It’s my honor to know 3 young women who have shared transparent and very vulnerable stories this past week. Their stories may be yours, or very similar, or they may not resonate at all. As humans we need empathy for others. We need it ourselves. Walk in the shoes of these women for a moment. In their words:
I think last Tuesday was a breaking point for me in a sense, because I’m still not doing okay. It’s bigger than this election and I’m trying to figure out how to move forward.
My faith is everything to me. It’s what I always return to, and it’s what I choose to filter everything through. Despite the bad in the world, and the suffering and heartbreak I still believe for some reason in a god that is love and a god that desires us to seek to be loving beings in how we interact with ourselves, others, our jobs and this planet. I think god provides us with examples of what love is to help guide us. I believe that ultimately our role on earth is to spend our lives being good lovers – actively breaking apart the hells on earth and building heavens – and giving dignity to those we interact with, not taking it away.
As much as I believe this – the church and it’s people are a constant source of disappointment and heartache. The church gives me plenty of reasons to believe all of this is BS.
This started for me back in 2008. I went to a small, private Christian university in Illinois. In the spring of 2007 I interned on the hill and became a huge fan of president Obama and attended his weekly “breakfast with constituents”. I found myself aligning with the values he spoke of and quickly became so excited to cast my very first vote for him.
This same year my Paw Paw died. My Paw Paw is arguably one of the strongest examples I’ve had in my life of love, service, humility, wisdom and humor. He was a pastor who retired at a church in northwest Washington DC when I was 5 – but continued ministering through what he called his “church without walls.” He, like me, was a liberal democrat too. (So of course it made sense to me to think if Jesus was alive he would be a democrat:)) My senior year of college when he was very sick we always bonded after debates – him taunting me that Hillary would be our next president but me insisting all along it would be Barack. He was so sick on Election Day my dad drove him to the polls and he had to vote “curbside” – but he was SO proud to be healthy enough to cast a vote for the first black president. He died just a few days later on November 16.
After that election day was when I began seeing the church as an unloving body of people that looked nothing like Christ. Weeks after the election and after my grandfather had died I was in the cafeteria at school with a table of friends and conversation led to the election. A friend of mine (that I thought was a good one), looked at me and said, “I don’t know how you as a Christian could justify a vote for Obama.” I was speechless – got up, walked out and didn’t look back. Not only did this hurt my own heart, but that someone could insult my grandfather like that – a man I had just lost forever who was one of my best examples of what a Christian “should be”. (That friend actually apologized for these words just last year). But that marks the downfall of all the awful, hateful things I’ve seen the church say about the president and the way they’ve had incredibly obvious double standards. I’ve even heard my dad describe the way some family has spoken to me as “abuse”.
Then in 2011 of course I watched all the debates closely – missing Paw Paw’s phone calls afterward to debrief. I was in my third year of teaching here in Baltimore city at that time. In a Republican debate I heard Newt Gingrich say “we should teach inner city kids to be janitors because that’s all they will ever be.” How dare a man running for president say that my bright, hardworking students aren’t worthy of or capable of options. We cannot afford a president like that. After that night I began spending all of my free time volunteering for Obama’s campaign and summer 2012 was offered to work full-time on the campaign. I thought electing him was important enough to leave the classroom. My students deserved a president that believed in them (and about time they had one that looked like them too).
Working to reelect president Obama was incredible – I met inspiring people who shared my values and I was able to have yet another job that felt like waking up every morning for it mattered and was deeply important to do the work. But then he won, and again the church was ugly. I have family that still to this day insist Obama is a Muslim and question his character. I take that personally – I quit my job to take a huge pay cut to work my butt off to reelect him and my family (and other church people) thinks he is an awful human. If I believe so strongly in him to quit my job for him – do they think these awful things of me too?
Then 2016 came. There was hope the country could continue progress President Obama made and we could finally have a president that looked like me – a woman in the White House. I underestimated how excited I was for this until just weeks before. The anticipation was exciting and hopeful. Then Election Day came and 81% of white evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. THE CHURCH voted for a man that said he grabs pussies and that immigrants are bad hombres and people in the inner city have nothing to lose or live for. I can’t think of a single thing in Donald Trump’s message that aligns with the gospel.
Not only did the church vote for him but they are “praising god” for it and claim it’s “god’s will”. Even some of my family. How do I reconcile this with what I know about the character of god? Who is this god they speak of? Since last Tuesday I’ve had other Christians tell me that it’s up to me to have a good attitude about it, or that it’s the same as how they felt when Obama won. (Some of you need lessons in empathy).
This is going to take a while to be okay with it. And it’s much bigger than Hillary Clinton losing the election. I see too much ugly in the church right now, and I hate it. So for now I will look for the beauty and love and god in my “church without walls.” Love always wins though – so one day these ugly hateful voices won’t be the loudest. You’ll have to forgive me if this takes a while, and if you’re a friend or family member that claims my same faith and voted for him – it might take me a while to be able to look you in the eye without crying or feeling angry.
Late last night, I attempted to rationalize and have an honest conversation with someone. I had hit my breaking point. I was about to delete my Facebook bc I was so tired of all the hateful posts, especially from Christians. I decided that before hitting the delete button, to give it one last go and try to rationalize with someone spewing hatred and meanness, to see if maybe there really was a chance here to make people understand why this election feels as if Hate won on Tuesday. I will share the convo in the comments of this post if you want to read.
After said conversation, it was never more clear to me that this election has deeply damaged the Church that I belong to, and deeply affected the people in it. Me included. I have been repulsed by what I’ve seen and heard, especially by what has been said to me by people I love, people that I have prayed with. People in my life I thought were loving and compassionate have turned into something different than I have ever seen. Somewhere along the way, getting involved in the American political process, their worship and trust in an All Powerful, All Knowing, King of Kings and Lord of Lords was replaced with worshiping something else. Somewhere along the line political ideology became such an idol that God’s love become muted and out on the back burner.
Honestly friends, if I did not have such a deeply rooted faith, I would leave the Church after this. For the first time in my life, I get why people will never enter a Christian place of worship. I knew we were broken. I just never knew we were this broken. And because of the hatred that is continuing to spew from Tomi Lahren groupies, for the first time in my life I understand why people hate the Grand Old Party.
So what is a girl to do.
After a lot of weeping, a lot of praying, and a lot of pain. I think I am finally ready to get to work.
I have decided that I will strive to show what Love is really about on a more public scale and to a broader scope of people because this stuff? This rhetoric? This is NOT MY Church. This stuff is NOT MY GOP. You are both FIRED.
I will do my best to speak worth back into peoples lives again who have been made to feel less than, mocked in their pain, called unAmerican, stupid, unChristian, unPatriotic. (including telling myself in my own hard moments). I will strive to be a louder voice than all of those hateful lies. I will continue to fight the hate and call it out for what it is. No more silence or passiveness. I will especially speak out against the objectivity and sexualization of other girls like me whose innocence got tampered and trampled upon. I will take my pain, and instead of leaving my Church or my Party, I will channel it to protect my fellow Americans rights and freedoms. I will be an advocate standing side by side the broken, because I know I am broken too.
Pray for me in my mission to try to heal this divided nation of the “nasty women”, and the “deplorable” and help get us to a place we can all be proud of our country and appreciate all our our political differences, because that is what makes America truly great. Where we can recognize idols in our life and break them on the ground, because that is what makes the Gospel of Christ so great. This is the country that I love and that I am proud of. It is the country that the world looks up to as a place of opportunity, hope, and freedom.
And I’ll be damned if y’all ruin it for my future grand babies!!!!!
Getting to Know You…Again
My name is Laura. I’m a music teacher, a wife, a mother, a Christian, a native Kentuckian and a dog lover. I bleed blue, but I also cheer for the Crimson Tide, especially during football season. I’m a writer in the process of seeking to get her first book published, I love to swim, walk, read, try new foods and garden. I’m completely addicted to “Game of Thrones”, “The 100” and “Poldark” and will be an “I Love Lucy” fan for life. I will read anything written by Agatha Christie, Michael Connely, and Liz Curtis Higgs, and will fight anyone who says that Julie Andrews isn’t the queen of everything.
I also have a HUGE aversion to slugs. They make me sick…like, literally. I am not joking here. No pictures of slugs on my dash. Ever. I’m glad we cleared that up.
I am passionate about civil liberties and women’s rights, believe all Americans should enjoy the freedom to worship as they choose, will fight racism and sexism with every bone in my body, and believe that all Americans regardless of sexual orientation should have the right to marry the person of their choice. I am for pathways to citizenship even as we continually reform immigration laws, am for bringing screened Syrian refugees into our country to give them a safe haven and a new chance at life, believe that every child deserves a free and outstanding education regardless of their economic status, gender or race, and that teachers, teaching assistants and social workers are woefully underpaid. (Had to get that in there)
I’m a Democrat. I’m am anti-abortion but pro-choice. (Yes–you can be both.) And if you’re reading this, then I’m your friend or a member of your family.
We will probably agree on many of the above points but disagree about others, and that’s okay with me. (Unless you don’t like Julie Andrews–then we’re going to have issues.) But here’s the thing–if you disagree with me, you can do so without invalidating my feelings or beliefs, just as I should be able to do with yours.
I hear many people throwing around lines like, “Everybody needs to get over it”, “I thought I knew this person”, “How can you believe this?”, or “Stop whining.” The thing is, expressing pain isn’t the same thing as whining, nor is disagreeing over issues necessarily a deal-breaker. You don’t have to agree with someone to listen, empathize and minister to them.
Yes–I am still hurting over the results of this election. Yes–I take Trump’s words about women personally, and as a woman who has survived an encounter with sexual assault, I’m having a very hard time getting over the fact that a man who admitted to and bragged about sexually assaulting women is now my president-elect.
Now before you say, “It’s not personal”–don’t. Because it is. To me. To millions of other women and girls. It. Is. Personal.
Does that mean it has to be personal to you? No. Does it mean that if you voted for Trump you support the degradation of women and sexual assault? No. But please don’t tell me I’m being too sensitive or explain to me why he was the lesser of two evils, rant at me about the evils of abortion or state flippantly, “We’ll just have to agree to disagree.”
Should we agree to disagree? Over issues and opinions–yes. It is necessary for us as a nation if we want to heal and move on. But how do you disagree with someone’s pain or fear?
You can’t. You can either acknowledge or dismiss it. Yesterday, I had several Christians completely dismiss my pain, and that hurt on an even deeper level than Trump’s election. My heart still stings after these encounters, and my faith in the church at the moment is shaky at best. (Not my faith in Christ–that is stronger than ever.)
That being said, I also had Christians reach out, tell me that they understand my feelings and that they are sorry I am hurting. Can I tell you which words touched me? Which reaction ministered? Which statements felt like a balm? I don’t think I have to tell you–I think you already know.
On the flip side, I know Trump voters who are feeling battered, bruised and judged with labels like “Racist”, “Bigot”, and “Homophobe” being thrown at them from all sides. They’re trying to cry out, “That’s not me! I despise racism. I’m a woman. I hate misogyny. I have Muslim friends!” in the post-election melee, but they’re frustrated that they’re not being heard. And in their frustration, they are hurt and angry.
I can either listen to them, embrace them and tell them I love them, that I know their hearts or I can shout back, “Liar! You voted for a racist, sexist, bigot, so that makes you one!”
I’m choosing to do the former rather than the latter.
Now in embracing my Trump-supporting friends, I am not relinquishing my belief that Donald Trump is a racist, sexist, bigot who embodies hate, for I still believe that with every bone in my body. But I am refusing to apply that label to people who I’ve known for years, people who have loved me through hard times, who have supported me and my family, who have shown me through their lives that they are genuine people of faith and compassion. I still believe in and love them, even if I despise our president elect. And in validating my hurt and fears over the outcome of this election, they are not switching loyalties from the Republican Party to the Democratic Party or suddenly embracing Hilary Clinton.
We are simply choosing to listen, to try to understand another opionion, and to reach out to each other.
Which words heal: “Suck it up, sore loser!” or “I’m so sorry you’re hurting. Please know I’m there for you.”
Which words build bridges: “How could you support racism like you just did?” or “I know you’re not racist, and I’m so glad you’re my friend.”
Today, I’m choosing words that heal. Won’t you join me?