I have been doing a lot of thinking about why the election has upset me so much. Through a lot of introspection, I have devised a list of things that are not the cause.
The evangelical vote doesn’t upset me.
The difference between the popular vote and the electoral college doesn’t upset me.
The partisan rhetoric before, during, and after the election doesn’t upset me.
Even Trump’s bigotry doesn’t upset me.
We have come to expect these things. But why am I so upset? I realized why this morning, and I’m going to be very vulnerable here because I think we need to get this out in the open. I know I’m not the only white person dealing with this, either. Maybe we can create some space here to allow God change us further.
A little ground work about the language I’m going to use here. When I use the word ‘repentance,’ I want us to understand what I am talking about, but more importantly, what I am not talking about. From the Greek word metanoia, we are talking about literally “changing one’s mind” (usually from a spiritual realization or experience.) This is a wholly positive action which, from a Christian perspective, begins when a person “accepts Christ” (definitely not getting into what THAT means here.)
What repentance is not: repentance is not shame, nor is shame an impetus for repentance. Shame does not motivate a change of mind but only a change of behavior, and is a wholly negative force.
I hope we are all on the same page, because this is about to get heavy.
The election has bothered me so much because I am ashamed of how I have thought about our world in the past, and in some ways, how I still think about our world. Donald Trump says things in the open that I have relegated to thoughts in the back of my mind. But I have still thought them. It is like that Louis C. K. bit where he says something awful, like God wants people with nut allergies to die. But then he immediately retracts his statement with, “But of course not. Of course not.” Look it up if you aren’t familiar. It is a great example of this social phenomenon.
But he still thought it. He still said it. And I am ashamed to admit that I have as well.
I remember sitting across a campfire from a guy and telling him that he was going to hell because he was gay. (I don’t believe this anymore, but I did at one point.)
I remember the black guy approaching me in the parking lot of a grocery store and asking for money. I remember feeling threatened, and then justified in sending him away empty handed, thinking that he should just get a job.
I remember all the generalizations I have made about women, especially in the workforce.
Do I believe any of these things are actually true? No, of course not. Then why did I think them?
You see, these thoughts spring up from somewhere in my mind. Whether I learned them from the racist and sexist culture that I grew up in or I actually gained them from real life experience doesn’t matter.
I have repented of these things many times. And I have gotten much better in a lot of these areas. God is helping me to “change my mind,” renewing it in love and helping me see things differently, the way God sees them.
This transformation is the reason I am still a Christian. Hell… maybe even still an evangelical (jury is still out on that one.) I believe that Jesus’ example is the best model for this transformation. Especially when, with Trump’s election, white men have regained a lot of power that was finally swinging to a more just social level. (More just. Not actually just. Just saying…) Jesus example is best summed up by Paul in Philippians 2:
Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
We need more people with the mind of Christ living in them. So we pray that the God of Love would continue the work of changing our minds. That we would look not to our own interests but use our privilege for the benefit of others. That we would elevate the cause of the oppressed over our own agendas. That we would be willing to go to any length to restore loving community to the entire earth.
And God, while you’re at it… could you take this shame away? I don’t want to live with it anymore.