First Person: After the Election, a ‘Whole Foods Democrat’ Returns to Church

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First Person: After the Election, a ‘Whole Foods Democrat’ Returns to Church

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I know it’s Easter. But let’s flash back to the fall.

The morning of Nov. 9, the first text I got was from my younger teenage daughter. She was at her dad’s (I am divorced).

It read: “Mother dear, although I know you are in legitimate mourning right now, I must ask if there’s any way I can get my computer from you today.”

I was stunned. The sang-froid! Rather than hurl herself off a precipice, she wanted to Skype with her boyfriend, David. In Ohio! One of the swing states I’d vowed never to visit again, whose cursed name I would never again utter. (Pennsylvania. Michigan. Wisconsin — even thou, gentle Wisconsin?)

True, my girls had never fully grasped how our female lives would have been completely transformed by what I and so many others had anticipated would be a historic she-lection. I had thrillingly pitched flying to Washington for Hillary Clinton’s inauguration. We would wear pantsuits in many colors and boogie down to Pharrell Williams’s “Happy” with other joyous flash-mob dancers.

My girls were puzzled. They felt they already saw women in power (Oprah! Ellen!). Their new CoverGirl was a boy. Suzy, 14, couldn’t remember ever not having a black president. Sixteen-year-old Maddy’s gay friends actually favored Bernie Sanders. (Grr! At one point, I hated to see my own first name on a page because it looked too much like “Sanders.” “Move aside old man!” I’d hiss at the cars whizzing by on the freeway with their cheery blue “Bernie” bumper stickers.)

“I can’t go on being this upset!” I told my friend Amy, a therapist who had also confessed to a crippling postelection gloom. “The Facebook alerts alone! I think I have to turn them off.”

“That’s what they said in Germany,” Amy murmured, ominously.

“What did they say?”

“‘I’m too upset! I’m getting off Facebook!’’”

“They didn’t have Facebook in Germany.”

She shook her head. “That’s what they said.”

“‘That’s what they said in Germany’ is what they said in Germany?”

So my licensed-therapist friend was beyond therapy, and I was a mom who couldn’t think of a reason to live. For solace, I could — possibly — turn to my tribe, the Democrats. During the campaign, I had volunteered and made phone calls. But instead of H.R.C.-ers wittily sharing chardonnay, canapés and hip Colbert skits about Melania’s plagiarization, these were grim meetings with harsh lighting where we watched Tim Kaine snap. The Democrats weren’t a party then and wouldn’t be now.

I realized that my malaise wasn’t just circumstantial. It was deeper. Sure, I could blame an out-of-control 24/7 news cycle. My iPhone’s constant alerts seemed able to bypass my brain and send stressful electrical signals directly to my spleen, kidney, sphincter. (The election’s very language had been of war, and dental surgery: “Battleground states!” “Crumbling firewall!” “Razor’s edge!”)

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But I had become a rat seeking pellets because my emotions seesawed with the polls. If you looked inside my soul, you would see only the tumbling numbers of Nate Silver’s calculator. I had placed my faith not in a higher power but in higher math. (FiveThirtyEight cited “regressive mean averages.” Coupled with my low-interest mortgage and high good cholesterol, everything would be fine!)

I had no inner life, in short. I had to find some spirituality. So the Sunday after the election, I decided to go to church.

I was raised a Lutheran (German mother). I had also sent my girls to Lutheran Sunday school. This was, admittedly, for convenience: The local Lutherans were known for their excellent day care; the looser Unitarian Universalists favored marches into tick-filled woods and drumming.

Now a middle-aged Whole Foods Democrat, my Sunday mornings had drifted to coffee in bed while cheating my way through the crossword puzzle. (Strong in clues related to Yma Sumac or Leon Uris, I unapologetically check the internet for baseball teams, Lithuanian estuaries, rappers.) After that I might go to the farmers’ market to buy organic vegetables I will not cook, then fake my way through the easiest yoga class I can find.

But that Sunday, I set off for All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif.: long-established, famously liberal, robustly attended. Its stunning architecture, from the late 1800s, is Gothic Revival. (I immediately thought: “Game of Thrones” without the blood! Another vice? Too much HBO?)

And here was the surprise. Like those people sculpting mashed potatoes in “Close Encounters,” it seemed other Whole Foods Democrats had been struck by the same idea. Shocked by the election, we thought we would all try the same daring new thing. Church! The incoming crowd soon became standing-room triple overflow, causing the initially smiling ushers to show concern, then almost irritation. Many of us newbies didn’t know what to do. We were practically asking: “Shoes or no shoes?” “Do you take Visa?” “Can you validate my parking?”

My particular group packed into a side chamber and the entry procession began. To grand pipe-organ music, here was a satisfying pageant of colorful robes, golden staffs, vigorously waving flags. I glanced at the program and noticed that today’s Children’s Chorus song began:

Let us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King —

I thought: Oh, it’s like that heartbreaking James Taylor song … then realized it was that heartbreaking James Taylor song, “Shed a Little Light.” I teared up. The apocalypse had come, but youths in all hues of literal and figurative rainbows were bravely persisting, in magical four-part harmony:

And recognize that there are ties between us,
All men and women living on the Earth.
Ties of hope and love,
Sister and brotherhood.

There was a thunderous standing ovation. Now the Rev. Mike Kinman opened his sermon, with a Boomer-friendly reference: “John Lennon sang, ‘Nobody told me there would be days like these.’ But our Gospel does. ‘Strange days indeed.’”

Because Episcopal liturgies are planned in a three-year cycle, it was by coincidence that the day’s reading was from Luke: “The Destruction of the Temple and Signs of the End Times.” How prophetic! Mr. Kinman described Christ as “a dark-skinned refugee who died for love with his hands up because he challenged the authority of a police state.” He denounced the president-elect by name. He thanked God for the election’s “mission clarification.” Another standing O, from God’s love army.

The service was followed by a group-therapy session where a mike was passed and everyone described their feelings in three words. After that, I scanned the rich volunteer opportunities. I got so jazzed I think I signed up for building a mission in Bolivia and singing in a gay men’s chorus.

Since that first Sunday, the “mission clarification” of these times has only intensified. I am stunned by every turn in the Trump administration in so many realms: health care, the protection of the environment, L.G.B.T. rights and the ever-burbling geopolitical turmoil. End Times? Who can know?

But I am comforted by thinking maybe a Really Yuge Man is in charge. As in, God.

So as President Trump’s 100th day approacheth, we celebrate Easter. I light a candle of forgiveness for Ohio. Hope rises from the dead, and our spring bonnets are sprouting jaunty pink knit ears. With validated parking.

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