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Reform Magazine | September 26, 2017

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Editorial: Trump won… What comes next?

steve_tomkinsYou will have had some time to get used to the news, but I’m writing on the morning after the US presidential election. Everything else in this edition of Reform, apart from News, was written before then, and may seem to be speaking to you from a more innocent, carefree time.

Or not. Perhaps it’s just as well to be reminded that, despite political upheaval, the work goes on just the same; the need and the opportunities continue as ever. The call to stand against climate change, which Bill McKibben reiterates compellingly in our interview, continues. The call from charities to support their transformative work with people battling poverty and displacement, which we cover in ‘Christmas ideas’, continues. The job of starting new kinds of church in places struggling to find community, as Ruth Maxey describes, continues. The job of taking on alarming new work with children and sheet music, as Commitment-Phobe relates, continues.

To be sure, unsettling new questions face us. If the odds against defeating climate change looked steep before, how are they stacked now, when the leader elect of the US – the world’s most powerful nation and its second greatest producer of carbon emissions – claims: ‘The concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make US manufacturing non-competitive’? How will the displacement crisis proceed under the policies of a man whose campaign voiced hostility towards refugees and Muslims?

However, as well as such questions, as we embark upon Advent, the season of hope, we are also called to ask another question: what does hope look like in a situation like this? It does not, I think, look like a smile we wear to disguise our fear, or a blindfold to hide the danger from our eyes. To me, more than anything it looks like water. A stream of water has somewhere to go, and if you put an obstacle in its way, it presses on past it. You can dump a formidable pile of obstacles in its way, and it pushes forward and finds a path through. Hope is not trying to believe everything will be OK, it is the knowledge that it is still worth pushing on.

I think this is what Jesus meant when he told us not to worry about tomorrow. The energy we spend in anxiety about things we cannot, at the moment, change, is better spent on tackling the things we might be able to change. There is a time to howl; but the time to stop decrying other people’s choices and get on with our own work comes around pretty soon. As Richard Rohr puts it: ‘The best criticism of the bad is the practice of the better.’ Or, as Bill McKibben says in this issue: ‘Seems to me your job is to get up in the morning and fi gure out how you can get as much done in the course of the day as you can.’ To work.

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This article was published in the December 2016/January 2017 edition of  Reform.

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