Florida pastors encourage reconciliation, unity following brutal 2016 presidential election

Did you find yourself thrown into a “basket of deplorables” this election season for the views you held? Or, were you more often than not voicing concerns about the temperamental fitness of the other candidate?

Regardless of your political persuasion, perhaps the one thing upon which we can all agree as followers of Jesus Christ is that political discourse hit new lows during the 2016 election season.

While an “us vs. them” mentality is not uncommon during an election season, the 2016 election seemed to amplify our different political beliefs in a way that has been polarizing at best and downright hostile at worst.

As Americans across the nation begin to absorb the reality of a Donald Trump presidency, we asked Florida Baptist pastors how we can start to come together in a Christ-honoring way and have real communication about the issues that have divided us.

Ted Traylor, pastor of Olive Baptist Church in Pensacola, hopes Christians will change the tone of the conversation as we move forward.

“The election season has indeed found believers who normally walk together taking different paths,” he said in written remarks. “We must be gracious with each other.”

It may not be an easy road back for some.

Erik Cummings, senior pastor of New Life Church in the Miami suburb of Carol City, said it will take the intentional efforts of church leaders to help brothers and sisters in Christ find healing after what he called some “shocking revelations in the areas of race and simple decorum.”

“Sadly, the church lost credibility outside the walls as well as with one another,” Cummings said in an emailed statement.

Though most Christians on both sides of the aisle found it difficult to fully back their party’s candidate at different times during the last 16 months, many found it easier to see their vote as a vote against the competitor.

“The truth is no one fully knows what Donald Trump will do as president, but many people who knew what Hillary Clinton would do as president were not OK with that,” James Ross, lead pastor of Mosaic Church in the Panhandle town of Crestview, said in written remarks. “They voted against her more than they voted for him.”

Ross said whereas we’ve been calling on conservative-leaning Christians to respect and pray for the president over the last eight years, it is now time for liberal-leaning Christians to do the same.

Cummings warned that as we make our way back toward one another, we must not mistake uniformity for the true unity that comes from the oneness of Scripture.

“I’m under the conviction that we all need to see how desperately we need to surrender and yield ourselves to the will of God,” he said. “Because we have seen that when we elevate preference over purpose, things will get out of order.”

Along those lines Ross thinks that now’s the time for Christians to discuss the issues that divide us “in light of the lens of Scripture.”

“There is much to talk about on theological issues and religious liberty,” Traylor said.

But maybe we shouldn’t do it in our next Facebook post or tweet.

“Speaking face to face rather than making social media our primary means of conversation would be wise,” Traylor advised.

What’s the big Election 2016 takeaway for Christians?

“Like most elections people are looking for hope,” Traylor said. “We have that message and must make it known.”

Florida Baptist Witness Reporter Nicole Kalil can be reached at 904-596-3169, nkalil@goFBW.com and on Twitter @FBWNicole. 

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