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4 Things I Learned from the American Election

We just witnessed one of the biggest political upsets in American history. Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton to become the next American President.

Not only that, but the contest was nasty.

And since various forms of media are used much more widely today that they were even four years ago, real-time emotions, opinions, stats, and polling numbers were pumped out on Twitter, Facebook and Periscope at an incredible speed, contributing to a white-hot brew that will leave few people unaffected.

“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble…”

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To be honest, I haven’t really followed the election that closely other than reading the odd article and participating in school yard conversations. But as I watched everything come in—as a Canadian, as a husband, as a father, and as a pastor—I couldn’t help but notice four things.

And keep in mind that I don’t claim to be a political expert. Although I worked at Queen’s Park for a while and have an interest in politics, my thoughts are more as a general observer who cares about America and it’s relationship with the world.

1. Our world is a precarious place

When Trump started taking States no one thought the Republicans would take, the markets were impacted. To me, this is a reminder of something bigger—not only that the world is watching, but that it is effected by a country not their own.

America is a major force not only in trade, but in the global community in general. Leaders matter. Those who feel their vote doesn’t make a difference, or that candidates don’t matter, or that things will never change, shouldn’t be so sure after November 2016.

Our world is precarious. And fragile. And troubled.

2. It’s naïve to simplify voter “groups”

I think this is one of the (many) reasons the predictions were so incredibly wrong, although it’s hard to be sure. (Remember, I’m no expert.) According to CNN, Hilary Clinton had an 85% percent chance of winning. And yet, Trump’s winning margin of electoral votes was significant.

I know it also has to do with how the system works, but I wonder about this. At one point in the night I heard a commentator predicting what would happen with “the Latino vote” in certain areas. I also heard people talk other groups like “blacks” or “whites” or “evangelicals.”

But in our increasingly diverse society—and it’s been pretty diverse for a while—how reasonable is it to assume such sameness in thought? An increasingly interconnected world is making people’s opinions increasingly hard to predict.

The old rules seem to be out the window.

3. There is confusion about religion

It’s no secret that the religious/spiritual landscape of North America is evolving. In the midst of that evolution, there is increasing confusion about… well, pretty much everything.

For example, Trump has talked about a ban on Muslims. But what did he mean? Is he re-imagining America’s historic commitment to religious freedom? A later article seemed to indicate it wasn’t really a ban on Muslims per se, but on immigrants from countries who were/are compromised by terrorism. It’s hard to know for sure.

I feel it’s part of a country’s duty to protect its citizens; but oversimplifications can be hurtful and feed misunderstanding about a whole host of people and groups.

One last point about language. The terms “fundamentalist” and “evangelical” are all used and misused. Quite often, and most problematically, they are used to characterize certain people or religious groups as “extreme.”

But let me make it clear: Believing Jesus is God’s Son, or that the Bible is inspired by God (for Christians), or that Mohammed is God’s messenger (for Muslims), are not extreme views. Blowing up buildings is extreme—activities which are widely condemned by those who honour the greatest commandments to love God and neighbour.

It should also be noted that I think we’re witnessing, in our own culture, the rise of “liberal fundamentalism.” It’s also a commitment to extremes, but in a different way, and quite often just as ideological.

4. God is in control

I’m not sure who’s reading this. Some of you are people of faith. Some aren’t. But for me, I see the election as an opportunity to renew myself in the cause of peace and hope—in a world which so desperately needs peace and hope.

As I do this, I know that God is still in control. He gives us all free will, and still continues to be almighty in the midst of our lives and choices… guiding, shaping, loving.

Nothing changes that.

I’ll end with this. My prayer going forward is for a world which knows peace and not war; for leaders who are wise, humble, and incredibly respectful; and for more understanding and less fear.

Hope is not easily silenced. She muscles her way through the naysayers to the edge of a ledge and prepares to fly…

No. Matter. What.


I write a daily devo called “Up!” that you can read each day in 1-minute. You can learn more and sign-up here: www.TheUpDevo.com

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4 Comments »

  1. We all need to pray for peace and for God’s guidance as we now go forward with a new president elect. Hopefully our leaders will be respectful and work together for the good of all the people. There is so much that needs to be done. Thank you for you words of wisdom. I look forward to your daily devotions.

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  2. Hi Matt. Great article overall. As you know, I am not really that religious but how do you explain so many ‘people of God’, whether they be Christian, evangelical, Mormon, etc, etc voting for Trump with his hateful, sexist, racist, islamaphobic, misogynistic, exclusionary rhetoric and proposals?? For those that believe in the word of God and what he teaches and espouses, it would seem to me that Trump embodied almost the exact opposite of what the scripture espouses? Do you think Jesus would have agreed with Trumps speech, positions and actions? Do you think Jesus would have been a Trump supporter? He received an extremely large percentage of what was classified as the ‘Evangelical’ vote (over 70%!). I don’t understand how that can be unless those voters are okay with outright hypocrisy and/or simply don’t believe at all what they preach?

    Also, Trumps win of the electoral college may look large but remember he actually lost the popular vote. More people renounced him than supported him. The flawed electoral college that gives more voting power to smaller (and generally less educated, much whiter) states has once again produced an outcome that the majority of voters did not vote for (Bush over Gore was the other most recent one).

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    • Hi Darren, Thanks for the comments; you bring up a lot of good points. In terms of the electoral college, as I said in the post, I’m no political expert but I assume that the pollsters etc would have figured that in to how they work out chance-to-win percentages. I’ll leave the merits of the current electoral college distribution to someone else, but I think a democratic system always has to be continually tweaked to ensure that the ‘will of the people’ prevails. To me this would include a consideration of the relationship between rural and city centres.

      In terms of the first part of your comment you ask me to explain how so many evangelical would vote for Trump. I’m not them so I can’t really explain their own rationale, nor will I try. I will offer a few thoughts, however.

      People who self-identify as evangelicals to exit pollsters certainly come under the classification of ‘Christian,’ but not all Christians would self-identify as evangelicals. It’s kind of like how all Ontarians are Canadians, but not all Canadians are from Ontario. The reason I say this is simple to highlight that we simply don’t know the voting trends of the wider Christian populace. That said, I do believe that all Christians who are serious about their faith need to filter everything through the teachings of Jesus. It’s upon each person’s conscience to do so.

      Another thought: And I’m just speculating here, but a lot of people probably cast a vote for a whole host of reasons. Maybe they vote for the person who is from the same State/Province as them. Or maybe they don’t like their personality, but something in their platform appeals to them. Maybe they vote in protest of a political party. I’m not justifying it but just offering some guesses. It’s simply hard to be sure. Like you, I’m also troubled by a lot of Trump’s comments, but I don’t think Clinton is a dove either. That doesn’t make them equal, of course, but it just needs to be said.

      One final thought (maybe! haha). Hypocrisy is big on Jesus’ agenda. He often calls people to account for saying they believe one thing, but living in a way that is not consistent with those beliefs. So what would Jesus say about all this? Well, perhaps we’ll know one day for sure. But I think in every age he commands those who say they believe in him to live like it: to love God with their whole heart, soul, mind and strength, and also their neighbours as themselves. He also talks about loving our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). This is why under point 4 in the post, I talk about how, for me, the whole election and experience is an opportunity to renew myself/ourselves in the great cause of hope. “Christianity” is large and diverse the world over, especially as it expands in different regions, so I can’t speak for everybody, only myself.

      Thanks again! And perhaps we can chat about this or some other stuff one day over a coffee at Tim’s!

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