Elections & Faithfulness
By Julia Stronks
Professor of Political Science
Donald Trump will be our new president. I know Christians filled with despair about this, and I know Christians quite satisfied that a Republican government will bring about change. In the aftermath of this election, I am not sure how these two groups are going to respond to each other. But as we move forward, I want to share three things that I am counting on.
First, we serve the same God who requires us to seek justice for the poor, the weak and the sick.
There are different ways to do this. Some believe this is best achieved with an active federal government, while others believe states or non-governmental institutions should play a stronger role. All of us, though, have a responsibility to think through why and how our view of government responds to the call in Micah 6:8 to do justice, to love mercy and to walk humbly with God.
Second, presidents have limited power.
Our entire constitutional structure is designed to frustrate concentrated power even when one party controls different branches of government. Congress may or may not go along with Trump’s agenda, but every policy implemented or eliminated at the federal level can be re-engaged at the state level. A great deal of environmental policy, LGBTQ rights, gun control, protection of life and even some immigration matters find their greatest advocates in state policymakers.
Third, citizenship is always more than voting.
Presidents are important. But when we emphasize the vote for president so strongly, we lose the perspective that comes from engaging issues at a local level. We also lose an understanding that citizenship requires actual work on the part of all of us. We need to get involved in substantive policy issues, and we also have to think about how we will live next to each other despite our differences.
If the country is to be pulled together, then we each need to recognize our own responsibility in the process. For those of us who voted for Clinton, we must realize that Facebook and protesting do not solve problems. We have to understand why Trump supporters feel so differently than we do, and the only way to do this is to get to know them. In addition, we have to ask ourselves if we are offering more than lip-service. Are we sharing our homes, our time and our resources with those we say we care about?
To those of you who voted for Trump, you need to understand why people like me feel personally threatened right now. I am a sexual assault survivor and I am horrified by the audiotape of our incoming president speaking as if women are to be used by him at will. And my response is but a mere shadow of the fear experienced by those close to undocumented residents. They are having nightmares that the government will forcibly take their parents or siblings away. If you take Scripture seriously, you need to explain why your approach to government is best for the poor and the weak.
This was a tough election, but now we are in a season of Advent. Despite our differences, Christians have so much in common. We need to reach out to each other and then reach out to others. It is only after we care for and engage each other that we will be able to speak for God with a prophetic voice.