Post-Election Reflections from a Father to His College-Age Daughters

>>>Post-Election Reflections from a Father to His College-Age Daughters

Post-Election Reflections from a Father to His College-Age Daughters

1) Talk to a friend who did not vote the way you did. If you have no friends who voted differently, make some. Now! In a pluralistic society, you cannot afford to live in a self-imposed exile of ignorance. Most people have reasonable reasons (at least reasonable to them) for their behavior–in particular for whom they vote. Learn those reasons, and you will grow as a person and as a citizen. You may even change your mind on some matters. Take the risk to grow.

2) And while you are growing spiritually, grow intellectually. Learn more about the wonderful heritage of your democratic government and the Founding Fathers’ vision for the limitation of powers. (I do not apologize for urging you to use your excellent mind!) Our ancestors immigrated from societies where the King’s word was law (thus often conflating executive and legislative and even judicial powers). The United States was birthed out of the Protestant construction of the nation-state, which in turn was based on two tenets:

  1. legitimate government is the protector of the people first and foremost
  2. the right of national self-determination

These two principles arose from the Old Testament’s separation of powers, which preserved each person’s unique standing before God as a morally free and responsible agent. The court prophet Nathan, without recrimination, could rebuke the King for adultery because the King was morally accountable to God’s law, not free from it (see 2 Samuel 12). If you are eager to read how this biblical way of government arose in the context of Israel’s pagan neighbors, then please read Created Equal: How the Old Testament Broke from Ancient Political Thought, by Joshua Berman.

3) A few people are drawing parallels to Trump’s election and the Brexit referendum in Britain earlier this year. I think it is an apt and accurate parallel. So, reflection on one phenomenon will help you understand the other. As I see it, the West is in the thrall of an ideological battle between the ancient biblical vision of the nation-state versus varied pretentious imperial globalizations (whether they are state or economically inspired empires). The single best wide-angle analysis on this phenomenon is Yoram Hazony’s essay found here:

4) Once you have spoken to thoughtful people who disagree with you, as well as having done some serious reading and reflection, you will hopefully begin to realize how deep and resilient our constitutional democracy is. Obama did not destroy this heritage, nor will Trump. Let us pray that our new President-elect will return to the roots of our political legacy, as reflected in the literature cited above, and find inspiration and renewal for his presidency and for our country. If he does not do so, he will only generate another kind of backlash in four to eight years.

5) You will not be able to attend my Rector’s Forum this winter-spring when I will teach more about this ancient, biblically-inspired way of governing, but you can download my talks from the web. I am uneasy with calling the class Trump the Nations: Make America Jewish Again, so maybe you can help me find an appropriate title?


By |2017-11-15T12:08:49-05:00Nov 11, 2016|Rector's Rough Draft|


  1. David Hecht Nov 11, 2016 at 8:14 pm

    “You will not be able to attend my Rector’s Forum this winter-spring…” It took me a moment, but of course I realized from the close (“Love, Dad”) that your caveat was not addressed to us, your congregants! 🙂

    Phew! 🙂

  2. Tina Owens Nov 11, 2016 at 11:04 pm

    Excellent! Thank you Tory. I have been struggling with how to respond to the angst expressed by so many of the young people I know. Your post fills the bill wonderfully!!

  3. Will Putz Nov 12, 2016 at 10:24 pm

    Absolutely and beautifully on point, Tory! Thank you.

  4. Steve Jordan Nov 20, 2016 at 2:06 pm


    Thanks so much for your words. I attended Truro a number of years ago as a college aged student with my then girlfriend now wife. Your church helped my wife, in particular, through the young adults group and Alpha course. It is encouraging to hear someone try to frame what is happening from the 30,000 foot view as opposed to the 30 foot view. Thank you for taking the time to respond to the thoughts of those in your nuclear family and your spiritual family. Thank you for reminding us to learn, from the other side of a disagreement, and self-reflection. With all that said I do think you missed the mark on what troubles young people, as well as middle aged and old people for that matter, about the recent national election.

    While I don’t disagree with your points about the enduring nature of American democracy I don’t think that is not, necessarily, what people are concerned about after a Trump win. I may just be communicating my concerns here, but I think what troubles some about this election is what it says about American society not American democracy. Allow me explain a little further. I think in some instances there are some interesting parallels between the debate on abortion or assisted suicide and what is currently happening in this country. That is to say, just as people are appalled that anyone could be “okay” with abortion or assisted suicide because of what it implies about our national conscience, people are appalled by what a Trump win means for our national conscience. Interestingly, most of the time the two groups of people appalled in each instance are the others opposition.

    In many ways, and too many people, a Trump win symbolizes that the old definition of majority group still applies. That to spite preserved gains for people previously disenfranchised or marginalized, either through litigation of social pressure, the old norm is still the norm. I think this perception demands acknowledgement just as the perception that swept Trump into power demands acknowledgement. In other words, this election has certainly illustrated that a large portion of the country feels that they have been forgotten about or left behind over the last eight years. Equally so a large portion of the country feels that they were just beginning to find their voice only to have it taken from them.

    It is understandable that staunch Christians, or Muslims, or Sikhs, or even just socially conservative people feel that their values have been marginalized by the past 8-15 years. It is also understandable that people in the skilled trades, or production jobs, or rural areas feel much the same way about the same time period. What has been a time of growth for some, economically and legally has been a time of stagnation for others. What is required is that those previously marginalized groups; homosexuals, Black Americans, Latinos, woman’s equality groups, to realize that this perception of “being left out” is real for their opposite side. Equally, those who feel “left out” by the last 8-15 years must realize how minority groups feel about the history of America.
    All of this brings me to what truly troubles me, and I suspect others, about the recent election. Did America elect someone based on fear? Did we respond more strongly to a message of “us versus them” than to one of hope? Was it simply because we felt the alternative was that bad, that the current status quo was so intolerable that anything would be better? How did America elect someone who said such terrible things about entire portions of our population? How did we elect someone to lead who wouldn’t even stand up for the rights of other Americans to not be violently attacked for expressing their opinion? Did we do so because we felt like we were “in” and they were “out”? Do we really think that someone who berates women as sexual objects will be an agent for change, will be good for the moral compass of our country? How did we elect someone who will not strongly oppose racism as our leader? Does Trump appeal to the worst in us as people and did we like how it felt to go there?

    It seems that in America today very few people can disagree with each other and still have an adult discussion about what they disagree on without it devolving into name calling. This is where I again return to your comments with hope. If we have people like you, who have a voice that others listen to, who continues to demand that we learn from each other, who continues to demand that we speak to the other side there may yet me hope for our country. Countries, like people are fickle things, often swayed by the emotions of the time thinking that they are truth when in reality they are just feelings. I say this not to devalue feelings as legitimate, but to point out that they do not, necessarily, affect real truth. I suppose what I am saying is, what worries me the most is what this election cycle means for the future, what it means for the America my daughter (She’s much younger than yours, just turning one this week!) will live in. About what I can tell her about what leadership looks like and what it means to be an American. To this I can only say, continue your work sir, as it inspires others and points the way to the real truth of God.

    I will close my comments on the division in American by reminding us all of the Pledge of Allegiance. I will highlight the last phrase in particular and ask that all, those who are thrilled by the election results, those who are distraught by them, and those who are indifferent to consider what they mean for us individually as we navigate this time of transition.

    I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.

    Unfortunately, I live in California now and will not be able to attend your talks on how the Old Testament inspired the current method of governance. I would love to hear your thoughts. A few years back, while doing student teaching for a 9th grade class, I was preparing for a lesson on the Reformation and realized that it, in many ways it set the ground work for the modern concept of individualism and individual rights through the abolition of a separate priestly class. It would be fun to compare notes.


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