I am a Christian.
I also live in North Carolina. A state that is increasingly hostile to LGBTQ people, immigrants, women, and let’s face it – minorities generally speaking.
Last year the state legislature voted to ban local jurisdictions from becoming “sanctuary cities” which are cities that refuse to prosecute immigrants solely for their immigration status. The principle of “sanctuary” is a religious term that is used to refer to sacred spaces, its meaning has been expanded to refer to places – buildings, religious spaces, or even cities that offer safety and protection to people at risk.
This week, legislators have introduced a bill (Senate Bill 868) that seeks to enforce this legislation in NC by withholding state funding for school construction and street projects. The bill also seeks to ban the use of community-issued IDs for immigrants that allow them access to medical care, library facilities, check cashing and other essential services. Even as cities across the country continue to pass and support the use of such id cards in order to protect the safety of their citizens.
The actions of my state legislators and my governor are not only un-Christian, they are contributing to North Carolina’s increasing reputation of intolerance and persecution of people who are are marked or perceived as “different.”
Living in the midst of a culture where Christianity is increasingly associated with bigotry, racism, hatred, intolerance, and just plain meanness – it is important for me to clarify what it means to me to be Christian. Because it clearly means something different to me than to many people in NC who are cite Christianity to support their intolerance.
As a Christian, my life, values, and personal orientation toward the world is shaped by the life and teachings of Jesus. By my reading and study of scripture – Jesus’ life and his teachings were primarily oriented toward shaping a world of compassion and justice. He lived out these values in his personal relationships and his life and ministry were defined by seeing these values manifested in society.
For me, the motto of Christianity has always been the words found in Micah 6:8 – “What does the Lord require of you? To do justice, and love kindness, and walk humbly with your God.”
The Christianity that I practice and preach as an ordained minister of the Word and Sacrament in the Presbyterian Church (USA) is a Christianity of love, compassion, and justice. It is a Christianity that is feminist, anti-racist, and advocates for all those whom Jesus embraced and loved – the poor, the marginalized, the reviled, and the dis and mistrusted in society.
Justice (like life) is complicated. It always involves struggle and solidarity, faith and perseverance. Justice (like life) can be exhausting.
Living in NC right now is exhausting. And if it’s exhausting for me, as a white, heterosexual, married woman – imagine what it is like for so many people whose lives and well-being is being threatened on a daily basis.
It really doesn’t seem like much to ask for the freedom to pee in safety. To not be targeted for harassment or deportation based on your skin color, facial features, or immigration status. To be safe in your home. To even have a home to be safe in.
In North Carolina it is increasingly difficult to do any of these things.
In 2010, Republicans took over both houses of the NC legislature since 1870. In 2012, a Republican took over the governor’s mansion and two years later, in 2014 the Republicans achieved a super majority in the NC legislature.
As a Christian I am neither Democrat or Republican. My political interest is in establishing the kind of social justice that Jesus preached, taught, and lived. The kind of justice that is rooted in compassion, caring for the least of these, and subverting abusive political power. So, my beef is not that Republicans have taken over the state of NC, my problem is that this shift in power has led to the the promotion of a misogynist, patriarchal agenda of power and privilege that seeks to suppress the rights of minorities, women, immigrants, and other marginalized citizens and communities while building up the rights and power of the wealthy and privileged in our state.
In a democracy it might be said that this shift in our state politics reflects the will of the people. And yet, democratic principles include more than merely free and fair elections – they also uphold controlling the abuse of power, respecting human rights, and protecting the rights of minorities.
The actions of the NC legislature are not wrong because they are un-Christian (and they are), they are wrong because they embody intolerance, xenophobia, and a mean-spiritedness that threatens to solidify our increasing reputation as the “Hate State.”
To those of you who do not live in NC – I hope you are paying attention because we are the canary in the coal mine. The increased attempts to shore up white privilege and power that we are witnessing in NC will not stop at our borders.
As a Christian, a feminist, a seeker of justice – I denounce the actions of my state in promoting hate, intolerance, misogyny, and white privilege. Progressive Christians cannot cede our faith to those who use Christianity as a bludgeon to limit the humanity and freedom of others.
If you are a progressive Christian – make sure people know that your commitments to justice are rooted in your faith. This is the only meaning of evangelicalism that makes sense to me – sharing the good news that my commitment to seeking justice in the world is rooted in my faith.