Scenes From a Graduate School: Did God Survive the Election?

The Associated Press recounts the difficulty that graduate students at Emory are experiencing with “healing” after last month’s election. The scene is a course in Faith and Politics; you may wonder why anyone cares about the students’ feelings. The AP explains:

The discord in Room 322 of the Rollins Building reflected the state of the nation as Trump nears inauguration.

Well, not exactly: the AP notes that the entire graduate school class consists of Democrats, with the exception of one lone Republican. But reporters, like professors, can lose sight of the fact that the United States is not 97% Democrat.

The graduate students are having trouble healing.

The classroom held all the moroseness of a funeral parlor. Just 16 hours had passed since Donald Trump had won the presidency, and in this “Faith and Politics” class at Emory University, graduate students talked of being shocked and wounded, fearful and horrified. From shaky voices, there was conviction that bigotry had prevailed, and from eyes, tears fell.

The students were assigned to write a paper on how the country could heal after the election. No doubt the task would have been easier, from the students’ perspective, if Hillary Clinton had won. This student was typical:

Kathryn Stanley, a 49-year-old teacher, daughter of a preacher and member of Atlanta’s renowned Ebenezer Baptist Church, sidestepped the issue altogether. The day after the election, she sobbed alongside her junior high school students even as she urged them to maintain hope in the face of their fears, and that night she cried again as she spoke to her classmates. Four weeks later, she conceded she was no more ready to give Trump a chance, nor to devise a blueprint for healing.

“I’m not in the healing space yet,” she said.

The liberal students looked for a silver lining amid the gloom:

Searching for meaning, Stanley said she knew there was still a God, while a classmate said maybe things had to get worse before they got better.

So God survived Donald Trump’s election! Whew.

The only conservative in the class is, relatively speaking, a voice of sanity:

Off in a back corner, the lone conservative in the class, a 33-year-old lawyer named Stephen Tippins, stayed quiet. He couldn’t bring himself to vote for Trump, skipping the presidency on his ballot, but he didn’t share his classmates’ pain. As students were called to the lectern that night and a week later, the reluctant Tippins went last.

He touched on a question that formed the basis for his final paper: “Heal from what?”

Good question! We had an election and your candidate lost. When did that become a form of personal injury?

The students’ professor sees the example of South Africa as instructive:

Franklin himself wondered what move or what singular figure might bring people together. His theological background nudged him toward thinking it could be a religious leader, perhaps an evangelical pastor popular with Trump supporters. He pointed to the post-apartheid healing in South Africa, where the Truth and Reconciliation Commission was a major step and Nelson Mandela and Archbishop Desmond Tutu emerged as key unifying figures.

So he is suggesting that if a Democrat succeeds Trump as president, a Truth and Reconciliation Commission may be in order? Then, as in South Africa, Trump administration officials could confess their sins in hopes of being granted amnesty against criminal prosecution? Sounds like a great path to healing, if by “healing” you mean “revenge.”

But I suppose it is a mistake to take our universities seriously.

Responses