Emily M D Scott
I arrived at the doors of our tiny storefront church in Brooklyn on Wednesday morning to find one of my congregants had already let himself in. He had come straight to the church after working an overnight shift. As the election results came in, he saw that we had opening the church all day for prayer and came straight there.
That day, my congregants came through our doors one by one. One by one I held them each in my arms as they sobbed.
Through tears they told me of their worries. A number of them fear losing their health insurance. Some worry for relatives who are undocumented. My queer friends are worried for the status of their marriages and for the loss of all the attending rights. Trans friends are exposed to even more hatred and violence. Mixed race families were afraid for their children's safety. Women spoke of a wave of post-sexual-assualt trauma -- that the nation had voted an abuser into office, and now they had to look at him and hear his voice every day.
I minister in a corner of Brooklyn with mostly younger folks, many of whom move through the world with a certain amount of privilege. But around us people more vulnerable than my congregants and I were facing the effects of this national decision. Muslims in our nation feel exposed on the streets and fear attack. Black folks, already vulnerable to police violence, are even more vulnerable. Hispanic children in our schools are told by their classmates to go back home, that a wall will be built to keep them out; their parents worry that their classmates might be right.
If you are a pastor like me, you are preparing to step into the pulpit on Sunday and preach to your people. Perhaps you are facing this task with trepidation, wondering how to speak into the gap of a nation divided. You may feel stymied by preaching about politics, worried about pissing people off, or fearful that you’ll make the divisions in your congregation even worse.
Let me say this:
Preaching the Gospel in the time of Trump is not about political “opinions.”
We are past opinions at this point.
Preaching the Gospel in the time of Trump is about moral convictions.
Our nation is witnessing a surge of open white supremacy and hate speech, and the normalization of proposed policies that are discriminatory at best and fascist at worst. “He may not follow through on everything once he’s in office,” we might say to one another. It doesn’t matter. That a man who jokes of assaulting women, suggests registering Muslims, and sees no moral difficulty with torture has been voted into our office is enough. This is not the time to wait and see what he’ll do. We already know who he is. His willingness to employ these ideologies for his own gain tells us all we need to know.
As Christians we cannot accept a nation that is veering toward the normalization of dehumanizing and violent hate-filled racism. This nation does not belong to one group of people. It belongs to all people, and this is a truth that we must actively name and protect in our congregations if we are to live and act on the side of justice.
We must not stand by in the face of evil and call it a difference of opinion. This “difference of opinion” is one that robs humanity from our neighbors. It is unacceptable in the sight of God. It is counter to the Gospel.
Calls for unity at this time are thinly disguised calls for acceptance. We can approach unity when we are sure that the civil rights of our neighbors are not being violated.
“Teacher, which commandment is greatest of all?” a lawyer asked Jesus. “Love God,” Jesus answered, “and love your neighbor.”
Donald Trump does neither, and this means that we, the Church, will need to be vigilant about doing both.
Loving our neighbor right now means protecting the rights of LGBTQ people to love and to marry, protecting the safety and freedom of Muslims, ensuring that immigrants always have a space in our country, protecting the undocumented from deportation, dismantling the lie of white supremacy and working alongside Black people for freedom, proclaiming the full humanity of women, and conserving this earth, our fragile home. It means remembering that just because we may not have much to fear under this new regime, our neighbors are terrified.
Searching for a biblical text to share this week with my congregants, I found myself drawn to Paul’s exhortation in Romans to “let love be genuine, abhor what is evil, hold fast to what is good.”
Paul instructs Christians to live in love and to hold fast to goodness, yes, but he also instructs us to abhor evil. Some translations read to “hate what is evil.” Abhorring evil means, first, that we see evil and name it, and second, that we refuse to allow it to become normalized; refuse to allow it to be woven into life as usual. That we continue to call it out for what it is even when it might make us look a little zealous. I would rather zealously preach on behalf of the rights of my neighbor than say nothing at all as those rights are eroded.
We can pray for our president, and yes, even love him as Jesus calls us to do, while still naming as evil the hate-based rhetoric he and his followers have espoused throughout this campaign.
On Wednesday a community member came to our church to share her fears with us. She has brown skin and her daughter has black skin, and she is afraid for her family.
“My friend told me, we are all activists now,” she said to us as we shared lunch around the table.
We are all activists now. May the church hear that call, and answer.
The Lord gives justice to those who are oppressed,
and food to those who hunger.
The Lord sets the captive free.
The Lord opens the eyes of the blind;
the Lord lifts up those who are bowed down;
the Lord loves the righteous.
The Lord cares for the stranger;
the Lord sustains
the orphan and widow,
but frustrates the way of the wicked.