A few hours ago I watched with slim hope and then great sadness as I saw Betsy DeVos become the Education Secretary. I then had to acknowledge that my former role as a minister helped create not only her, but the entire current administration. It is a hard pill to swallow, but it is something I have to own and apologize for. I had a part in creating the monsters, and I am sorry.
As a young conservative evangelical youth minister in the 1990’s, I distinctly remember a Sunday in 1995 I was allowed to preach the Sunday sermon. Bill Clinton, Bob Dole, and Ross Perot were running that year. I gave a poetic sermon about the importance of using conservative Christian principles when voting as a Christian. Though I did not out and out say it, it was clear in the implication that Bob Dole was the man they should all vote for.
As a youth pastor I said time and time again that it was important to be pro life and that being gay was a sin in God’s eyes. I told young women that if they lost their virginity, that was a gift they could never give to their future husbands. I was party to forming young minds into buying into this using love and fear of god as my leverage to think, believe, and vote for a certain position. This was part of the deal you signed for eternal life.
By 2008 I was no longer anti-LGBT, but my position of love for them was steeped more in words and not in action to combat the sentiment that would deny them rights. I did not do enough. I was often with other progressive Christians who was trying to be nicer and more gracious to the conservative evangelicals than we were to the oppressed people we claimed to support. Some of the LGBT people and some women told us we were hurting them by not making a stand and we often told them to be quiet and let us do what we know is best for them. We veiled our horrific acts under the umbrella of inclusivity.
Frankly, there were less than noble reasons. We are seeing reports like the one written by my friend, Becky Garrison in the Humanist that Betsy DeVos was an Elder of Mars Hill Church, founded by liberal progressive church darling Rob Bell. Her deep pockets helped fund not only Mars Hill, but the Nooma film series produced by Flannel. We are talking approximately a million dollars.
I used the name of a deity to claim that we had to embrace the very same values that are now in power. I remained too silent on matters of great import. In other words, I was a cog in a wheel in the machine that created this current administration. An administration that in the name of a deity tries to keep refugees of different faiths from entering our borders. An administration that wants to target undocumented immigrants, tearing apart families in the process. An administration that wants to reverse the rights of LGBT people, like my own child, and relegate them back to the closet. An administration that wants to reduce women’s health care, children’s health care and generally health care for all. An administration that now has plans that could seriously threaten the future of our public education system.
Apologies do not change actions, but that and my current actions are all that I have to stand on.
To refugees and muslims who were illegally detained in airports, I am so sorry, please forgive me.
To Latinos who live in fear for loved ones, I am so sorry, please forgive me.
To the women who are threatened with loss of their reproductive rights and health care, I am so sorry, please forgive me.
To all LGBTQIA people who’s rights are yet again being threatened instead of advanced, I am so sorry, please forgive me.
To all people with disabilities who may lose health care and civil rights, I am so sorry, please forgive me.
To all black people who are facing a new wave of open discrimination and loss of protections, I am so sorry, please forgive me.
To the water protectors and native populous who are yet again suffering, I am so sorry, please forgive me.
To parents of public school students, the students in public schools and the hard working teachers fighting political battles to educate our children, I am so sorry, please forgive me.
To all the coalminers and their families who may lose black lung benefits, I am so sorry, please forgive me.
To all the artists who may lose NEA benefits, I am so sorry. Please forgive me.
To all the citizens of the world who will be affected by our new policies and breach of contracts, I am so sorry, please forgive me.
It is said that Jesus on the cross said, “Father forgive them, they do not know what they do.” The truth of western church culture is this. Some of us did not know what we were doing. Others know exactly what they are doing.
Regardless of our level of knowing, we had (and have) a level of culpability. Ignorantia legis neminem excusat. If ignorance of law excuses no one, neither does ignorance of human decency and the constitution’s separation of church and state.
Fine. I am not a minister anymore. I am not a christian anymore. I follow a secular humanist ethic. But for decades, I helped make this monster.
I cannot hop in a blue police box to go back in time and undo my sermons, my words and my actions (as well as my inactions). I have to live with that and so does every other minister and former minister who helped create this.
You do have my word, though. I will stand with BLM, the ACLU, Women’s March, environmental groups, educators, LGBTQIA groups and so much more. I will not stand with inaction. I will resist. I will write and call representatives. I will vote. I will march. I will not be silent. I will also follow your lead and not try to diminish your voice.
Reason demands no less.