Our First 100 Days

There was a blizzard of headlines last week about Donald Trump’s First 100 Days in office. As an ethicist and a pastor, I’m less interested in Trump’s attitudes and actions (which the media is analyzing nonstop, from all angles, as rapidly as they can). I’m more interested in the question: What Did you Do with Your First 100 Days?

Many of us, in the weeks after November 8, tried to vision these First 100 Days. Who we are and who we’d become in the shift of power. Many of us, like the media, are still in reactive mode, treading through headlines to stay afloat.

But time has passed, and we have changed. Who have we become? In my own congregation, the election jolted us to life. When I think of the first 100 days, I think of what we’ve done together.

  • For the second time in my tenure, we went to a march as a group. Over a dozen of us went to the Women’s March in Chicago, covering an age span of more than 50 years.
  • Like many Mennonite churches, we’ve printed dozens of yard signs with the words “No Matter Where You’re From, We’re Glad You’re our Neighbor,” passing them on to friends and neighbors.

No matter where you're from we're glad

  • A Justice Group formed to streamline communications and spread the word about local events. There are plans to plans to break a Ramadan fast with one community center later this spring. And Muslim neighbors have gone out of their way to reach out to us, too. A group of girls from a local school brought flowers and chocolate to our office to thank us for the warm but loose relationship we’d had over the past few years.
  • The Justice Group began a book study on the global refugee crisis. Now and then there are whispers of sponsoring a refugee family as we did in the ’70s and ’80s.

Seeking Refuge

  • A speaker from the Chicago Religious Leadership Network on Latin America described the process of becoming a sanctuary church for undocumented immigrants (though I’ve heard little momentum on that in recent weeks).
  • Congregation members attended at least half a dozen events at mosques and Muslim centers in our county, open houses and education events to meet our neighbors. At one, a tall scholar in a hijab told me with a wink, “I like your pink hair. I just added a stripe of blue to mine.”
  • Congregation members are planning coordinated financial support, for organizations like World Relief and Immigrant Solidarity DuPage County.
  • Individuals who, for many reasons, live in the community but don’t attend the church, are watching us and adding their affirmation. They are encouraged by a church that speaks of Jesus as a refugee who heals the sick without considering preexisting conditions or ethnic identity. And they encourage us to continue taking action, saying that we are Jesus-followers who find the Trump administration lacking in Jesus-following.

People are showing up and seeking out with a new burst of energy, putting their time and their enthusiasm where their hearts are.

There is tension, too, in the church. A handful of people voted–or would have voted–for Trump. Nerves were high on Sunday mornings from Election Day to Inauguration. At times our Prayer and Sharing time was tense, as some advocated for giving Trump a chance while others suggested the campaign was chance enough. But, to my knowledge, the Trump supporters remain in our congregation, which is perhaps the most courageous and difficult thing of all. The remain, quietly, disagreeing with the majority politically and yet still singing in the choir and bringing dishes to the Easter Brunch Potluck.

When I stop to take an inventory, of my own life and the congregation, I realize we’ve done many things differently this First 100 Days. We’ve expressed our beliefs in our actions loudly. We are becoming better at being Christ’s hands and feet.

And yet, relationship-building is slow work. Change is slow work. It is an uphill battle for small Christian communities to claim Christ’s power before the powers that be. I recall a conversation, just after the election, about the Trump/Hitler rise-to-power comparison. A friend said, “It wasn’t that Germans sat back and did nothing while the Nazis took over, it’s that lots of people took small actions and sustained resistance is hard and it gets harder.”

There were groups–large groups–like the Confessing Church who resisted the Third Reich’s attempt to consolidate all Protestants into the pro-Hitler Protestant Reich Church. There were many people taking as many actions as they could, and still it wasn’t enough to shift the course of history. But it was enough, here and there, to save a life. It was something. It existed. Change is hard, and the fruit incubates a long time.

And so the First 100 Days is a measuring stick not just for the President, but for our own ethics and identity. It is a measure of the risks we learned to take, the solidarity we learned to practice, the rocks we learned to throw (nonviolently) into the wheels of the system. It is a measure of the courage and encouragement we take, of how we continue to become the people we seek to be.

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