Let me be clear: This post is entirely aimed at those who call themselves Christians, Jesus-followers, or a similar name. It is only for those who follow the teachings of Jesus.
On November 8th, I walked into the gymnasium of a church in my precinct after having a phone conversation with one of my best friends. I was excited; we were in the process of collaborating on another original composition. After I ended the call, I stepped through the door and saw a person I’d grown up knowing in church. I groaned inside, hoping she wouldn’t try to ask me any questions. I still don’t know the rules about that, but I feel like it’s probably illegal. I filled out the form and took it to her, and she looked up my name, giving me a ballot. I’d done my research. I carefully selected each of the candidates I supported.
I went home, and I went to bed at 10:00 pm. I went upstairs, knocked on my sister’s door, and she told me I could come in. She turned to me, and told me that Hillary was losing. A pang of dread hit me, but I ignored it. “It would be a statistical anomaly if he won,” I said. “Don’t worry. Get some sleep.”
I went into my room and went to sleep. As is my usual, I woke up at 3:00 am, unable to sleep soundly throughout the night. I checked my phone out of habit. I pulled up the results, and saw his face staring at me. The dread came back, starting from my heart and pouring itself into my veins. I couldn’t breathe. I started crying. I called my girlfriend, and sobbed incomprehensible fears into the phone. She calmed me down, told me that nothing had happened yet, told me to take things one day at a time. I felt better.
I went into work the next day. I had office hours. Tears streamed down my face as I walked into the building. I got them under control before I made it to my office, but as I saw the faces of my friends, I felt them coming back. One person asked me if I was okay, to which I responded, “No,” and went to warm up my breakfast.
I spent half the day in a stupor. I snapped out of it after a few hours of thinking about the things I could do for the next four years.
I’m not going to catastrophize. I did in the first few hours after the results came in as I thought about the ways I, my girlfriend, and my friends would be affected by his presidency.
One of the things I want to avoid is the alienation of his supporters in this post, though I anticipate some of them will not make it past the fact that I didn’t support him. This is for anyone who self-identifies as a follower of Jesus–your allegiance should be first to your God, not a nation, political party, or politician (1).
Let me pause here and admit that I have made an error in the past two years, and I am now recovering. During the election season, I put my hope for the future in the hands of a political ideology, hoping it would save me from exactly the thing that is happening today. But, I have no problem challenging myself to commit to doing exactly the things to which I will call the entire Church to ensure.
I am not going to go into detail about the numerous things he can do to people like me, like my girlfriend, like my immigrant friends. I’m not going to talk about the specific things that can happen, but I want to lay out a scripturally-supported defense of Christian subversion in the face of political hostility or neglect for marginalized groups. This extends far beyond the reach of the incoming president, not only in terms of his power but also in terms of the length of time to which we will be subjected to his presidency.
In other words, these things should have been happening and should continue to happen regardless of who is in office.
In the interest of full disclosure, let me first situate my argument in its context and motivations by being frank about myself. I am bisexual, and I have been aware of this fact since I was seven years old. I grew up in a Baptist church that never talked about homosexuality except to read very quickly over the Levitical condemnations of it. A series of events led me, much of my extended and immediate family, and a few others to leave this church and start a new one. In this church, homosexuality, again, was not discussed, but heterosexuality was assumed of everyone, and sermons were based on this assumption. This church closed after roughly a year of services. My immediate family finally ended up at a large non-denominational church, and after a few years of attending and serving in their band as a musician, research and prayer led me to change my beliefs about homosexuality after I was presented with a persuasive argument to the contrary of what I had been taught. Two years later, personal circumstances led me to come out to my family and friends, and I have since stopped attending church in a building altogether, with some unsuccessful attempts at finding a Christian space that doesn’t feel threatening.
With this in mind, let me explain why I feel it necessary to write this. You have likely heard of the fear seeping out of liberal spaces, even Christian ones. While I think a small portion of this may be an over-reaction to a perceived threat to the freedom of speech, much, if not all of it is real, crippling fear. Some of us are already facing real threats to our physical, economic, and mental well-being as a result of the new administration. We fear that with the new administration we will be at an increased risk of homelessness, poverty, assault, and death, among many other things.
As a Christian, your greatest testimony is that of your faithfulness despite the political atmosphere. Christianity spread in the Roman Empire because of Christians’ radical altruism. In the face of a plague, Christians took in the sick when others shunned them. Christianity was criticized by Greek philosopher Celsus for being a religion of the poor, of women, of children, of slaves–of the people oppressed at the fringes of the Roman Empire (2).
The radical nature of Christianity is well-documented. There are countless commands from Jesus to take care of the oppressed (3), and early Christians did just that (4). Long after Jesus left, their generosity was so counter to the Roman Empire that people flocked to them.
I and others have real questions for you.
How many homeless people are allowed to sleep in your building at night (5)?
How many poor people have access to free healthcare from the healthcare providers in your congregation (5)?
How many undocumented immigrants feel welcomed by the members of your congregation?
Will you throw your bodies on others’ to protect them from physical violence?
Will you stand with your neighbors when they face some of the same complications as widows, orphans, lepers, and slaves did during the time the identity of our faith was forged?
I ask these questions as someone who feels unwelcome in your spaces, and who genuinely cannot tell if many of you would protect me in the event that I was being physically attacked, care for me in the event that I am sick without access to healthcare, or provide for me in the event I am forced into poverty and homelessness. I ask this as someone who has a more difficult time knowing whether many of you would do the same for people who are trans, or queer, or who have identities which go against core tenants of your belief systems.
I also ask this because many of you claim that these things are responsibilities of the Church, yet for as long as the Church has existed in the United States, it has not taken up those responsibilities to the extent that everyone existing in this space is provided for.
I keep hearing many of you claim that the government shouldn’t be responsible for taking care of people–that it’s the Church’s job to provide for and protect the marginalized–but I often see many of you doing the opposite. And, on a personal level, many of you are unwilling to open your homes, pantries, and wallets to help take care of your neighbors. My undocumented friends tell me about the comments they hear some of you make concerning their documentation status, my queer friends tell me about the times some of you have kicked them out of their own homes, and my Black Christian friends still tell me that Sunday at 11:00 am is still the most segregated hour in America (6).
So, in summary:
I do care that you voted for him. It hurts because you argue that making me a cake for my gay wedding supports gay marriage, but you also argue that voting for a misogynist (7) who built his entire campaign on white supremacy (8) doesn’t mean you support misogyny and white supremacy.
However, that’s not what this post is about. This post is about you, as Christians, serving God the way He commanded you–to love God, and to love others as you love yourself. From Jesus’ example, and from the example of the early Church, that means you do everything you can to ensure, without discrimination, that there is not a hungry, hurting person in your community. And from the example of Jesus and the Church, that does, in fact, include those who do not call themselves followers of Jesus, those who find themselves without documentation, those who are queer, those who are of a different race than you, those who have no financial stability, and anyone you think I’ve missed under this list.
Here are some things you can do:
- Turn your church building into a shelter at night.
- Start a pantry and ask the entire community for donations, then give food out to those that need it.
- Identify the healthcare providers in your congregation and set up free clinics for uninsured or under-insured.
- Set up your building as a sanctuary building.
- Command your congregants to protect everyone, without discrimination and to the best of their ability, from physical violence.
Do not stop until Jesus’ vision of his Kingdom on Earth is actualized (9).
(1) Philippians 3:20
(2) from Contra Celsum by Origen
(3) Matthew 19:21; Matthew 25:35; Mark 12:40; Luke 4:18; Luke 14:13
(4) Acts 9:36; Acts 10:4; Romans 15:26; Galatians 2:10; James 1:27
(5) In my hometown, as far as I know, there is only one.
(6) Martin Luther King Jr., interview
(7) “Grab them by the pussy” tape; Megyn Kelly comment; compilation video
(8) “Silent majority”
(9) Matthew 6:10