The day Japan surrendered to the U.S., Americans erupted in celebration, but according to my mother, my grandpa was subdued. Though he was thrilled that the deadliest war in human history had finally ended, he was sobered by the means required to achieve that goal. I feel similarly today.
I am absolutely overjoyed that Americans have halted the progressive onslaught that has stripped Christians of religious freedoms; redefined the family; crushed working people with skyrocketing medical insurance premiums; and not only allowed, but funded the slaughter of millions of unborn persons. Hillary Clinton's presidency would have been a disaster. And I, like scores of other American evangelicals, am thrilled that she was decisively defeated.
But I am sobered too.
Americans have just elected someone who is arguably the most morally flawed person to ever hold our nation's highest office — and they did it with the overwhelming support of evangelicals.
According to exit polls, evangelicals overwhelmingly cast their vote for Donald Trump, 81-16 percent. This election is on us, and whatever Trump does, good or bad, it will reflect on evangelicals as a whole.
This should give all of us pause. And it should drive us to our knees. With that in mind, I humbly offer the following suggestions for constructively moving forward:
1. Seek Unity.
I once had a pastor who, as a layperson, strongly opposed an initiative in his church to build a new sanctuary. While the issue was up for discussion, he passionately argued against adopting the initiative. Yet when the measure passed, he put his objections aside and even volunteered to chair the committee raising funds for the project. Today, both #NeverTrumpers and Trump supporters need to do likewise.
Before last night, I was outspoken in my opposition of Trump. But in a few short weeks, he will be my president. From this time forward, I am committed to praying for his success and for the success of our country. I am also committed to seeking unity within the body of Christ.
I have been disheartened by the willingness of both #NeverTrumpers and Trump supporters to impugn the character and motives of each other. We held different convictions, but I trust that most of us were genuinely seeking to honor God and to bless this nation. Let's assume the best about each other, lay our differences aside, and work together to promote peace and goodness in this nation.
2. Hold Trump Accountable.
Donald Trump made a lot of promises to win the favor of evangelicals. Most notably, he committed to championing life. Many suspected that this newfound conviction stemmed more from political expediency than an actual change of heart, and feared that with Trump at the helm, we would essentially have a wolf guarding the hen house. Now, evangelicals need to protect that hen house and hold Trump to every promise he's made.
In the first three days after Barack Obama first took office, he repealed the Mexico City Policy, which banned all non-governmental organizations that receive federal funding from performing or promoting abortion in other countries. This is a policy that has flip-flopped every time another party has occupied the White House.
Rather than abusing executive power as his predecessor did, Trump should advance legislation that makes this policy law. He also must push for legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. And he must make good on his pledge to appoint Supreme Court Justices committed to life. Evangelicals must not let President Trump off the hook on this. They must let him know that their continued support is contingent on his faithfulness to keep his promises.
3. Resist Remaking the GOP into a Socially Progressive Movement.
On a related note, Christians need to realize that many see Trump's victory as a win for populism at the expense of conservative ideology. Those who would like to morph the GOP into a fiscally conservative, but socially liberal party today are licking their chops.
Fox News host Greg Gutfield, who's argued that gay marriage is "a conservative idea," gleefully proclaimed last night that "ideology is dead. (Trump) just killed it."
Similarly, Megyn Kelly said: "(Trump) has proven that you can get the Republican nomination . . . even if you don't subscribe to the more conservative social views. Which listen, he's sort of paid some lip service to it today, but he's had a lifelong history as a Democrat and someone who's more liberal socially."
Evangelicals need to prepare to defend conservative social policies not just against a progressive Democratic Party, but against progressives within the GOP. Trump, who in April, said transgender people should be allowed to use whatever bathroom they want, will likely not be an ally in this fight. This is where having Mike Pence as second-in-command will be crucial. But the fight is going to be intense and persistent.
4. Reach Out to the Disenfranchised.
Someone posted the following plea to Trump supporters this morning on Facebook: "There's a whole section of the country who believe you hate them. Not disagree with them. HATE them . . . . Will you prove our worst impressions right or wrong?"
Fairly or unfairly, many immigrants and minorities believe Trump and his followers are out to get them. I've heard this personally from several Hispanic friends. And speaking for the African-American community, Dr. Vincent Bacote expressed similar sentiments during a panel discussion on the election that I recently hosted.
Exit polls from last night's election showed that among white voters, who comprise 69% of the electorate, 58% voted for Trump. Non-white voters, who make up 31% of the electorate, voted 74% for Clinton and only 21% for Trump. Many in our country see Trump's victory as an assertion of white power, and it's understandably scary to them. As white Christians, called to love all people, we must consider how these communities feel and take the initiative to assure them that we will promote their best interests.
While certainly the U.S. needs to close its porous borders and better vet anyone entering this country, it must do so compassionately. And, Trump must unequivocally repudiate the so-called alt-Right that galvanized during his campaign. Evangelicals must serve as Trump's conscience in this matter, and not let him off the hook.
5. Heal the Gender Gap.
Exit polls reveal that the gender gap in the 2016 election was historic – larger than in any election in 40 years. Clinton was +12 among women and Trump was +12 among men. Trump's lewd and disparaging remarks about women alienated a large segment of the female population. And, because so many evangelical, male leaders defended Trump and minimized his behavior, it also created a rift between male and female leaders in the church.
Unfortunately, there is no easy fix for this problem. I was disheartened that when I addressed misogyny during the election, very few in my conservative camp even wanted to engage it; they simply wanted to defend Trump. I hope now that the election is over, cooler and more thoughtful heads will prevail and we can begin tackling this issue in the church.
Misogyny is not a trendy word or a ploy to win an election; it is a sin that traces back to the Fall and is wreaking havoc in our communities.
With all these concerns, though, we need to remember that what unites us is greater than what pulls us apart. And ultimately, what's broken in our country will not be fixed by any party, nor the best and brightest leaders, but by our surrender to Christ and commitment to his church. As Clinton's slogan asserted, we are stronger together, but only under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.