This day after the 2016 election is a day of emotional and spiritual extremes. To those who supported Donald Trump: congratulations on your candidate winning the election. It is one thing to win an election, it is quite another to win hearts and trust. Unfortunately, for over half of our country, our trust has been shaken and our hearts have been wounded deeply by the language and actions of our president-elect. I know the Democratic candidate engaged in inappropriate name-calling too and her supporters have had their fair share of nasty Facebook posts making fun of you. For the record, you are not deplorable – you are children of God just like me.
As a priest, there is nothing more important to me than following the teachings of Jesus and one of his most important teachings was about forgiveness and reconciliation. I’ve heard from some Trump supporters today saying we just need to “reconcile and move forward.” In time that may be possible and I do pray for it. But in the Christian tradition, reconciliation cannot come before forgiveness and there is one thing that stands as a big barrier to forgiveness: pride. The reason pride stands in the way is because it keeps us from repenting and showing sorrow for the wounds we inflict. Repenting means acknowledging the real hurt and harm we do to others – both in words and deeds – and taking steps to turn around and make a change which will bring healing. When people cannot admit their wrongs, it only leads to bitterness and resentment on the part of those who are hurt. It makes forgiveness very hard and for some impossible – and without forgiveness, there will be no reconciliation.
So here I go: for those who felt hurt by my words and actions, I am sorry. While I have tried to “go high” and stay focused on the issues I feel are gospel issues, I confess I have bit my tongue and harbored some very unkind thoughts. My words at times have been sharper than I intended. I’m not proud of that, but I know where it comes from – fear and hurt. Not just personal fear and hurt, but fear and hurt for the people on the margins of our society: people of color, LGBTs, the disabled, the poor, and the mentally ill.
I still believe passionately in the inclusion of all people, the equality of women before God, that Black Lives Matter (which doesn’t mean other lives don’t matter), LGBTQ people are beloved of God and deserve all the rights I enjoy, that health care is a right and not a privilege for the wealthy, women need to be able to make personal choices about all aspects of their lives including the circumstances of pregnancy without outside intrusion, that immigrants enrich our lives more than they threaten them, that the rural poor need to be heard and not left behind, and our Earth needs our protection not our exploitation. I will not change my position on those things – they are bedrock for me and come out of my experience of the teachings of Jesus. I will still be preaching about that and standing for those values – they are gospel values.
To those of you who voted for Hillary Clinton (or any of the other candidates), please go high. Don’t continue the name-calling or post hateful Facebook memes or Tweet more ugliness. Go high. Do not let this make you bitter or cynical. Grieve, yes by all means grieve; but after your tears are spent, move forward and seek to understand the people who voted for Trump. They are not all “bad hombres” – they are scared like you. Let’s find some common ground on what our shared fears are and then move to work on them.
Now, to those of you who voted for Donald Trump, what is your next move? Will you renounce the hate speech, the violence directed at minorities, LGBT, Muslims, Jews, immigrants, disabled persons and women? Will you stand in solidarity with us in calling this out and demand that our president-elect repent of the evil words and actions he has done? Will you demand equality for all Americans, not just those who are like you? Or will you dig in your heels with a “to the victor go the spoils” attitude? If you choose the last path, do not expect forgiveness soon, if ever, and reconciliation will never come. The next move is yours.