Faithfully ministering for God in a atmosphere where even many Christians wanted a political savior.
Andrew Camp had a rough start the day after the election. “Wednesday morning, I woke up sad,” Camp told Message.
Camp helped lead an Election Night service at Mountain Life Church in Park City, Utah. He is the church’s spiritual growth pastor. Mountain Life is, in Camp’s words, a “very typical white, evangelical church.” The congregation is fairly conservative, he added, but politics isn’t discussed much.
Evangelicals and Exit Polls
The exit polls, even more than the outcome, are what bothered Camp. According to Pew Research, 81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. No other racial-religious demographic group polled that high for one candidate. Pew also found that 88 percent of blacks voted for Hillary Clinton, but its research made no distinction between blacks who identify as Christians and those who don’t.
“We weren’t presented with great choices,” Camp said, a reference to the candidacies of Clinton and Trump. Camp especially didn’t like the divisive rhetoric Trump used on the campaign trail. He feels it didn’t reflect Christian values. “What is the true religion that God loves?” Camp asked rhetorically. “Care for the widows and the oppressed. Those words didn’t seem to rain from our new president-elect’s mouth.”
A Beautiful Evening?
All the more reason, perhaps, that it’s a good thing Camp had Mountain Life’s Election Night service to reflect on. He said it featured worshipful music and a communion service. “It was a beautiful evening,” Camp said. “The feedback was very positive.”
At least 350 churches across the nation hosted a service on Election Night, according to Jason Boone of the Peace and Justice Support Network of the Mennonite Mission Network (MMN). A small group of pastors, two of whom were Mennonite pastors, started the Election Night services in 2012. So MMN has become an unofficial coordinator and resource for many churches that want to have Election Night services.
Boone said that each service reflects the unique character of the churches that host them. There is no set format that churches are required to follow. But there is a common goal: to alleviate the unique pressures some may feel during elections.
“You’re being asked to get behind and make allegiance to candidates or political systems or causes,” Boone said. “Those pressures – which are probably around every day to a certain extent – they’re so magnified on Election Day that being able to walk into the church on that day takes on a special meaning.”
Overriding Spiritual Reality
Boone said that Election Night services strive to acknowledge the political realities in our nation while also embracing the spiritual reality that a Christian’s first allegiance is to Christ. Andrew Camp at Mountain Life agrees.
“We are Christ followers first,” Camp said. “We’re not defined by American politics.”
Camp points to Ephesians 2:14-22 as a good reference point for Christians trying to find the right balance between political ideology and spirituality in the aftermath of the election.
“For he is our peace, the one who made both groups into one and who destroyed the middle wall of partition, the hostility, when he nullified in his flesh the law of commandments in decrees. He did this to create in himself one new man out of two, thus making peace, and to reconcile them both in one body to God through the cross, by which the hostility has been killed. So then you are no longer foreigners and noncitizens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints and members of God’s household, because you have been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the cornerstone. In him the whole building, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord, in whom you also are being built together into a dwelling place of God in the Spirit.”
When What We Want is a Political Savior
Camp also said that he was drawn to 1 Samuel 8, the passage in which Israel demands a king. It brought to mind questions that he believes Christians should reflect on in light of the election.
“How do we place our hope in the beauty and goodness of God’s kingdom over and against the hope of a political savior that may or may not have God’s kingdom’s interests at heart?” Camp asked. “How do I faithfully minister in a context where sometimes we want the political king and not our Messiah king? How do we train our people to look toward that over and against thinking that the Supreme Court can turn our nation around?”
Perhaps the lesson is that a divinely-centered peace can and should co-exist with a righteous passion for justice.
Camp’s morning-after reflections may seem at odds with Mountain Life’s Election Night service, which he described as quiet, unhurried and reflective. Perhaps the lesson is that a divinely-centered peace can and should co-exist with a righteous passion for justice. The same believer that finds refuge in an Election Night service certainly can go out the next day and look for a way to help those who have been historically disenfranchised.
“I think there is something inherently political about what happens when we gather and pledge our allegiance to Jesus,” Jason Boone added. “Jesus is going to go where there is pain and where there’s suffering, and where there are people marginalized.”