A Democrat's Prayer for President Trump and Hope for America

Eric Sapp is a founding partner of the Eleison Group.
Eric Sapp is a founding partner of the Eleison Group.

I supported Hillary Clinton, and for the first time in my political life argued that Christians could not morally justify voting for one of the candidates. That candidate will now be our next president.

At 1 am Wednesday morning, I went upstairs and hugged my sleeping 4 year-old son and 1-year old daughter. Then I said a prayer (it was hard) for our next president — that better angels would prevail on him and our country moving forward than have on all of us in the past. At 3 am, I woke my wife to tell her what happened. She cried. I didn't fall asleep until 4 am, and I woke at 7.

I'm sad, shocked, worried, numb ... and yet I do have hope.

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I trust in God's Providence, and still believe that — while we are all deeply sinful — most Americans are also mostly decent and want to be kind and good.

It will be easy and natural for Democrats to say (they already are) that the racists/bigots won ... and they did in one sense. The candidate who gained political prominence with the birther dog whistle, launched his campaign with an anti-Mexican rant, and was endorsed by the neo-Nazis and KKK will be our next president. Racists (and the Kremlin) got what they wanted last night.

But it's also clear that most people didn't vote for Trump because of those reasons, but in spite of them ... or at least with discomfort about them.

Exit polls showed that 7-in-10 voters in this election (including 1/3 of Trump supporters) say they want a path to citizenship for illegal immigrants. And the two words voters were most likely to use to describe Trump were "racist" and "sexist."

Many people chose Trump as the vessel to carry their rejection of our broken political system and of their deep fear and worry that their interests were not represented in the halls of power. These motivations are legitimate, real, and fair ... and why Trump got a bigger share of the Hispanic vote than Romney and 1-in-5 LGBT voters.

Many Trump voters were appalled by his repeated willingness to call on the worst angels of our nature by denigrating vulnerable groups in our society out of his own insecurities or simply to get back into the headlines.

Nearly half of Trump voters said they'd be "concerned or scared" if he won. Furthermore, the majority of voters said Trump isn't qualified to be president, doesn't have the temperament for the job, and can't be trusted ... and they felt Clinton was marginally better in all those measurements (including trustworthiness!).

All those numbers make clear that many Trump voters can honestly say they did not vote for him because of who he was, but in spite of it. That's good in one sense but also exposes what could be the greatest rift coming out of this election.

The people who fit the labels Trump targeted and scapegoated during the campaign feel this election was a rejection of them and their place in America. If you felt Clinton's (inexcusable) single mention of "deplorables" was aimed at you, imagine how Mexicans, Muslims, women, and others felt to see the man who had so openly mocked and belittled and threatened them chosen to lead our nation.

Whether it's the Muslim woman whose parents are warning her not to cover her head today, or Hispanics worried about their kids being bullied in school now, or women who felt Trump's election validated the men who had acted in similar ways to them, their pain is not a "PC" or unreasonable response.

So to Christians who were happy when you woke up this morning, I'd ask that you please try to understand that pain and seek to heal it.

Especially now, we have an obligation to pay attention to race and gender and religious exclusion ... not out of guilt over the inherent benefits of being white, or male, or part of the Christian majority (though I think those benefits need to be acknowledged). Instead, I'd suggest the obligation to reach out to and care for those who are hurting after this election comes from the fact that they are God's children ... it is Grace and Christ's cross that places the obligation of empathy and understanding I'd ask you consider when facing those who are angry or sad or even appalled at your vote.

This is true for me as well, as someone who enjoys all those positions of privilege. I was sad for my children last night, but I worry for the children who don't look like mine or say bedtime prayers the same as mine.

And of course that same obligation for empathy and understanding falls on Democrats. We lost this election because we ignored and arrogantly dismissed too many Americans. We were so busy lecturing that we never stopped to listen. And if we're honest, we'll admit we viewed way too many people as labels, skin colors, genders, or nationalities, rather than as whole people.

We could accomplish so much as a nation if we all took St. Francis' counsel that we not so much seek to be understood as to understand.

So I am grieving, but I have hope. I'll be praying for our nation, especially those on both sides who feel they've been forgotten or are filled with fear. And tonight, I'll say another prayer for our future President Donald Trump.

Eric Sapp is a founding partner of the Eleison Group, a political consulting firm that specializes in outreach to the progressive faith community. He has worked closely with Democrats and Hillary Clinton's 2016 presidential campaign.

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