Writings by Cole Huffman

The Waking Up is the Hardest Part

“When you’re dreaming with a broken heart, the waking up is the hardest part.” John Mayer, Dreaming With a Broken Heart

Most of the people I pastor or am associated with were disappointed at the results of the 2012 presidential election—even more so in some ways than 2008. They went to bed last night disappointed and woke up the same. To put it Mayer-esque, they were dreaming of the restoration of American values they’re heartbroken over seeing discarded by an administration they do not trust, waking up each day in a society they no longer feel comfortable in. Thus their hope for a new administration.

My tension in this as an evangelical pastor is that it is something of my job to rebuke the complacencies of expecting to feel comfortable in society, but I shouldn’t do this without first attempting to understand the brokenheartedness. And I don’t use the word heartbroken dramatically. When something you’ve loved, served, and even sacrificed for becomes unrecognizable to you or seems unappreciative of your values, there’s real heartbreak in that.

Speaking very generally and broadly (meaning there are many exceptions), younger evangelicals have not exactly honored our parents and grandparents when it comes to their sense of the country versus ours. We too easily accept the cultural pluralism they too harshly culture war against. We think their open partisanship (sanctification of the Republican Party) is as unfashionable as shopping for formal wear the same place you buy tires. We’re quicker to correct their civil religion than to honor their civil service. We caricature their concerns as wanting a daily dose of outrage, returning to the good ole’ days of racism and sexism, and Fox News broadcast in the church narthex. Isn’t this all a little too easy and convenient for us?

In the words of St. Benedict’s Rule, we risk breaking the vessel of civic responsibility for rubbing too hard to remove the rust of civil religion. I didn’t feel disappointment as I watched election returns last night because I figured all along that President Obama would be reelected and I never really embraced Governor Romney, though I voted for him. (I wanted Mitch Daniels of Indiana to run.) My disappointment is more with the state of dialogue within the evangelical church itself. Some say the church is too angry with the world. I say the church is too angry with itself.

An older man in my church stopped me in the hall one Wednesday night recently. He said he’d been pondering 1 John, realizing he really did hate President Obama but didn’t yet want to give it up. He shared with me concerns and perspectives that I consider conspiracy theories and ridiculous, but to him truly justified his hatred of the president. I also saw under his anger a man who recognized he was actually dealing with God in this.

It had a different effect on me than it used to. Used to, I’d go away from such a man shaking my head at the level of his gullibility and a little ticked-off that I have people with such perspectives in my church. Aren’t they listening to my preaching!? But instead I realized (thank you, God the Spirit) that I use my lack of political hatred and bitterness to prop up pride in myself for being cooler, nobler, more reasonable—well, let’s just say it—better than my brother before God. Somehow I don’t believe the apostle John would say I’ve gotten the point of his instruction either.  

To my heartbroken friends, a few kind words for you. I agree with you: President Obama is not the best this country can do. I disagree with you that his presidency is the worst thing that’s ever happened to us. It’s not the end of the republic. I know you don’t need me to tell you that Jesus is king and God is sovereign because you taught me that yourself and have modeled it for me, and it was rather snot-nosed of a lot of us to throw that up in your face last night as if you’re not allowed a moment’s disappointment at the state of the nation you continued building and left friends dead on battlefields for. But then you’re not reading Twitter feeds manically as we are, so you don’t know we were doing that!

I know you loved Reagan’s “It’s morning in America.” Waking up to this morning in America was hard for you. But you’re not done so don’t check out. Don’t let the disappointment linger and don’t let it become a strategy. Your churches need you as does your country to be salt and light here and there. You’re God’s people, that’s what we do.
Posted by Cole Huffman at 3:48 PM
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