How do we witness boldly in the aftermath of the elections?

No matter who you voted for November 8, if you claim to be a Christian and you are part of a church community, you are asking yourself: “What should/can I do now, in the aftermath of the elections?”

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Like many Christians (not all, I realize), I was both surprised and deeply concerned after Donald Trump won the electoral college, and it has taken a while to process my feelings and the facts, and to develop some footing for future action. The Sunday before we voted on Tuesday, I was glad to hear from the pastor of our home church, Hope Central Church in Jamaica Plain, MA – not knowing at that point just what the outcome of the election would be – that our church sanctuary would be open on Wednesday for people to gather in silence “after the noise” of the contentious campaign. This was what was needed. People came, and from the surrounding community as well, to rest in the Holy Spirit and to regroup. In my view this was a simple and profound, non-politicized act of witness to the reign of God.

The research I conducted with congregations in transformation showed that one of the things that changed about them from before transformation to the present was their new practiced belief that church is to be about witness. Church is not just for them. They lived into this shift through twelve areas of church life. Worship was now about witness, education was about witness, welcome was about witness, etc., as well as was their increased visibility and action in the wider community. Their witness in word and deed also became bolder than it had been when they were in the throws of decline. As I reflected theologically upon the way they were now practicing their beliefs, and sought to name that to which they were now bearing witness, I concluded that it was to the good news of God’s leadership/reign – the good news that Jesus proclaimed and embodied.

In my estimation, this season of our country’s life calls for more than the kind of comfortable silence that supports the status quo, or a superficial unity. It requires bold witness from people of faith, the kind that is prayerfully grounded in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, reflects the reign of God, and is Spirit-led. As such, your bold witness will be contextualized to your church and your community. It will arise with integrity from your gifts, but amplified, and it will transform you as much or more than others. It will be a witness of integrity; strategic, never violent, and for the long haul.

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So in my context, were I pastoring a congregation, I would push my shy self to:

  1. Boldly gather circles of conversation, even across political differences and surely across color, class, and gender, in order to process the elections together, understand one another, and find common ground; maybe even to discern the lead of God for action. Yes, participants would indeed need to agree to behaviors of “generous listening” (Susan Garrett) and respectful speech, building their capacity for such in the process of this dialogue.
  2. Boldly stand vigil in solidarity and advocate for “the least of these” as Jesus commanded (credit for this thought to Rachel Bell). Following this call of Christ will mean witness not in words alone, but service unto the poor, the hungry, the sick, the imprisoned…and to those who are most vulnerable and afraid for their safety in the wake of campaign rhetoric and life experience: people of color, immigrants, Muslims, and LGBTQ sisters and brothers.
  3. Boldly speak and write, with respect and compassion, about our deepest moral values. To me, this means describing what the world would be like if what God wanted was desired and done, that is, to draw a compelling picture of what Jesus prayed for: “the reign of God on earth as it is in heaven.” What does that world look like? And as compared to what we have now? Exercising the courage of the Holy Spirit, you and I and our congregations can ask this question out loud at appropriate junctures, and we just may provoke Amen Action from others as they catch the reign of God vision.mercywitnesslifetogether