This article was originally published by The Mennonite

Where we find ourselves

Ben Wideman is the Campus Pastor for 3rd Way Collective, a ministry of University Mennonite Church at Penn State. He blogs regularly for The Mennonite online. 

As I walked around the Penn State campus and State College community this week I struggled to find much joy. Students and faculty refused to make eye contact. Those victors proudly wearing red caps with white lettering seemed surprisingly subdued. I visited our Spiritual Center, Cultural Center and LGBTQA Student Center where counselors and staff were scrambling and organizing to be with those who were feeling more vulnerable than ever. They were meeting with those who were hurting or losing hope for the future, supporting those who were unable to bring themselves to go to class or get out of bed, and offer boxes of tissues to those who were facing a future that feels less certain than before. Around campus I found those chatting with peers were doing so in hushed but angry voices, with obvious frustration on their faces.

If this is what it means to “Make America Great Again”, it makes me pause.

In my local community we have a few people who are quietly celebrating what they see as monumental change in American politics. We have some who are apathetic about the entire election process in this country. We have many who are now living in the fear of what this election means for them. It was hard enough to be a __________  person in central Pennsylvania before (fill in the blank with any number of marginalized groups… Black, Muslim, Queer, Hispanic, single parent, welfare recipient, indebted student, chronically ill, etc.). What does it mean for them now?

If this is what it means to “Make America Great Again”, it makes me worried.

My social media feeds were filled with people of faith expressing both a deep pain and sadness, as well as God’s triumphant return to the White House. My clergy colleagues were feeling the heaviness of having to preach and dwell with divided congregations. Is this what the church has become? A place where some of us see a candidate as the embodiment of all that is wrong with this country, while others celebrate a return to biblical values? Are we witnessing a Savior or the Antichrist?

If this is what it means to “Make America Great Again”, it makes me feel deeply divided.

In my daughter’s first grade classroom the teacher circled the children around her and assured them that despite their many varied nationalities and languages that they were safe. Kids on the playground had been discussing walls and imprisonment. In our surrounding area it was reported to me that one elementary school classroom was overheard chanting, “BUILD A WALL! BUILD A WALL! BUILD A WALL!” at the top of their lungs in celebration of our President-Elect. In a nearby town, one child ran around the playground firing an imaginary gun at classmates saying, “Now that Trump is president I can get my gun!”

If this is what it means to “Make America Great Again”, I want nothing to do with it.

Today I am struggling to make sense of where we find ourselves as a country. I am comforted by those who are fervently continuing their work to build tolerance and understanding despite the outcome of the election. I find hope that many see this as a catalyst for action rather than reason to sink into despair.

And I’m drawn again to Christ’s call to join the upside-down Kingdom, offering food to the hungry, healing to the sick, and peace to all who are in need, regardless of who they are or where they come from.

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