Life after Election Day

By Wendell L. Griffen

In every society and age, there are people who need shelter, food, and clean water; people who need healing from disease, illness, and injury; people who have left their homelands and need to be welcomed; and there people who have been locked out and kept away from opportunities not only because of mistakes and misconduct but also because of prejudice and bigotry.

On November 8, 2016, four out of five people who self-identify as “evangelical Christians” did not vote as people who understand, with Jesus, that hungry, homeless, sick, imprisoned, and immigrant people are God’s surrogates in the world. Their votes did not show that they see God in our marginalized brothers and sisters.

So what can prophetic followers of Jesus do now? We must practice prophetic citizenship.

Prophetic citizenship involves challenging politicians, the media and our fellow citizens to focus on the needs of the people God cares most about. Prophetic followers must insist that President Donald Trump and his administration recognize God in our vulnerable and marginalized neighbors. Prophetic citizenship will force our nation to see people who are hungry and homeless, imprisoned and unwelcomed, as the most important public-policy concern for every community.

Prophetic citizenship is not about building the American empire. It is about being the Beloved Community.
Judge Reverend Wendell Griffen addresses injustices in front of the Little Rock, Ark. Board of Directors.

Prophetic citizenship is not about building the American empire. It is about being the Beloved Community. Prophetic citizenship recognizes that Jesus’ idea of love uses power to achieve justice in a society, not greater profits for the affluent, not more weapons for war-making, and not more pain for those who are oppressed, vulnerable, and alienated.

Prophetic citizenship produces public policies that implement the demands of justice. Therefore, we must now, with new urgency, challenge the Trump administration to confront and address realities that he did not mention during the presidential campaign but that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and other prophetic followers of Jesus never allowed the politicians of their time to ignore or pretend to forget.

Prophetic citizenship will begin when we quit reciting and replaying the “I Have a Dream” speech as if it were the best thing Dr. King said. We do not need more kum-ba-yah moments where we gather, hold hands, and sing “We Shall Overcome” — and then continue thinking and doing what we have always thought and done. Systemic change requires radically different thinking and conduct from each of us. Those who resist that approach signal that they want things to remain as they are, no matter how much they quote Dr. King and coopt his dream.

Like Dr. King, I believe in hope. Therefore, I reject the idea that we cannot be better than we are. But we will never be better if we maintain longstanding systems of inequality caused by the evils of racism, sexism (including homophobia), classism, militarism, materialism, and xenophobia.

If Dr. King’s vision of a just and peaceful society for all persons is to come true, we must put it to work as agents of radical change. Therefore, I appeal to you as followers of Jesus to live for God in every breath and heartbeat and by the power of the Holy Spirit to turn the world upside down. Be agents of healing in a hurtful world. Be agents of welcome in a fearful world. Be agents of generosity in a miserly world. In the name of Jesus, dare to live, love, serve, suffer, and even die to produce God’s new order of love.

Adapted from Wendell L. Griffen, “Life after Election Day: The Fierce Urgency of Prophetic Citizenship” in The Fierce Urgency of Prophetic Hope (Valley Forge, PA: Judson Press, 2017), 140–46. All rights reserved. Used by permission of the publisher.

The views expressed are those of the author or authors alone, and not those of the American Baptist Home Mission Societies.