The year 2016 has revealed many surprising things. Cleveland can win championships! The Cubs can play baseball!
The most significant revelations, of course, have been cultural and political. The racial and geographic divides are even deeper than we knew. There do indeed appear to be two Americas (at least).
Not surprisingly, I’ve taken some flack for my last blog post. I imagine some of the offense comes from my use of the word repent. As incendiary as it is, I chose that word because of its meaning to turn in the other direction. I believe the Bible when it says that it is never too late to change course.
Christian readers who voted for Trump may feel that I came down hard on them but let Clinton voters off easy. I did not, after all, call Clinton voters to repent even though they voted for (and thus endorsed) a candidate with abortion views more extreme than most of the country’s.
I think that is a fair criticism. After I published the post and received push-back, I began to wonder if my own conscience is less concerned by Clinton not because she’s less troubling than Trump but because my conscience is less alert to abortion than it is to racism. Could it be that I have generational blinders? Abortion has been legal in the United States every day of my life and I likely have friends who have had one. I have been swimming in pro-choice waters my entire adult life, having attended a famously liberal college and lived only in “progressive” towns afterwards. Has my own conscience grown dull when it comes to the implications of a nation killing its own children?
Yes, I think it’s possible. Just as it’s likely that the consciences of the white members of my parents’ generation are less formed around issues of racism. Many of them travel in only white circles, and that has insulated them from the reality of racism in America. When you are white in America and you don’t have close friends of color, it is easy for race to simply be a theoretical concept.
This is not so easy for someone like me. Some of my closest friends are ethnic minorities. I have worshiped and lived alongside people of color and have sat under their leadership for years. In part because of these experiences, I cannot dismiss talk of racial justice as merely a political ploy. As I’ve written before, it can be very difficult to discern right and wrong when wrong is culturally normal. I’m realizing anew that sometimes it’s our generational culture that blinds us.
So, here’s my question for my Christian readers – is it possible that each generation has particular moral blinders? Could it be that there were two evil choices in this election….and we are upset because our fellow Christians simply chose a different one than we did?
If that is the heart of the matter, then we need to figure out a third way to vote. Perhaps we are not supposed to be comfortable with choosing “the lesser of two evils,” but should insist on not voting for evil of any kind. Was there a way to reject the binary choice of Trump vs. Clinton and yet still participate in our democracy? What if all those who were troubled by both choices had gone to the polls and voted on all the down-ballot races and issues, but had written in a third candidate for President? Yes, this would have handed the power to all the other voters, but it also would have spoken clearly if it had been done en masse. Imagine if the headline had been “81% of Evangelicals Reject Both Presidential Candidates.” What a different message that would have sent.
Voting decisions are complex. When to vote one’s conscience and when to vote pragmatically is not easy to discern. This past election decision was exceptionally challenging for many. I believe the American church needs to grow its vision of civic participation. We likely need to reject the binary choice that our two parties have given us, and follow the model of the new movement Public Faith.
Christian friends, could this be the way forward for our civic life? Better choices might appear in future elections if together we demanded it. This will only happen if large numbers call for it, not just a few.
©Laura Goetsch and Thinking About Such Things, 2016.