Editor’s Introduction: Post-election America

[1] The election of Donald J. Trump as the next president of the United States has raised some important ethical issues that will have to be sorted out wisely and carefully for the sake of the wellbeing of our country and our communities. There are complicated questions regarding conflicts of interest, foreign meddling into our electoral process, the fairness or unfairness of the electoral college system, the intentional use of misinformation in social media platforms to discredit one candidate or to favor the other, the role of science and facts in the process of policymaking, and many other ethical concerns. There is also an intense sense of fear among marginalized communities in our country that have been maligned and even demonized by the presidential candidate during his campaign.

[2] At a recent meeting with an organization committed to working with immigrant children and youth, people were expressing concern that those followers of the president elect who have xenophobic and White Supremacist inclinations might feel compelled to act on their hatred by targeting brown and immigrant peoples for random acts of violence. “My fear,” one of the leaders said, “Is that someone will come to one of our meetings with a machine gun and start shooting at us and at our kids.” In light of the ongoing trial of Dylann Roof, her concerns are valid and must be taken seriously.

[3] So what should we do? The guiding question of the Journal of Lutheran Ethics is: given the fact that we have been saved by grace through faith in Christ, “how, then, shall we live?” That is the question addressed in this December/January issue of the JLE: now that Donald J. Trump has been elected president of the United States, how then shall we live? We have invited two authors to reflect on this question for JLE.

[4] The first one addresses the question from the perspective of womanist theological ethics. Dr. Linda Thomas teaches constructive theology and anthropology at the Lutheran School of Theology at Chicago, where she was instrumental in beginning the blog, “We Talk. We Listen,” a forum where issues at the intersection of theology and social justice are addressed. She writes with the passion of a community that feels vulnerable and retraumatized (because of a long history of institutional abuse through slavery, Jim Crow, lynchings and systemic racial harassment), but also a community knows the sources of its spiritual strength and the importance of forging alliances with other vulnerable communities and allies.

[5] Pastor Michael Wilker writes from the perspective of a middleclass white male pastor who grew up in a farming community in the Midwest and now serves a congregation right across the street from the Nation’s capitol. He shares with our readers a list of practices that his faith community has found helpful and that he wishes others can adapt.

[6] These essays are not prescriptive. They are but two examples, taken from different settings (the seminary and the parish) of how our theological traditions can inform us as we figure out how to be faithful in our new political and social circumstances. A tenet of our Lutheran heritage is the idea that there is no isolated septic sphere where the faith is lives (Luther was strongly opposed to monasticism). Faith must be lived out in the world, even if the specific ways we live out our faith varies depending on our specific functions in the different spheres of society. Luther was never shy to chime in on the political affairs of his day, because he understood that even if there are two kingdoms or realms (or three spheres) they are all ultimately accountable to God and to the demands of divine justice. The church must be careful and prudent but not shy in assuming its proper role in society.

Carmelo Santos

JLE Editor

Georgetown University

Carmelo Santos

​Carmelo Santos, Ph.D., serves as associate pastor at St. Mark’s (San Marcos) Lutheran Church in Springfield, VA. He is also a lecturer at Georgetown University.