Honouring our baptismal promises

In the wake of one of the most divisive U.S. elections in history, activists urge Americans to renounce hate speech. Photo: Hayk Shalunts/Shutterstock
In the wake of one of the most divisive U.S. elections in history, activists urge Americans to renounce hate speech. Photo: Hayk Shalunts/Shutterstock
Published January 5, 2017

(This editorial first appeared in the January issue of the Anglican Journal.)

Here comes the new year, full of possibilities and promise.

At least, this is the view of some, for whom it brings visions of hope, a clean slate, a chance to start over. Maybe, just maybe, this year will be better.

And so the arrival of the new year is often celebrated in many parts of the world.

This year, however, is markedly different. A number of people around the world, particularly in the United States, will be greeting 2017 with a lot of trepidation.

The year 2016 hasn’t quite ended as this is being written, but already a post-election hate crime wave is a affecting many parts of the U.S. Sadly, this has spilled over to Canada.

The election of Donald Trump as president has coincided with a spike in hate crimes in the U.S., at least 700 occurring in the post-election week alone. These outbreaks of violence and harassment have been directed at Muslims, Jews, immigrants, people of colour, women and LGBTQ (Lesbians, Gays, Bisexuals, Transgender, Queer)-people Trump himself disparaged during his racially charged, sexist and divisive campaign.

A particularly chilling video of Trump supporters lifting their hands in a Nazi salute and crying out, “Heil Trump” captured what Jewish organizations have described as a level of anti-Semitic hostility and nativism not seen in the U.S. in decades.

Trump’s own actions as president-elect have only added to the rising insecurity and instability many Americans are facing.

It is deeply troubling that he has not bothered to call out his supporters who are inciting hatred and violence. He “disavowed” support for them and renounced racism, not of his own accord, but only upon prompting by media.

Trump’s choice of advisers and policy makers-including his chief strategist, who has been accused of anti-Semitism and Islamophobia, and his chief of staff, who has not ruled out creating a “Muslim registry”-has been worrisome, to say the least.

The full impact of a Trump presidency is yet to come, and people not just in the U.S. but around the world are already bracing themselves for the worst. After all, as foreign policy watchers often say, “When the U.S. sneezes, the rest of the world catches a cold.”

But there are signs of hope. People are transforming the great sadness and helplessness they initially felt into vigilance and a resolve to take peaceful action.

In the U.S. and in Canada, interfaith groups have coalesced and staged prayerful solidarity rallies; there is a strong commitment to continue working together to protect hard-won rights and freedoms. Individuals are making personal pledges to stand up and be counted.

To speak up, to resist evil and oppose actions, especially those directed against the poor and powerless, is “holy work,” the Rev. Gay Clark Jennings, president of The Episcopal Church’s House of Deputies, stressed in a post-election statement. “This is not a partisan political statement; it is a confession of faith.”

In his message to Episcopalians, U.S. Presiding Bishop Michael Curry reaffirmed his church’s commitment to support and stand with vulnerable people. It is a commitment, he said, that honours promises one has made in Holy Baptism: “To proclaim by word and example the Good News of God in Christ; To seek and serve Christ in all persons, loving our neighbour as ourselves; to strive for justice and peace among all people, and to respect the dignity of every human being.”

These are vows worth reaffirming in 2017 and thereafter.


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