Church and State
In defense of the Christian Left
My parents met in seminary. They have a combined eight years of work in the missions field, are both ordained, and together have two Masters degrees both in Christian Education as well as a Doctorate in Christian Spirituality. I was raised in a Southern Baptist Church in rural Georgia, where both my parents worked as ministers. At a young age, I was taught all the Bible stories that people who aren’t even Christian know. I could recite the Christmas story, the Easter story, David and Goliath, Jonah and the whale, Queen Esther, Lydia and her purple cloth (my namesake), and many others. I was brought up to see everyone equally and treat others the way I wanted to be treated. I was taught to be more like Jesus and help others do the same. Even though I was raised in a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant family I was introduced, at a very early age, to people who were different from me. My mother was in charge of international student outreach in the Baptist Campus Ministry at the University of Georgia, we had many family friends who were immigrants that I grew up around, and when I was six I took my first international trip to China to adopt my little sister. Because of the way I was brought up, injustice and prejudice was something that I never experienced in my own household. It was always something I would see on the news or read in a history book. My mom and dad were always very careful about expressing their views in public to avoid confrontation. They would tell me and my sister to choose our words wisely not only in the general public, but on social media, amongst friends, and even in the church. This is not to say that our parents didn’t want us to stand up for what we believe in. They made sure we were aware of injustice and oppression, not just in the past but also in modern society, and reminded us how lucky we were to live where we did and how we did. I understand now they just did not want us to get our feelings hurt or be bullied by other kids because of our beliefs.
Faith and politics are two things that go back generations in my family. My great-grandmother was a member of the League of Women Voters and my mother was one of the founding members of the Young Democrats in her community. My parents both grew up in Baptist churches and their faith and upbringing during integration made them interested in social justice and working towards bringing people together. They were taught in church and at home to have compassion and speak up for those who could not speak for themselves. They were exposed to poverty and injustice in their communities throughout their years of adolescence. The teachings of Jesus led them to feel responsible for the outcast, the hungry, etc. In todays world they are labeled liberal because they think our institutions should provide for those in need. Living outside of the United States made them appreciate the opportunities that we have here and the social programs we have. My mother worked for a Republican and a Democrat on Capitol Hill and her beliefs definitely lie more along the lines of what is now considered liberal. I have had similar experiences. I too was taught in my church and in my home to give a voice to the voiceless and show compassion to others. I too learned Jesus’ teachings of helping the impoverished and afraid. My international travels to other countries and experiences with international people in my home country, led me to recognize my privilege. This election in particular has drawn me into the conversation now more than ever.
When I was in the 1st grade, I remember having a mock election in school and being one of three kids in my class who voted for Kerry. In 5th grade, I recall being ecstatic about the idea of an Obama presidency. I remember being asked who I was voting for by the non-white kids in my class and when I responded with “Obama” they told me “you’re the only one.” Even then I did not really experience any real conflict with other kids. As of today, I have gotten into a few arguments, but they were nothing I could not handle. I have never lost a friendship over politics, although some of my friends on the other side of the spectrum have told me they thought I would not be friends with them after said disagreements.
This is a touchy subject especially today. On one hand I do not want to be associated with people who deny other people basic human rights, but on the other hand I understand that I myself am not friends with anyone who voted for Trump because he wanted to ban Muslims or implement “stop and frisk.” They voted for him because he was the candidate who most aligned with their platform and the Republican agenda. I can see the tough situation it puts them in having grown up around these people. I still do not necessarily think that it is ok to vote for someone who has twelve sexual assault allegations against him but I am just going to move on for sake of the topic of this essay.
Yet, when people bring faith into the mix, it gets very messy. I have seen statements made by people on social media saying that “if you’re a Christian you can’t vote for Hillary Clinton, because she is the opposite of one” or the argument that Donald Trump shares more Christian values than Hillary Clinton. My younger sister was told by one of her peers that you can not be a Democrat and a Christian, only a Republican and a Christian. Being a Christian means being “a little Christ.” Would a little Christ support the banishment of people escaping oppression and war in their own country from entering a country of freedom and equality just because of their beliefs? Would a little Christ support sending people back to their home country after coming to a different country in order to work and give their family a better life just because it was almost impossible for them to get to the other country legally? Would a little Christ think that love between two people is wrong and should be illegal if those two people are the same sex? Remember Jesus himself was a refugee. Jesus himself was persecuted. Current Sunday School teacher and former President Jimmy Carter once said, “Jesus never said a word about homosexuality. In all of his teachings about multiple things -– he never said that gay people should be condemned.”
As a Christian, I do not see the bible as a rulebook of how to get into heaven. I believe that being a Christian is being like Christ. It is helping those in need and standing up for those who are afraid to speak. It is loving everyone and respecting everyone. I do not judge people who do not share my beliefs; if they are good people, they are good people. There are good people in all religions and both political parities. The God I believe in is not a God of wrath, but a God of unconditional love. The people I believe in and love are not people who preach hate, but those who preach love and show kindness to all people.