In my interim position as acting General Secretary of Modern Church, it might have been wise to hold off a little longer before trying to speak into what my ten year old granddaughter calls the ‘emptiness inside us’.
Right now, the emptiness is the terrible silence that lingers on when all that can be said in the immediate aftermath of last Tuesday’s US election result has been said.
‘Things fall apart’, as Yeats would still be writing, but I think the ‘centre’, which is the enduring, faithful and true liberal voice in politics and the Church, can and will endure. Modern Church is called to whisper courage into the silent aftershock of this election, and courage comes with the proper exercising of what is called the conviction of faith.
Faith, and all good religion, is concerned with facing down lies, including the kind of false optimism we are being exhorted to by certain members of the present government. Lies, when uncovered, lead to despair, but the uncovering can also bring hope. As liberals, we are called to face down the kind of despair which comes with complacency, or going along with whatever lies and half truths are used to manipulate us by people who want power – any kind of power. We are called to speak of hope, rather than optimism.
I believe that in order to face down despair and to speak hope into the world and into the Church, we must be confident in what we are about, both as liberals and as Christians. We are a vital force for turning the rising tide of what is beginning to resemble Fascism here, in the US and in Europe, not to mention its Christian lookalike to which Trump owes a great deal. We face down despair, and begin to turn the tide, by grasping hold of what we know to be the embodiment of love itself.
These are dark times, but we are not alone in the darkness, or in the emptiness inside us. The conviction of faith tells us that the one who was lowered into a pit on the end of a rope between his appearance before Caiaphas and the first part of his trial before Pilate, when torture was ordered, also allows himself to be lowered with us into the terrifying pit which a Trump presidency augurs.
The story of Christ being lowered into a pit, or holding cell, is apocryphal but the reality, its central truth, endures. It is the small spot of light just visible above us, at the entrance to the pit. The intervening hours Christ was held there correspond in some measure to the coming weeks, the intervening period before Donald Trump becomes the leader of the free world. We can envisage, as the press is already doing, most eloquently in some cases, the range of worst possible scenarios which are likely to take place once he holds office. We can go to the bottom of the pit. But we remain connected with the infinite mercy of a loving God, as Christ was connected by a rope to his bullies in all their crudeness.