It’s been difficult to write.
I’ve not been hopeful.
And having experienced anything other than hopefulness, like wrestling with emotions and under the realities of frustration, anger, depression, sadness, isolation, grief, loss, and silence, there have been few honest words that could be defined as hopeful.
And to project a facade of hope is as offensive as the realities that attack hope itself.
So there has been and in many ways remains quite a season of silence. A season of either hopelessness or silent hopefulness.
Either way, a season of silence. On my end at least.
I’ve heard a great deal from the people in my world: from my history and my past and my world. They’ve been everything between furious and dismissive to piously, self-righteously, “prayerfully,” “worried” about me and my “soul.”
And yes, worried about my “eternity.”
When asked about the refugee, the immigrant, the oppressed, the poor, the person of color: they have no concern.
They’ve not been worried about the present-day life of the neighbor who doesn’t look like me (us), talk like me (us), explain religion like me (us), or… ultimately… the neighbor who is not white like me (us).
But I am a source of concern for these “brothers” and “sisters.”
It’s been difficult to write hopefully.
I wish I could wag a finger and wield a glare at myself for pushing beyond the truth to prove a point, but that luxury isn’t afforded anymore. When a president was elected to the highest office who began his campaign with racist, untrue, and hate-filled remarks about Mexicans, I was told to “chill out” about the response to this un-American position on diversity, human dignity, and individual initiative… I was told this only by those who identify as evangelicals.
When I spilled out concerns about a man who stated: “I hate the thought of black people counting my money” as well as “when you’re famous, you can do whatever you want; you can grab ’em by the pussy,” I was told to think about unborn babies. Told to think only about unborn babies. When I talked about babies born into poverty or what policies and practices actually reduce the occurrences of abortions, I was told it was “fake news” and the conversation had to move back to shopping or gossip.
When I struggled as Dr. Ben Carson was video/audio-taped saying that sometimes you have to put your faith and your Christian principles aside for the sake of politics, I was told I was being irreligious or simply lying.
When I said I could not stand or support or accept a man who celebrated sexual assault, proudly proclaimed his racism toward any human being created in the image of God whose skin wasn’t pasty white or bronze-tanned, or bragged about grabbing women “by the pussy,” I was told I could not possibly be a Christian.
To write hopefully, much less most hopefully, has felt impossible over the last many months.
And now in the last forty-eight hours, the President of the United States has suggested that we should only allow immigrants from predominantly-white, European countries to grace us with their presence in this country.
The President of these United States is suggesting that those who save us in emergency rooms, those who fight for us in the US military, those who rush into burning buildings and die rescuing our families, those who teach our children third grade math or senior-year Oncology and graduate school public health, and those who operate on our grandparents are from “huts” and “shithole countries.” And we don’t want any more of them here.
And then the decision to dig in to and spin these comments rather than confess the hateful, lymbic, ignorant shadows of them and beg for forgiveness. No need to beg for forgiveness; those who claim to follow the human being of table-turning and death-defying faith work hard at defending or excusing these realities. The more common response is a cloudy blend of eye-rolling, huffing, “waiting-for-proof” for the hundredth time, and pretending that obvious fact is a shadowy conspiracy.
The most common response is, “Well I don’t know about all that, I haven’t paid any attention, but I support him.”
These “shithole countries” are the same places I’ve been asked by Sunday School teachers and youth ministers to visit on ‘mission trips’ and to donate to for “missionary campaigns.” I grew up with photos of these––in the words of the President of the United States––I grew up with photos of these folks from “shithole countries” taped to my wall and fastened to my neighborhood lemonade stands as both an attempt at advocacy but more an attempt at guilt-driven capitalism (in the name of Jesus, of course).
The last I’ve heard from old Sunday School teachers and youth ministers was that the promoter of this hatefulness was the person their Jesus wanted and insisted that I vote for. Local and national evangelical, particularly southern baptist, Christian university professors and “theological” or “ethical” polymaths worked hard to find ways to excuse, explain, or defend standing with something and someone who more explicitly than almost ever before acted, spoke, and believed against most of the sermon-on-the-mount ways of Christ…sadly, or opportunistically…in the name of that very same Christ.
So yes, it’s been difficult to write hopefully, to write anything about hopefulness, much less to write with a sense of hopefulness above and beyond anything else. I cannot lie.
And of all the things I feel, I’m not most hopeful.
So what does it require to remain most hopeful when the loudest, self-proclaimed Christians blindly or apparently-blindly defend a sexual assaulter and racist xenophobe who says he is “Christian” and promises economic growth for the richest among us? What is there to do to hold out hope when old friends claim over late night beers around a fire that “blacks” should get out of the country or “everybody should get over it” when the highest office in the land spews racist and Christ-antithetical hatefulness toward anyone who can consider being “other” before heading back to an emotional worship service the next day?
Presidents of “Christian” universities waste no time in the courts, in the papers, or on social media outlining who is not accepted by the king of the heavenly kingdom for their loves or their politics, but have a hard, pressured, or “I don’t recall” time saying anything definitive about much less against the KKK, white supremacists, racism and classism, or those who teach, live into, and most dangerously love and therefore fear the blasphemy of a celebration of wealth, power, and accumulation rather than the hope of a doxology, generosity, and shared abundance.
I’ve wanted to, and have worked to find the ability to do it, but it’s continued to be difficult to write hopefully, much less hopefully more than heartbroken or harrowed.
Youth ministers have posted, spoken, and confirmed support for sexual assaulters and racist pedophiles.
Friends have let me know, via distance and disembodiment, that I can’t be a Christian.
Old family friends have pushed (privately and publicly) piously-decorated support for a human being who is, in all ways of both word and action, antithetical to the king and his coming kingdom. But my own religious ancestors-in-present of evangelicalism are the pale group who put him there, work to defend him, and spiritualize his hatefulness toward the least of these.
And they have all continued to push, or “prayerfully encourage” me to fall in line.
Or at least be calmer or quieter if I’m not in Orwellian-step with the rhetoric and propaganda.
Hopefulness has been a distant courtier; but hopefulness has been a persistent courtier.
And so to honor the best of my youth ministers, my Sunday School teachers, my old friends, I’m obligated to keep seeking Christ and his kingdom––the kingdom of the least of these and the last in line––I’m pushed, in honoring a memory of those relationships that are apparently no longer based on the same values, to believe what I was taught by those very folks at their best about a new way of living and being in the world.
The world does not go well, but the kingdom comes.
So for me, it’s for Christ and his kingdom. Hopeful or not, this is what I, at my best, am called to follow and working to lean into. Difficult or not, we bend the arc toward the beloved community.
Pine Tree Dr.
Donald, thank you you so much for putting into words what I haven’t been able to. So many times lately it seems like darkness is winning. I’m tired but I’ll go on with you.
Eloquent words of truth about the current state of Christian’s tolerance and acceptance of rhetoric and agenda that is the antithesis of our Lord. I pray for hearts to turn and see the truth of Christ’s love. I pray for you to keep on sharing your voice.
Donald. It’s rare to find this perspective among Christians, especially in a public forum. I’m proud of you for exposing and transparently highlighting the wrestling match you face – as I face it too. From what I’ve ecperienced of the Christ I pursue, it seems that he might reside in the arena of your words and focus vs. those of a man like Trump. I’m can’t claim what is or isn’t “Christlike.” I do t own the definitive truth on that. But I can say this – as I search for God and seek to better understand who Christ is – what you write resonates with me more than anything Trump says or does, or those who defend his words and actions. It’s not political – it’s RELATIONAL. He seems and sounds non-relational. And that doesn’t feel like Christ. I don’t find Christ in the rich, or well-to-do suburbs or power networks of politicians. I find Him in the immigrants and the poor and the “misfits.” What you wrote sounds like love. And that’s where I seem to find Him. You and I have endured numerous voices that tell us we are not Christian. In fact – we’ve (and some of our mutual friends) have endured such accusations from the same pastors and Christian leaders. For what it’s worth – I’m adding my voice to the mix of voices speaking to you – and I’m saying “You have, and continue to, offer me hope … because you reflect the God I seek and cherish.” Steve
The kingdom is coming, Donald. The church is eternal. All of this public rhetoric is ephemeral. The people you have cited are fooling themselves. Apparently a mirror is not enough confirmation of who they really are. Your message is hopeful.
As always, Donald, your comments are thoughtful and well-written. They resonate with any of us who continue to struggle with reconciling faith and politics, virtually impossible anymore….Jesus warned us that these days would come–time to pick the side you want to be on…Matt. 25:31-46, “Truly I say to you, as you
did not do it to the least of these, you did not do it to me. And these will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life…”
Sorry my friend is having a hard time. But I always have appreciated the fact that you could articulate boldly and clearly what a lot of people feel but can’t articulate ourselves. It’s a gift you have. I remember once you speaking at the college ministry about not only granting grace and understanding to not only those who were poor but to our wealthy neighbors. Applying that person in environment principle to all status’. Granting grace in both (or all) directions. It’s a struggle I have everyday.
Sounds like the way people have treated you expressing the truth of what you have been shown of his kingdom has been slightly similar to how my God loving friends family and neighbors have judged how I have “handled” things with my father. We are called to love them, even those who are god fearing, well meaning…(but wrong), but at the end of the day- the only person we are accountable to is God. To trust his timing in what to say and when to say it, or be silent when it calls for it. We have no control over how what we say or do is received, so we are only accountable to him to be still and listen to what we are called to do with our words, actions, silence, etc. that’s hard when we look to find him in the hearts and souls of his followers and sometimes just can’t.
I’m still learning how to allow the people who love me, that often misunderstand and hurt my heart with what they say and think of me or others, to still love me the best they can and me the same for them – but I no longer need them to understand or agree with me, or me them. Only him. And that can be isolating, but also the only thing that has created any life out of the death that’s happened in life in recent and past years. It’s hard to give up on their goodness when it comes with the bad, because if I received that in return, I wouldn’t have anyone. And I would have missed out on parts of them that are pretty amazing. But it’s heart breaking to watch those same people use the name of Jesus be used for causes and crusades and downright hate that we know are not of him. Especially when it is our figurative and literal family included in this (at least mine).
You have also been given a great capacity to see and love your neighbors, Donald. Don’t let anyone’s judgement of how you do that make you hopeless. That is also a gift, not for creating arrogance that you have it and others don’t, and for those like me not to be jealous that you have it and I don’t ☺️ But seeing it as the gift it is. And therefore also granting you a greater capacity to grant grace in all directions, despite the challenges and frustrations that presents.
But you know as well as I do that when the kingdom runs up against the world, there is often friction. If there wasn’t, then it wouldn’t have needed Jesus to usher it in. So take hope in the fact that if it were easy, it probably wouldn’t be right- so I would rather feel the despair on the path of friction, the path to the kingdom any day…even though the other would be much easier and seemingly less lonely for sure!
Forgive me my gibberish as I have not eaten lunch and I get a little crazy without my lunch…not that my craziness makes anymore sense after I’ve eaten, but whatever.
Miss seeing you, take care! Lori
Sent from my iPhone
Thank you for your honesty and candor. There are many Christians who niether, support or defend this elected official and are still pursuing the kingdom, but are confused as to how to go about educating those around us who may not want to hear. Prayer and face to face discussions seem so little, but they’ve moved mountains before. It is disheartening to find silence and hypocrisy exposed in those we counted on, but better to be exposed and dealt with than festering and spreading. The kingdom of Christ is bigger than the blip of a narcissist, even one who has leadership over a large country.
1 I will praise thee, O LORD, with my whole heart; I will shew forth all thy marvellous works. 2 I will be glad and rejoice in thee: I will sing praise to thy name, O thou most High. 3 When mine enemies are turned back, they shall fall and perish at thy presence. 4 For thou hast maintained my right and my cause; thou satest in the throne judging right. 5 Thou hast rebuked the heathen, thou hast destroyed the wicked, thou hast put out their name for ever and ever. 6 O thou enemy, destructions are come to a perpetual end: and thou hast destroyed cities*; their memorial is perished with them. 7 But the LORD shall endure for ever: he hath prepared his throne for judgment. 8 And he shall judge the world in righteousness, he shall minister judgment to the people in uprightness. 9 The LORD also will be a refuge for the oppressed, a refuge in times of trouble. 10 And they that know thy name will put their trust in thee: for thou, LORD, hast not forsaken them that seek thee. 11 Sing praises to the LORD, which dwelleth in Zion: declare among the people his doings. 12 When he maketh inquisition for blood, he remembereth them: he forgetteth not the cry of the humble*.