Some Post-Election Thoughts
Nov. 10, 2016
Dear Whitworth community,
Like many of you, I stayed awake into the early hours of the morning yesterday watching election results. And like many of you, I spent the rest of the day processing my own thoughts about the election's outcomes and listening to others doing the same. I'm on my own journey as I try to think well and pray about my attitudes and responses in the wake of one of the most unusual and acrimonious general elections in U.S. history. A previously scheduled opportunity to speak at last night's AWAKE Ministries compelled me to put some of my thoughts down on paper and to communicate, as best I could, about what I'm currently thinking. I want to share just a little of that with you now.
First, I want to acknowledge that people are feeling a range of emotions right now. Some feel vindicated and affirmed. Others feel victimized and vulnerable. Many are confused and are searching for ways to make sense of what they are seeing and hearing. Most of us are thinking about our own personal responsibilities in the wake of the results. And some of us, including me, are pondering Whitworth's institutional responsibilities.
Before I continue, I want to reaffirm unequivocally Whitworth's commitments to being a fair, just, inclusive and loving place for all of our university's students, employees and guests. This university stands for the safety and dignity of all persons. As a community, we have no tolerance for hate or violence directed toward any group of people, including women, immigrants, international guests, undocumented persons, the disabled, Muslims, persons of color and sexual minorities. It's our Christ-centered mission that informs this posture, and I'm committed to ensuring that Whitworth stands for grace and peace in a world too often characterized by anger and violence. If you call Whitworth your home, we are glad you're here, and we reaffirm our welcome and acceptance.
For those of us who are Christ followers, we acknowledge that we are citizens of two kingdoms. The first, our earthly realm, is temporal, decaying, chaotic and sin-filled. The second, the Kingdom of God, is eternal, righteous, just and ordered. We are immersed in the first kingdom. We inhabit the second kingdom only partially, and we get only glimpses of its reality. It is the supplanting of the earthly kingdom by God's heavenly kingdom that animated the life and atoning death of Jesus Christ, and it's in that same redemptive story that God invites all of us to participate. Jesus gave us a roadmap to find his kingdom: "Love the Lord your God with all of your heart, soul, and mind…and love your neighbor as yourself." The first part of that commandment reconciles us to God. The second part reconciles us to one another. For the Christian, all of politics and public policy can be boiled down to this one question: How do we best love our neighbor?
As people with diverse experiences, different perspectives and creative minds, faithful people can and do disagree about the best ways to love our neighbors, and to bring about the justice, mercy and human flourishing that characterize God's kingdom. That is why faithful people can be found in every major political party and why these same people end up on opposite sides of important issues. Some of the most faithful, Jesus-loving people I know are Republicans. Some of the most faithful, Jesus-loving people I know are Democrats. That we end up advocating for different ways to love our neighbors has never bothered me. In fact, it encourages me, because it is within that creative tension that truth can best be found. By the way, it's this same tension between competing ideas that serves as the foundation of Whitworth's educational mission.
Determining the best ways to love our neighbors is often cast as a political contest. And, as with many contests, power and authority are at stake and are determined by who "wins." Winning and losing characterizes our political world, and for 240 years, the United States has withstood the inherent tensions embedded in our fiercely contested political battles. To quote President Obama from yesterday, "The peaceful transition of power is one of the hallmarks of our democracy." But, as with many contests, the search for and acquisition of power can expose the worst in human character. We are reminded that our wonderful democracy is filled with deeply flawed human beings, people just like you and me, on all sides.
Finally, I want to highlight a challenge that many of us face as we navigate the highs and lows of the political process. It's true that the stakes are high and the issues are profoundly important. But Christians cannot forget which and whose kingdom will ultimately triumph. Faithful people must remember that God is sovereign over our earthly kingdom and the kingdom that is coming. Frankly, while the day-to-day skirmishes in our political battles are important and interesting, the end of this cosmic story is already known. Love wins, and loving our neighbor becomes perfected. God's people are the ones who don't think a presidential election means either the salvation of the universe (because we know that's already happened), or the end of the world (because we know that's what must happen for God's kingdom to be ushered in). God's people are those who – even as they work diligently for the common good and actively protect the marginalized – refrain from placing our entire hope and faith in the outcome of one election, or in one politician, and who, rather, place their hope and faith in the One who is writing the end of the story. Even with that assurance, let's always commit ourselves to being agents of God's love and mercy in this world and be sure to reach out to those, winners or losers, who may be feeling vulnerable right now.
Let's continue this journey together as we pray for the peace of Christ to inspire our community. Thank you for making Whitworth what it is.
Beck A. Taylor | President