A Nation Divided

By the Rev. Darren Miner

Gospel Reading

Blessed be the God of our salvation, who bears our burdens and forgives our sins.

temple-ruins-jerusalem1-webI know that many here today are tired from all their work at the bazaar, and I wish that we had a Gospel reading that might renew and refresh. But we haven’t! Today’s Gospel reading isn’t the least bit cheerful. It speaks of the future destruction of the Jewish Temple and the persecution of the disciples in terms that can only be called apocalyptic. But perhaps this reading is fitting for the times we find ourselves in, for these are undoubtedly turbulent times. I can’t recall a presidential campaign in my lifetime that has been as nasty and base as what we have had to endure these last eighteen months. And I can’t ever recall the level of shock and dread that half this nation seems to be experiencing post-election, myself included.

Perhaps, just perhaps, one aspect of today’s Gospel reading might shed some light on the state of this divided country. You see, the disciples looked at the Temple in all its glory, and they saw a towering symbol of strength, and beauty, and permanence. Jesus, we are told, saw something very different; he saw what that Temple was about to become, a ruin, where not one stone would be left upon another.

I feel like that’s what’s going on in this country today. Half the nation looks at this country and sees a swamp that needs to be drained, a failed democracy that has lost its greatness. The other half sees a nation slowly but surely recovering from economic disaster and experiencing normal cultural growing pains. The recent presidential campaign has only exacerbated this profound disparity of worldview.

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All of us have heard Donald Trump’s campaign promises, but the nation seems to have heard two very different messages. When Donald Trump promised his supporters to build a 3000-mile wall between us and Mexico, his supporters heard that the nation will finally be safe from the invasion of Mexican gangs and the predations of the drug cartels. The other half of the nation heard that Trump was going to wall off the desperate poor of Mexico, who are guilty of nothing more than seeking a better life for their children in these United States.

When Donald Trump said that he would order our troops to kill the families of suspected Islamic terrorists, half the nation heard him say that he would stop at nothing to defeat the very real threat of ISIS. The other half of this nation heard him say that he would order our troops to violate the Geneva Conventions and to commit war crimes. When Trump said that he would temporarily ban the immigration of all Muslims, half the nation heard him say that we need to use common sense with regard to immigration policy in a time of terrorism. The other half heard him say that one quarter of the world’s population would be presumed guilty until proven innocent. When Trump said that he would repeal and replace Obamacare, half the nation heard him say that he would provide better and cheaper insurance. The other half heard him say that the 20 million people who depend on subsidized insurance through Obamacare would be left high and dry. When Trump promised to nominate a conservative supreme court justice, half the nation heard him say that he would protect their freedom of religion. The other half heard him say that he would ban abortions and repeal same-sex marriage. And finally, when audio tapes were revealed of Trump bragging about sexually assaulting women with impunity, half the nation heard a “typical man” using “locker room talk.” The other half heard the confession of a sexual predator.

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I could go on, but I’m sure you get the picture. We all look at the very same man and hear the very same words, but we get two very different messages. The result of Trump’s rhetoric, whether he intended it or not, is that the nation is now more divided than ever. That division has begun to play itself out in new and disturbing ways. A small minority of Trump supporters now feels emboldened to harass gays and Muslims and people of color; a small minority of his opponents have been emboldened to convert peaceful protests into outright riots. And that same division will undoubtedly play itself out at Thanksgiving Day dinner tables across this whole country. I dread going home for Thanksgiving now, knowing that my niece and my nephew are going to fight over politics. But what I dread even more is the prospect of that kind of division taking root here in this congregation!

For those here who opposed Donald Trump, it is all too easy to let fear turn to hate. It is all too easy to seek to shame those who, for whatever reason, voted for Trump. Unlike Jesus, none of us here can see into the hearts of others. None of us knows why the other voted as he or she did. And so we have no right to impugn the motives of those with whom we disagree concerning presidential politics. (That being said, that does not mean that you need to stop advocating for your position.)

For those here who voted for Trump, it is not helpful to gloat over your victory. Nor is it helpful to show disdain toward the genuine pain and suffering that others are feeling because of Donald Trump’s election, as if people don’t have the right to their feelings. What is helpful is to try to understand why half this nation is so afraid and so distraught.

Whether we voted for Donald J. Trump or for someone else, it behooves us all to start the process of national reconciliation right here and now, in the full knowledge that there can be no real peace without justice for all.

Those of you who opposed Trump, I give you an assignment—and it isn’t optional! Refrain from judging those who voted for Trump. Give them the benefit of the doubt that they voted their conscience, even as you demand that they give you that same benefit.

Those of you who supported Trump, you get a mandatory assignment, as well. Be a good winner. And if as time goes by, you find that you were wrong and that Trump is causing harm to fellow children of God, I ask you to be the first to stand up and, to the best of your ability, to protect your brethren from harm.

Jesus foretold that the disciples would be abandoned and betrayed by parents and brothers, by relatives and friends. Let there be no such ruptures of relationship in this congregation—ever! And today, when we share the Peace as a sign of our mutual love, I beg you to keep in mind that everyone here in this room is a beloved child of God—as is, in fact, President-Elect Donald J. Trump! The healing of this divided nation will undoubtedly be a long and arduous journey, and we may feel loath to start out. But as followers of Jesus Christ, it is our bounden duty to walk down that road. So, let us reverently, discreetly, advisedly, soberly, and in the fear of God take the first step this very day.

© 2016 by Darren Miner. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

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