Believing the Best About Political Opponents
The surprising election of Donald Trump to President of the United Stated has exposed a profound, anger-filled divide running through the center of the American population. I would like to speak to the many Christians who are on the side of the divide that is outraged by his victory.
In light of the offensive things Trump has said about certain minority groups and about women during his campaign, many within this group are now angrily alleging that Trump’s supporters reflect their lack of concern about these groups when they voted for him. To many within this group, Trump’s victory is a victory for misogyny, racism, homophobia and xenophobia. Now, while it may be true that some Trump supporters were motivated by misogynist, racist, homophobic and xenophobic attitudes, characterizing all Trump supporters this way is misguided and only contributes to the hostile atmosphere we find ourselves in. Now more than ever it is vitally important that we Christians who did not support Trump make a concerted effort to believe the best and hope for the best about our sisters and brothers who support him. Paul teaches us that this is what love looks like, and we are called to love everyone (I Cor 13:7). What this means is that we who did not vote for Trump need to assume that those who did vote for him did so with good intentions and for what they believe are good reasons, and we need to try to imagine, or discover by listening to Trump supporters, what those intentions and reasons might be.
To illustrate, I had a discussion with a sincere young Christian lady the day before the election and she told me she planned on voting for Trump. She said that, while she deplores the things Trump has said about minorities and women, and while she is aware that his presidency might legitimize some people’s racist and misogynistic attitudes, she felt that these negative consequences were outweighed by (among other things) the likelihood that as many as three Supreme Court Justices will be replaced over the next four years. If conservative rather than liberal judges are appointed, she said, there is a good chance Roe verses Wade will finally be overturned, with the result that the lives of millions of unborn babies in the future will be spared. “What could possibly be more important than saving the lives of these children?” she asked.
Now, there are a number of assumptions this young lady made that certainly could be disputed, but for the purposes of this blog, that is neither here nor there. The point that I would like all Trump detractors to see is that anyone who saw things the way this young woman did might feel compelled to vote for Trump, despite the nasty baggage he brings with him. The fact that you see things differently is certain understandable, but it would be wrong to charge this young lady with having a racist or xenophobic motivations in voting for Trump. Her intentions were good and, given her assumptions, her reasoning was clear.
So, to Jesus-followers on both sides of this political divide, I encourage us to refrain from judging the motives of those who disagree with us. Can we instead believe the best and hope the best about everyone? And can we push back against the hostile divide running through our country by opening up calm, empathizing, lines of communication with those who see things differently then we do?
There is one more thing that needs to be addressed, however. Whether or not you believed there were reasons for voting for Trump that outweighed the possibility that his Presidency might legitimize some people’s racist, xenophobic, homophobic and/or misogynistic attitudes, the fact remains that his status as President elect is having just this effect. I’ll pick up this discussion tomorrow.