The day after the election, my church (Catholic, in South Texas where we are predominantly Hispanic) sent out a Facebook notice to schedule the following:
a time for conversation and strategies for respectful conversations in difficult and stressful times - to provide a safe space to explore attitudes and strategies that might be helpful in maintaining relationships with people we love, with our friends, family and community.
In another Facebook post, an article was linked in which the young author, a recent Boston College graduate and O'Hare Fellow at America (a provider of editorial content "for thinking Catholics and those who want to know what Catholics are thinking"), despaired of his inability to talk to his parents about the election.
Now, to my knowledge, my church has never held such an event. It holds Bible studies, rosary making meetings, prayer meetings, and hosts numerous community volunteer projects. But a strategy meeting to explore ways to maintain relationships after a national election? It feels unprecedented.
A comment in response to the Genovese article jumped out at me and might explain some things:
Elections are not usually this contentious. There is usually a sense that no matter who wins, the country will basically be okay. The sense that all will be okay is missing because of the incredibly low standards of civility set by the president-elect during the campaign, his utter lack of experience, and his history of corruption. That his campaign was characterized by a complete disregard for facts is also not reassuring. I have seen quite a few elections now and this is the first one that has left me afraid for this country. This election is not typical. If it's the first one you have voted in, rest assured that the outcome does not usually leave people feeling so outraged and in despair. - L Weber
The meeting is Monday at 7:00 p.m. and I'm going.
I'm going because, like L Weber and Nick Genovese, I'm outraged and confused and sad and I have so many questions. The main reason I'm going, though, is to witness. To witness what and how people of faith discuss the world we now live in post-election.
I mean, really. It's not like people haven't voted before and had elections come out in ways they weren't happy about. The church never felt moved to host such a meeting before, though. Why is it doing so now?
Sure, there've been loads of viewpoints passed on via social media. Heck, even beloved Spurs Coach Pop had something to say about it. But, no one in San Antonio is rioting. So...what makes this moment in time so different? Why is there a need to host a "safe space" to talk about things since Tuesday?
I think a big reason is that people are genuinely confused about how a man like the donald could have been elected Commander in Chief of the United States of America.
Over and above that, though, I think people are genuinely confused as to how people of faith could have been the ones that pushed a man like the donald - a man who absolutely doesn't know the difference between 2nd Corinthians and "Two Corinthians" and who publicly asserted he was pro-choice and then changed his stance and who admits to assaulting women - over the top and into the highest office in the land.
Because that's what happened. Indeed, White evangelicals, Catholics, and Mormons carried Trump into the White House. They overlooked all he said and did and said, yes, but....
After learning this, I asked in all sincerity, if the donald is the answer for believers,* what is the message sent to non-believers about what it means to follow Christ?
My confusion clearly echoed Pop's. After Tuesday, he questioned:
We live in a country that ignored all of those values that we would hold our kids accountable for. They'd be grounded for years if they acted and said the things that have been said in that campaign by Donald Trump. I look at the Evangelicals and I wonder, those values don't mean anything to them?
Since Tuesday, that's all I've been wondering. Look around you. Since Tuesday it's clear, Pop and I** are not the only ones wondering.
Faith, like politics, is personal. I know I don't have the answers, because my personal faith and my personal politics are having a hard time reconciling this turn of events in our country.
But these are questions that have to be answered. By people of faith. By religious institutions. If the saying is true - they will know you are Christians by your love, by your love - people right now are really wondering - where is the love?
* Which I know begs another question: just how bad were the other candidates that the donald was the best worst choice? Clearly, it means Hillary is satan. /s Maybe that's a post for another day but don't hold your breath.
** In my fantasy, Pop and I are bffs. Don't judge me, it's my fantasy.