Have you ever felt “left behind?”
Being left behind is a popular theme in our culture. It can be entertaining. It can also be frightening. I am thinking of the movie, Home Alone and the popular fiction of the Left Behind series. In the former, we cheer for the son who finds himself home alone and laugh along as he hilariously copes with the thieves in the night. In the latter, the Lord himself comes as a Thief in the Night to rescue us, to remove us from what we have become, or at least some of us. It isn't funny. It's scary. When you are left behind in this story, you deserve it.
The election of Donald J. Trump was due largely to folks who say they felt left behind during the Obama years and are tired of barely making it, paycheck to paycheck. Any progress made then wasn't theirs, they say. It belonged to others. And now, as the country anticipates a Trump administration, many folks fear they will be left behind or more accurately any progress they may have made will be reversed.
As a pastor, and as a liberal, a Democrat, I sense, (no, I know!) there is a real disconnect between those whose self-concerns differ. Compassion for the other is sorely lacking in our nation. In describing the church as a community of compassion and concern and connection the Apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 12:26: “If one member suffers, all suffer together with it; if one member is honored, all rejoice together with it.” As a nation where many citizens claim a Judeo-Christian identity such rejoicing and suffering together have been sorely lacking...left behind.
No matter what one's political party affiliation may be, or even one's religion, loyalty to one's self and “my” needs (not selfishness but self-concern) trumps all other concerns, or so it seems. And that's meant to be a neutral statement. An observation. Not a value judgment.
Gay citizens of America rejoiced when marriage equality became a reality. The White House itself was painted in rainbow colors. Those who had been denied this equality, who had been left behind for years were rejoicing. Others were, and are, still feeling somehow threatened by this development and will now, it seems, work to somehow reverse it. Those who have been rejoicing will work to see that does not happen.
I know a gay man who rejoiced in the SCOTUS decision, but who had told me that he intended to and did vote for Trump. I wondered why? So I asked him.
As I listened to him I began to understand. He rejoiced with his fellow gay citizens over marriage equality. But he did not want to let his rejoicing dis-connect him somehow to other ways he believes people are suffering economically and otherwise, still feeling somehow left behind. As a conservative Republican he felt Trump would be able to address those issues better than his own Republican party and Obama had done or Hillary would do. Though I disagree with that, I can now see that he was not alone in his feeling and hope. He's right, there was a “dis-connect” on the part of the Democratic candidate with this growing discontent of a large portion of the middle class. They did not view Hillary Clinton as their “champion,” as she had hoped. No, Donald Trump would be that for them.
In scripture, the least, the lost, the left behind are those for whom compassion and care are given and for whom justice is needed and with whom rejoicing takes place when achieved. In such suffering and rejoicing there is “Strength Together.” It is compassionate caring, said Jesus, which “Makes Great.”
Somehow, each of us as American citizens are called to balance our self-concern for our own well-being with the self-concerns of others for theirs. When progress is made for anyone, to rejoice and not be threatened “nor afraid.” When progress is not being made or seems slow in coming our duty is to become allies with those who still suffer and join with them in working for justice. To realize that when one is left behind, all are left behind. There is no dis-connect.
That call continues.