, “will my voice be heard?”