Before You Move to Canada… A Pastor’s Response to the 2016 U.S. Election

After an incredibly contentious election and a truly surprising result, how should we respond?

  • I have friends and family who are excited about the results.
  • I have friends and family who voted for Trump and are still concerned for the future.
  • I have friends and family who are devastated by the results.
  • I have friends and family who are completely disinterested.
  • I have friends and possibly even family who are now looking to move to Canada or Finland.

This morning it felt like waking up in the alternative future as seen in Back to the Future II. Biff Tannen is in charge and the Cubs have won the World Series!

In an electorate so evenly split, I imagine you know people across the political spectrum as well.

Every four years, almost half of us wake up the day after the election feeling discouraged.

To give you some context, I am a pastor in South Austin – the bluest part of a blue city in a red state. My neighborhood had more signs for Bernie Sanders than for Hillary Clinton even up until the day before the election. There are no signs in my neighborhood for Donald Trump.

Whether or not you voted and whether or not your candidate won, I feel it’s important to share some thoughts to keep things in perspective.

First, there is hope.

Regardless of how you are feeling the day after this election, there is hope. There is always hope.

Our future can be influenced by politicians, businessmen, and the people in power, but our future is not determined by them.

Politics has certain limitations. There are checks and balances.

In our system, there is a big difference between what is said in a campaign and what can actually be done.

I lived in California when Arnold Schwarzenegger was elected Governor, and California never did fall into the Pacific Ocean.

Even still, all across the planet there are people waking up today with a corrupt government or without the freedoms we enjoy as Americans, yet there are still moments when they laugh, eat, and enjoy life with family and friends.

Of course, there are others experiencing far worse circumstances even than that.

To live in the USA and to have the freedom we have to vote and to choose our governmental leaders are genuinely a privilege.

Jesus shared a story in which he shared: “To the one much is given, much is required.”

To misquote Uncle Ben from Spiderman:

“With great privilege comes great responsibility.”

May we use our privilege to sacrificially live in a way that honors God, the One who put us in this place on the planet and during this time in history.

When we find ourselves slipping into despair, we can find others in even worse situations we can help.

When we try to bring hope to others worse off than ourselves, hope begins to grow again within us.

Second, we can unify.

People on both sides of the aisle have blamed the other side for being divisive, corrupt, crude, and evil.

People of faith have shared their reasons for supporting their candidates from across the aisle. Some reluctantly. Some wholeheartedly.

Whether it was Trump or Clinton winning, either one of them asking for unity does not feel genuine. Before we blame them, we must remember, candidates go negative because that is what works on Americans. The media focuses on the negative because that is what we turn on the television to see.

Our candidates are a reflection of us.

We may not like the policies of the candidates or the character of the candidates, but when we were appalled by policies and rhetoric against immigrants from Mexico, Muslims, or the disabled, did we respond by inviting Mexican immigrants, Muslims, or the disabled into our homes?

We grow and can make the world a better place when we take the time to get to know others who have had a different life experience than we have.

We need to take the time to hear the stories of African American who have suffered injustice.

We need to take the time to hear the stories of police officers who are commissioned to protect and serve.

I am a part of a diverse church with people who voted for Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, Evan McMullin, or did not vote at all.

We have people connected who not only vote differently but look differently, have a different standard on morality, or come from a different spiritual background.

This was not an accident but intentional.

At Gateway Church in Austin, we say: “Come As You Are” or as my Mosaic family says in Los Angeles, “we allow people to belong before they believe.”

Creating a diverse community requires sacrificing our preferences,
our power, and our relationships.

Rather than just connecting with people just like me, I have to make a point to love, serve, and influence people Not Like Me.

Third, we can bring change.

The world is changing fast, and some people have not found their place in this new world.

People are hurting. People are angry. People are scared.

Donald Trump tapped into this need many people have.

Ironically this same sentiment is what brought President Obama to the presidency in 2008 with his call for change and for hope.

We long for something better. We know the world is broken and needs fixing.

Often, we look for political messiahs to rescue us.

Every four years, we show our disappointment in our leaders in not delivering the change they promised by electing someone else – usually from the other political party. Sure there have been some two term presidents, but almost every single time, they lose support in the House of Representatives or Senate  2 years after they are elected.

It should not surprise us that we have elected a reality television star known for his wealth and the beautiful women in his life.

As Americans, we seem to be tempted by fame, greed, and sex(ism).

(If Hillary Clinton had won, I could have written the same article but mentioning power, greed, and dishonesty).

Rather than only judging Donald Trump (or Hillary Clinton or any of our elected officials), we need to look honestly at ourselves and consider are we afraid, angry, greedy, divisive, and selfish?

Rather than wait for politicians and wealthy businessman to put into place laws we want to make our world better, we can do something right now!

Real power doesn’t come from changing laws but changing people.

I think it is remarkable in the story of Jonah in the Scriptures how the people of Nineveh turned to God and away from their wicked ways just before the King made a proclamation commanding them to do so (Jonah 3:3-7). The passage reminded me that often politicians are reactionary and true change must come from the ground up.

Abraham Lincoln once said: “With public sentiment nothing can fail; without it nothing can succeed…. He who holds public sentiment goes deeper than he who erects statutes or pronounces decisions.”

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. mentioned that the Civil Rights Act was written in the streets before it was signed in the halls of Congress.

How powerful would it be if we decided to create a better nation, a better world rather than waiting on leaders to do all the work for us or blaming them for all of our problems.

We can make a positive difference, and they cannot do it without us!

So today, we need to pray for our elected officials – for Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. These are real people with real families – real people who need our prayers.

We need to take our faith seriously knowing our anxious world needs peace, our angry world needs to experience and learn to share forgiveness, and our broken world needs the wholeness we have found in Jesus.

We need to pray for the strength and courage to bring hope, unify, and bring change.

For more, consider the following resources:

Not Like Me: A Field Guide For Influencing Our Diverse World

Not Like Me Sermon Series

Love Where You Live: A Love Beyond Ethnicity

Love Where You Live: A Love Beyond Religion

Undone: What To Do When You Feel Powerless

Responding to Moral Failure

Creating a Diverse Community

Showing 4 comments
  • Karen

    Great post, Eric. And you know you would have a warm welcome to Canada :-)!

  • Howard

    Bravo! Well said. We really do need to look in the mirror at this time.

  • Keith Harris

    I would love to see you post this as a video message (in all your spare time – jk). God bless you and your level head. ?

    • Priscilla Williams

      I agree with you about the video idea, Keith!….and his level head. 🙂

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