Disclaimer: I have been sorta okay at keeping politics out of posts where it doesn't belong, but there comes a time when I have to discuss it. I will also discuss religion in the course of it, and how I believe those two should intersect. I value respectful discourse and will do my best to keep my comments within that boundary, but I have strong opinions and often use strong language to support them. I would love to hear from different perspectives in the comments, however.
Okay, so I am starting to believe that Christians just need to take a step back from politics and reevaluate our life choices. Here's why: At the beginning of this year, I was rather desperately trying to stay apolitical. I didn't want any part of the shit show, for one. I also wanted to maintain relationships with those who may not agree with me. Then came Donald Trump.
Suddenly, not speaking out against him seemed impossible. As Brandon, the man who runs the popular blog/Facebook page "Humans of New York" (normally also a neutral site) said so eloquently, I considered the rise of Donald Trump a deeply moral issue. The rhetoric, the actions, the history of discrimination, the blatant misogyny, the Twitter account... everything about him deeply offended my sense of justice, love, and respect.
So I started speaking out against it. Not so far as supporting another candidate at first, but definitely always, "please start seeing this." I did this mostly on Facebook, because honestly, that's where most of my friends and family who are stoutly conservative and stalwart Christians are. I knew, even then, that the way that Christians - Evangelicals in particular - reacted to this election would sway the results. And sure enough, all the major Evangelical political players started aligning themselves with Trump, as he consistently won the primaries and eventually the nomination.
Not to say that Hillary was like, SO MUCH better. I mean, I will say right out that I voted for her because I started the year solidly on the "Anyone But Trump" train, and stayed on that train until the bitter (for me) end. I can't say for certain that anything would have been that much better with her at the reigns. I truly believe that no matter who won, at least half of the country would feel badly done by the results. This whole mess was too divisive to end any other way.
The divisive nature of this dumpster fire of an election cycle is actually what I really want to talk about, and why I think that many Christians need to reconsider how they interact with politics. I definitely have in the months of contemplation since November 8th.
Here is where I start: When we elevate politics and "patriotism" over Jesus, everyone loses. We lose our minds and our ability to love. The rest of the world sees this and loses all respect they may have had left. I have a number of friends who are outside of the "Christian bubble," and many of them expressed disgust Christians who were clearly letting their conservative political values outpace their love. Frankly, I was hard pressed to disagree with them.
I have said it before, and I will repeat it. I love the Church. We are a messy bunch. Not one of us has it entirely right, but I love the motley crew that brings in different experiences and opinions to the feet of Jesus and lets Him sort it out. At least, that's what I hope others do. This year, though, the community of the Church consistently saddened me and made me - a long-time believer, a lover of Jesus and of people, and a defender of the faith - feel as if I was the same as an outsider, unworthy of respect or consideration because I had come to believe a different way.
When I started posting about how morally repugnant I found (and still find) Donald Trump's actions and words to be, you know who responded with the most judgment, screaming comments, and disrespect to me and my friends - many who are also strong believers? Yeah. Conservative Evangelical Christians. Many of whom pastors and leaders that I have worked with in the past, respecting them for years. Some who were as close as family.
And that was before I started actively supporting Hillary, as the next best option, and most importantly, Not Trump. When that happened, the lids came off. There was no restraint. There was no love. People were unfriended because they proved over and over again that they could not see the people on the other side of the screen that they were screaming at as people. We were all just straw men for them to joust against, virtual windmills of wrongness that must be conquered. I did my best to maintain my own standards of respectful discourse, using and distributing multiple non-partisan resources and fact-checks, but it grieved me to engage with the hate over and over again. Eventually, as Election Day approached, I couldn't do it. I went silent and watched the country descend into a hateful frenzy.
Much has been said about the state of political discourse in general, in the internet age, the age of fake news, and anonymous comments, and the age of ideological echo chambers. I don't want to repeat much of that. What I want to emphasize is what I took out of the whole experience.
I am going to make a series of statements that you may or may not agree with. That's okay, but I ask that you thoughtfully consider them:
When Christians allow being right (or being on the political right) to overtake their God-given call to Love, we have officially missed the point.
When Christians allow our doctrine instead of our Love to determine our politics, we have also missed the point.
Christians are not being "persecuted" across the country by laws that provide protections for sensitive groups like refugees, LGBTQ+ people, or illegal immigrants.
Furthermore, if we are using our FAITH as an excuse for legislating AGAINST those groups, we have DRASTICALLY missed the message of Love.
Your President does not determine how good of a Christian you can be. I plan on remaining a Christian for the next four years, despite my current and likely future disagreements with the administration.
Freedom of Speech and Freedom of Religion apply to EVERYONE, not just Christians. That means that if a Muslim speaks out against oppression that is being facilitated by Christians, they are allowed to say that, and we as Christians should probably listen. If you think that a registry for Muslims is a good idea, consider how well that worked out for the Jews in Nazi Germany and consider whether it's something that an All-Loving God would condone.
Most importantly, whoever you voted for, consider the other side. If you voted for Trump, consider the minorities who are now terrified for their future under his leadership. If you voted for Hillary, consider how the blue-collar Americans in the Midwest felt ignored and devalued by the old political systems, enough to vote for someone who promised to change things (whether or not he delivers on those promises, consider what they meant to his supporters).
As for next steps? My next step is always to keep calling out for Love. I believe the role of the Church is not to gain power in the political realm, honestly. Not that politicians who are Christians cannot run for office and raise through the ranks, and exercise love and humility in those positions. Frankly, we could probably all appreciate a few more people with the Characteristics of Christ in that realm.
But if your goal is to turn America back into a "Christian nation," may I humbly suggest that you start, not at the ballot box, but with the people around you who are hurting and disenfranchised. Put aside race, religion, sexual orientation, or political beliefs and listen to a story or two. Offer no judgment. Instead, offer understanding and empathy.
If you, as a Christian, find that love difficult to offer, examine how you believe you are Loved by your Creator. Examine how you love yourself. If we are called to love your neighbor as ourselves, and we hate ourselves, we are starting at a pretty rough place. It is worth taking the time to get that sorted out so that we can effectively show the Love of Christ to those around us.
Because at the end of the day, that is every Christian's calling. To love. If we don't have that, then we may be hard pressed to maintain the facade of being followers of Christ.