Hi. I’m Christina from the Midwest.
We all come from places with dynamic spaces. Spaces where humanity is respected and personhood is sacred. Spaces where unspoken expectations determine one’s reputation and value. Whether we like it or not, where we come from influences how we become the people we are. Much like my home state, I’ve been caught in the tumult between progressive and conservative attitudes, which I’ll offer personal definitions for here:
progressive: energy spent to advance an ideal not fully actualized
conservative: energy spent to maintain an existing ideal
I come from Missouri, having been dipped in sleek metropolitan design, dunked in suburban surrealism, and drowned in rural landscapes. But I also come from the Church, a collision of darkness and light.
Both spaces are difficult for me to claim with pride because my “homes” tend to have narrow definitions for who constitutes a neighbor.
My dad has been a pastor in the St. Louis area for the major part of my life. My family’s presence in a powdered-perfect congregation, juxtaposed with Missouri’s wrestling for growth and justice, formed in me an identity built on tension. From a young age, I grappled with the idea of responsibility. How could I care for my parents by protecting them from the nastiness of church politics? Why were some adults at my church most concerned with looking out for other Christians―and what about the people who didn’t go to church? This confused me as a child because of its conflict with what I had been taught about inclusivity; I didn’t know how to reconcile leaving anyone behind.
The push and pull of White Southern Baptist theology, dripping with privilege and innate patriotism, left me wondering, “Who is my neighbor?”
In the meantime, the people around me shifted over the years: affluent Jewish kids, first-gen American kids, “city kids” bussed into our suburban school with the promise of better education, impoverished White folks feeling forgotten by Democratic politicians, carefree college kids caught up in feels and thrills of youthful discovery.
Missouri* provided the context in which I fumbled through (and am still fumbling through) learning how to love regardless of differences, without agenda. I love Missouri because it was a backdrop to my personal growth during some formative years. Simultaneously, I struggle to claim the state as my home because fear has given way to hatred has given way to violence against people I call my neighbors. Despite local efforts to recognize the humanity in everyone, Missouri has become synonymous with fatal discrimination, receiving national recognition for threats to people of color, LGBTQ+ individuals, and Muslims (to name a few).
The anguish of knowing your home is fraught by incessant controversy over whether justice is truly just…the anguish of knowing your home has a malevolent reputation that does not reflect all of its people, cannot be put into words.
As much as the state of this state rends my heart and as much as I want to distance myself from Missouri’s reputation, I can’t speak or write Missouri out of my own story. Missouri swings in my gait and wraps my tongue in dialect. It’s home to most of my family.
I don’t get to choose all of the events that make up my story, but lived experiences don’t have to define my identity. I am more than where I have been.
So I introduce myself to you, my neighbor, as Christina from the Midwest, acknowledging where I come from, while pressing toward an identity not fully actualized.
*This post encompasses more of what I feel about Missouri rather than the Church because, honestly, the Church will take way more time to explain.