Lift your eyes up
Joint editorial by Bert Witvoet (B.W.) and Angela Reitsma Bick (A.B.)
(B.W.): Tuesday, November 8, was Election Day in the United States. Throughout the evening, my wife and I watched mostly a U.S. channel to see what the outcome would be. Not that we were much in doubt. Hillary Clinton was expected to win, right? However, as the evening wore on, the outcome was far from certain. Each hour brought new election results, and by late evening the tally was running against Clinton. Alice and I stayed up until 1 a.m. and, by that time, it was clear that Donald Trump had won the presidency!
It was shocking news. After we went to bed it took me two hours to fall asleep. Trump had won! How could that have happened? I did finally manage to sleep from 4 a.m. till 7. When I awoke, I still felt awful. I began my normal morning walk, but about half an hour into my routine, I began to feel my spirit lift. What was I worried about? The sun was shining brightly and the birds were singing their hearts out. God was being praised and glorified! Where was Trump? Where were the debaters of this age?
(A.B.): I was in Toronto the evening of November 8, listening to Ann Voskamp make a similar attitude adjustment. It was the last leg of a 10-city tour to promote her new book, The Broken Way. Though Voskamp is Canadian, this was her only stop in Canada and it felt like an odd choice to plan for it on U.S. Election Day. Anxiety sat in the church along with the thousand women there, all fans of her first book, One Thousand Gifts. It took about an hour before Voskamp had the stage to herself. Then she wasted no time putting what felt so oppressive into perspective: “The King of Kings will be on his throne tomorrow morning!”
We weren’t all with her yet, though. There were a few weak “Amens!” and a trickle of clapping. Perhaps, even in Canada, a steady diet of election news had made us sick. We had hunched too long over screens and couldn’t see the big picture anymore.
Look up! she was saying, though not in those words. She’s way more eloquent than that. But I heard it nonetheless: Lift your eyes up!
(B.W.): It’s two weeks later today, the end of November. Donald Trump is nominating dozens of people to the various positions under him. It’ll be a one-party government with a Republican president, a Republican-controlled Senate and a Republican-dominated House of Representatives. He can even afford to include some non-Republican politicians in his cabinet.
To what extent he will implement his agenda remains to be seen. He can’t possibly implement all his campaign promises, which included build a wall along the Mexican border, get rid of radical Islamic terrorism, allow Americans to carry guns in all 50 states, bring back the American dream, target and kill relatives of terrorists and 71 more, sometimes contradictory, new rules. In addition, Trump has appointed several extreme right-wing politicians to help him switch the direction of his government’s international train back towards the U.S. border.
What has changed? America used to see itself as a champion for all democratic countries in the world. Besides viewing their own citizens as relatives, it also believed in encouraging many others as friends and neighbours. This healthy kind of international citizenship is what marked the international climate that the West, and especially the United States, promoted until today.
Who knows what lies ahead?
(A.B.): Those campaign promises hinged on hatred and fear, xenophobia and the scarcity principle. Trump promised to “Make America Great Again” and measured greatness in units of wealth and power. So did the fool in Proverbs 28.
Post-election, a visiting pastor reminded our church that you cannot change the world with power. You can only change it with love. Jesus led not through power and strength but in love and service.
Instead of xenophobia, philoxenia – brotherly love. Love a stranger like a brother, as Christ did.
Country-shaped philoxenia leads to the kind of healthy international citizenship that Bert described above.
Church-driven philoxenia turns into hundreds of volunteers across Canada welcoming war-weary survivors, as Dena Nicolai shared on page two.
And if each one of us enacts a theology of hospitality, of philoxenia, who knows what lies ahead?
That is a theme in Ann Voskamp's new book, and a question she asked the audience in Toronto on November 8. On that rainy election night, an audience of regular Canadians wouldn’t have impressed President-elect Trump. Just a church full of women, which may or may not have included CEOs and millionaires. I couldn’t tell. Those things don’t matter much, in the end.
“Every one of us,” Voskamp said – throwing her sentence down like a gauntlet at our feet –
“Every one of us can start changing headlines when we start reaching out our hands.”
Bert Witvoet and Angela Reitsma Bick agreed to co-write an editorial for this last issue of the year. They wish all our readers a very happy and blessed New Year!
Christian Courier is posting all the content from our Christmas issue online for free. If you enjoyed reading this, we encourage you to subscribe to our print newspaper or digital version to access all our upcoming content.