Understanding the Transfer of Authority We Just Witnessed in the US Election
It has been my lot in life to straddle the political fence. My mom is a Republican, pro-life, conservative Christian. My dad was a pro-choice, new-age kind of liberal Democrat. Maybe that’s why I perpetually find myself too liberal for the conservative circles and too conservative for the liberal circles.
At any rate, I’ve spent this entire election season in lament… weeping and mourning with both sides.
In times of political upheaval it’s easy to lose perspective. Although we know “God is in control,” we are still greatly impacted by those given authority around us. Many weighty issues have been discussed in this season by those who will hold the power to shape our nation. Our battered souls are proof of the battle.
Picture authority like an umbrella. Leaders are given a realm of authority that extends around them like the covering of an umbrella. When a leader professes and sanctions certain beliefs and actions, they are given freedom to flourish under his/her umbrella of covering. This is true in a home, a business, a school, or a nation.
An national election is essentially the handoff of the umbrella… an exchange of one ‘covering’ for another. In America, each candidate has brokenness in their ideologies and each candidate has Biblical values in their platform. Unless your living under a theocracy, both political platforms are a mixed bag. There is no “Christian” political party.
So essentially, when Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump were lobbying for your vote, he/she was inviting you to step under their umbrella of covering and authority and flourish under their professed values. Just let that settle on you. We are invited to surrender ourselves to their agenda. That’s big. Because the visceral reaction you have to surrendering to Clinton’s agenda may be the identical feeling your friend has in submitting to Trump’s agenda. And a good portion of people I know said, “my conscience will not allow me to endorse either.”
At some level, as Christians, it doesn’t matter WHOSE political umbrella of covering we live under. Frankly, we’ve exchanged one broken system for another— this next four years promises the flourishing of a mixture of broken and Godly initiatives just like we would have had under Clinton (albeit a different set).
Many of my friends on the right feel relief at stepping out from under an agenda in which their voices of dissent (which are designed to have a protection in democracy) have been shouted down, ridiculed, and labeled as hateful. And I’m not just referring to Christians who felt unheard, Clinton’s loss shows the liberal agenda is out of touch with half of America.
For many of our neighbors, however, the transition to this new set of initiatives under Trump is frightening and painful. For the immigrant, the marginalized, and the minority, this exchange of authority will have significant implications in their daily lives; they will be more vulnerable under this administration. A vote for Trump feels like a vote against their security.
So where do we go from here?
You need to hear that we are not powerless no matter who is in control at the Oval office. We EACH are given our own umbrella of authority and influence. Our authority as Christians operates in a completely different realm and is empowered by the Spirit of God. What we speak, what we endorse, how we live, what we bless or curse releases spiritual power into our environment. We take our umbrella wherever we go giving opportunity to shelter others from the torrential downpour of a broken world.
Let me give you a real-life example. A friend of mine teaches at a competitive prep school. The principal of the school is a driven, harsh woman using predominantly shaming techniques and authoritarian control to achieve success. This is the spiritual umbrella over this school.
Certain teachers in this school, however, are using their power to create a different environment. In their classrooms (where they have authority), they create an umbrella of safety, an oasis within the school where the values are different. Does it completely protect the students? No. But my friend is daily providing a haven for students from the storm of a toxic environment.
We are designed to give others an experience of the Kingdom of God through the umbrella of our covering as we embody (not just profess) the fruit of God’s Spirit in our friendships, schools, churches, neighborhoods, and workplaces. We can provide safety. Kindness. Gentleness. Unconditional love. Grace. Forgiveness. Humility. Hope. Redemption.
People do not need to agree with you to step under your umbrella. Nor do you need to compromise truth to extend your umbrella of covering to others. An umbrella which offers only grace without truth is ultimately unloving. And an umbrella of truth without grace ultimately leads people to the bondage of legalism.
Somehow the umbrella of the Gospel perfectly houses both grace and truth at the expense of neither. And only Jesus Himself can teach us how and when to activate and emphasize both in in our spheres of influence.
The American church is being sifted. Christians on both sides of the political fence have been grieving different elements of our broken nation because we each carry distinct pieces of God’s heart. This is a season to allow our hearts to expand as we listen and learn from each other about the passions we each carry for the brokenness in the world. We cannot afford to tune each other out. You can only carry the Kingdom of God to the places you are willing to tread.
Now is the time to take our umbrellas of Kingdom authority into every sphere of influence we have. Thank God there are Christians on both side of the political fence. Because salt and light are needed in both places. Who are you called to shelter today?