Lament, Holy Anger, and Pastoral Encouragement: A Statement on Election Night 2016

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Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God; everyone who loves is born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love… There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear… We love because he first loved us. Those who say, “I love God,” and hate their brothers or sisters, are liars; for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen. The commandment we have from him is this: those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also.

– 1 John 4.7-8, 18-21

Disclaimer: I cannot be “pastoral” about this. The gospel is political, not partisan, but last night those two categories became indistinguishable. So 501(c)(3)s be damned. (That said, the views expressed here are solely my own and not representative of any communities or organizations which I serve or of which I am a part.)

Last night, we had our choice of two major party candidates. One of them represents hatred to his core.

Hatred of immigrants and refugees.
Hatred of Muslims.
Hatred of women.
Hatred of LGBTQ+ persons.
Hatred of persons of color.
Hatred of those who are poor.

Last night, this country chose that man to be our next president.

I am afraid – for myself as a gay man and for all those whom I love that fall into the above categories. I am afraid, but I know I am not alone. My Facebook newsfeed has been a collective stream of lament since late last night.

I am not here to tell you how to feel, let alone offer these words to “make it all better.” But I am here to remind you of this: Last night may have changed the dynamics of power in Washington, but it has not changed the gospel. It has not, cannot, will not change God’s love for us in Christ.

The prayer of the day from Evangelical Lutheran Worship for this coming Sunday says this:

O God, the protector of all who trust in you, without you nothing is strong, nothing is holy. Embrace us with your mercy, that with you as our ruler and guide, we may live through what is temporary without losing what is eternal, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.

These are powerful words that remind us of the gospel truth: You are holy. You are beloved. And in baptism you are named and claimed as God’s own child, sealed by the Holy Spirit and marked with the cross of Christ forever.

In baptism, we are also given a holy commission:

Do you renounce the devil and all the forces that defy God,
the powers of this world that rebel against God,
and the ways of sin that draw you from God?
I renounce them.

Evangelical Lutheran Worship Baptismal Liturgy

After we lament, we get to work. We organize, and we stand up to our new government. We declare boldly:

Immigrant and refugee lives matter.
Muslim lives matter.
Women’s lives matter.
LGBTQ+ lives matter.
Black lives matter.
99% lives matter.

For those of us who are Christian, our baptismal covenant requires nothing less. But it’s a message that all of us, regardless of creed or lack thereof, can proclaim. Love will always, inevitably, trump hate.

For there is still a vision for the appointed time; it speaks of the end, and does not lie. If it seems to tarry, wait for it; it will surely come, it will not delay.

– Habukkuk 2.3 (Lectionary 27C, First Reading)

Finally, to paraphrase the welcome statement of my home congregation: Whoever you are, whomever you love, whatever you believe, wherever you’re from: you are loved. And I am here if you need to talk.

Peace be yours,
Josh

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