I remember where I was sitting, what I was feeling, and who was on my mind the evening of November 8, 2016. Rebecca looked at me with terror as the reality of a Trump victory creeped closer and closer with every swing state declaration.
“Thomas, what is going to happen?”
My eyes welled up with fresh tears, “I think Donald Trump is going to be our next president.”
We went to bed in disbelief and, for the first time in my life, I cried myself to sleep. The following days were filled with more tears and cries of anguish as I thought about the community I get an opportunity to serve, the DACA students I know, the refugee agencies I work with, and my Muslim neighbors. It felt more like a terrifying preview to the next season of Black Mirror than a general election.
During his campaign President Trump degraded Latino Americans, ran on racist policies, and touted a xenophobia not heard in decades. This does not even mention the leaked video where he bragged about being able to sexual assault women. It was evident that there was not a redline Donald Trump could have crossed to lose the support of the 82% of white evangelical Christians who voted for him.
There was no surprise why Donald Trump had the white evangelical vote. I use to be one of the insiders who would have praised a total and complete Muslim ban, buying into the lie that all members of the Islamic faith were radical Jihadists. His immigration policies fanned the flames of the already xenophobic underbelly that any Muslim, immigrant, or refugee was somehow bringing in drugs, committing crimes, or had the intent to rape women.
Instead of making “America Great Again,” Donald Trump has made America fear again:
- Fear of an increase in abortions, despite the facts showing a decline when Democrats are in office
- Fear that Muslims, refugees, and immigrants are coming to dismantle our society
- Fear that America will crumble without him, because he alone can solve all of its problems
Nationalism’s motivator is fear, which is the antithesis to the message we find in the good news Jesus shared. The verse and axiom “no one can serve two masters” proved to be true in the 2016 Presidential election. Jesus had a clear message of welcoming the stranger, caring for the poor, healing the sick, providing shelter to the homeless, making the penal system more just, and loving our neighbor. This is a platform motivated by love, not fear.
This is why we must choose love when fear is at its peak. Jesus lived by the notion of grace, not revenge. Jesus, having been murdered, hung on a cross forgiving, not condemning. The fuel behind the Jesus movement will always be love. This sort of love is powerful and Jesus used it to rebuke the oppressors who devoured the houses of widows and defrauded the poor. Love makes a statement that puts the needs of the oppressed over the oppressor. Love affirms the humanity in those the President refers to as animals. Love focuses on what a person is for, rather than what a person is against.
Instead of approaching this next election cycle promoting our own fears, let’s focus on the love we have for those who are most vulnerable under this regime. There is always an opportunity for a new beginning when the world seems to be coming to an end. When the world pardons hate and promotes fear, #chooselove.