Losing my religion
Over the last few years, I have had countless conversations with friends and family who quietly admit their heartbreak, astonishment, and utter confusion as we watched the Church, the white American church in particular, become synonymous with one political party, and even worse: vocal supporters of an administration that peddled division and nationalism, fueled by misinformation and fear. Each time I walked away feeling less alone, but I began to wonder why we were so afraid to say it out loud.
Why were we the ones who felt shamed for seeking to follow Jesus's example of compassion and love?
More recently, I’ve watched people (who claim to be Christian) post on social media in support of politicians who voted against the election results, or use demeaning language about the first woman Vice President, or express fear for the destruction of our country and loss of our values because of the inauguration of the Biden/Harris administration.
I saw memes about the perceived hypocrisy between the Black Lives Matter protests over the summer based on continual racial injustice and police brutality, and the violent insurrection at our Capitol based on baseless lies and conspiracy theories about the outcome of the election.
No longer can I be silent to keep the peace or avoid rejection or conflict.
We can blame the destruction of our civil discourse on things like the news and social media. I believe strongly that the Fairness Doctrine must be reinstated, and that social media platforms should regulate misinformation. But, this goes much deeper to who we have become as human beings that we have allowed, and used these mechanisms, to dehumanize one another and devolve our society into echo chambers without nuance and differing perspectives.
As a follower of Jesus (however imperfect and flawed) I must speak what I know to be true in my bones: Jesus is not Republican or Democrat, and He certainly does not have borders to contain his love and providence. He no more blesses Americans than he does refugees or asylum seekers fleeing horrific conditions for a better life. He never spoke about the evils of socialism, or gay marriage, or instructed us to build wealth before we helped others. But, He did talk extensively about giving generously to the poor, loving those who were outcast and marginalized in society, and showing empathy to those who are different from us.
Quoting Old Testament bible verses in defense of a particular belief or political position misses the point of God sending Jesus and the gift of redemption in the New Testament altogether. Voting for candidates that claim to be Christian or pro-life, without supporting policies that educate and empower women and girls, or improve the lives of people who are poor, or those at the margins who face systemic injustice or discrimination, seems shallow and antithetical. Worse, it creates barriers to understanding the situation, struggles, and pain of others. How might our response, intervention, or our policies change if we sought to understand the root cause of these issues, instead of demonizing people or the choices we disagree with?
How might we forge connections and stronger community?
I certainly do not have all of the answers, but I will no longer be silent about my faith, how it informs my passion for and commitment to social and racial justice work, and how heartbroken I feel at who and what we have become. I don’t know where we go from here to bridge our literal and figurative divides, or how we get back to trusting each other, our institutions, and the facts. I do know, though, that the Church should be a force for good, an inclusive place for all people, and a leader in promoting justice and unity.
These issues are complex and layered and require us not to sit on the sidelines or stay quiet, but to go deeper in search of love, compassion, and understanding. It isn’t easy -- I’ve been struggling to offer this grace to others myself. But, I believe it is what we are called to do. If we will ever find our way forward, it will be together.