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By all accounts, the United States has just undergone an historic Presidential election. Some think it was historically good; others think it was historically bad. Without a doubt, it was a surprise of gargantuan proportions. The polls and the media were absolutely convinced that Hillary Clinton was going to be elected President. In fact, the “Main Stream Media” were almost universal in saying that Donald Trump had no chance of winning the election. They not only were also almost unanimous in saying that he would not win, but also protested that he should not. Some of that opinion was based on his undeniable rough edges. But there is more. 

Given the overwhelming perspective of the media that Donald Trump neither would or should win, it is quite remarkable that literally 100% of my mail from overseas has congratulated and celebrated President-elect Trump’s victory. What have they seen that half the voters in the U.S. (and virtually none of the media) failed to see? Living in other countries, how could they get information? 

 A large percentage of the emails came from Kenya and Sudan. What did they see or not see? For starters, people in Kenya didn’t have to rely on internet news. They watched the huge impact that the administration of President Barak Obama had on Kenyan society and the Church in that country, and (rightly) saw Hillary Clinton as an extension of his terms. There was great grief at the U.S. government’s insistence that the new Kenyan Constitution include provisions for abortion. Sadly, government voices insisted that a great deal of funding was linked by the U.S. administration to demands to include abortion in the Constitution.

Then when President Obama visited Kenya, he also pressed for acceptance of same-sex marriage. In my visits just after President Obama had been there, everyone was talking about it. They were hugely offended and were delighted at the courage that Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta exhibited in standing next to President Obama and telling him, “”The fact of the matter is Kenya and the U.S. share so many values: common love for democracy, entrepreneurship, value for families — these are some things that we share,” Kenyatta said. “But there are some things that we must admit we don’t share. Our culture, our societies don’t accept. It is very difficult for us to be able to impose on people that which they themselves do not accept,” Kenyatta continued. “This is why I repeatedly say for Kenyans today the (gay rights issue) is generally a non-issue.” 

President Obama’s attempt at bullying the Kenyans, on the heels of U.S. pressure about abortion, did not go well. They assumed that an administration led by Hillary Clinton would be more of the same if not worse on those issues. Though Donald Trump was not well known, they knew that he had not endorsed either abortion or same-sex marriage.  

The turn in Kenyan attitudes away from the policies of President Obama was profound. When President Obama was first elected, Kenya declared three days of national holidays and celebration. At the beginning, he was much loved and celebrated because of his Kenyan heritage. For them to turn to such a critical position is a reflection of a huge disagreement with the way he interacted with Africa during his terms.   

It is not surprising that the conservative Christians in South Sudan also disagreed with President Obama’s “social” agenda, but that was not the biggest issue for them. When Sudan and South Sudan separated, South Sudan became the world’s newest nation. It was heralded as a magnificent accomplishment to end years of fighting and tensions. After the independence, President Obama refused to address the internal strife in South Sudan. Many people there have told me that all it would take is for President Obama to say to South Sudanese President Salva Kiir Mayardit. “Stop it!” and the attacks from Mayardit’s troops would instantly stop.  

After independence, President Mayardit populated the government with close allies, ignoring other groups. Many South Sudanese have described the situation as being a minority government of 10% being out of touch with 90% of the people. It is fascinating that the situation is laid at the feet of President Obama by so many South Sudanese. They felt that Hillary Clinton would continue the same policies and are extremely hopeful that there will at least be “verbal diplomacy” from President Trump after he is sworn in. 

Of course, we don’t really know what President-elect Trump will do when he takes office, but there are indications that his administration will not be pressing for advocacy in the areas of same-sex marriage and abortion. 

During the Presidential campaign, Hillary Clinton said, “Far too many women are denied access to reproductive health care [read: abortion] and safe childbirth, and laws don’t count for much if they’re not enforced. Rights have to exist in practice—not just on paper…Laws have to be backed up with resources and political will,” she explained. “And deep seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed.” It is clear that Biblically conservative churches would have been in for a rough go on Biblically-held values on life and marriage had she been elected.   

Now, this is not to say that President-elect Trump is being or should be endorsed. There are certainly problems. During the campaign, “Candidate Trump” demonstrated unquestionably “rough edges.” He has been indefensibly rude and made many inflammatory remarks, though, honestly, many of the actual comments were not as inflammatory as the way they have been portrayed. In any case, many people who were fed up with Washington gridlock and the status quo of the media and “political elites” voted vociferously for a change. A big change. 

I believe that “the Church” has been given a reprieve in some areas such as property tax-exemption being taken away (which I anticipated under a Clinton administration) and pressure about acceptance of same-sex marriage being increased, just to name two issues. That does not mean that we have the opportunity to coast. There is going to be a great need for theologically sound conversations about immigration and Biblically-based conversations about how we address challenges of those in our culture who are in crisis or economically vulnerable. There is also the clear truth that we have been losing the cultural battle for Biblical values to be followed, and we need to change. A big part of that is because we have been “staying” rather than “going.” In the Great Commission, Jesus Christ commanded us to “GO!” We just haven’t done it. We have morphed what He said into simply welcoming people into our churches who find us. That is not what we have been asked to do. There is no question, we are supposed to “Go!” and we are supposed to care for “the least of these.” Biblically, there are responsibilities that “sojourners” in the land were called upon to fulfill. We need to help shape an immigration policy that is Biblically faithful and welcomes people in an orderly way, and yet recognizes the dangers that open borders can bring when we know that there are people with evil intent who want to come into the nation.  

When we go out to reach people, we need to engage them (and the culture) with Gospel truth and concrete demonstrations of love. We also need to be willing to “speak truth to power.” That could be very painful and costly in a Trump administration, as it could have been in a Clinton administration. On the encouraging side, there are reports of a number of evangelical Christians praying with President-elect Trump toward the end of the campaign. I heard from one person I deeply trust, that he prayed with him and saw repentance and transformation begin. Time will tell, but I would much rather hear reports of that sort than stories of disdain for the faith. I did take encouragement from President-elect Trump the night of his election. He reflected humility I had not seen before. There is a lot of momentum that needs to change, but then again, we have a very big God. Throughout history, God has used those with notorious backgrounds to advance the Kingdom, and He is not finished doing that. Whether others can notice it or not, I know the depth of the work that Jesus Christ has done in my life and heart, and it is significant. (OK, I understand I have a long, long way to go.) The point is that God changes peoples lives and turns “hearts of stone to hearts of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). If He does that with President-elect Trump, there will be great reason to celebrate. Sadly, I don’t think such a conversion would be welcomed by the political left. Demonstration of such a work of the Holy Spirit would be wonderful if we get to see it. 

Sometimes in history, there are figures who have a huge impact for good on the lives of the faithful even though they are not “citizens of the Kingdom” yet. That is another possibility. In any case, we are in untested political waters. Only God knows for sure what will happen. 

In coming weeks, there are some observations that can be made between the political surprises of the U.S. election and some of the things happening in the Anglican Communion. It will be fun to look at that and see what parallels there are.