I’m really worried that Trump might win. What do we do if that happens?
There is a piece of advice – a command, really – that appears over and over again across scripture. It goes something like this:
Be not afraid.
That command appears right near the beginning of the great story, when God gives it to Abram. It appears years and chapters later when the angel visits Mary and she says “yes” to bearing the Christ child. And it is embodied throughout Jesus’ ministry when, to borrow Richard Rohr’s awesome turn of phrase, Jesus consistently chooses to go towards the pain no matter how great the danger or the shame may be.
A variation of the command appears in the Gospel of Matthew. There, Jesus says:
So do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring worries of its own. Today’s trouble is enough for today.
There is reassurance in the command not to fear. That’s because it acknowledges that fear is natural and universal, that fear is not something for us to be embarrassed about or to deny, that fear is an inescapable part of being alive for you and for me (much as it was part of being alive for Jesus). And there is challenge in it as well. Through it, God asks us to speak even if our voices shake, to march even if our knees tremble.
What does that command not to fear for us in the midst of an election? Well, Eric, let me suggest two possibilities.
First, it means that we are called to act. And more than that, that we are called to act in response to reality as it is right now, not reality as it might be come November. Today’s trouble is enough for today. If you believe that Donald Trump is offering a vision that is bad for America and bad for the world, if you believe that his choices to mock the disabled, to vilify Muslims, and to celebrate torture ought to disqualify him for the presidency, then speak up. Go join those movements that are working to get the vote out. Go be part of articulating a hopeful and generous and justice-oriented vision of what our country might look like. And that leads to my second suggestion:
As you act, see if you can predicate your actions on something bigger than fear – maybe something like love. The great risk in responding to the world in fear is that it tends to shape us into the very thing of which we are afraid. What does it mean, for instance, when we (rightly) call bullshit on body shaming and yet we cheerfully share and snicker at naked effigies of Donald Trump? What does it mean when we (rightly) argue for inclusivity and tolerance and yet we ostracize and viciously mock people who vote differently than ourselves? You and I – all of us – have a duty to remember and to respect the dignity of every human being. And our duty exists not only in our interactions with the marginalized but also in our interactions with the empowered, with the wealthiest and most privileged and angriest white men out there.
November is a long time from now. If you want, Eric, you can spend the time between then and now worrying. But gosh, that sure sounds exhausting and draining and boring. So why not participate in creating a loving alternative instead? Why not be a part of creating the reality that you want to see?
Go and act.
Be not afraid.
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