My seminary adviser and (dare I say?) mentor preached my ordination service just eleven days ago. In his intro he said something along the lines of this: “Anna is anything but a shrinking violet.”
Oh, you have no idea.
Everyone I know should consider themselves on notice. Donald J. Trump is president-elect of the United States of America. I cried myself to sleep at 1:00am – from a deep and primal place that I don’t know I’ve encountered before. I woke four hours later with more resolve and determination than I could have ever dared imagine. While I may not have cast my ballot for him, I have contributed to his rise: each time I let a racist comment go unchecked; each time I was patronized by an older, white man and smiled politely instead of standing up for myself; each time I could have taken action, attended a protest, called my representative and didn’t, or just tweeted about it instead; each time I valued politeness over revelation and revolution. My hands are not clean.
Here’s the thing: even though I am devastated and afraid at the results of this election, I also feel deeply empowered, perhaps even liberated. It’s as if something inside of me has burst and cemented my calling even more concretely. It is no coincidence that I was ordained less than two weeks ago. I have been called by God for such a time as this. I know, now, for sure, what that means. It’s like the fog has cleared and I can see so much of what has held me back for what it is. I no longer care if I’m being polite. I will no longer value your comfort over calling you to task. As a young girl and, later, young woman growing up in South Carolina, I took etiquette classes, did cotillion, was a debutante. I see, now, those things for what they are: means of cultivating and sustaining complacency and subservience and I feel free from their grasp; I am free from all that has constrained me; I feel like I have agency over my own body and mind for the first time in a way that I haven’t before. Even though we face one of our nation’s greatest modern challenges, I feel like I could sing.
I will no longer believe the lie that being pastoral and holding people accountable are mutually exclusive. I am no longer interested in maintaining the institution of the Church at the sake of letting those filling the pews and offering plates leave every Sunday with their privilege unchecked. I will no longer sit silently when you talk about who Jesus is for you without challenging you to consider who Jesus calls you to be for others – particularly those whose very lives could now be at stake.
I will no longer allow myself to check out. I will no longer allow myself to look away. I will no longer surround myself with the protection of my own privilege. I repent of the sin of my own white supremacy, fragility, guilt. God, forgive me. My hands are not clean.
I have another confession to make: if we are friends, or we know each other, and you voted for Donald Trump, I still love you, but I am angry with you. I am ashamed of you. I am hurt by you. I am having a hard time reconciling what I know of encountering you in person with what I have encountered from you online, and in this vote. I love you, and I care for you. However – I am not, today, ready to forgive you. I am not, today, ready to hear from you. I believe that you voted from a place of fear, misunderstanding, and unwillingness to encounter the other. At some point, I promise, I will be in a healthy place to listen. Today is not that day.
I hope you will all – Democrat, Republican, other – consider what we have done. Truly. If you cast your vote for Donald Trump, you voted for someone who has been publicly and formally endorsed by the KKK. White supremacists across the world rejoice with you. You cannot wash your hands of that. I will not allow you to wash your hands of that. The waters of our baptism claim us as God’s own and bind us together, but the font is not a basin for ablutions. You do not get to wash away the stink of that. You must live with it, and so must I, and so must all the people of color whom you encounter, who are your coworkers, who teach your children, who sit in your classrooms and in your churches, who are created in the image of the same God, who are bound into the same covenant community, who commune with you and with Christ at the same table of grace.
I believe that God is sovereign. I believe that, ultimately, there is a place of promised rest where lion and lamb lie down together. I believe in the redemption of of all creation. But God has always been sovereign and the Holocaust still happened, and the slave trade, and 9/11, and exile and persecution and oppression and hatred and evil still exist. It is an exercise of privilege to fall back onto the wings of angels and ride out the next four years. I will continue to work for the cause of what is best and pure and true for all of God’s beloved creation.
My first thought this morning was, “He’s not my president.” Except that he is. Donald J. Trump is my president-elect, will be my president because, God forgive me, my hands are not clean.
Stay strong. Keep your eyes open and your head up. Encourage one another. Love one another. Be thankful for each other. I am thankful for you. I am committed to loving and working with you regardless of who you voted for. You are stronger than you know and loved more than you know. Let’s get to work.