Ignorance, they say, is bliss. I never really bought into that old saying, but now I am beginning to see the truth in it.
I was once, generally, much happier. Things were less complicated before my politics began to change. Life was simple when I allowed myself to walk under the umbrella of Conservative Christianity. The people I spent the most time with walked under the same umbrella. Together, we convinced ourselves we were staying dry and felt secure that ours was the path of righteousness. We didn’t even have to think about politics and how to vote–that was already decided for us. All we had to do was stay dry under that umbrella. Ah, the beauty of simplicity.
Then, about a decade ago, starting with some factors in my field of education, my views about politics began to change. I began to see that the political team that had been assigned to me as a conservative Christian had an agenda that I could not square with my understanding of Christ. Education had become politicized and was heading in a direction that made me very uncomfortable. There was a clear education agenda to create a system that would further marginalize society–to separate the haves from the have nots–to push toward a certain Judeo-Christian mindset and push out anything or anyone that didn’t fit the mold. At that point, I began to see things quite differently. It was then I realized that my umbrella was full of holes.
At that point, everything began to change for me. I began to “get wet.” Life wasn’t as easy for me anymore and joy became more elusive. When conversations with old church friends began to become political in nature, I got very quiet. Things became strained–tense–uncomfortable.
It went along like that for years. I’d hear the Obama jokes, the thinly veiled intolerance, and I’d just sit in uncomfortable silence until the topic changed. I’d try not to let on that I had voted for the man–I was still walking around with my token, hole-filled umbrella then, passing myself off as one of the clan. Things had long since begun to change in me but I was still trying to look and act the part that had been selected for me.
Then Trump happened.
I’ll say this for Donald Trump. He changed me. The Trump Effect is a double-edged sword. It has an evil side and a good side. The evil side is evident whenever you begin to dig into seedier aspects of the news and social media. It can’t be denied that the emergence of Donald Trump has emboldened the bigotry and racism that had been smoldering under the surface. Now, it seems, it is socially acceptable to let your bigot flag fly publicly–sometimes it’s literally a flag. I’ve never seen so many Confederate flags on display as I do now. They are all over social media, people’s vehicles, even hanging off front porches. But there is a good side to the Trump Effect as well. It has also emboldened people like me and many others to break our silence–to come out as progressive Christians–to fight back against the stranglehold that Conservative Christianity has had on so many–to point out the holes in our umbrellas.
There is a relief in being out and publicly sharing what I have been secretly harboring for so long–there is relief, but no joy. Joy is elusive. I feel broken, mostly. I feel the pain of separation. There are a lot of old friends still taking refuge under their leaky umbrellas. I want them to see the holes but I fear they don’t. If they do see the holes, precious few of them are willing to admit it.
All of this makes me heartsick and has me feeling broken. I can’t be around conservative Christian friends or family now without feeling the weight of it all. There is a palpable fog of tension hanging over many relationships. I don’t know if they feel it as keenly as I, but if it’s that strong on my end, they must sense it, too–and that has me broken.
I understand what they cling to. I know that many of them are motivated by a sincere conviction when they vote. For many, that means abortion. That issue is, without a doubt, at the top of the heap of the things that divide the Christian Right from anyone more progressive, and I get it. I find abortion personally abhorrent. Hear me again, conservative Christian friend, I hate abortion. I don’t know anyone who likes abortion. Now hear this: It is possible to be anti-abortion and pro-choice. If you are ever going to see the holes in your umbrella, conservative Christian friend, you’re going to have to understand concepts like that. Supporting someone’s Constitutional rights does not equal condoning certain actions.
Cigarettes have killed millions and millions of people. I hate cigarettes. I find them personally repugnant and wish they didn’t exist. However, I don’t stand in the way of people who choose to smoke them. In fact, I know a lot of Christians who smoke. Many churches have ash trays right outside the front doors–this is especially common in the Bible Belt South. You have the right to fill your body with those toxins. Is smoking a sin? I don’t know, it’s not for me to say, but I think there are certainly arguments to be made to support that claim.
The same principle holds true for other issues that force so many conservative Christians to keep a death grip on their hole-filled umbrellas. Gay marriage, for instance. Why in the world does it bother you so much, conservative Christian friend? Is it a sin? I don’t really think so. In my opinion, that is an ambiguous question with no certain answer–but the more important question is, who cares? Again, it comes down to the rights of people living under our Constitution. No matter how badly you wish it to be so, this is NOT a Christian nation. It is a nation run under a Constitution that explicitly FORBIDS this from being a Christian nation. The same Constitution that allows you to be the Christian you want to be FORBIDS your faith from being forced upon anyone else.
Once you come to fully understand that, conservative Christian, you’ll be able to see that your umbrella is full of holes–you’ll be able to separate yourself from charlatans of Donald Trump’s ilk–and you and I will be able to sit in a room together without a fog of tension hanging over us.
I pray that day comes soon.
Until then, here lies a broken Christian.
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