I write exactly one week following the election of Donald Trump as president of the United States. It’s been called one of the most amazing upsets in political history.
At this point, protests continue outside of Trump Tower in New York. It’s ironic that Democrats made predictions that Trump and his supporters would not accept the outcome of the election, presuming Hillary Clinton would win.
Most people I talk to had hoped that we could take a long-needed break from all the divisive rhetoric of the campaign now that the election is over. It seems that some are trying to keep the fighting alive.
I believe a certain amount of conflict and debate is healthy for a democracy. Unfortunately, over the last six months neither candidate’s campaign took the high road but instead resorted to highly inflammatory and exaggerated characterizations of their opponent. Apparently, some people actually believed much of the distortion they heard on television commercials.
Many are unaware that prior to the campaign, these two people were good friends. The Clintons attended Trump’s wedding. I don’t think they really believed much of what they said about each other in the process of trying to win. But now the nation is experiencing the consequences of all that inflated and misleading rhetoric.
Throughout my career as a pastor, I have spent much of my efforts in the area of race relations. I’ve pastored three multicultural churches. Therefore, I’m extremely disappointed that the issue of race is being portrayed as a relevant factor. I thought that after electing a black president in 2008 that notion would be put to rest. Call me naïve, but I don’t think race would be such a big issue if the fringe groups on both ends of the spectrum were not given such lengthy media coverage.
I’m very encouraged by the graceful way Clinton acknowledged Trump’s victory. I’m even more impressed with the gracious example of President Obama during this transition period. Even when the media tries to get him to make negative comments about Trump, he has modeled a Christian attitude and encouraged people to give Trump a chance. Trump did likewise in a very presidential and unifying acceptance speech.
As a Christian leader, I have encouraged people to pray for unity in our nation. The apostle Paul wrote in Colossians 3:12-14, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Make allowance for each other’s faults, and forgive anyone who offends you. Remember, the Lord forgave you, so you must forgive others. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds us all together in perfect harmony.
With regard to the portion about “making allowance for each other’s faults,” I think we can all agree President-Elect Trump has faults. So did King David in the Bible. In fact David actually did far worse than Trump has even been accused of. He took the wife of one of his military officers while that man was on a tour of duty and, to cover up the resulting pregnancy, made sure that officer died on the battlefield.
Yet the Bible says David was a “man after God’s own heart.” (Acts 13:22) Evidently God can still use flawed people to lead effectively. But it is important to note that David was later deeply repentant of his sin. Let’s hope and pray that President Trump will have the capacity to recognize his sinful nature and demonstrate humility and repentance when appropriate.
Of course the rest of us, as people of faith, are called to exactly the same thing. So let’s all pray for our new president and for our nation that we may “clothe ourselves in love” bringing harmony and hope for our future together.
Larry Gember is pastor of St. James Lutheran Church in Greenfield. This weekly column is written by local clergy members.