The Nail In The Coffin: On Liberty University, Trump + Glenn Beck

I have longed to go to seminary, to study the scriptures, for quite some time. Partially because I am a person who likes to know what I’m talking about, but mostly because I understand that the Bible is a deep sea of meaning and wonder, rich with mineral-jewels of wisdom and understanding that a topical reading simply can not provide. Even more importantly, my Jesus is there, inside those pages. Every word points to him, every syllable is his spirit, poured out. I long to dive in and swim there in his waves.

 

I looked at Liberty University many times, mostly because it would be the path of least resistance. Their program is completely online — a huge benefit for someone who has a busy life and a family they can’t uproot and move to some other state. But I could not get past the right-wing, conservative, moral majority persona the school emulated. Once its leader encouraged the student body to carry concealed weapons in order to “take care of those Muslims”, the deal was sealed for me. I would never attend Liberty.

 

The truth is that I didn’t attend seminary for so long because my trust in the institution of Christianity was fractured quite some time ago, and I couldn’t find a school that had a diverse enough faculty to glue that crack back together. All of them, it seemed, consisted of old, white men, and I was simply too afraid to submit myself to them, for fear that I would be subjugated and told I was less than as a woman. I wanted some dredlocks in my faculty. I wanted some women, maybe some Asian perspectives. I get enough of the old white men’s perspective in my everyday life. In my search, I had more than one school affirm that they would not ordain me, even if I had a 4.0 and excelled at everything I did there.

 

Let’s face it — the institution of Christianity has not done much to earn my trust. The Bible itself is a patriarchal work that neither cares about nor represents a woman’s perspective. While it’s possible that a few of the books in the Bible were written by women, it is overall a male body of work concerned with things of the male experience — the social spheres of male government, male religion, and male culture. Where women are mentioned, they often remain the nameless dichotomy of madonna/whore, good wife/bad seductress. The richer females stories — while wonderfully subversive — point not to the dismantling of patriarchy, but to women’s necessary participation in it.

 

It’s both intriguing and infuriating, reassuring and confounding at the same time. I have to work hard to remember that patriarchy is not God’s will. First I have to remember that myself, then I have to go out into the world and tell everyone else.

 

Not until Jesus comes on the scene do we discover God’s feelings about women and theology, and still, the rest of the New Testament (or should I say, our collective readings of it) have led to even more subjugation of women (yeah, thanks a lot, Paul). The original writers of the Bible and/or the scribes who copied the words down have been shown to have eliminated women from the story, demoted them, left them unnamed and dimensionless, or, when they could not be ignored or demoted, simply changed their names to make it appear as if they were male.

 

This is why I have trouble trusting a quick pass through the Bible, a topical reading at face value. This is why I am going to seminary in a few short months.

 

Look. I understand that men might have a really hard time understanding that all this creates a real barrier to women — especially women who love God. It’s hurtful. For a whole half of God’s creation to be ignored, cast off, and completely devalued in this way — it hurts. And then to be told by male Bible scholars that this is the way God wants it — well. It’s a wonder any woman with half a brain could ever fall in love with Jesus.

 

But we do. Because he’s nothing like any of that.

 

But there’s Liberty University, in the forefront of my brain and the news again, normalizing Trump’s misogyny and declaring him “The dream president for Christians.”

 

It’s the nail in the capital-E Evangelical coffin for me.

 

I can’t. I simply can’t be a part of a system that perpetuates this kind of misogyny — whether outright or subtly.

 

I am still a Jesus Freak. In fact, I am probably more in love with Jesus than ever before. But my fractured trust in Evangelicalism has turned into a great divide. I am trying so hard to find some sort of rope-ladder, some kind of Indiana Jones-type of rickety, wooden bridge to cross that deep and wide crevasse back to church, but I am at a loss. How Liberty University, which just graduated 18,000 students, can call itself a beacon for Christ and simultaneously call this man “the dream president for Christians” leaves me open-mouthed and heartbroken. You must remember, that when the man speaks about women the way he does, he is speaking about me, and he is speaking about my daughter. He is teaching my son how to be a man. I take issue with this.

 

I am also trying to find my way back to loving the people who support Trump. I am trying to find that third way, to love people vastly different than I am. It’s difficult. I feel as if I am saying the same thing over and over again, and they never even try to understand. All I hear is either judgement (like the women who demanded I “explain myself” when I went to the women’s march, or the one who told me “if I’m really a Christian I should pray for Trump’s success not complain about him”) or made fun of (“awww, poor snowflake, your feelings are hurt!”) or told to shut up (like the guy who came to my Facebook page to tell me I should stop posting about the election because he prefers to see things about my travels or my martial arts training. Because, you know. It’s all about him. When I refused, he unfriended me.)

 

I thought, for a brief moment in time, that Glenn Beck may be a starting point for me. His interview with Krista Tippet on the podcast, On Being was thoughtful, generous, and authentic, and it opened my heart to Glenn in a way that I had never experienced before. I actually started to not just like him, but to respect him. He talked about how he was sorry for helping to create the huge divide we see in our country today, and I thought perhaps we were all onto something. And yet, when I went to his website for The Blaze, it was the same old, same old. Demonizing “Liberals”, women, and the LGBTQ community. Then I found out he offered a job to Bill O’Reilly, who was fired from his job at Fox News over claims of sexual harassment.  If Beck was truly interested in not alienating half the country, perhaps he should consider that half of the country are women, many of whom take sexual assault very seriously.

 

Never mind, Glenn.

 

I suppose many people think I am doing the same thing. But I beg to differ. I think I have a responsibility to call out that which I believe is wrong in government, and I do that. However, one thing I will never do is hate on Trump supporters. After all, many of you are my friends. I hope that you will never find on my Facebook feed any post that calls you names, or says you are stupid, or that you are going to hell. If I ever do that, please call me out. That’s not who I want to be. I know you had your reasons for supporting him, and a different experience than mine.

 

All I ask is the same respect in return. Instead of only looking at me as if I am a left-wing liberal, try thinking of me as a person. Stop telling me I’m going to hell. Stop demanding that I explain myself, and instead ask me questions about why I feel the way I do.

 

But don’t for a hot second expect me to shut up.

 

In the meantime, I’ll continue to pray that I can find my way back to a church. Perhaps, as my friend Lizzie says, it needs to be a church that’s big enough for all of me. All my attitude, all my questioning, all my liberal poking at the way things are, all my social justice passion.

 

I’ll pray for you, if you pray for me.


Updated 5/17/2017:

This blog post has produced more direct email to me than any other I’ve written, and I’m so grateful to report that it’s been mostly from men — some of whom are pastors — showing their support. Wow. Thank you guys — you’re amazing.

One in particular sent me this link about Glenn Beck’s friendship with Riaz Patel, a gay Muslim. In fairness to Glenn, I wanted to post it.

I’d also like to clarify my point about The Blaze; I appreciate Glenn’s transformation, believe it’s real (after all, we ALL change) and I wish him nothing but the best. I’m frustrated, however, that his personal transformation has not yet translated over to his business, The Blaze, which seems to still be hawking divisive, slightly outrageous headlines that are the at the crux of this great national divide. (Oh, and the O’Reilly job offer. Yuck.) I hope that will happen sometime soon, though I also know that might sort of be akin to me all of a sudden saying I support Trump, and we all know how unlikely THAT is.

That said, when I was listening to Glenn’s interview, at one point he said that he wants to do something about the problem of global human trafficking, but he could not find a single person who was willing to do anything about it. Since I personally want to challenge myself to foster relationships with people who hold different views than I do, I thought, “Hey, I’ll write to Glenn and tell him I’ll help, and maybe get some of my progressive friends to help out too. Because we progressives may really suck at organizing ourselves, but we can organize around a cause.”

Then I realized Glenn Beck could not give two hoots about lil’ ole’ me, and I forgot about it.

But what the heck? Who knows? Here goes:

 

Hey Glenn!

I can’t find on your website where you’re trying to do some work on Global Human Trafficking, but I’d love to help. I’m smart, I’m extremely capable, and a hard worker. Plus, I have a lot of really cool friends. Since a lot of them are women, I promise you we get stuff done. What do you need? How can I help? How can you and I — two people who hold pretty different views (though maybe not as different as I thought) — work together and be God’s light in this earth? 

My email is kerry@kerryconnelly.com. Hit me up, Glenn. Let’s talk. 

 

So I don’t really expect a single thing to come of that, but hey, you never know. :)

 

 

 

 

 

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