post-election faith renewal

Last week I wrote about the reality of the USA election and inauguration deeply affecting a lot of people’s faith. Some were already unraveling, deconstructing, finding-their-way-in-the-dark, and this was just another tumble down the slippery slope. Others have been doing pretty okay with church and faith, but the tangled web between Donald Trump and evangelicalism just did them in.

My heart is always with anyone who experiences this deep pain and loss. The grief and can-never-get-the-old-feelings-back reality can be brutal. A radical faith shift is such a messy, weird process.

At the same time, I have also seen a lot of folks who had been unraveling for a long time–on the outside of all-things-church or in a weird space with it–begin to find renewal through this season in the United State’s history.

For some, the reality of the current climate here has been a surprising catalyst for rebuilding after deconstructing.

The embers of a remnant faith, beginning to be fanned into flame.

The seeds of justice and mercy and compassion and peace-making and all-things-Kingdom planted deep within so many, beginning to grow again.

The longing for God, to connect with our heart and soul and guts in ways that we’ve missed over the years, beginning to re-emerge. 

The beautiful hope of Jesus, God-in-the-flesh, who got lost in all kinds of bad theology and jacked-up church experiences and limitations placed on how we could engage with him, beginning to grow brighter again. 

Rebuilding faith is not an easy path. There are countless triggers and obstacles and weird-mind-games that happen along the way for many of us.

But, I love when it happens because those little glimpses of goodness are gifts.

The realities of Unraveling and Rebuilding were the entire reason I wrote Faith Shift. Everyone’s journey is unique but many threads are similar. Finding our way out of all we once knew and the security of conformity, certainty, and affiliation into a land filled with freedom, mystery and diversity is not an easy task.

The election here is helping, though.

There are, indeed, a few good things about the drama-trauma-you’ve-got-to-be-kidding-me-this-is-really-happening-in-the-USA realities right now:

People are waking up.

We have been painfully complacent about all-things-civic and caring for people in our communities.

We also are waking up to the realities of racism, sexism and classism in a new way; those who are on the underside of power have experienced these realities all along but haven’t been listened to, acknowledged, empowered, followed. That’s changing, and it’s about time.

We are waking up to the reality that God’s creation is at risk and environmental stewardship is desperately needed.

We are also waking up to our personal responsibility to advocate for and with the poor and marginalized and under-represented because if we don’t, the consequences are dire.

This is good.

This is what we needed.

It sucks that it has to come with this much collateral damage, but in the end, we’ll be better for it.

I also love seeing what’s happening for people’s faith in the midst of the crazy.

Some of the uncertainty of the past is being transformed into hope for the future.

In Faith Shift, the chapters on Rebuilding are centered on these major movements that can help us find our way forward:

  • Discovering What Remains
  • Celebrating What Was
  • Finding What Works
  • Igniting Passions
  • Cultivating Community

For those feeling longing and desire and movement forward after a long season of separation, disconnection and loss related to faith and church, I wanted to honor it today.

We are discovering that even though we might have lost specific beliefs, love and dignity and compassion and justice still remain. It looks different for everyone, but recognizing and honoring even just one of these truths can be healing. I love the practice of remembering–“Even though I don’t believe _____, I still know/believe/have faith that _______”

Looking back and celebrating the good parts of our former faith is always a healthy practice. For me, post-election, I am grateful for the discipline I learned way back when. There’s something about steady-and-faithful-and-true, showing up over and over again that makes a difference over the long haul.

Also, many are finding God through action and contemplation in new ways. It’s working! Social justice is a spiritual discipline. Not talking about God but listening for God is a beautiful under-utilized practice. Others are praying again, not with clear words but with groans and laments and cries of the heart.

I think most people have three major streams of passion–love, beauty, justice. Oh-my-goodness, are these coming alive for folks right now and it’s gorgeous! Pursuing those things–that’s faith renewal, just in a little different language than we might be used to.

People are also realizing their need for community right now. It’s coming in different forms than only traditional church, although some are discovering they want to be back in a regular rhythm of corporate worship. Others are finding community in different ways, in little pockets of love and action and prayer and support and connection. It’s definitely not looking like it used to be but it’s sustaining many right now and will become even more important in the months to come.

For me, there’s no question this election is renewing my faith.

I feel the call to follow Jesus more strongly than I have in a long time.

I feel the fire in my belly for justice and healing burning inside.

I feel the desire to cultivate community and be alongside others to pray and act together like never before.

I feel tethered to God in a lovely, mysterious way that has been deeply comforting.

We’re all in different places on this. Some are in the dark like never before; remember, you are in good company. Many have traveled this road before you and are in the thick of it still.  You’re so not alone. And others might connect with these words today, finding light in ways that are surprising. You’re in good company, too.

How is this election affecting your faith journey?

Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar co-pastors at The Refuge, a Christian community and mission center in North Denver and is the author of Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.

7 Comments

  • I appreciate this! I read your book when it first came out and it was very helpful. Many people don’t understand what a betrayal this election feels like, and it’s hard to explain to someone who says, “it’s just politics.” No, it’s not. My faith was already severely challenged by leaving the ministry of the Church, but the election was a severe blow that I did not anticipate. I expected the disappointment and the anxiety for our country, but absolutely did not expect the sense of BETRAYAL on the part of the Church and “christians.” It’s very easy to feel alone out here, so thank you for this post and for your book!

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  • Kathy, I feel like you wrote this with me specifically in mind. So much of this resonates with me right now. I’m feeling more hopeful about my spirituality and yes, even my faith, than I have in five years. Beauty from ashes…and as you say above, “The embers of a remnant faith, beginning to be fanned into flame.” Much, much love and gratitude for you and the hope you inspire <3

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  • For me the striving is to build community with the “other” in addition to seeking ways to do justice, seek mercy and walk humbly with my God and Savior and the one who gives me Life. I have feet in both worlds and am trying to listen well and communicate across both worlds. If I build community only with like minded folks my world gets smaller. So I guess I’m looking at multiple communities. I sent your blog “post election faith unraveling” to my dear white evangelical friends in TN last week because it explained well how I was feeling. I spent time in TN in January helping my mom and daughter and on top of that almost having a nervous breakdown. These people are my saving grace as I go and walk with them but they simply could not wrap their minds around my distress. For them this election was a one issue event, supreme court justice. We had some interesting conversations and I listened to what they had to say. There are many people that I love dearly-both family and friends-with whom I will continue to listen and have these conversations. I am still having a hard time not freaking out though because ….. well my friend from TN said “I am trusting God and believing He has a plan” How does one have a conversation after that? Thanks for continuing to articulate the deepest, darkest, thoughts and bringing them into the light of faith and community. Blessings.

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  • It’s been very hard for my husband and myself. We were “unraveling” here in the South anyway and have tried in vain to find a church after we became disillusioned with the last church we were attending . It’s especially difficult here in a small county in FL that overwhelmingly voted for Trump and it seems everyone’s sensibilities are that way and it is basically preached from the pulpit as well. Now on Sundays we go to a beautiful garden and worship there after our last attempt to look beyond differences. We yearn for community of like minded people but they simply are not in a congregation here, at least not now. Our families too took the one-issue way of voting which totally disgusted us, we saw 76% of Christians vote in such a way that did indeed feel like a betrayal to us and to God and we look on in horror at what has happened since the inauguration. Sorry if that sounds dramatic but it feel like we are aliens in a foreign land (which I guess we are in a way as we all long for Home) and personally it feels very invasive within me, though I try to rally. So it’s good to read your words and see so many other Christians, even if they are far away, take a stand. We keep the faith and persevere.

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  • Great to hear your thoughts and feelings, Kathy. I, too, feel a new urgency and inspiration in my educational and resistance efforts. In a post on my naturalspirituality.wordpress.com blog the other day I reminded folks (and myself) that the election has shown how little we know of psychology. What it should be showing us that waaay too many ignored….

    Assuming they had some intuitive sense if not formal education in understanding personality. AND I think they did sense not all was right within the candidate they were willing to take a risk on. But they failed to “connect dots” or listen to the many who had close-up or expert knowledge and strongly sounded warnings. Now we’ll have to go through a lengthy “spin cycle” (more ways than one) before I expect the man will be forced to resign or be impeached.

    Not adequate grounds for the latter yet but I’m confident it’s just a matter of time. Pence will be another set of problems but we’ll regain some stability.

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  • First, as I post this, I am a little worried that I sound harsh. I don’t intend to be. So, thank you to those reading this, who give me a little room. My only hope is to answer Kathy’s question.

    When I look at the political landscape, I see two parties with positions that support part of God’s kingdom. And I see parties with positions that do not support God’s kingdom. So, I can stand with one of the parties. Or I can stand with God. And as a follower of Jesus, I ought to be standing with God first.

    So, the part of this election that bothers me the most are people who I know are followers of Jesus who seem to put human politics first. Please, do not misunderstand me. Human politics are important. But no human government will ever become anywhere near close to being really fair, just, or compassionate. And we are to practice what Jesus gave us to do first.

    1. We are strangers and aliens in this world. We are ambassadors of Christ. We should engage the world, but neither participate in, nor affirm what is bad. And participate in, and affirm what is good.

    2. Jesus instructs us to love our enemies. That means we serve, speak well of, pray for, and treat patiently, kindly, without looking down on even people who treat us badly.

    3. And Jesus says that God looks at how we treat others, and regards that as how we treat him. If we are impatient, unkind to, and insult other people, we are impatient, unkind to, and insult God.

    4. We are supposed to demonstrate that truth is in Jesus by loving one another, and being united with one another.

    I see bad, ungracious behavior on both sides of the political spectrum. And it bothers me that God’s people are not better than that.

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  • In my opinion, it has always been a huge mistake for the church to become entangled in the affairs of the state. In my lifetime, this has especially manifest itself in the phenomenon of churches trying to convince the faithful to vote for or against certain candidates and issues, under the guise that doing so is what God wants. Many of us suspect the real motive is chasing after influence with politicians and political institutions, who always promise much, but deliver little.

    As individuals of course it is right and proper for us to research the issues and candidates, and vote as we think best. If we wish to become politically involved there are many political organizations that afford that opportunity. But that should not be the church. I know many have been taught that the church should be politically involved, but many of us strongly disagree. In the case of the recent election, political involvement has caused an exodus from the church that is continuing. If things really go south, those who did not support the current president will lay the blame squarely at the feet of the church, without whose huge assistance the outcome of the election would have been much different. The church lost far more than it gained in all of this. But will the church ever learn this lesson?

    Reply

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