I have tried to start this blog post many times. I have struggled. Words are important to me. Part of that has always been true because I’ve always been a writer. Part of that has been made abundantly clear since the 2016 election through today.
Words matter. They matter to me. And they should matter to you.
Words like the “alt-right” are no longer acceptable. I want to hit the “replace all” button for that word. The correct terminology is “white supremacists.”
When we talk about fringe groups, let us be accurate. Men and women who, as a group, believe that one race is superior to others is not a fringe group. This group, with this ideology, has survived and existed throughout history in various forms.
When this group uses a swastika, a symbol for the Nazi movement while also saying awful things about Jewish people, they are called Nazis.
Flexibility has its place. But this is not that place. That is not where we are. There are no “both sides.” Do you believe that one race is superior to the other, specifically the Caucasian race? And furthermore, do you believe that all other races should be eradicated? If so, you are on the wrong side. You are also a white supremacist. You are a Nazi. You are also not part of a fringe group. You are a part of the evil that has gone on for far too long. You are hate incarnate.
My voice is not that big and neither is my platform. But whatever it is, whether I am a writer/blogger, president, pastor, or anyone, silence is unacceptable. Because words are important. Speaking is important. There are two sides. There are not both. There is good and there is evil.
Some of us have had the privilege of either believing that evil like this does not exist or at least not dealing with it directly or on the daily. But let’s stop it. Let’s acknowledge our privilege. Let’s listen to the people of color in our lives because they have dealt with micro and macro aggressions all their lives. Let’s be each other’s neighbors. Let’s be each other’s keepers. Let’s listen. Let’s stand up against the evil.
Let’s speak truth to lies, bring light to darkness. Let’s remember we are all made in God’s image. Let’s remember that we are called to love our neighbor as ourselves.
And let us not allow anyone to do these evil deeds in God’s name, in anyone’s name for that matter.
Was this a perfect post? No. My thoughts are messy because my feelings are messy. It’s like someone scribbled with a permanent marker all over my heart this past weekend. So this is what I have to offer now. I cannot wait anymore in the silence. I had to say something.
I can actually be quite sensitive which isn’t convenient when I also am passionate about my opinions–passionate enough that not speaking my mind, even on controversial topics, feels like a betrayal of the soul (which sounds like an exaggeration but isn’t…there are plenty of things I hold my tongue on…the things I don’t hold my tongue on are because I cannot). Still, when I share these opinions, I write as if I am not sensitive but sometimes get my feelings hurt, even knowing I choose to enter the arena…which is my own thing to deal with.
I tried to be a cynic for a while. I was so sick of man/woman hurting the world and nothing changing. I just decided I was going to put all my faith in Jesus and avoid the news and let my eyes glaze over since I used to be a political junkie and I couldn’t take it anymore.
Soon after the Paris attacks and in the middle of my shock and horror over how the refugee crisis was handled in the US, I forced myself to reenter the world and my eyes unglazed. I realized that so many of us are exhausted by “it” all but if we let that exhaustion lick us, if everyone who feels like I did thought, “Well, someone else can speak up because I’m tired” then it was very possible no one would say a word and the people with hate propelling their hearts and speech would be heard instead.
I keep wondering who is voting for this hateful man
Now, not all Americans are racist but it cannot be denied (at least I cannot deny it) that this country, no matter what we would like to believe, continues to have racist undertones and even sometimes, overtones.
And if you do not think Donald Trump is racist, then where in the hell have you been? From his opening remarks, after he rode down the escalator to announce he was running, he has said terrible things. How the heck can a man tweet a Mussolini quote and it be okay? How can a man hesitate for even 24 hours in denouncing the KKK and still not only be in the race but leading it?
Maybe you think he will make America great again (if you do, we have different definitions of “great”). Maybe you think he will fix the economy. The economy is a valid concern but you and I are still on different wavelengths because even if he does fix it, based on what he has already done and said, I’m terrified of what his version of a great America looks like, fixed economy or not.
I grew up in a politically conservative family in a politically conservative area. But I’ve also leaned towards the middle since I could follow things on my own. When I became more active in my faith, I became both more conservative in some areas and more liberal in others. One thing I truly believe is that people have to be willing to come to the table and listen to one another. How can one learn or grow without this trait, politically or otherwise?
Though I have called myself an independent, in my life so far, I have voted only Republican (never easily, never automatically, and sometimes to my regret). Despite my voting record, I cannot in good conscience vote for Trump. I cannot do it as a Christian. I cannot do it as a woman. I cannot do it as someone who is called to love my neighbor. I cannot do it as a writer. I cannot do it as someone who loves democracy. I cannot do it any way I slice it.
I’m not tough but I am passionate. And I’m through being a cynic, thinking there is nothing to be done about this runaway train. I’m called to be an ambassador for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) and if you claim to be a Christian you are an ambassador for him too. You cannot support Trump; you cannot vote for him and be both. Period. If you think otherwise, please get on your knees and pray.
In high school and college, I followed politics voraciously and closely. I was up for any debate. But then I slowly took a step back, burnt out and disillusioned as the country and world became increasingly hostile and angry (as well as the lack of bi-partisanship, and frankly, aggression, between parties). I stopped following the news as closely, staying informed, but removed emotionally.
I can’t do that anymore.
It would certainly be more comfortable for me not to speak up. Many bloggers I know make the choice not to make their feelings on “issues” public (including myself). I get it; I have been there. At best, it takes a lot of energy to dialogue in a respectful way and at worst, it becomes mud wrestling in the comment section. Announcing opinions on the internet does not always leave room to change one’s mind.
Let’s face it. Who actually likes those people on Facebook who are constantly posting politically incendiary things, no matter the party? I don’t. I can’t. It’s like sensory overload. It’s easier to keep my opinions to myself, to close my computer.
But I can’t do that anymore.
You see, when I took a step back, I just expected other people to do the work. I expected others to course correct when a person or political party said something ridiculous or there was an absurd proposal. It’s not that I didn’t care. It was that sensory overload, an emotional exhaustion, and I just figured others could pick up the slack.
But I can’t do that anymore.
I can’t avoid online conflict because the fact is, whatever its size, this is a platform. And for me not to speak has officially become more terrifying than standing up for what I believe is right. Let me tell you why.
It started a few weeks ago, in the wake of the Paris attacks, when Trump* announced he thought there should be a database for Muslims (afterwards, he amended his idea to monitor Muslim refugees and “some” mosques).
Was this real? Could a front runner for president from our country’s two party system actually say (or perhaps worse, think) such a thing? My insides started to quiver. It brought to mind two instances–a hint, a faint whiff, subtle–where a group of people were monitored based on their faith or ethnicity: the days of Nazi Germany (it started as “monitoring) or what we did to the Japanese during WWII (they were forced to leave their homes, jobs, businesses, everything, to live in interment camps).**
When it comes to the latter, let me emphasize: we did that. Things like that can happen in America. Sometimes I think we–I know I do this–all believe we are a little protected because this is America. That word, this place brings to mind the Statue of Liberty, the American Dream, the Bill of Rights, and so much more. We believe we are the good guys and that we will always be the good guys.
Writing about controversies here is not fun. As a blogger, in two years, I have maybe posted five truly controversial posts and then signed my name to those posts. I’ve had plenty of opinions but I haven’t written them here. I haven’t signed my name to them.
But I can’t do that anymore.
Then there was the mayor in Virginia who said this: “I’m reminded that President Franklin D. Roosevelt felt compelled to sequester Japanese foreign nationals after the bombing of Pearl Harbor, and it appears that the threat of harm to America from Isis now is just as real and serious as that from our enemies then.”
My insides began to shake, not just quiver. Could this really be happening?
This is happening here. Right here. I understand that it’s a proposal. But he’s the frontrunner for president from the republican party and to not take him seriously would be a mistake. For a long time, when he said things I found absurd, I didn’t take him seriously because I saw him as the guy who put huge letters on the building near where I worked in Downton Chicago and told people, “You’re fired” on The Apprentice. I was wrong. It’s not just polls either. People I respect, people I go to for life advice, believe he is the best candidate. I underestimated him.
But I can’t do that anymore.
I know it’s nice to go about our days. I understand it is easier to go about life as normal and I would prefer to run my errands and shovel my snow and cuss that I forgot to buy milk at the grocery store, be wary of the laundry pile, wish my kid could sleep through the night, change the sheets on my bed and curse that damn fitted sheet (or whatever your version of normal is). I understand. I do. Because I am trying to move right now and everything in my life is a mess. I would prefer to handle that and only that.
But I can’t do that anymore.
If I don’t speak, if I don’t use whatever “voice” I have, to denounce all of this, then what? What is next? Each time one of these things happened I could not believe it and yet I never expected it to get worse. But it is getting worse, increasingly so.
And so I cannot be quiet anymore.
Recently, I saw a comment on Facebook. Someone was complaining about something that the federal government does–imagine taxes, insurance, all that pesky stuff that is annoying. This person’s complaints were not out of line but then this person said something like: I usually don’t like to talk about politics but this is really ridiculous.
It hit me that this translates to: I usually don’t like to talk about politics but this affects me so it’s different.
This person is not an anomaly. This person is you and this person is me. Even as I write this, I am trying to put my list of things to do (rental insurance, changing my address, packing, etc.) out of my head. We care when it affects us.
But I can’t do that anymore.
These are dangerous times.
Here is a story: I fell behind in answering comments and so a few days ago, I replied to a comment originally written about the post I wrote in reaction to Paris. She said something about how crazy it is and how sad, that she can no longer think when an act of terrorism will happen but only where it would be, that these horrible events feel inevitable.
Do you realize, I wrote back, that by the time I am replying there has already been an act of terrorism, a mass shooting, in San Bernardino?
Don’t worry though. If you are Muslim and already a citizen, he isn’t going to deport you or anything.
Don’t worry though. If you practice another faith, this won’t affect you either.
Don’t worry though. They’re talking religion. Your sexual orientation, your skin color, the amount of money you make, you won’t ever be affected based on those things.
I hope you sense my sarcasm because I don’t believe him. I don’t believe him–and people like him–at all.
I’m not suggesting this is the Holocaust.** But what I will say is that Hitler did not announce out of the blue that he was putting all the Jews, the handicapped, the elderly (and others) on trains to concentration camps where they would be killed in gas chambers. It never happens like that.
It happens slowly. It creeps along, hatefulness like this. Have you ever heard the anecdote about the frog? If you boil water and put a frog in, it will jump right out. But if you put a frog in some water and turn up the heat slowly, the frog does not jump out. I can’t say whether this is scientifically sound but it feels like we are all the frog, that the water is slowly warming.
I’m a Christian and everyone is welcome here. But I am calling out my fellow Christians: we can’t do it anymore.
We cannot be silent. We cannot ignore the commands of Jesus. We cannot pretend that this is not happening. We cannot try and justify the policies of people in a certain party because we have voted a certain way our whole lives. We cannot raise our voices over abortion and not raise our voices over this. We have to seriously examine the intensity of the connection between claiming to be a Christian and not just defending the right to bear arms but an unwillingness to examine gun control in this country. We must recognize that according to the Bible we are sojourners here, that we are citizens of Heaven, and as such we are refugees too. We cannot ignore passages like this one, Jesus’s words, because it is just easier:
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’
Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.For I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink,I was a stranger and you did not welcome me, naked and you did not clothe me, sick and in prison and you did not visit me.’Then they also will answer, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison, and did not minister to you?’ Then he will answer them, saying, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life” (Matthew 25:31-46).
A part of me does not want to publish this. A part of me is afraid. In the past, that fear would dictate whether this actually was posted.
But I can’t do that anymore.
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P.S. I tried to cite everything and use a variety of sources (because it is important to me that I am informed by a variety of sources) but since some of the things I talk about happened in the recent past and every day there is a new headline, I did the best I could.
*I wrote this before Trump’s CNN interview. I have no idea how that is going to go. Also, this is not about Trump but rather a series of events that have had me examining my own heart and the Gospel. I hope that is clear.
**I am not comparing Trump to Hitler. I hope this is obvious but I am putting this here just in case. I find that argument to be insensitive to the atrocities that took place during the Holocaust when Hitler committed a genocide against a race of people.
To ignore what happened in Paris past weekend and other cities around recently would be easier than addressing it. And yet to ignore it feels very wrong to me. I don’t know what to say or what to write. I know I am sad, horrified, disgusted, stricken, and a million other adjectives and yet this weekend I cozied up by myself and worked on my novel, playing in the world that I can control because staring what happened straight in the face made me feel raw. I had to disconnect from it. I was cowardly about it.
You know, I’ve done these seminars for two different companies I’ve worked for on the differences between generations–the traditionalists, the baby boomers, generation x, and the millennials (the latter of which I fall into). Companies do this because there are stark differences in ideology and approach to life and work and if one can recognize and work with those differences, the company is better for it. I’ve read whole books on being a millennial christian. And I’ve scrolled past constant headlines about my generation (I read them for a long time but I had to stop because they just upset me). Apparently we mesmerize and befuddle the other generations (our parents and grandparents). They study us like we are strange creatures (May I suggest their parent’s and grandparent’s generations probably felt the same way about them at times?).
In all those seminars and books I’ve read, there is something always pointed out by experts. Millennials are the only generation to know what it is like to live with terrorism on American soil that was specifically targeted at civilians. Just as we don’t know what it’s like to live through a draft and what that does to a generation of men, the other generations don’t know what it is like to be an adolescent watching the Twin Tours fall while they are sitting in Social Studies class. I’m not an expert. I probably wouldn’t have thought of this distinction if not for the experts themselves talking about it.
What does it say about me–about my friends and people my age–that I am horrified and shocked at what happened in Paris and what’s been going on in other cities for weeks and months, yet not at all shocked at the same time? I live in a world where extremists can take innocent lives and try to devastate a city. I grew up in that world. A part of me feels so jaded and I hate that (hence the quote above about staying soft) because I feel like if we just replace ISIS with Al Qaida and rewind a few years, nothing has changed and nothing will change. I keep searching for a word to claim my feelings and I think perhaps I found it. A huge part of me feels resigned. It is different than feeling defeated. But it is still not how I want to feel. I do not want to be resigned.
I cannot get one of my favorite poems out of my head; it’s Edna St. Vincent Millay’s Dirge Without Music. It’s been one of my favorites since I was too little to even understand it (weird, yes, I know).
I don’t know what to give or offer the world here on my small space of the internet. I don’t know what to say. So I will just leave someone else’s words instead. They are far better.For me, this poem is grief embodied. It captures the pain and horror and hopelessness of losing someone(s). I have hope though. It’s in God. It’s knowing that because of what Jesus did, our bodies may turn to dust but we can know Heaven with Him. And yet, when in the midst of grief and sorrow, if we could only be so eloquent, this poem holds the words we might express. I ache by the end of it.
I wrote all of that and then I texted a friend who has lived and worked in Paris and now resides in Europe. I listened to my friend and then this friend graciously listened to me and spoke the Gospel over me. And I said that I believed it. I believe that God is good and that God will conquer evil and that He will be glorified. I believed it but I was still feeling resigned and I explained that I thought it was because I was paying too much attention to man’s response, which felt like déjà vu and also in some ways futile because this world we live in…man, is it messed up.
And so I find myself recommitted to looking to Jesus. He is my hope and my salvation. He is my anchor. I don’t have to know how I feel or worry over the world’s response or despair that this will happen again. He knows how I feel already. He is in control. And I remember His words, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
My friend said, “The Gospel runs toward pain.” And it does. It is. It can. Because in the world, there will be tribulation. But my heart can be full of hope and yes, even peace. Because Jesus has overcome the world.
So this is what I am actively clinging to from now on. This is what I am actively choosing to believe and trust and put my faith in.
All my Love,
P.S. I wrote this before news broke on Monday that governors of 26 states (including the one in which I live) are telling the world that Syrian refugees are not welcome in “their” states (even though they have no power to make such a decision constitutionally; it’s a federal issue). That will have to be another blog post for another day but Lord, please have mercy. It’s shameful and such a disgrace that a country of immigrants would turn away immigrants, that people who claim to know Jesus don’t remember or live by this sentiment, which He expressed in many ways, at many times.
“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, then he will sit on his glorious throne.Before him will be gathered all the nations, and he will separate people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats.And he will place the sheep on his right, but the goats on the left.Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me,I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me.’Then the righteous will answer him, saying, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink?And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you?And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you?’And the King will answer them, ‘Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me.’ ” (Matthew 25:31-40) And maybe, read the rest of the passage too…
Also, see Jen Hatmaker’s Facebook post which includes an article from the Economist which is pertinent any time anyone makes the argument that this is a security issue.
In a marathon talk with a friend, we came to the subject of the men,–the ones that are doing the hurting. We asked more questions and came up with few answers. Is rehabilitation possible? If we believe in the Gospel, then yes. And yet, if we knew a guy who once hit a girl, even if he was “all better,” would we set him up on a date with one of our girlfriends? (No.) Is that lack of faith? Do we know anyone who has done the hard work that surely comes with wanting and getting well? What is that work? And at the end of the day, the girl on the couch is so much more important.
I want to help women who have been hurt. Yet, I cannot do so without addressing the men. Any form of rehabilitation for women happens after the violence, after a part of her is already ripped apart from the rest. And I want to hold her hand through the hard stuff. I’m being vague but God is still working out the plan on how I will be there for these women. I want to hold her hand but I don’t want another woman to walk through the doors of despair and violence and pain after her and that’s why I have to consider the men.
There has to be a stop gap, a mechanism.
Two athletes have been in the news recently for violence against women (one is alleged though the police found “a pool of blood” and the woman’s face was all banged up). I’m not hating on athletes and I’m not hating on men. But the NFL and the NBA , that’s the height of athleticism and the height of, as society views it, masculinity. So I have to ask: what is masculinity? What does it mean to be a man? How do we raise sons who would rather do anything than hurt a woman?
Society is failing our girls and that failure starts with our failure to raise up boys, men, who know how to talk about their feelings, who know patience, who are wiling to get help when confronted with demons, who see women as both strong and beautiful, more than worthy of respect.
I don’t have answers for you, only more questions. At the very least, I feel like someone has to continue to consistently ask them until there are answers and then action.
A friend told me a story, after I shared mine. He’s (obviously) a man, a husband, and a father who I have always respected. He couldn’t remember where he read it so I can’t source it (the internet, yo. It is a bottomless pit.) Here is what he sent me: the author (of this story) was at a friend’s house and the friend’s son pushed over the friend’s daughter while they were playing with each other. After the author consoled his daughter, the author’s friend took his son aside and said, “What’s the most important thing about being a man?” and the son, as he had presumably been taught, responded sheepishly, “Be kind and gentle.”
Can you imagine what type of world we would inhabit if that’s what it meant to be a man?
So there are these great organizations teaching girls all the red flags and how to stay out of bad situations and self esteem, and I think that is fantastic. Really. But let me say for the record, I was taught all of that too. And still it happened to me. Or I let it. It gets confusing. When love (or what we think is love) enters the picture things become muddy and distorted.
So instead I am asking this question:
The men I’ve known and watched wield power emotionally, physically, sexually look like the rest of of the men out there. But the last words anyone would use to describe those men would be gentle or kind. If we lived in a world where that was the height of masculinity, maybe thosemen would put down their weapon. Maybe they would never pick it up in the first place. Because they–lacking gentleness and kindness–would be the weaklings. Their need for power and control would be their shame–not ours.
Gentleness and kindness.
I’ll tell you one thing–the men I know who I respect, who respect me, who love me well as a sister, who I watched marry my friends and father their kids, the men I’ve never feared or felt unsafe with, those men have gentleness and kindness in abundance (Ironically, these are some of the more “traditionally masculine” men I know…)
So while there are still so many questions, I feel like there are two answers: gentleness and kindness. Those are qualities I can rest my head against. So maybe we start there.