to my Christian brothers & sisters saying “get over it and give Trump a chance.”
First of all—hi. Warmly. Because that’s how you’ve always greeted me—with love. Remember me? I’m Jen. You were a big brother or sister to me about a decade ago when I warily stepped into church—intrigued by Christ, frightened of Christians—and you shocked me with how kind you were and how closely you listened.
That one night—when we stood next to each other in church singing he loves us, oh how he loves us, he loves us all, and it felt like the very air was swimming with that love—I still experience a kind of residual wonder when I think of that.
Those weeks on end when we got together in our friend’s living room, lounging around eating too many cookies and Kahlua brownies and delving into the book of James—you were so honest about your own faults. You modeled humility for me.
Together we organized Thanksgiving dinner for that shelter, and you made five pounds of mashed potatoes. When I was pregnant, you put your hand on my belly and prayed for me. When I preached my first sermon, your hugs were fierce and your joy was real.
It’s been hard for me to read some of the things you’ve been posting on Facebook as we approached Inauguration Day.
Get over it already.
Shut up and stop whining.
Or Grow up, protestors.
Or If you don’t like it, leave.
Or milder, but still hard to read: We need to move forward. Just wait and see. Give Trump a chance.
The few and quiet thoughts I offer here are not a comeback or smackdown. You will find no insults here. None. You’re still my brother or sister. I just wanted (humbly) to “share my heart” with you, as they say around church-world.
I know the things you’ve written lately aren’t directed at me personally; you’re not even thinking of me when you write that status or comment. I can’t imagine you would ever say these things to my face. In fact, I know you wouldn’t.
It’s not that I can’t abide robust discussion. I used to work in Washington, D.C. Part of my job involved answering hate mail. I’ve heard worse. And spiritually, I’m grown-up enough in my faith now to not be deterred when I see human beings being human.
How, then, to explain the source of my sadness? Let me try this.
One of the things that convinced me Jesus might be real—very early on in my skittish, super-skeptical churchgoing days—was gathering in those living rooms with people completely unlike me, week after week, and realizing that we had come to love each other. It became clear from our conversation that we did not all vote alike. Our personalities and interests were sharply different. I remember looking around the room one night and thinking something along the lines of: “I never would have chosen these people as friends. But somehow I started loving them. Is Jesus real? Maybe this stuff is real.”
Here was a big part of it: In the days when we used to gather around someone’s coffee table eating brownies and talking about the Bible, we always ended the night by praying for each other. I prayed for your uncle with the biopsy coming up, even though I never met your uncle. You prayed for the novel I was writing, even though you’d never read it, and it included tattoo shops and fake psychics and lesbians and you weren’t really sure how you felt about lesbians… but you knew you loved me, and that was enough.
And to this day, if something hurts or endangers you or the people you love, that REALLY MATTERS to me.
Your uncle with the biopsy. Your son who’s a police officer. Your mom and her small business. They matter to me because they matter to you. And I hope you feel the same way about me.
So I want you to imagine that I came to small group one night and said to you: There are some people who are really important to me who might be hurt in the four years to come. And then I named several people, from all eras and realms of my life—childhood, college, work, friendships, hobbies—specific people who are now facing specific dangers to their jobs, their safety, their kids, their medical care, their civil rights, their treatment by the justice system, the legal status of their marriages and families. People I love who are afraid.
One of the people I’d name, in fact, would be my own son. He’s six. This kid has a heart like no one I have ever met. My husband and I are happy carnivores, but this child, out of his love for God’s creatures, voluntarily became a vegetarian in kindergarten and has stuck to it for over a year. And he is really concerned about the future of the earth we live on. At one of the Smithsonian museums, we saw an iMax movie that showed the effects of climate change and it stuck with him. He knows this stuff is real. His love is bigger than himself. And what he’s worried about matters.
The very phrase “America First” worries me. Jesus himself warns: You cannot serve two masters. If, for American Christians, America’s supremacy in the world comes before our commitment to Christlike love, then yes, I am worried.
When someone you love is worried, you don’t say “Get over it” or “Stop whining” or “Shut up already” or even “There, there; there’s nothing to be afraid of, you’re overreacting.”
I think what you say, if you love someone, is “I’m listening. I believe you. What can I do?”
Just as when your uncle needed a biopsy, I didn’t say Oh, grow up and get over it, biopsies are no big deal or Tell your uncle to stop whining or I wouldn’t bother with a biopsy now, just wait and see, just give it a chance.
I’m not saying Trump is a worrisome lump. (I promised no insults.) What I’m saying is this: Sometimes our worries are founded, and sometimes not, but they are worth compassion, and attention, and never silencing.
I want you to say to me—or not so much me, but whoever you were directing your Facebook posts to—the very same thing I said to you about your uncle with the biopsy: I will pray. What can I do for you in the mean time?
Does it sound sentimental to talk about Love on a day like this? I don’t know, is it? If our God is Christ, and not a politician, then our allegiance today is to Love.
So if you’re my brother or sister in faith—the adherent of any faith, honestly, that holds love as its highest value—
I want to submit to you an alternate Facebook status for today.
It would blow my ever-loving mind if some of you posted something like this. My heart might explode.
“It’s Inauguration Day. You’re really upset/disturbed/worried about President Trump. I voted for him, but I’m still your brother/sister. What are you most worried about right now? What is one thing could I do these next four years so you know I have your back?”
That is a Facebook status that would blow me away. Those five sentences, writ large, are the kind of thing that maybe could accomplish One Nation Under God. Because surely “one nation under God” doesn’t mean “there was a red nation and a blue nation under God, but one got the other to finally shut up and now we’re back to one.” I think one nation under God might mean—for those of us who believe in God—one nation living like the God who is Love. The kind of absurd love that says: I won. What do you need?
I’m not as starry-eyed about Christian love as I used to be. But five sentences like the ones above—that would be the kind of startlingly kind, shockingly loving thing that first made me say of Jesus, way back in the beginning: “Maybe this stuff is real.”