I’ve seen more stories coming out since November 8th about friends breaking up, people quitting their jobs or threatening to leave the country than you can shake a stick at. Most of them I tend to discount because tensions can run high immediately following a contentious battle like that and people tend to calm down a bit after a while. Also, those threatening to leave the country rarely follow through. (But as a side note to Lena Dunham, our offer to set up a Kickstarter page if you need new luggage and to rent a moving van still stands.)
But all joking aside, the truly sad part of our modern era of political warfare would become a reality if people begin leaving their churches over this nonsense. While I hope that it’s the exception rather than the rule, that’s exactly what happened with one woman featured this week in the Wall Street Journal, and she’s not the only one.
The election is over and so is Brandi Miller’s religious affiliation.
“On Nov. 8, white evangelical Christianity and I called it quits,” she wrote in a message posted on Facebook. Ms. Miller, a campus minister at the University of Oregon, says that exit polls showing that 81% of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump revealed a divide over race that she, as a biracial woman, can’t condone.
“Evangelicals have decided who and with what they will associate,” wrote Ms. Miller, 26 years old, in an online magazine and on Facebook. “It’s not me.”
As I mentioned above, if you decide to drop out of your book club or the local bowling league because you’re teamed up with some intolerable idiot who voted for (insert name of candidate you didn’t vote for here), that’s probably not the end of the world. But when people are walking out on their house of worship the country’s divisions have gone past the point of being toxic. This is a cultural and societal breakdown. It’s challenging enough in the 21st century to hold together a community, a school district or even a family, but the church has always been a place of refuge, solidarity and shelter.
I would hope that the people taking this drastic step might take a moment and ask themselves one key question: what’s really changed since the election in terms of your church? Are these not the same people you’ve been going to join in worship each week since before all this political unpleasantness blew up? Yes, the congregation can attract folks of all stripes, but for at least an hour or two each week you’ve managed to join together and answer a higher calling, surrounding yourself in a shared experience of something eternally positive and hopeful, no matter what’s going on outside in the streets.
Even if some of the people sitting with you in those pews supported a candidate you couldn’t bring yourself to think of, say nothing of vote for, the church hasn’t changed, has it? The message coming from your spiritual leader is today just as it was last month. The holy book your religion uses is the same. The uplifting songs and hope for salvation remain the same.
And no matter which religion you follow (with apologies to any Satanists who may have wandered in here), isn’t one of the shared principles of our major religions forgiveness? You don’t have to agree with them or adopt their views. You don’t really even have to speak to them once the services are over and you all go home. But while you are in that shared space, can’t you put all that aside and focus on what may be the single remaining thing which you can all agree upon as being fundamentally good?
Just something to think about between now and your next scheduled day of religious observance. Politics may be ugly, but your faith most assuredly is not.