The ‘look of love’ in Trump’s America

26 01 2017


“By this, all will know that you are my disciples – by your love for one another!”

There aren’t many Bible verses that I’ve committed to memory: but John 13:35 is at the top of my list. And lately, it seems to be at the very least, the sub-theme of just about every sermon I preach. Somehow I always seem to find my way to what I have come to believe to be the heart of the Gospel: love for God, incarnate in our love for others.

But on November 8th, 2016, the look of this love began to change; and today, in an America under the leadership of Donald Trump, it must continue to change.  It needs to look very different than it has at any other point in my lifetime.  And sadly, in too many instances, it is turning out to be nothing even close to looking like the love that Dusty Springfield sang about back in 1967.

One of the vows that I took when I was ordained to ministry in the Presbyterian Church was “to further the peace, unity and purity of the church.”  Several years ago, when our denomination was struggling over the issue of gay ordination, we created a task force on “Peace, Unity and Purity” to guide us through the difficult discussions that were being had across the Church!  And these three, often competing, values – peace, unity, and purity – are critical for any faith community dealing with concepts and ideas as abstract as God and faith.  But the values are also essential for nations, particularly when those nations are as divided as America is today.

In short, how do we pursue peace and unity, what is essentially our love for one another, when we believe the ‘purity’ of our democracy is being challenged like never before? How do we maintain relationships with people who appear to be living in not just different realities, but in realities that are diametrically opposed to the ones we believe to be at the heart of what it means to be American, and more importantly, Godly?  For most of my life this has been relatively easy.  Church life, and even national life, have routinely involved all kinds of issues upon which we just agree, to disagree.

But not today.  Not now.

As one who embraces the separation of Church and state as a vital to the desires of our Founders, and a critical dimension to our form of government, I also recognize that my faith cannot be compartmentalized.  In other words how I vote, and the policies and laws that I support, are grounded in the foundations of Christianity – again, loving God and loving others.  I’m not interested in legislating any specific beliefs or practices of my ‘religion’, but instead I simply embrace a common morality that can and has walked side by side with the history of America.  And while that history may indeed be marred by sin, we have always been a nation struggling and striving to live into the words of the Declaration of Independence – that everyone is created equal, and that the unalienable rights of ‘life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness’ must be secured and maintained for all people, regardless of the costs.

These concepts, and the worldview that grows out of them, are WHO I am.  They are WHO many I know and love are!  And so to deny these values, or to in any way be asked to disregard them, is to deny our very selves.  It is to live distorted, disingenuous, and disconnected  lives, and many of us are simply  not willing to do that.

So in spite of the many calls today for people like me to ‘unite’ behind our nation’s new president – that is simply not going to happen. We don’t wish him ill, or harm, nor will we model our actions after the obstructionist right of the Obama years. But we will never ‘unite’ behind one who is as morally, ethically, and intellectually un-American, and unGodly, as Donald Trump.  We will speak up and show up whenever and wherever peaceful and constructive protest occurs, and we will seek truth and honesty regardless of his contempt for them.  This election of this president simply cannot and will not be treated as if it were no different than the election of the previous 44.

Further, we cannot and will not be silent in confronting and challenging those we love who continue to support his misguided agenda!  We will not stop loving you; for you are our family, our friends, and in so many instances people for whom we have had a great deal of respect and admiration.  And that will never change.  We will never stop loving you, but  the look of our love for you can’t help but change.

We’re sorry if you’re offended by our lamenting.  We’re sorry that you wish we’d just stop all the complaining.  We’re sorry that we don’t see this as a matter of growing up and not being a sore looser.

For us, this election was deeply personal.  And we’re not bitter; we’re angry.  We’re angry that so many closed their eyes to our new president’s lies and lack of integrity; his disgraceful treatment of women; and his inconsistent and often hypocritical stance on marriage equality, an institution which his own life reveals he has never respected.  We are angry that so many ignored the reality that America is a nation of immigrants; that walls are for fascist regimes, like those history has seen in China and Berlin; and that our constitution guarantees the right of the people to exercise whatever religion they so choose.  We’re angry that so many  appeared to selfishly think only of themselves when they voted – their paycheck and their economic future, their beliefs and their practices, their values and their morals, their hopes and their dreams for America — without regard for anyone else’s . . .the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, those on the fringes of the privileged life so many of us take for granted.  And we’re angry that so many of the people we love – friends and family, neighbors and colleagues – have embraced the blindness to fact, truth, science, education, and expertise, as virtue.

Yes, the look of love is changing; and unfortunately, I have not yet figured out it’s new look!  It will still involve my caring for you: my interest in your life, and my concern for your well-being.  But beyond that, I have no idea what this love is going to look like.  I DO know that it is not going to include any of the unAmerican and unGodly ways of our President.  So if his ways happen to be your own, know while you will continue to be loved, that love is going to look very different today, than it did yesterday. And my goal now, is to learn to accept and adjust to those changes.  I hope we can all commit to doing the same.