After divisive election, pastors can help heal

Anxiety, grief, hopefulness, hopelessness or elation will surely be the mixed bag of emotions that will fill United Methodist pews this weekend. In the aftermath of the most contentious presidential campaigns in recent memory, pastors will play a crucial role in healing the deep divide in this country. There is real grief due to the divisive nature of this campaign.

We should be reminded, however, that our church is a big tent filled with Republicans, Democrats, conservatives and progressives, often within the same local church. How do we intentionally begin the process of healing in our communities as we remain faithful to proclaiming the Gospel?

In the days ahead, we must speak to the anxiety and fear that this presidential campaign produced throughout our country. The rhetoric of racial politics, threats of deportation forces, and the promise of banning Muslims from our country has left many Americans terrified of what lies ahead. While many have applauded the election night remarks of President-elect Trump as gracious, one speech will not eradicate the “demonization of the other” based politics of the past 18 months. The words of faithful leaders who ignore this reality or pretend it does not exist will fall on deaf ears.

In the midst of this painful reality, we do have a unique opportunity to remind people that our mission as a church to make disciples transcends racial, ideological and political lines. We betray our mission when we make politics or any political candidate our idol.

God invites us to live, love, worship and work together. Despite our different backgrounds, histories, and political preferences, we are called to operate in unity as part of the family of God. In order to do that, we have to embrace Paul’s admonition to “accept one another.” There is no time like the present to live into the true image of the beloved biblical community.

The ultimate hope for our world does not lie in a political election, nor a political platform. It lies in Jesus Christ. In the midst of distress, we offer Christ as the ultimate source of our salvation. Our constant hope is not found in Democrats or Republicans, liberals or conservatives, but in the power of Jesus Christ to change lives and transform community. We must help people remember that God is still sovereign and that God is still in control.

We can help our nation heal by reminding people that regardless of their political party affiliation, Jesus calls us to stand with the marginalized, the poor and the oppressed. This means that there is work to do in our communities. There are people who have simply given up on all institutions including the church. These are the very people who desperately need to see a church unified in its resolve to offer hope in the midst of a broken world. 

I did not vote for President-elect Trump. As a person of color, I am personally grieved by the way he conducted his campaign. I am offended by the birther movement he led that questioned the legitimacy of the first African-American president.

Yet, he is now my president. We are called to pray for our leaders. We pray that they make good decisions that honor God and respect the dignity of all human beings.

Finally, we can begin the process of healing by calling our nation to revival. “If my people who are called by my name will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, will forgive their sin and will heal their land” (2 Chronicles 7:14). The only sustainable movement for change and transformation will be fueled by prayer and earnestly seeking the face of God. God invites us to a life of faithfulness in the midst of the problems and contradictions that the world produces for our faith.

These are turbulent times, but like the Apostle Paul, “I am convinced that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:38-39).

May God use you as instruments of healing and ambassadors of hope in the days to come.

Dotson is the top executive of United Methodist Discipleship Ministries.

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