What I mean when I say that I am a Christian Democrat…

 

I am a Christian.

I believe that the Gospel is more than a representation of Christ; I believe that it is God’s unhindered offer of hope and redemption, the personified graciousness that he extends, not only to the group he chose through Old Testament covenants, but to all people who recognize the death and resurrection of Christ as an open invitation into God’s family. I believe that Christianity is best characterized by tangible compassion for the poor and the disenfranchised — that it is most genuine in its quick extension of mercy; most operational in its prioritization of the needs of masses over those of the individual; most intentional in its serving of widows, orphans, and the likes; and most ardent in its denouncing of violent prejudice, racial and otherwise.

I am also a Democrat.

And I’m a Democrat because I’m a Christian, not in spite of it. From my perspective, the two are not mutually exclusive.

I’m a Democrat because I believe that, in general, the values championed by this particular party best represent the priorities of Christianity. And I know and love many who believe that Republicanism does the same! But rather than discussing or trying to counter the positions that these people hold, I want to take a moment to explain how my faith informs my political positions in the hopes that I might find common ground among those whose think differently than I do. Because if there is one thing that we need in this election cycle, it is the ability to hear and understand each other better. So here’s what I mean when I say that I am a Christian Democrat.

I’m a Democrat because I cannot ignore verses like Luke 3:11, Hebrews 13:2, and Matthew 25:35-40 which urge me to welcome refugees (to make their way through our already extensive vetting process) with openness and care. And if we are going to compare these human beings to potentially poisoned skittles, I’ll join Eli Bosnick in saying, “Give me all the skittles!”

I’m a Democrat because I believe that Christ’s priority was to care for the hurt, the broken,  and the outcast of society. I believe that he was a champion for women and minorities. He did not exploit those who served and worked for him, and he condemned the proposition that women are sexual objects to be subjected to anyone’s sexual perversions. Jesus urged his followers to offer care the homeless, the destitute, and the disadvantaged without stipulation or performance-based requirement. And until the Church can provide comprehensive services that extend real care and practical protection to these groups — the homeless, the addicted, etc. — I will gladly offer my tax dollars to do the job.

I’m a Democrat because I support the Black Lives Matter movement. And as controversial as this statement may be to some, I recognize that our country was built on a system that perpetuates the continued exploitation and incarceration of non-white people, and while all lives certainly matter to Jesus, the ones “on fire” (as so aptly explained in this analogy) deserve focused attention and preservation.

I’m a Democrat because I believe that advocating for justice in the Black Community is not the same thing as advocating for violence against the police. As John Stewart so perfectly explained, “You can truly grieve for every officer who’s been lost in the line of duty in this country, and still be troubled by cases of police overreach. Those two ideas are not mutually exclusive.”

I’m a Democrat because I believe that families matter, and because I have a vested interest in providing the means for children to be well-cared-for and well-bonded to their parents, especially in their early years. I believe that everyone — business owners, educators, the childless, etc. — shares this interest because we recognize a simple truth: kids who are well-raised and well-loved grow into contributing members of society, and we ought to use our funds to support endeavors to provide Paid Family Leave.

I’m a Democrat who is anti-abortion and pro-choice — at the same time. And I admit to wrestling with the commonly embraced pro-choice position because I believe that God creates life — and I believe that so strongly that there was once a day when nothing could have convinced me that abortion was ever an acceptable option.

Then, life happened.

Twice, I faced scenarios where I had to make the impossible choice to save my own life or to save my baby’s, and I learned that there is such a wide array of issues that can arise in pregnancy to make mom’s like me face the worst decisions of their lives, and attempting to legislate those decisions only puts women at further risk.

And I’m not alone. Women all over the country face what I did, and despite losing the babies we wanted, we gained more compassion and the understanding that women need the freedom to make the best decisions that they can in consultation with their doctors, and not with the United States Congress or Court systems. Yes, I recognize that legalized abortion means that women will use that freedom in ways that I don’t agree with. And that breaks my heart because I want fewer and fewer and fewer abortions. So, I will advocate for what we know will reduce those rates: better access to contraception and sex education. I will fight against those who perpetuate the myth of the “9th month abortion,” and I will respect the complex nuances that place women in increasingly unimaginable situations.

Lastly, and perhaps most importantly, I’m a Democrat because I live in a country founded on the freedom of and the freedom from religion — because we ought not legislate anyone’s religious convictions, including my own.

Listen, I recognize — and experience! — the fear that our current election cycle perpetuates in the hearts of people all around the world. Issues have triggered anger, trauma, and violence all across our country because we are faced with two candidates who both hide and dance with their skeletons. Voter concerns are widespread, as varied as the age, ethnicities, and backgrounds of the voters themselves. And we are all tasked with voting our consciences, and not with fighting one another. Certainly, there is space in this country to find and fight for that which unites us more than we hammer each other on that which divides!

My convictions might sway me toward the left, and yours might sway you toward the right. Whichever position you might find, my only challenge to you is this: hold your political positions with an open hand. Be willing to listen. Be more willing to challenge yourself than you are to challenge that stranger on Twitter or Facebook. And vote! Whatever you do, choose the candidates who represents the values that govern your life, and make your voice heard on November 8th.

Because the only sin in American democracy is the sin of staying silent.

 

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Mourning our Monsters

This face has been plastered across news and social media platforms all week: Brock Turner, rapist.

brock turner

His face makes me cringe — less because it belongs to him, and more because it reminds me of a face I encountered 15-some-odd years ago.

I haven’t talked openly about this man until recently. In fact, for most of my adult life, I have hoped that my memories of him — and of that horrible day — would stay hidden in the dark closets of my mind, never to resurface, never to punish me with the deeply-embedded shame that accompanies an act this horrendous. But as I’ve watched news cycles and newsfeeds flood with images of Brock Turner, and seen everyone from pastors to parents to presidents posit solutions to ending the prevalence of rape in our culture, I’ve also seen my box of memories grow legs and saunter timidly into the light, beckoning me to re-examine a velvet green couch, brown blankets hung over windows, a Snoop Dog video playing in the background, yellow counters and dirty linoleum, his thumb pressed into my arm and his left knee digging into my thigh — all of his weight bearing down to keep me from moving — the shock — almost breathlessness — I felt when despite my cries of “No, wait!,” an uninvited intruder forced himself into my body.

The full force of shame and humiliation, wrapped up in dust-covered boxes, hidden carefully in my mind so that I would never have to revisit a moment I wish had never happened in the first place.

But my memories, as vomit-inducing as they are, have become increasingly important because in all of the solutions that people have proposed, there’s one I haven’t yet heard. And for me, it’s become one of the most important.

We have collectively cried for Brock Turner to earn the sentence that his entitled, monstrous acts warrant. We have sat down with daughters and students, wishing we could empower them with a message of hope and self-care, but instead warning them to avoid alcohol and short skirts just in case they might accidentally provoke the boy/monster-next-door. We have petitioned for the judge to be removed from the bench, and for his father to stop excusing these “20 minutes of action.” Some folks have even (wrongly) prayed that Brock would face in prison the same acts he inflicted on his brave victim. And while I might join my voice with those who demand that justice be swift and righteous, I would also raise my voice in hope for something more.

The reason — or at least one of the reasons — that rape culture persists, I think, is because collectively, we’ve never truly grasped how much we’ve lost by giving in to  social pressures that have created a culture where human beings are reduced to nothing more than body parts with jobs to do and norms to fit. And in my opinion, fights are futile if not fueled with true understanding of what exactly we are fighting against.

And so I wish that, before we grab our pitchforks, we could take a moment to look around — to really look at what we’ve lost — and to weep. To mourn the real monsters in our midst and the remembered monsters under our beds. To weep for the parents who feel so fearfully out of control that no choice exists but to teach their daughters to hide their bodies in order to avoid being touched or ravaged. To weep for what so many boys will lose because they have yet to realize that breasts are functional far more than they are sexual. To cry with the little girls who can’t tell anyone that their uncle/friend/neighbor/father touched them uncomfortably. To grieve the innocence they lost, the “first” experiences that they will never have because someone decided to take them. To comfort young men who believe their “manhood” has been compromised by that one moment when she touched or he intruded.

To acknowledge the secret lives that so many victims — like me — hide in memory closets, afraid of what their stories might mean to who they are and who they wish they could be. And to acknowledge what all of us lose when those stories aren’t — or can’t be — lived as they were intended to be.

Yes, I recognize that mourning and grief are not end points; in fact, I would echo the assertion that they are pointless if not followed by action. But I maintain that action without understanding can be as harmful as understanding without action.  Men and women like me — those of us who have to find the courage to feel our way through dark memories, facing the reality that exploring those memories might lead to intense pain and humanization — need you to look at our grief intently; to truly see what happened, what was taken, what was lost; to sit with us in our grief and weep for the life we can’t seem to find anymore; to acknowledge how dehumanizing sexual assault really is; and to ultimately reaffirm that innately, we’re worth more — that we’re enough.

So today, before you re-post a meme or join a twitter rant, quiet your heart and mind for a moment to really consider what it is you’re fighting against: the dehumanization of people created by God for wholeness, connection, and health. Consider what fighting against injustice, sexual and otherwise, might truly mean: the empowerment of all people to walk in safety, regardless of drink or clothing choice; the opportunity to parent our children as whole, human beings whose worth in their eyes and in the eyes of others has nothing to do with what they look like or what others believe they are entitled to.

The fight against rape culture starts with grief, and as scary and vulnerable as that place may be, it is also the starting point to freedom and recovery for countless victims, here and beyond.

Won’t you join me there?