The realization came to me while watching the “Mothers of the Movement” speaking at the Democratic National Convention. These mothers of children who had died too young and too violently, Sandra Bland, Trayvon Martin, Jordan Davis, and more, had come to Philadelphia to speak. Sandra Bland’s mom was leading them off with words of faith and grace.
And that’s when I thought about Donald Trump’s speech at his own convention last week, and about the overarching message of fear, intolerance, and negativity that has come to define his campaign.
“Make America Safe Again,” said the signs and speakers on the first night of the Republican National Convention. The desire to feel and be safe crosses political boundaries; it informs a litany of human actions. Yet the very concept seems unexamined. What makes for safety? Is it the same as feeling safe? Is it the same as comfort?
American Christianity has faced theological-political crises before. Repeatedly, visions of what is possible for the nation have fallen short of reality. In the past, periods of change pushed faithful people to reconsider what they believed, not only about the nation but also about the meaning of God’s call to justice. In each critical moment, for good or ill, Americans altered their religious views, and the horizon of what was possible expanded or contracted.
In revolutionary America, disunity resulted from debates over whether faith required obedience to the king or a revolt.