Last night, after our Election Day Communion service, I walked over to the Audubon Park fountain with my prayer beads because I didn’t want to go home and start watching the election returns. There’s a circular set of benches that go all around the fountain. It was dark, and I technically wasn’t supposed to be there. A man was pacing around, and he sat down on the bench right next to me.
I got scared since it was dark, and it’s unusual to sit right next to a stranger on a very large bench. I thought he was either there to harm me or he was an angel with a message. Maybe that’s silly but it’s how my mind works sometimes. We chitchatted a bit, and then he told me things were tied in Florida. And that’s when I knew Donald Trump was going to win.
So I went home, tried to help my sons with their homework, and took a sleeping pill. We avoided watching TV, though my wife was following the election returns on her laptop. I went to bed around 10, and I was hoping to sleep a full eight hours with the help of the sleeping pill. Naturally I woke up at 4, and I knew I wouldn’t be able to go back to sleep until I turned on my cell phone, breathed a sigh of relief to see that Hillary had pulled it out, and closed my eyes again. No such luck.
I really really wanted to grab the Kentucky whiskey bottle in our kitchen and just chug it. But God told me to take a bath instead. I cried for a while. And then a voice said love still wins. And I asked but how does it win? And the voice answered: By taking up your cross. And I said what does that victory look like? The blood of the saints. I mean, it wasn’t literally a sequential dialogue like that, but over the course of half an hour, those are the words I was given (which I still don’t completely understand).
I went to my neighborhood fountain to pray, and somehow God gave me peace there. He reminded me that fear and shame are the basis of all sin, and that love is the foundation of any resistance that endures. There can no longer be any doubt that our country is afflicted profoundly with the stage four spiritual cancer called white supremacy. Most tragically, the white American church has been a central catalyst in this affliction. The white evangelical scorn that created the outrage industry of hate radio in the nineties has now been poured out into its fullest expression. This is what God’s wrath against sin looks like: its complete metastatic exposure.
But love must be the foundation of our resistance. We will have to take up our crosses and take over the streets any time that Donald Trump seeks to act on the promises he made to white supremacy. We must be willing to stand with the marginalized just like Jesus did, even to the point of our blood literally being shed, which actually might happen now. We may not ever see the fruit of the seeds that are sown by our resistance. But who would have ever thought that a Galilean peasant’s insignificant death would become the foundation for one of the greatest social movements in human history?
But there is a Christianity that has never stopped being crucified. There is a Christianity you won’t find in the triumphalism of empire. It is the resistance rooted in the real cross of Jesus Christ, not the “atonement theory” that empire has used to domesticate the cross. Empire may control the stock market. Empire may write the history textbooks. Empire may have the most packed out megachurches. But empire will never taste eternal life. Only those who have discovered the secret love of the cross can do that.
Those of us who march with Jesus and are crucified with Jesus may never win any form of victory that empire recognizes. But empires always crumble. The legacy of Jesus’ blood will endure forever; the emperors who persecuted the early church have only rubble to show for their worldly power. If we are taking up our crosses and following Jesus’ model of solidarity, we will be persecuted, not in the way that wedding cake bakers are “persecuted” by gay weddings, but in the brutal way that empire always persecutes. And yet we will live abundantly.
The good news is this: you are called. Your life has a purpose and a sense of urgency now that it didn’t have before. You have a reason not to sleepwalk miserably through the banal cubicles of mediocrity. You have been unshackled from the American Dream by a nightmare that demands your full, focused presence. The daydream of forty-some years of white middle-class social stability in our society is over. The words of the apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:26-28 are written for such a time as this:
Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing the things that are.
God has never been the emperor that worldly empires use to justify their dominance. God has always been the resistance where those who discover his secret love are hidden in Christ. There is no guarantee that this resistance will take over the halls of the U.S. Congress or the Oval Office. Nor will it likely get a chapter of coverage in the textbooks of empire. But within this resistance, you will live like you’ve never lived before. And somehow at the end of everything, whatever that means, love still wins.