How does a person of faith and a concerned citizen respond to the inauguration of Donald Trump which is only days away?
The question is especially pertinent if you believe Trump is a danger to the country, if not the world, and articulates opinions and policies that are clearly in conflict with the teachings of Jesus.
Much damage has been done to the impression of Christians by white evangelicals and other Christians who voted for Trump despite his obvious moral failings, racism, misogyny, authoritarianism, ignorance of policy and global affairs.
I think it’s important to reclaim the faith from the fear and warped theology that political operatives on the right have used to infect Christian teaching.
And I’m not alone in this. A plethora of email appeals to resist, repudiate, and protest Trump’s leadership and policies come daily. What to do?
A moral response based on faith is not only possible, it can be a witness to the teachings of Jesus from a different perspective.
A recent column by Charles M. Blow, while not written with religion in mind, provided helpful guidance. Blow writes that it’s not enough to be negative. Negative actions must be balanced with constructive response that reinforces principles and values.
This resonates with me. Christian faith is embodied in constructive action. Faith is a way of living. In fact, in its earliest days, it was called “the way.”
Blow proposes a personal plan for making your opposition known. He says we must also deny that Trump and his behavior are normal. Blow calls it an “anti-inauguration plan.”
Like many others, I’ve been developing my own response to the election of Trump and I find Blow’s plan a helpful tool.
So, with appreciation to Mr. Blow for his template, here’s my plan:
Prayer is lifting to consciousness our deepest concerns, hopes, fears, and joys, and baring them before God. Prayer is not limited to petitioning God for personal favors, or blessing others.
Prayer is also about perceiving and responding to the sacred in our lives. It is active engagement.
Since I left the workplace, I have been concentrating on nature and wildlife photography, not merely as a hobby but as a form of prayer.
The meditation time this provides, the awareness of the sacred it brings to consciousness, and the sharing it allows has become more meaningful than I anticipated when I began.
I believe when we bring our creativity to expression in concrete ways, we are are engaging in a sacred conversation.
My photography not only expresses my creative impulses, it also is a reminder to me of the sacredness of the natural world. And it’s a way to call attention to the need to preserve and protect the whole of God’s good creation.
Protests are being organized around the country. I will join those in my city who proclaim that the policies proposed by Trump and some of his cabinet selections do not represent values and policies that I endorse. Some are antithetical to civil liberties, immigrants, women, and the environment. I intend to protest these harmful policies.
Since the election, my spouse and I have donated to four organizations that are working to conserve wildlife and natural sites, one that is assisting people to utilize sustainable technology to improve their lives, a couple that work in public policy advocacy, and one that is speaking publicly from religious values to call the Trump administration to accountability.
We believe that a free press, flawed as electronic journalism is, remains an important line of defense in these troubling days. While I have stopped watching television news and public affairs programming and eliminated NPR from my information-gathering habits, I have subscribed to three newspapers and a magazine rooted in Christian teachings that focuses on justice and reducing poverty .
Remember that subscriptions also open the channel to online reading of content.
It’s clear that an informed public is essential to the common good. I spend less time with TV and more time reading since we now have a president who seems averse to reading much of anything of substance.
I have made my views known to my national and state legislators in the past but since the Trump election I have been much more frequent in writing to elected representatives to advocate for public policy that I believe is more humane, just, and consistent with the Constitution and the moral imperatives that Jesus taught.
Hearing from me more often, I assume also identifies me to them and reminds them of values that I advocate.
Letters to the editor, op-ed opinion pieces, radio call-in shows, feedback to news media about stories, and outreach through social media are means to voice support for fundamental moral issues of justice.
I have sought to re-connect with family and friends because we live in a society that is isolating and destructive of community. This disintegration of community is what fed the discontent and fears of Trump voters, and he was successful in exploiting discontent and fear.
People of faith also have local communities called congregations in which they can worship and find spiritual strength, develop friendships, and study the teachings of Jesus that are the basis for a life lived with meaning and purpose.
But to be frank about it, some of these communities have not been places where honest discussion of justice and faithfulness to the common good have been addressed forthrightly. It’s time to reclaim this lost territory for religious values that are humanizing and biblically sound, to call ourselves and our religious leaders to accountability before God.
We live in a society that has broken the bonds of community. The mantra of individualism has damaged community. It is based on a doctrine that the interests of the individual are, or ought to be, ethically paramount. Taken to excess, this doctrine today fosters hyper-individualism.
Our housing developments are not created to encourage community. Houses are made to isolate us. Our social media intercede to substitute for direct person-to-person communication.
Hyper-individualism is in direct conflict with the call of Jesus to be self-emptying in service to others. In this way, Christian faith is counter-cultural because it calls us to be concerned for one another, especially those who live in poverty conditions and those who are vulnerable.
We are discovering that no amount of things makes up for the loss of friends and communal interaction. We must rebuild our connection with others and re-discover the call to servanthood contained in the gospel of Matthew in chapter 25.
There are myriad ways to volunteer to assist people in local communities, and church people are usually at the head of the line. From groups that serve disadvantaged children, abused women, immigrants, the homeless, environmental protection, to missional efforts through local churches, there are ways to engage to make for a better world and repudiate divisiveness and fear of the ‘the other.”
These are some of the ways that I see myself participating in society today and making a difference. I am motivated by my understanding of the demands of faith, and by my concern that citizenship carries the responsibility to participate in a way that supports and protects the vulnerable.
I’d be interested in hearing about yours.