Where Were Our Voices Then?

A comment that I received on the Not the American Christian, but a Follower of Jesus article had some questions in it that demanded a thoughtful response, and since this blog is about processing politics in light of people, I thought it might be helpful to devote an article to those questions.

The reader made the point that we have never been a country with open borders and refusing sanctuary to refugees is not unique to Trump’s administration.  She asks: “Where were the protestors when Obama limited the number of refugees seeking sanctuary? Where were the protestors when ISIS committed genocide and displaced all of these individuals now seeking refuge? Where were the protestors when Obama was dropping bombs on Syrian civilians?”

I think her overall frustration is at the hype that is happening now, under Trump’s administration, that wasn’t there before, making Trump an easy target for people to protest in attempt to stake out some easy moral high ground, when in actuality, the morality of politics is very complicated.  And doing so continues to polarize the nation rather than unite or heal it as protestors are actually aiming to do.  It’s easy to protest here and there and join a political trend when it’s convenient, but it’s hard work to live with integrity by a guiding philosophy.  Often the loudest voices are the people who step in the spotlight when it suits them and take a day off when politics get too hard or when their party’s platform isn’t the one in dispute.

There is a lot of truth in that.

In general, I would guess that the differences in social and political climates during Obama’s and Trump’s administrations created a different context for what seem like identical issues, but the truth is, I don’t have a general answer to her questions.  I can’t speak for anyone else but myself.

I have never liked politics.  They are overwhelming and in many ways have moved from honorable to disingenuous.  It’s hard to know who gives accurate information and what power I actually have to do anything that will make a difference anyway.  My response to politics was more or less apathy, which is probably the worst response someone could have.  Don’t get me wrong, I would weep over atrocities in America and abroad, but I was never politically motivated to respond because it all felt too big.  My responses were through prayer, donations, volunteering, or buying free trade items, etc.  Those aren’t less important responses, but they don’t usually make change in the political scope.

So why have a voice now, when Trump is president?  I didn’t vote for Obama either time, so I have no secret agenda to attack the Republican Party; I am a Republican myself. It is the person who took office that has motivated me to do something.  Even more so, it is the story after story of people living in fear of their civil rights or citizenship being challenged.  There is a litany of words and actions from President Trump that compelled me to start listening to the political conversation and to do the little bit I can to stand for what I believe is right and to oppose what I believe is wrong.

This is still overwhelming, and I don’t know that at the end of the day I will end up on the right side of every issue.  But one thing I can stand on confidently is that Jesus loves.  When all other matters of theology and understanding Scripture become messy and tricky, I keep coming back to the fact that Jesus loves.  When I don’t know what to do in politics, I know that I won’t go wrong if I focus on loving the person.  Christians will undoubtedly disagree on what the most loving response will be, so my conclusions will be just some of many that are drawn, but I know that if they are rooted in the love of Jesus, they won’t be wasted.

Executive Order: Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States became a people issue to me.  I don’t agree with it because I would rather risk security than deny sanctuary to people who need a home, and I also don’t agree with the hastiness and heartlessness with which it was rolled out.

To answer those questions she asked, I don’t have a good reason for not paying better attention during the Obama administration or for staying out of the political conversation until now.  But I am doing it now and will continue to.
The reader concluded her comment by saying, “The current ‘moral’ outrage is, at best, ignorant, and at worst, politically motivated and disingenuous.”  My guess is that she was responding largely to the lines, “If American Christianity finds the executive order to ban refugees to be an act that pleases God and shows the love of Jesus to His people—if this has become a Christian thing because our president claims to be Christian—then I must find another title for myself.”

The idea that I do not want to be represented by the Trump administration’s brand of Christianity is indeed a strong statement, but it is not disingenuous moral outrage and it’s not ignorance.  I suppose it does have some political motivation, though, in the sense that I want to clarify that Jesus is not represented well by our current administration and I hope other Christians clarify that too.

The words I wrote are words of resolve.

Putting my faith in a perfect God while living in an imperfect world is really messy.  Everything is complicated, and even well intended and respected Christians disagree on matters of theology and how to live out their faith.  I know I’m not going to get it all right, but I sure don’t want to stop trying to live more like Jesus.  Generally, I prefer to work out my faith in the privacy of trusted community and also in solitude.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m happy to share any part of my life that can help someone else, but I usually do it after I have worked through something, and I prefer to do it within the context of a relationship and not simply out to the unknown public.  That is true for a lot of reasons (yes, including pride), but a main reason is that I learn better when I can reach my own conclusion than when someone else reaches it for me (often well-intended but not accurately).  Especially as a Christian, it can feel like processing the messy parts of life is unacceptable.  Nobody wants their pastors or elders or Christian authors to struggle with faith or theology or sin, so most people don’t choose to process the gritty parts of life and faith in public.

In wrestling through what it means to be a Christian in this day and age of politics, I made the choice to make this journey public by writing it out on this blog.  I did that because I have always been intimidated by politics and wish I could have been a fly on the wall while someone else wrestled with these same things.  The articles are the questions I have and either the conclusions I have come to (for myself, mostly) or the subsequent questions that have come up. I am emotional by nature, so I will probably miss when my tone is too strong or pointed instead of burdened and resolved.  And I am totally new to the political conversation, so I’m sure I will make mistakes with facts and concepts.  But I don’t want that to keep me from asking the questions and trying to work through this.  It matters that people (myself included) learn how to have a voice.  We live in a democratic country that is supposed to be for the people, but there aren’t a lot of safe places to find our voices and try on ideas and ask controversial questions.  I want to hear other people’s voices and create a safe place on this website for people, especially people who are new to faith or politics, or are unsure of their opinions, or who have never before felt safe to ask a question to wrestle with their faith in light of how they can contribute to their country.
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