4 Things I Learned from the American Election

We just witnessed one of the biggest political upsets in American history. Donald Trump defeated Hillary Clinton to become the next American President.

Not only that, but the contest was nasty.

And since various forms of media are used much more widely today that they were even four years ago, real-time emotions, opinions, stats, and polling numbers were pumped out on Twitter, Facebook and Periscope at an incredible speed, contributing to a white-hot brew that will leave few people unaffected.

“Double, double toil and trouble; Fire burn and caldron bubble…”

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To be honest, I haven’t really followed the election that closely other than reading the odd article and participating in school yard conversations. But as I watched everything come in—as a Canadian, as a husband, as a father, and as a pastor—I couldn’t help but notice four things.

And keep in mind that I don’t claim to be a political expert. Although I worked at Queen’s Park for a while and have an interest in politics, my thoughts are more as a general observer who cares about America and it’s relationship with the world.

1. Our world is a precarious place

When Trump started taking States no one thought the Republicans would take, the markets were impacted. To me, this is a reminder of something bigger—not only that the world is watching, but that it is effected by a country not their own.

America is a major force not only in trade, but in the global community in general. Leaders matter. Those who feel their vote doesn’t make a difference, or that candidates don’t matter, or that things will never change, shouldn’t be so sure after November 2016.

Our world is precarious. And fragile. And troubled.

2. It’s naïve to simplify voter “groups”

I think this is one of the (many) reasons the predictions were so incredibly wrong, although it’s hard to be sure. (Remember, I’m no expert.) According to CNN, Hilary Clinton had an 85% percent chance of winning. And yet, Trump’s winning margin of electoral votes was significant.

I know it also has to do with how the system works, but I wonder about this. At one point in the night I heard a commentator predicting what would happen with “the Latino vote” in certain areas. I also heard people talk other groups like “blacks” or “whites” or “evangelicals.”

But in our increasingly diverse society—and it’s been pretty diverse for a while—how reasonable is it to assume such sameness in thought? An increastingly interconnected world is making people’s opionions increasingly hard to predict.

The old rules seem to be out the window.

3. There is confusion about religion

It’s no secret that the religious/spiritual landscape of North America is evolving. In the midst of that evolution, there is increasing confusion about… well, pretty much everything.

For example, Trump has talked about a ban on Muslims. But what did he mean? Is he re-imagining America’s historic commitment to religious freedom? A later article seemed to indicate it wasn’t really a ban on Muslims per se, but on immigrants from countries who were/are compromised by terrorism. It’s hard to know for sure.

I feel it’s part of a country’s duty to protect its citizens; but oversimplifications can be hurtful and feed misunderstanding about a whole host of people and groups.

One last point about language. The terms “fundamentalist” and “evangelical” are all used and misused. Quite often, and most problematically, they are used to characterize certain people or religious groups as “extreme.”

But let me make it clear: Believing Jesus is God’s Son, or that the Bible is inspired by God (for Christians), or that Mohammed is God’s messenger (for Muslims), are not extreme views. Blowing up buildings is extreme—activities which are widely condemned by those who honour the greatest commandments to love God and neighbour.

It should also be noted that I think we’re witnessing, in our own culture, the rise of “liberal fundamentalism.” It’s also a commitment to extremes, but in a different way, and quite often just as ideological.

4. God is in control

I’m not sure who’s reading this. Some of you are people of faith. Some aren’t. But for me, I see the election as an opportunity to renew myself in the cause of peace and hope—in a world which so desperately needs peace and hope.

As I do this, I know that God is still in control. He gives us all free will, and still continues to be almighty in the midst of our lives and choices… guiding, shaping, loving.

Nothing changes that.

I’ll end with this. My prayer going forward is for a world which knows peace and not war; for leaders who are wise, humble, and incredibly respectful; and for more understanding and less fear.

Hope is not easily silenced. She muscles her way through the naysayers to the edge of a ledge and prepares to fly…

No. Matter. What.


I write a daily devo called “Up!” that you can read each day in 1-minute. You can learn more and sign-up here: www.TheUpDevo.com

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About Matthew Ruttan

Matthew Ruttan is a simplifier, disciple, husband, dad, singer, blogger and pastor at Westminster in Barrie, Ont. "A pulse doesn't mean we're alive." Receive his daily email devotional here One day he hopes to own a rowboat. Subscribe to this blog.