This Must Stop: Moving Forward By Serving Our Neighbors

By Sara Mannen

Three days after the election that rocked our country, I sat with a group of Evangelical Christians and Buddhists as we discussed our reactions to the election.  It was a privilege. Yet, it was also utterly heart-breaking to hear the pain, frustration, and fear many were experiencing in the group.

I am a white woman who married a white man and has beautiful white daughters. Most of the rhetoric of our President-elect will not directly impact my family.  However, tonight I sat face to face with people who are on edge because they are a minority or part of the LGBTQ community.

Their concerns were not that their side lost the election. This was not a pity party full of whining.

This election represents the possibility of a much more sinister, aggressive culture against those who are not like “us.” In fact, several had already experienced or witnessed aggression towards Muslims, women, and immigrants since Tuesday night. Additionally, there are multiple reports of violence and aggression towards individuals who voted for Trump. How should the church of Jesus Christ respond in our deeply divided culture and country?

If my Facebook feed is any indicator, a majority of my Christian friends have responded with antagonism, outright disdain, condescension, and impatience towards the other side, whichever side that may be--this is not addressed to Trump or Hillary supporters specifically. The lack of compassion is noticeable. I have repeatedly read comments blasting those who are upset, or self-righteously justifying one’s side as better, holier, more Christian than the other, all the while cutting down one’s opponent.

This needs to stop.

Christians must lay down their ideological weapons, I mean memes, and consider the high calling of Christ. As Paul addressed the divided church of Galatia, he commanded, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another.”[1]

We are called by Christ to use the freedom He gives us to serve our neighbors, those in and out of the church, even if they hold to the polar opposite of our political allegiances. We are incapable of serving and loving our neighbors if we are not willing to listen to them. 

One of the many reasons I cherish and look forward to the Buddhist Dialogues at New Wine, New Wineskins is the opportunity to listen and, hopefully, understand a different view of the world. However, the greatest joy of all is discovering the persons who hold those views.  Buddhism is no longer an abstract concept to me, a worldview or religion; it is a group of people I care about greatly. If the church wants to serve and love the world, we must start by listening to those around us. We cannot dismiss them with a meme or flippant comment on social media. 

If you support Trump and hear someone expressing fear or frustration, rather than get defensive, listen to why they are fearful. For a Hillary supporter who cannot understand why someone voted for Trump, listen to their reasoning, rather than assume racist or xenophobic motivations.[2]

Listening to the other does not mean you agree with them. In fact, you can continue to be concerned for the direction of our country and thoroughly disagree with someone and still listen.  However, this demonstrates the love and compassion a Christ follower is called to live out. Furthermore, attempting to understand others you do not agree with helps to humanize, rather than make abstract, your opposing ideology. Whether you view the world through red or blue colored lenses, we all should be seeking to view others in our lives as fellow humans and not reduce them to their political beliefs.  

The biggest question is, are we willing to lay aside our “right” to espouse what we think is the correct political view at any cost, in order to genuinely listen and care for others, regardless of their politics?

Sara Mannen spends her time caring for her two precocious daughters and husband while attending seminary and working.  Professionally, she has worked in banking for 17 years. Sara’s passion is for discipling and teaching the youth in her church where her love for teaching the Bible and theology are utilized. She graduated from Multnomah University where she majored in Bible and Theology and Youth Ministry.

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[1] Galatians 5:13-15, ESV.

[2] I believe Michael Moore understands well those who voted for Trump, read http://michaelmoore.com/trumpwillwin/.  Additionally, Nancy Isenberg’s book White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America is an informative read regarding the class history of working-class white America.