Politics and Faith Unraveling

When politics causes your faith to unravel even more than it already was.

In light of a really rough week for progressives and our current political administration, I wanted spend a little time today considering just how deeply the November 2016 election has catalyzed faith shifts for a countless number of men and women across ages, demographics, and experiences.

It’s been brutal!

For the many people already Unraveling in their faith, there was something about the election of Donald Trump that is causing an even greater tumble down the slippery slope.

And for those who were in the much-more-comfortable-but-still-weird stage of Shifting, still sitting in some form of church with a rumbling inside that “maybe what’s happening here related to our call as Christians isn’t quite right”, many entered into the free-fall and are feeling untethered, confused, disoriented, angry, sad, and lost–some for the first time and others in an even deeper way than before.

The reality of the statistic of 81% of white evangelicals voting that direction has weighed heavy and caused a lot of folks I know to seriously question what’s next for them in terms of faith and church.

The ongoing reality of Christians cheering on the current administration’s policies is an even deeper blow. 

Faith and church are two different things but they often get tangled up.

Losing beliefs isn’t the same as losing faith, either.

Yes, we have to be really careful to not let systems ruin God for us.

But I also wanted to acknowledge how brutally hard it is when the systems and churches and family and places-of-connection-and-worship-and-friendship-and-where-you-have-gone-every-week-for-a-long-long-time are no longer places you feel like you can belong.

Last year’s election cycle and the past 6+ months of this administration has brought out the worst in everyone–the ugliness, the fear, the memes, the constant onslaught is exhausting.

I also think it’s bringing out the best in many, too.

There’s a renewed passion for action,  reflection, learning, justice, collaboration, advocacy, prayer, seeking God, and loving our neighbors that I’m seeing all over the place that is glorious.

But underneath all the action, letters, phone calls, and movement is also an incredible amount of soul pain and despair for people who can no longer identify with the tribe they have given their life, their families, their ministry, their money, their hearts to for many many years.

Who can’t align in their heads or their hearts that this is our United States of America.

Who are disgusted how racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, Islamaphobia and blatant fear is so closely aligned with the movement that was supposed to be focused on the good news of Jesus and the opposite of empire.

Who are angry at the ongoing onslaught against dignity for immigrants, refugees, women, the LGBQT community, not to mention every American in need of health care.

Who are embarrassed that power and strength and might and separatism is what people think is good as followers of Jesus.

Who are still stunned that a full-blown narcissist abusive male with zero political experience was elected over a qualified woman because that’s how deep the grooves of patriarchy and misogyny really are.

Who are confused and distraught that _________ (you feel in the blank; it looks different for each of us).

I want to keep reminding everyone, especially those who have been taught that anger is sinful–it’s not.  It depends on what we do with it, but anger can be a very propelling emotion that moves us toward something different.

Also, underneath anger is usually something deeper, often sadness and fear and shame.

How did I give myself to a system of faith that believes this way?

What’s next now?

Will there be a place for me somewhere else?

How do I start over?

When will I stop feeling so discouraged?

Do they even care I’m not there anymore?

Do I stay and try to change things? 

What if I can never feel connected again?

What if my co-workers or neighbors or parents at school think that’s what I align with, too?

God, WTF?  

I know you have many more, some with a lot more swear words!

For me, I exited traditional evangelicalism a long time ago as part of my own faith shift and so the political reality didn’t change that much for me except a renewed gratitude for the wild and crazy journey I’ve been on; I can celebrate what was but am definitely glad I don’t live there anymore.

However, this political cycle has indeed stirred up some really big feelings inside me and on some days a sense of hopelessness.

It’s just part of the PTSD (and yes, Post-Traumatic Church Syndrome is real) and part of my ever-unfolding story that I must keep reckoning with and finding my forward in.

Today, I wanted to acknowledge those of you out here who have lost so much related to faith and church and all-you-once-knew in this past season, catalyzed even deeper by politics. 

It hurts.

It sucks.

It’s scary.

It’s confusing.

It’s exhausting. 

I am glad you are channeling the hurt and unknown into movement–showing up, speaking truth, writing letters, practicing using your voice and rocking the boat when you once made nice.

Everyone navigates these waters in different ways, and my hope and prayer is that over time this season of transition can also be freeing, empowering, strengthening, propelling, as you grieve and wrestle and join the company of so many others who are finding new life, a wild and weird but renewed faith, and a beautiful freedom that doesn’t come cheap or easy.

Persist.

We’re in good company.

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  • Arlene Adamo

    Do you think God didn’t see Hillary Clinton watch a man be raped with a knife then killed, and her response was to laugh and quip “We Came, We Saw, He Died”?

    Do you think God didn’t know all this about her and more? http://www.huffingtonpost.com/jeffrey-sachs/hillary-is-the-candidate_b_9168938.html

    Trump is a pig and maybe even an anti-Christ, but to blame God for the mess in the United States is wrong.

    • Nick G

      Unfortunately, it wasn’t because of the valid criticisms of Hillary Clinton that millions voted for Trump, but because of racism and misogyny. And I don’t think anyone’s blaming God (as an atheist, I’m certainly not, since non-existence is a perfect alibi) – rather, a subset of Christians.

      • Arlene Adamo

        As an Atheist, the above article means nothing to you anyway as the question was ‘how could God allow such an election outcome and how to keep your faith in spite of this’.

      • Cynthia

        I didn’t read the article as questioning why God would allow a Trump victory, with any sort of expectation of a reason being given. I think Arlene sort of missed the point.

        This is an article primarily questioning how so many people who call themselves religious Christians voted for someone like Trump, and talking about the crisis it provokes when your religious community doesn’t seem to promote the values that you expected it to promote.

        There was also the WTF God part. I clicked on that article, and the author is clearly not expecting an answer or rationalization. WTF God is a cry in anguish, an acknowledgement that people are suffering without obvious reason, and ultimately a very normal and very human response. It’s a response that I’ve seen from extremely religious people, and from formerly religious people alike. Quite frankly, asking the question shows a working sense of compassion, and that someone has both a brain and heart. How do you see any number of things – the Holocaust, 9/11, children dying of cancer, the utter devastation of the recent hurricanes – and NOT say WTF God?

        I hope Arlene wasn’t trying to provide an explanation to a WTF God question. From a human POV, the last thing anyone in pain needs to hear is “yes, God did actually mean to screw you over, because you are obviously bad.” Even from a religious POV, the Book of Job seems to warn against doing this, and if someone really believes that God is eternal, all-powerful, omnipresent and all-knowing, it is pretty damn arrogant for any mere mortal to think that they can adequately answer the “why did God allow bad things to happen to good people?” question.

    • fractal

      Get off it.

      The real reason Clinton lost, is that in the minds of a lot of men, women are only pertinent as long as they are **ckable.
      When they get old, plump, and aren’t fertile any longer, men have no use for them, and will diss them in the most crass fashion.
      Especially true of BUTCH men, who lord their upper arm strength over women, while whining over their loss of male entitlements.

      • Arlene Adamo

        The author was not asking why Clinton lost, (there were many reasons.) She was asking why God allowed Clinton to lose. I pointed to facts that suggest it all may be more complicated than she imagined.

  • http://humanistchaplainjourney.blogspot.com/ Mark Landes

    It is nice to see progressive Christians pushing back on key issues. Thank you for supporting LGBTQ rights.

  • Obscurely

    I often see the claim that 80% of evangelicals voted for Trump — but I’m pretty sure that means only 80% of those who actually voted were for Trump? meaning significantly less than 80% of TOTAL evangelicals (voters + non-voters) voted for him — of course anything approaching 50% is still pretty depressing for this progressive pastor …

  • jamesparson

    Politicians are amongst the most distrusted people in the country. Evangelicals allied themselves with that. Evangelicals will pay the price for that.