How do we, as Christians, show up?
How do people who read the same holy text as I come to such different conclusions?
How do I show up for social injustices in a Trump Administration?
3 questions that have in some way affected my YAV year. The first, a continuous challenge; the second, a question I have wrangled with my entire adult life; the third, a new reality.
I remember having a conversation with my campus minister that I didn’t like to identify myself as a Christian. I was spiritual but not religious. I had faith, and even though I was a incredibly active member in Presbyterian Campus Ministry, am a cradle Presbyterian, and am now an employee of the PC(USA). I didn’t like being associated with an institution that, in my eyes, was ripe with contradiction and hypocrisy. My knees would quiver at the thought that someone would associate me with the so much hate and discontent. An institution that made members sign forms saying they wouldn’t drink (even though they were of age) or that women couldn’t be leaders.
While I always associated Presbyterianism with what “church” meant, I knew very well that the home my family had found at First Presbyterian Church, Lexington NC, was not the experience for everyone. I thought that if I admitted I was a Christian (and a person who was, then immediately the people who had negative experiences with the Church would associate me with that negativity, and I didn’t want that.
So, I let my actions speak for themselves,. If people thought I wasn’t a terrible person, and if I was doing my best to do no harm then it wouldn’t matter how I make sense of the messy world we live in. That’s how I would “show up.”
This need to distance myself from the institution was due to all the dialogues I had ever had related to my second question. I don’t get it…I don’t understand how I can read a story of unconditional love and inclusion, and someone else reads the exact same words, and interpret hate, or exclusion, or love with addendums. Now, I’m no theologian. I’ve never studied the works of theologians, but I cannot get behind a human who tries to tell me my God is hateful or exclusionary. I don’t buy it. I whole-heartedly disagree with a person who thinks that my God doesn’t want me to care about the world, the whole world, the world that may look or sound different than me.
Which brings me to the struggle of my third question. How do I show up for social injustices in a Trump Administration?
The first thing I have to do: name that I work for the Church; name that I drank the Presby Kool-Aid and it’s a part of my identity that has shaped me in ways I can’t even begin to explain. I can neither shy away from the fact that there are people who have had negative experiences in my faith tradition, nor can shy away from the fact that there are people in my faith tradition who I do NOT agree with.
At the end of 2016, I began applying to graduate programs and I was struggling with my personal statement. I had a friend who point-blank asked me: Meredith, why do you care about people who have been dealt a worse hand than you? The answer: I care because I do. Growing up, I witnessed adults deeply caring about the world around us. That was my expectation for adulthood, that I would care. My time in Chicago has only intensified the deep-rooted need for there to be equity, not just equality.
This election was tough…I had such hope in humanity that I never even considered for a minute that we would be where we now are. I don’t know what the next 4 years are going to look like, but if the first 3 weeks of this administration can offer any insight, then this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint.
I do know that everything in my being rejects the rhetoric of hate, repression, and oppression. I know that I can’t bite my tongue when I witness a blatant disregard for human dignity. I know that I am broken and I am beloved.
I figure that if my gut is telling me I shouldn’t accept what is going on in this country that I love, then that just may be God nudging me towards where I need to go.
“It is important to fight and fight again, and keep fighting, for only then can evil be kept at bay though never quite eradicated.”–Albus Dumbledore
Nevertheless We Will Persist.