I'm really dreading election day this year. Normally, elections are always a touchstone for people with different views, but this year, it really seems to be bringing out the worst in people, bringing the worst out of our nation. I don't know if it's because of the really low quality of the two main candidates, or because of the end of Obama's term, and all of the anger and racism towards him, but it is really getting ugly.
What bothers me most is how this is affecting the church. I'm watching pastors that I have formerly read and respected making the most illogical and weak arguments for supporting an extremely corrupt and immoral Republican candidate. I'm seeing church members who I thought were more levelheaded and rational making all kinds of racially prejudiced and sexist statements. This newest scandal with Trump's 2005 statements on video are probably the worst ever. People that I know, not just talking heads on television, people who have sat next to me in church for years, are now excusing all kinds of debauchery and verbal violence under the name of "locker room talk." And when I ask if they talk like that amongst themselves, the answer is always a vehemently defensive "no," as if the very suggestion was blasphemous. But I can't help feeling that they are betraying themselves a bit with the idea that we are somehow allowed to have private lives that we share with a very few people, where we can be as sexist and racist and even criminally predatory as we want, and somehow that's okay, and shouldn't be counted against us in our public lives. It's as if the carefully crafted facades that we show everyone are supposed to be the only official version of us, and the seedy side of us is immune to criticism, or, at least, can be dismissed with a simple, perfunctory apology.
I'm starting to worry that I don't really know anyone at all, except for my closest friends and family.
I'm seeing people that call themselves Christians gloating over the deaths of other human beings at the hands of police officers. Implying and outright declaring that a man deserved to die because he smoked weed a few years ago, or that a woman deserved to die because she was a little too mouthy with a cop. Someone who has recently been removed from my FaceBook feed posted a video of a man in a pickup truck plowing through a crowd of Native Americans protesting Columbus Day. Somebody in the crowd got badly hurt, but the truth is that the driver could have killed someone. And the comment on the post was "Serves them right!" In case that's not clear, the idea is that they were blocking the street, so the driver was well within his rights to run them over and maim or kill anyone in his way.
I wonder if it had been a group of white people protesting an abortion clinic who had been run down, would this white Christian still say "Serves them right!"
I am thoroughly disappointed in the American church today. I don't see any love for either countrymen or foreigners, any compassion for the oppressed, any empathy for those who are mourning, any respect for anyone with even slightly differing beliefs. I don't see very many Christians (or even Christian leaders and pastors, God bless us) trying to preach the gospel to a lost world, trying to "speak the truth in love." Instead I see people baring their teeth in hatred and wishing harm and ruin on others because of their moral deficiencies, but excusing that same immorality in the people who look like them, or belong to their groups, or run for office in their chosen party. I see people who call themselves Christian spreading racist, sexist, and otherwise hateful lies, boldly, in the name of politics. Saying things out loud, with their names attached to them, that they wouldn't have dared to even whisper a few years ago. All it took was one man with a microphone, a lot of money, and a severe lack of morals to shout these things to a crowd, and the sickening darkness in millions of hearts burst forth into our streets and airwaves.
And the worst thing is, I don't know if any of this will die down after the elections. Usually, election day is like Superbowl Sunday. We takes sides and draw lines in the sand, fight and cuss at each other in defense of our team, but after the game is over, we eat leftover lasagna and barbecue and go back to throwing the ball around in the yard. But the damage that is being done here is very different, and I'm not sure if we can go back to being friends after this. As depressing as the current climate is, I'm not even sure that I want to go back to the way things were, where everybody hid their hatred and contempt and cruelty and you didn't know that the person singing next to you in church secretly thought that you were not quite worthy of freedom and life.
Sure, I can extend grace and forgiveness, and we're all sinners, but now I know who these people really are, and worse, I know what they think of me and my family - that we are somehow less Christian, and somehow less valuable. What would they say if my son was shot in the street on his way home from school, because some police officer thought that he didn't comply in exactly the right way, at exactly the right time, with exactly the right attitude? Will they say "Serves him right"? What would they say if some sleazy older man (or a clean-cut younger man for that matter, a college student, a star swimmer and Olympic contender) makes my daughters the subject of their violent sexual observations? "Just locker room talk"? And what if they act on their words? What would they say about my daughters then? That they are liars or "tramps" or just making a big deal out of nothing?
I still can't vote for either of the two major party candidates, and I don't think that makes me stupid or less moral, despite what I'm hearing from other Christians. I still don't understand the argument that I should support immorality and godlessness, in order to prevent immorality and godlessness.
I keep hearing that if I don't vote a particular way, the the American church will be persecuted, that we'll be hounded out of careers, silenced in our sanctuaries, locked up for our beliefs, and attacked in the streets. I don't think it could get that bad in this country, but if it does, I have only one thing to say.
Serves them right.