The United States elected Donald Trump as its next President last week. This event hit me in a similar way to the Church’s (forced) announcement of the exclusion policy last November. It’s not just that they were both surprising, although they definitely were that. I followed the election forecast and betting sites, and I believed them when they said it was most likely that Trump would lose to Hillary Clinton. As far as the exclusion policy goes, I definitely did not see it coming. Lacking a top-sacred clearance, I didn’t have any idea of what the Q15 might be considering in their meetings.
The major similarity is that both go against what I see as the fundamental principles of their organizations.
In the Church, I always held to the idea that love was a core principle, as well as the belief that God is no respector of persons. The exclusion policy feels to me like it violates these core principles in a cynical attempt to keep Church members from becoming too accepting of gay people. It suggests that what I thought of as a peripheral issue—sexual orientation—is actually a core issue for the Church. Similarly, as an American, I have thought that some of our core ideals were expressed in statements such as “all men are created equal,” “give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,” and “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.” The election of Trump, who sympathizes with white supremacists, who clearly doesn’t believe in religious freedom, and who spews vitriol toward immigrants, seems to elevate not just peripheral ideals, but what I think of as anti-ideals, like arrogance, willful ignorance, sexism, and intolerance, over ideals like equal treatment, tolerance, religious freedom, and being welcoming to immigrants.
Of course I’m not saying that either the Church or the United States always lives up to these ideals that I feel like the exclusion policy and Trump violate. Far from it. But these ideals are still crucial in telling us what we are hoping and working toward. For example, after invading Afghanistan, George W. Bush at least had the decency to say “Our war is not against Islam.” At the time, I recall being frustrated that, given his actions, I felt like he didn’t mean it. But in retrospect, I’m grateful that he at least nodded toward the ideal of religious tolerance and didn’t paint an entire (huge!) religion with a broad brush. Trump, on the other hand, has no interest in this ideal. He hates (or is at the very least suspicious of) all Muslims. He thinks they’re all terrorists until proven otherwise.
It depresses me to think that I’m in the minority now in both my church and my country in what I see as core ideals. The hope I hold out is that neither the ideals of the Church nor the United States are fixed or inevitable, and with some advocacy, it’s possible they could move in a better direction.