by Jennifer James McCollum
So say goodbye it’s Independence Day
It’s Independence Day, All down the line
I live in Oklahoma where every autumn the football rivalry between the state’s two largest universities is as reliable as sorority girls tweeting pictures of their pumpkin spice cappuccinos. Competition wafts its way into every broadcast, every neighborhood bar and grill, local blogs and pulpits. Occasionally, it even seeps into families with members with opposing loyalties.
Up and down the streets of my city (and I suspect your city, too), house-divided flags billow from porches and pickups. Two school emblems sewn together waving across the plains. Marriage and kinship joined together despite competing values. Let no man put asunder.
My parents raised me in a different kind of house divided. My father was a yellow-dog Democrat and my mother, a staunch Republican. This was especially noteworthy because my parents were Nazarene ministers. They canceled out each other’s votes in every election. As a child, I often wondered how they could love each other when they hated each other’s heroes so much.
The youngest of four children, I wanted nothing more than to make my father happy. A child of the Depression, his life had been hard. There’d been numerous career failures. There’d been health effects from atomic bomb tests from his Naval years. His entire life was a concert of disappointments.
“When Republicans are in office, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer,” his eyes misted and I believed every single word he ever said.
So, when I turned 18, I registered to vote as a Democrat. I had no clear choice in this matter, really. I was the last child to leave the nest. My older siblings were all Conservatives or libertarians – emphasis on the little L. If I didn’t turn out to be a Democrat my father would have felt like an utter failure. And, worse than that, we’d become in equal parts paper kite and tangled ball of string. To become a Democrat was to soar with my father. To become a Republican was to kill the upward force that might push us both out of poverty and into richer lives.
For nearly 30 years I pledged my loyalty to a blue donkey, with one slight fly in the ointment. I was decidedly, passionately, pro-life. In fact, I did not vote for Obama because of things he did while serving in the Illinois legislature. Specifically, he advanced a bill to make it illegal to save the life of a child who survived an abortion. I could not vote for him. So, I cast a blank ballot, but went along my merry way supporting most liberal applications of the law and various social justice issues that I believed most reflected the ministries of Jesus.
But, then, I joined a Facebook group for progressives. Big mistake. They bashed Christians the way some Christians bash homosexuals, all the while failing to see their own hypocrisy. I said nothing and quietly left the group. Mortified I was, though.
Later, I worked on a political campaign with a bunch of Democrats who were put-off by my Christianity. They called themselves “campaign whores” because they moved from town to town and state to state trying to get liberals elected. For them, my blood would never run blue enough. At best it was purple — because of the blood and the cross.
Despite all the sacrifices that came with being blue in a red state, I realized my membership in “the club,” was dubious. Their silent memo to me was clear: they wanted me to prioritize politics over faith. Party before the Propitiation of my sins.
But, really, the straw that broke the camel’s back was much more severe. It was the revelation that Planned Parenthood harvests children. The national platform of the Democratic Party is pro-choice, which is pro-abort, which is semantics to a degree, but I do not care. Everything has a tipping point, so goes the wisdom of epidemiologists and Malcolm Gladwell, and this was mine. I can no longer be associated with a party that justifies the abortion mill. It never has been and never will be just a clump of cells.
My father passed away 18 months ago. I wonder sometimes what he’d say in light of all this. And, my sweet mother, now nearly 81, is still wildly Conservative. She asked me the other day what I thought of the whole Confederate flag issue and that is when it came to me.
As a Christian mother there can be only one symbol for me going forward. One sign to which I am called to wave. One emblem with which I am wildly and completely and unapologetically identified. And, that is the cross of Jesus Christ. It was the one thing my politically opposed parents agreed on during all those Salisbury steak dinners so long ago: To live is Christ to die is gain.
So, I went down to the county election board and I registered as an Independent. And, it is clear I know nothing for certain except; Except Jesus Christ and Him crucified.
Jennifer James McCollum, APR, is the author of the blog Jen X.