I’ve spent a great deal of time this past week thinking about the Presidential election and the fallout from it. Like many in America, I am reeling from the uncertainty that this election has fostered. Before I get into my assessment of the situation and outline a course of action, I want to revisit an ancient story that very much parallels what we’re going through right now.
Enter Queen Esther. If you’re not especially familiar with the story of Esther in the Old Testament, let me provide a brief synopsis:
Xerxes was the King of Persia during part of the 5th century BCE. He was an powerful ruler over a kingdom that stretched from northern Africa to India. Xerxes was extremely wealthy, self-absorbed, narcissistic, and out of touch with the common people. He had no qualms about replacing his wife when she no longer bowed to his demands. After going through a large number of young women, he finally settled on Esther, who was one of the Hebrew exiles in his kingdom (Xerxes did not know she was a Jew).
Xerxes did not appear to have much of an appetite for policy or governing, so he surrounded himself with powerful advisors who ran his kingdom for him. One of these was a man named Haman. It just so happens that Haman hated the Jews because they were foreigners, steeped in their customs and traditions, never really fitting in with the Persian culture. Haman had an agenda to wipe out the Jews, and deceptively convinced Xerxes to issue an irrevocable decree to deprive the Jews of their rights, possessions, and even their lives.
The Jews dispersed throughout the kingdom were thrown into a state of despair and terror as they realized their safety and comfort was about to be ripped from them. Esther 4:3 says, “In every province to which the edict and order of the king came, there was great mourning among the Jews, with fasting, weeping and wailing. Many lay in sackcloth and ashes.”
Esther’s uncle Mordecai counseled her and told her that she alone could use her position of privilege to convince the King to alter the edict. He said that if she didn’t, eventually someone else would come to the aid of the Jews, but that she would suffer the same fate as they were facing. So she rallied the local Jews to fast and pray for her, and she went to the King, begged for his mercy, and exposed the evil actions of Haman. Haman was summarily executed, and Mordecai was allowed to write a new edict in the King’s name to turn the tables on those who wanted to annihilate the Jews. In the end, the Jews triumphed and were once again allowed to live in relative peace and safety.
As I mentioned earlier, there are a lot of parallels in the story of Esther and what our country is now going through. We have just experienced the ugliest Presidential campaign in my lifetime, one in which the winner ran on a platform of hate, bigotry, misogyny, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamophobia, racism and ablism. Basically, anyone who is not a white, heterosexual, cis-gendered, able-bodied Christian male was fair game for Donald Trump’s circus-like campaign. By all accounts, President-elect Trump is a very wealthy, powerful and narcissistic individual. He loves attention and being in the spotlight. He is the consummate circus barker – appealing to the base emotions of his followers, itching their ears with what they want to hear. But I don’t believe he ever wanted to be President of the United States. I believe he just wanted to get elected as POTUS; that was the real goal – to win the biggest and most important contest in the world.
Because Donald Trump seems to have little interest in governing (something he has zero experience doing), he is already surrounding himself with powerful lobbyists who have very specific agendas. Unfortunately, some of those agendas involve rolling back the progress we have made as a nation over the past several decades, and especially during the Obama administration. Governor Pence, the VP-elect, is rabidly homophobic and has a long record of doing everything in his power to strip the rights of LGBT citizens in his state of Indiana. There is no indication that he would do otherwise once he is a heart-beat away from the Presidency.
One of the ugliest results of this election is the fact that all of the rhetoric Mr. Trump spouted during his campaign has legitimized a certain constituency of citizens who have finally found a voice for all that they have felt for a very long time, but were stifled to express in an era of political correctness. These are the people who feel that the America they know and love is being eroded away by people who are not like themselves. It appears that they now feel comfortable (and justified) for doing and saying things that they couldn’t get away with just a few short months ago. In their minds, their brand of racism, bigotry and homophobia has been validated by someone running for the highest office in the land. Trump has become their de facto savior. These people have wasted no time in making it quite clear that their idea of what America should be does not include anyone who is not white, heterosexual, and “Christian” (aka not a Muslim).
Daily we hear of new reports of verbal and physical attacks on people of color, Muslims, and members of the LGBT community. Rightfully so, these targeted marginalized groups are scared. I have read countless posts from my friends across the country expressing fear and despair at what they perceive to be very real threats to their safety and well-being. Friends in same-sex marriages are wondering if they will be forced to divorce. My LGBT, Black and Asian friends are living with a cloud of fear hanging over them, wondering what the coming days and months will bring. Anyone who tries to convince them that there is nothing to fear speaks from a position of privilege, and has no right to dismiss these concerns as invalid.
I think it is safe to say that we have a problem. But I also think it is safe to say that we are not helpless or hopeless in facing this problem. Here are my suggestions for what we do going forward:
Much like Esther, we need to mobilize the marginalized communities. Regardless of the labels we wear, we need to stand together as one to combat the forces of discrimination that seek to rob us of our God-given rights as citizens of this great nation. This includes rallying our allies who are in positions of privilege and who have no immediate concerns for their safety and well-being, but sympathize with our plight.
We need to get involved. One of the greatest disappointments for me regarding this election is the fact that nearly 50% of the eligible voters in this country did not bother to vote. This apathy resulted in roughly 1/4 of the voters deciding who the next POTUS will be. This is unacceptable in a country that is supposed to operate on democratic principles. We must encourage everyone to vote, especially in the 2018 mid-term elections, when we have the opportunity to shift the balance of power in both houses of Congress. It is bad enough that we have a two-party stranglehold on the federal government, but when one party runs both houses of Congress and the White House, we lose some of the checks and balances that our founding fathers so carefully crafted.
That involvement also includes staying in touch with our elected officials. Find out who your Senators and Representatives are, get on their mailing lists, write letters to them when you have concerns about upcoming legislation. Support watch-dog organizations who are committed to holding Congress and the President accountable for their actions. Stay informed and vigilant. Do your research and don’t just accept anything you read on the internet or somebody’s Facebook page.
Finally, stay safe. These are troubled times. I don’t want to sound alarmist, but I don’t want to ignore what’s going on around us right now. Congregate in safe spaces; take an ally with you if you need to go someplace that might not be safe. Learn how to protect yourself. Misguided, angry people are feeling more emboldened than ever to see how far they can go in bullying and terrorizing the “others”. But most of all, don’t give in to fear — the greatest tool any terrorist possesses. If you are a Christ-follower, have faith that God is going to work it all out on His timetable and in His way as we do our part.
And for those of you saying that you’re going to move to Canada — just stop it. We will not give up our way of life because of bullies. This country would not exist if our founding fathers and mothers gave up that easily. They stood their ground and prevailed, knowing that the outcome would be worth any personal sacrifice necessary. If we leave, the bullies win.
Above all, know that you are loved, no matter what label(s) you may wear. We are all God’s children, regardless of what anyone else thinks.
Have a blessed and peaceful week.
DAVID COOPER is an ordained minister of the Word of God, in between pastoral assignments. He has been actively involved in various aspects of ministry, including pastoral leadership, since 1984. He considers himself a fun-loving kid at heart, a hard worker (when motivated), creative, and a jack of all trades, but a bit of a practical joker. He is a life-long student of the Bible, and loves to share the insights of his journey with anyone who will listen. He’s also a group coordinator with the Gay Christian Network. He is active on Facebook, and blogs at Sunday Dinner with Pastor David. David lives in Phoenix, Arizona.