I didn’t understand why some people–mostly from other countries until 2016–saw our election and campaign process as spectacular as a sports championship. Then I heard DT and his followers calling liberals “losers.” I hear and see it everywhere now. I see it in Fox News articles writing about the protests, I hear it in conversations with people I know and love, and I hear it in conversations with people who have never spoken to me before. It’s never hurt hearing it; it just seemed to me a weird manifestation of non-compassion that so characterizes the political climate (regardless of party affiliation).
For a time, I thought that this kind of attitude was only a conservative thing, and maybe this thought is accurate. But I’ve started seeing pockets of left-wing people developing those same attitudes, too, and while I would still argue the things they fight for are more compassionate, more loving, and more welcoming, sometimes how they choose to fight for it and the things they say are absolutely backward.
At this point, it may sound like I am going to turn to a secular political commentary calling for the left to stop. I’m not. I’m going to talk about why the polarization of politics and academia is pushing me back toward Christianity.
I would have never thought punching a Nazi was okay when I was heavily involved in my faith, and not because I was morally superior and would not have wanted to punch that SOB in the face myself. I felt that if you punched a Nazi in the face he’d still be a Nazi, and because I used to believe in the sovereignty of God to work on people’s hearts while I did everything I could to show solidarity to the marginalized in my community.
(Cue the left saying this is problematic and the right laughing at my weakness.)
I’ve talked before about how Christianity needs to get its sh*t together. I’m not going to go over that again. But I am going to talk about how the political climate has had an effect on my faith, and how stories have shaped me over the past few months.
I stopped attending Christian churches regularly over a year ago. I couldn’t do it anymore. I still can’t. Every time I hear someone speak about Christ from a platform, it makes me sick to my stomach. The church’s actions–its hypocrisy, its prosperity gospel, its lack of faith in the Holy Spirit, its surface-level community-building, its emphasis on services over service, its emphasis on the family unit rather than the community of believers, its greed, its segregation–broke me. And once it broke me, I found myself outside its walls, clinging to a dying faith.
Then Bernie Sanders ran for president. His ideas were so revolutionary to me, and so compassionate, I felt I had found a way to invest myself in something truly good. He seemed authentic and kind, and he said things I wished I would have heard in church. I went to his rally at Eastern Michigan University, and for the first time, I heard someone in power talk favorably about queer people as if he actually believed we were worth something. I had hope.
Then Hillary Clinton won the DNC nomination, and by that time, I was heavily invested in politics. Everyone around me said I should vote for HRC because the “other option” was worse. I became afraid of what might happen under a DT presidency. And, while most of those fears have come true, I was still manipulated into voting for a candidate for which I had (and still have) a distaste. (And, come to find out, my distaste was mostly justified.) So, when DT won despite my “lesser of two evils” vote, the fear multiplied exponentially. He was inaugurated and began making good on his campaign promises one by one each day past January 20th.
It wasn’t until I read the list of democratic senators that had voted in nominees for DT’s cabinet that I regained my indiscriminate cynicism toward politicians and government officials. At the same time, I both lost my faith in the United States democracy and realized I had faith in the United States democracy.
Let me pause here to admit that I am terrified for my country, my friends, and myself. People are posting that he’s promised to leave queer rights alone, but he has the power to mess everything up, as well, and he just nominated a guy whose record on LGBT rights is sketchy at best. Even if he doesn’t do anything about queer rights, though, he’s still done more than enough to affect the people I love and send them into a perpetual state of uncertainty. I went to the protest at DTW (full disclosure: there were so many people there that I had to walk from North to McNamara and missed most of it). I still believe in being involved.
But there’s something fundamentally wrong with keeping my faith in a political system or institution. (Another post coming [probably] soon about my faith in the university–want to guess how that one ends?)
My government is a dynamic organism. It can support me in one instant, and kill me the next, and if anything has been proven to be true over the past few months, its that I haven’t got a damn say in any of it. This has left me in a constant state of fear and anxiety for myself, my family, and my friends.
One of the things I had so valued about Christianity is its insistence that “perfect love casts out fear.” It’s in our sacred text, it’s in our songs, and it’s in our sermons. It’s a weird idea that true love–perfect love–takes fear, puts it in a little ball, and throws it away as far as it can go. I’ve not seen Christianity do this well at all. In Christian circles, it’s just a platitude that works only for people who don’t have to worry about their families being ripped apart, their medical care getting taken away, or their bodies being targeted for violence. It has no real action behind it whatsoever because it’s usually said by people who won’t be affected much by government shifts.
My friend posted a photo on Instagram recently; it was from the protest at DTW. The photo was of her sister, one of my best friends, who was holding a sign that said, “You are welcome here.” The caption said that the movement needs people like her–healers.
I need to be a healer again. This is the faith I belong in.
The last few days, a path back to Christianity is beginning to pave itself in front of me, and it started with my best friend holding up a sign not directed at our government, but at the people who find themselves in a land that no longer wants to support their existence. I am not rediscovering the faith of today, where we gather for 75 minutes to listen to a person tell us how to act, but of ages past, before Martin Luther, before Augustine, before Constantine, during the time in which we saw needs and met them indiscriminately. We reached out to our individual communities to ensure that everyone was taken care of, despite what the government was doing.
I see now that my queer voice falls flat in the sanctuary. My hope is that someday, its echo will reach the ears of some unsuspecting Sunday-goers, it will lodge itself into the lobes of their brains, it will wrap itself around their heartstrings, and the Church as it once was becomes the Church that is.
Because if I have to decide between being a bitter winner and a compassionate loser–