Navigating the Trauma of Trump

I thought it was a comedy sketch Jon Stewart was depicting on The Daily Show. Surely no one would summarize Mexican immigrants in the United States as rapists, murders, and drug dealers. Then the comments continued. The calls for banning Muslims, “what the hell” do Black people have to lose, his misogyny against women, mockery of the disabled, and every other horrifying comment made by Donald Trump began producing tremendous concern that he could be President. Even more terrifying was the reality that with every offensive comment, his poll numbers increased. Well, now Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States, and what is sure to follow will be the litmus test for the nation, and for the body of Christ.

He will be President—and it will be painful. News outlets are already normalizing his actions, celebrities have begun giving him support, and pastoral leaders are calling for unity. All of these are attempts to move past his campaign and attempt to move forward, but we cannot so easily dismiss what just happened. This is not about politics or a political party, but a person and comments that on one hand got a news reporter fired and on the other, helped him ascend to the highest office in the West. His campaign, his comments, his actions…This is not normal, nor is it acceptable.

It has been a traumatic season for people living at the margins and the election of Donald Trump reinforces two things: we are unseen and unheard. There’s an awareness of the issues from the margins, but they do not have an impact at the center of society nor at the center of our theology as numerous polls indicate most white evangelical Christians voted for Trump. It reinforces what elders have said for years—racism is alive and well in America. As most white evangelical circles do not have a clear and consistent theological framework to deal with racism, Trump is either dismissed, defended, or the conversation is deflected toward a false hope which ignores his previous actions and calls for us to “trust our leaders.” It should be said, I am not blinded by bitterness. I do know not every white person, or white evangelical Christian, in America voted for him and that even some people of color did. However, the majority of the demographics reveal the dominant culture voting for and the overwhelming majority of people of color voting for everyone but him. His election moves from the realm of politics and theory to the reality that someone who used racism, classism, and misogyny as a campaign platform will be president in a few weeks for the next for years. Even with our education, our history, our theology, and our calls for reconciliation, we are still greatly divided by ethnicity when it comes to the perception of reality in this country. So, where do we go from here?

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For people of color and those living at the margins, we have hope and we need healing and help.

  • We stand on the shoulders of overcomers. Whether our parents or grandparents themselves are immigrants, the descendants of slaves, or are First Nations people who have experienced tremendous atrocities for centuries, their blood flows through our veins. Everything that could possibly be done to humiliate, denigrate, and destroy our people has happened, and we are still here. That DNA profile demonstrates the hope into which we live: This Too Shall Pass. We are proof of it.
  • Look for resources from the margins. Native American, Latino, African-America, and Middle-Eastern authors have written about living under oppression, and not just surviving, but thriving. Look for them. This is uncharted territory for us, and we need people who have survived it—past and present—to help us. There are grass roots organizations looking for ways to care for people at the margins and utilize their Constitutional right to be allergic to Mr. Trump. Find one in your city and join their peaceful rebellions at injustice.
  • Remain maladjusted. We cannot normalize this man or his actions. We can submit to the reality that he will be President, but we do not have to support it. Anyone who invites us to blind faith that he will deviate from his campaign philosophy reveals they weren’t targeted by his rhetoric and have not been drastically affected by his actions. There are racial incidents occurring all over the US, on college campuses, places of business, and neighborhoods. To support Mr. Trump and rally behind him is to accept the denial of dignity his campaign was built on. Friends, we must remain maladjusted.
  • Guard your heart and your mind. This will take time to get past what we may never get over. What do you need in order to be mentally, spiritually, and physically healthy? Pursue those as though your life depends on it, because it does.

 

For White People and Everyone Assimilated to the Dominant Culture, and White-Centered Evangelical Circles:

  • We need a coming of terms. We have long been aware that our definitions of justice look different, but the demographics that show support for Trump not only cause concern for the margins, it has broken tremendous trust. We need to have a clearing of the air where justice, equality, and even what it means to be “evangelical” is clarified and written plainly for all to see. Mr. Trump’s election is not merely a matter of a difference of opinion, it demonstrates a different philosophy on life, and reconciliation will never be possible if one group celebrates the election of someone that another group is terrified of.
  • We need to witness to the white community. So many books, resources, and history send missionaries to places where people of color are as though the gospel needs to be proclaimed to the margins. When a white student or person does something racist in the US, people go to the offended ethnic group to see if we are ok. Rarely, is there a corrective action in the secular world or a theological rebuke in a Christian one. It is quietly dismissed or people are removed. Issues of diversity in white evangelical communities are discussed largely as thought the issues are solely in marginalized communities. There has yet to be acceptance, confession, or repentance of racism in the dominant culture. It is reduced to the individual and not seen at the societal level. Mr. Trump’s election is a wake-up call that although white culture is individualistic, as a community there are hearts and minds where the gospel has yet to be proclaimed and lived. They have issues and real life concerns that need contextualization as much as any other ethnic group. To abandon the white community for the sake of diversity means we end up with Mr. Trump. We need missionaries to go to white communities, too.
  • We need a cerebral and a social apologetic. In case it isn’t clear, Christians are grieving right now—from leaders to students. Words will not be enough. You will need to work to rebuild trust with marginalized communities in light of November 9th. You may not feel or see the need to, but as you are in positions of power, you don’t have much choice. Calls for unity is not a social apologetic. Telling wounded communities you want to listen is not a social apologetic. Ask yourself, “How do we repair the current and pending damage that will ensue from a Trump Presidency?” That will require prayer, action, resources, and courage.

 

51rp52bjpvfl-_sx322_bo1204203200_In Where Do We Go from Here: Chaos or Community, Dr. King wrote “First, the line of progress is never straight. For a period a movement may follow a straight line and then it encounters obstacles and the path bends. It is like curving around a mountain when you are approaching a city. Often it feels as though you were moving backward, and you lose sight of your goal; but in fact you are moving ahead, and soon you will see the city again, closer by.” The election of Donald Trump is not the denial of justice, but a delay. People of all walks of life are expressing their disdain and concern for his election in protests, speeches, on social media, and through mobilization through organizations around the country. As Christians, our hope is in the gospel, that Jesus is reconciling all things—even in this moment. Let’s not pretend that this was not painful, but let us also not give into despair that Trump’s position will be permanent. This too shall pass, fam.

 

Sean M. Watkins

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