After the Election, Let’s Get to Work! It’s Time to Rebuild the Church Together

Donald Trump to church leaders: “Can you imagine the kind of influence you could have if you just worked together?”

By Deacon Keith Fournier Published on December 13, 2016

Citizens of the United States of America have just come through one of the most consequential presidential elections in our history. For Christians, the results will likely provide a respite from the anti-Christian persecution which was threatening our Christian way of life and attempting to prevent us from engaging in our mission to this nation we love.

The threat to the Church from outside pales, however, in comparison to the damage the campaign caused within. It seems this election has exposed, even fostered, more harsh divisions within the Body of Christ. The devil divides. Sin divides. Jesus put it bluntly, “The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy.” (John 10:10) He has been working overtime.

Divisive From the Start, Divided Still

As the primary season began, there were many candidates who stood strong on the issues that matter most to faithful Christians. Yet the seeds of our divisions precluded us from working together to help whittle the field down.

Donald Trump raised a question: “Can you imagine the kind of influence you could have if you just worked together?” 

I was present at several impromptu meetings where some of my evangelical Protestant Christian brethren were discussing how to pool their resources and come together behind one or even two of the many good candidates. At one of them, a friend who is an evangelical Protestant leader tried to get me included in the conversation. He then tried to get me invited to the planning meetings where this coalition was being discussed. His efforts were to no avail.

Nothing was explicitly said about excluding me. But I knew what was happening. It was because I am a Catholic. I have been working at building bridges between Christians for decades. I am not naive. I know that suspicion flows both ways. I also know there are serious differences which really do matter. Still it saddens me deeply.

More importantly, I believe it breaks the heart of our One Lord.

After a grueling primary race during which our divisions became even more pronounced, I was invited to a June 21, 2016 gathering in New York entitled “A Conversation About America’s Future.” I was one of a handful of Catholic leaders in a meeting of close to 1,000 evangelical Protestant leaders. Dr. Ben Carson hosted the event. Former Governor Mike Huckabee led a question-and-answer period with then-candidate, now President-elect, Donald Trump.

It was an outstanding gathering. All three men were impressive. Among the many responses and comments Mr. Trump gave, he made an astute observation. After commenting on what he described as a room full of some of the most gifted leaders he had ever met, he raised a question: “Can you imagine the kind of influence you could have if you just worked together?” 

I wish I could say his observation prompted our action. Instead, after he became the Republican Party nominee, divisions between Christians became more severe, at least in some circles. Christians from the evangelical and charismatic groups identified as “Protestant” ended up tearing into their brethren who spoke favorably of voting for Mr. Trump. I’d hear pastors, shock and hurt in their voices, describe being accosted, accused and condemned by beloved longstanding members of their congregations simply for being members of Mr. Trump’s religious advisory council. Conversely, I know of Millennial believers, particularly females, almost paralyzed with grief over their leaders seemingly giving Mr. Trump a pass for his insensitive comments about women.

My own Catholic community was no different.

Now the election is over. But even a month later the turmoil isn’t. The shocking result has led to family fights, Facebook defriendings, and in some cases even the faithful leaving their local churches.

Only recently, I observed and felt the pain in the heart of a great man as he shared the anguish he felt in his over the way in which Christians were still tearing at one another over the results of this election. I recalled an expression I heard decades ago: “The Christian army is the only army which shoots its own wounded.”

So what can we do now?

Five Steps We Can Take

First, remember, we are all Christians, followers of the One Savior, Jesus Christ. The entire Christian community needs a new awakening.

Second, we should recall our common history. Before the followers of Jesus were called Christians in Antioch, they were called “the Way.” Christianity is still a new way of living. Jesus Himself is the Way, and the Truth and the Life. Perhaps we should just get out of His way!

Third, there is also a need for repentance, reconciliation and healing in every one of our churches and communities over our own participation in the divisions in the Body of Christ. As individuals, we should ask ourselves, “How do we view one another right now?” Do we accept one another as brother and sister Christians?” While there is a place for charitable debate and genuine theological dialogue, and there are indeed substantive issues which separate Christians across the confessional and political spectrum, there is no more time for blame!

Fourth, there is a movement, led by the Holy Spirit, to bring us back together. The greatest tool in this vital work is our coming together to pray and act together in common mission. There is a direct correlation between our unity and the effectiveness of our Christian witness. In the Bible, the book we all claim as our own, we find the longest recorded prayer of Jesus to the Father. It concluded His last earthly celebration of the Passover Meal with his disciples:

I will remain in the world no longer, but they are still in the world, and I am coming to you. Holy Father, protect them by the power of your name, the name you gave me, so that they may be one as we are one. My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one — I in them and you in me —so that they may be brought to complete unity. Then the world will know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me. (John 17: 11,20-23 NIV)

That prayer resounds in this new missionary age of Christianity. We must make it our own. The divisions in this world will never be healed if the divisions in the Church are not approached as a problem to be solved. The Church is supposed to demonstrate the unity present in the Trinity.  The Church is called to welcome broken people to healing and burdened people to freedom. In the words of the Apostle Paul, “It was for freedom that Christ set us free.” (Gal 5:1) We offer a new home, the Body of Jesus Christ. After all, that is what the Church really is, His Body. (1 Cor. 12:27). And we are all members. 

Finally, all Christians, no matter where we stand in the divided Body of Christ or even politically, must join together and pray for the President and Vice President-elect as they fashion a new government. (1 Tim. 2:1-6) And we must lay down our hurts and pick up our hammers.  The presidential election in the United States is over. Let’s get to work! It’s time to rebuild the nation — and the Church — together.

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