I'm in trouble now. Not so much because I work at a Christian college where many of the students (and donors), um, sit across the proverbial aisle. As fellow Christ-followers, they'll give me grace. And not so much because the Democrats I hang out with sit in an altogether different theological pew. As liberals, they'll show me tolerance. Right?
No, I'm in trouble because now I'm putting my religion AND politics out there on the Internet, for all the other crazies to see and comment in nasty one-dimensional diatribes about how wrong and misinformed and ridiculous I am.
Still, some things are worth the risk. And this election has gotten scary. So here goes:
I wasn't always like this. I grew up in a Christmas and Easter Presbyterian suburban home to Republican parents. My dad campaigned for Barry Goldwater and my mom cried when Nixon resigned on national television because he'd been her hero.
In college I discovered both Jesus and Democrats. Jesus, because someone told me he loved and forgave me and I liked that idea. And Democrats because Jimmy Carter asked me for his vote, though I was too naively Republican to woman up and so was shocked when he became president. (He has since became my hero for teaching Sunday School, writing poems and building houses for the poor, but that's another column.)
Then I became a teacher and moved to a low-income, urban neighborhood, intentionally, to live out what another Jesus-follower had taught me was a responsible way to live. There, as a woman with 'resource,' I could be a presence for justice, a neighbor for Christ. And when my food-stamps mothers next door cared more for me than I did for them, I realized there was something not quite right about, well, systems and poverty in the wealthiest country on the planet.
That's when my evangelical definition of pro-life got stretched. Sure, it means abortion is awful, but pro-life, I discovered, extends to every other part of culture; to be pro-life is to be pro-opportunities, isn't it? To be pro-jobs and pro-education and pro-immigrant and pro-art. In my perfect world, I'd imagine no need for abortion, a place where everyone works and reads and listens and dances the tango. But my Christian friends call that place Heaven, and this side of it, I reckon there's got to be some room for compromise.
Which is to say that I became a Democrat in the city because I saw Republicans--scratch that. I didn't see Republicans. They didn't seem much interested in my low-income inner city neighbors, nor did they seem to care much for anything at all but fighting big government, abortion and homosexuality. Oh, and keeping their guns. Come to think of it, that's how many evangelicals felt too. So I jumped. I checked Democrat when it was time to vote and haven't looked back.
This summer's conventions reminded me why. As much as I am in line with some of the Republican platform--family values, marriage, anti-abortion--I can't get my head around how you can want those things and be so, well, mean. And self-centered and nationalistic. Really? We really need a right to own a gun? And can one be a Christian Republican conservative, be humble and righteous, and still thump a doctrine of exceptionalism in the world? Last I checked, Jesus said to deny ourselves and take up our crosses, laying down our lives for others. (See why I'm in trouble?)
The Democrats weren't much more inspiring--I wasn't so excited to hear every speaker and their brother repeat that we should be able to love and marry whoever we wanted whenever we wanted. Not that I'm one of those homophobe types--it's just I think it's hard enough living out the biblical mission of marriage. There's no precedent in the Holiest of Books for any other kind but with man and woman, so same sex marriage is a hard one for me to support. And I wasn't so excited either to have watched how President Obama--who, you should know, moved me to tears when he was elected because I waited a lifetime for an African American to claim that prize--and his administration built a worse record on deporting immigrants than Bush and his thuggies did. That bums me out big time--because I still happen to believe Emma Lazarus's poem on the Statue of Liberty about sending us "your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free."
Good thing she didn't write that poem in 2012. But I digress.
All this to say--publically--that I'm a voter, who, I suspect, is like a lot of them out there: complex. Complicated. Multi-dimensional in lots of ways because that's how we are as human beings. I can't be reduced to the stereotype of the evangelical Christian, though I'm absolutely a sinner saved by grace. And my pro-life sign is too heavy to carry at rallies because there are so many issues I see as pro-life. And I'm not the card-carrying Democrat who thinks conservatives are yahoos or that freedom means we can do whatever we want.
But I will vote Democrat November 6 for this single reason: narrative. In the Democratic Party I see a narrative that is about more than individual rights and nationalism. There's a sense that poor people matter, that elderly neighbors should be looked after and that children deserve equal opportunities for school, regardless of where they came from or what ethnicity they are. Do I think that the Church should minister to those on the margins? Absolutely. But so, too, is it the responsibility of the government to serve its people. I can't fix roads or build town infrastructures, but I can make sure my 95 year old neighbor still gets a visit and a meal. I certainly don't like all of the flags the Democrats are waving but there are enough that, for me, still point to service and justice (and other Christian attributes) that I'm checking that box. Again. I just don't like all the Republican-ese about us and our individual rights.
Because bottom line, it's not about me. It's about loving the Lord your God with all your heart, mind and soul and loving your neighbor as yourself. We're all in this together, a community of communities, which I happen to believe is a pretty evangelical and pro-life concept. Right now, it also seems to be a Democratic one as well.
There I said it. Now be nice.
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