Love, Character, and Common Human Decency

I’ve gone back and forth on whether I’ve wanted to write anything about 2020. What can I say that hasn’t already been said, written, shouted loudly from social media, or quietly texted outside the group chat? But writing is a processing tool for me, so maybe it’s less important to worry about writing a piece that will satisfy readers and more important to write something that will wrestle with the turmoil in my head and heart.

That said, I expect this to be a long post and I do not expect many people to read it, or read all of it. I am not writing to change your mind nor am I even writing to engage in respectful discussion of the topics raised. If anything, my purpose is simply to expose the mechanics of my brain. Figure out why the gears skip and stick from time to time. These metaphors are brought to you by Melina: The Steampunk Musical Tragedy, which you can now stream on Spotify here. Shameless plug brought to you by my ego.

I grew up in a conservative Christian area. And I was immensely happy. Surrounded by people who thought the same as I, I was confident in my beliefs, secure in my understanding of the world, and joyful in sharing my singular mindset with others. I was loved unconditionally, provided a safe home to grow, given an education that allowed me to explore my interests, and was all-around comfortable.

I believed, that because I attended a public school, I had already faced the temptations the world had to offer, and I had overcome. I was a Good Christian, a leader in fact, and upon graduation, I knew it was time to “make my beliefs my own”. I understood this would mean digging deeper into my psyche, my personal convictions, and could potentially mean differing slightly from my upbringing.

Before I continue, let me preface with saying: my faith is a core component of who I am and I hold the foundational aspects of Christianity and salvation through the person of Jesus Christ to be absolutely true. Just to get that out there.

Post high school, something interesting and totally expected started happening: I began meeting people different than me. I met missionary kids who’s faith looked very different from American evangelicalism. I met American evangelicals who were so hurt and depressed from toxic experiences within the church. I made friends with people who walked away from Christianity. I met believers who had different convictions than me but by all the accounts I had been taught to look for growing up, were exemplary believers.

Welcome to the confusing headspace of a young adult leaving the Conservative Bubble.

Over the years, I’ve gone through many different kinds of seasons. Wrestling with faith is a lifelong process, and even with all its ups and downs, I wouldn’t trade my decision to follow Christ for anything. I know in the core of my being that being a Jesus follower is an unwavering part of my identity.

Just as I know in the core of my being that I have lived a life of privilege, there is an infinite amount of experiences I cannot even being to comprehend, and there is indeed a serious sickness in my country and the Evangelical church is a part of it.

2020 has been no joy, to say the least. For me personally, its been a year of mistakes, new experiences, re-examinations, new relationships, and general turbulence. It’s also been the year when I decided to get political.

Politics was rarely discussed in my home growing up. We were middle class privileged — namely, unaffected by most governmental decisions. I saw the conflict politics brought about and I had decided it was better to be blissfully ignorant of politics than have to deal with confrontation and nasty emotions.

But then I became an educator in Florida. My first dip into the Wonderful World of Politics was when I took my collegiate music education chapter to Tallahassee to advocate for music education. From there, it’s only grown to attending the teacher rally back in January and making sure I am fully aware of the decisions being made in Polk County that directly affect my job.

And then I realized it can’t just be about what affects me.

And a good friend has taught me that feelings should not be avoided. Especially the nasty ones.

So this year, I’ve been learning. Listening. Waiting. Trying to understand how other people are feeling so I can figure out how I am feeling. And then making informed decisions to do my part to create a world where people are safe and loved.

This month, I’ve started getting angry. Now, if you know me, you know I am not an angry person. It takes a lot to truly get me upset and then I’m quick to forget any anger I might have had. But there has been an unsettled, quiet anger, churning around in my stomach as I have watched our country turn on itself again and again.

Now here’s where I’m probably gonna get a bit rambly. Cause I think there are several things I’m upset about and I think I want to write them out but I’m not even sure, so here we go.

I understand being ignorant to white privilege. I was, for a long time. What I cannot understand, is after being made aware of the ways in which an individual is favored by society, choosing to believe that they are in fact, not privileged. Being able to look at the injustices in your world, and choosing to not acknowledge them, but rather reframe them in ways that allocate blame, is a kind of arrogance that I cannot abide. Perhaps even more disturbing (and a nod to my favorite topic: the failure of the American education system) are the people who simply lack the critical thinking and analytical skills to develop a healthier worldview.

Now let’s talk about rights. I have had many conversations with Christians about sexuality (lol hard left, bet you weren’t expecting that). One common conversation that comes up in discussions about LGBTQ people and relationships is the idea that people have a right to happiness. This is countered with the idea that happiness is not the end-all-be-all (which I do agree with this sentiment, generally) and that in reality, humankind does not REALLY have any rights. Usually with some variation of the phrases, “Who are we to say what rights we have?”, “Saying we deserve anything is prideful.”, and “We are citizens of heaven, we do not have earthly rights.”

For the sake of where I’m going with this, let’s assume this is true. Humans inherently do not have rights. Our morality and decisions are determined by the Word of God alone.

Let me now call your attention to everything the Evangelical Church of Trump has been shouting about for the past several months: “It is my RIGHT to choose not to wear a mask!” “Don’t take away my RIGHT to own a gun!” “Liberals are trying to take away my RIGHTS!”

For a community that claims to follow a humble carpenter who didn’t always know where his next meal would come from, they are awfully concerned with what they have a right to.

Back to conversations about sexuality. Another common phrase I’ve heard is, “I don’t view same-sex attraction as any different from any other sin. They are all equally displeasing to God.” There’s a lot to unpack with those sentences, but I want to parallel it to something else.

If you were to ask a Christian to write out a list of sins, I can guarantee you murder would be on there. Hell, ask any human being regardless of belief, and I should hope murder would be on that list. I wouldn’t be surprised if the Christian’s list also included things like pride, dishonesty, mockery/slandering, among many others.

I grew up hearing the phrase “abortion is murder”. A heinous sin. And personally, I am resolutely against abortion. I am equally resolute in my conviction that it will never be my place as a man to make the decision for a woman considering that option. And I will never judge an individual for choosing abortion. There are factors involved that I cannot even begin to comprehend. I could go into this much more, but I digress from my point.

To those evangelicals who supported Trump SOLELY on his anti-abortion stance: where was your “all sins are equally displeasing to God” rhetoric then? Why, in this instance, are you allowed to pardon pride, dishonesty, and mockery? Why was a party platform more important than an individual’s character?

See, when I look at the person of Jesus Christ, I see someone who cares about peoples’ hearts. I see someone who said things like “love your neighbor as yourself”. I see someone who flipped tables when a welcoming, safe place, became a business place. I see someone who despised sin so much that he told his followers to go as far as cutting their hand off if it caused them to sin.

Can you imagine Trump’s condition if Christians nowadays held to that standard? For that matter, can you imagine the condition of Christians?

I’ve been in anguish as many friends and loved ones have proudly proclaimed their anti-abortion stance, or their fierce loyalty to their rights. When did all of these things become more important that the quality of someone’s heart?

I’ve been in anguish as many friends and loved ones haven’t been able to sleep, who are happy to get through the day without an anxiety attack, who fight not to be ignored or silenced. Who simply want to love and be loved.

It’s not about what we think we deserve. We can argue that back and forth until we’re blue (or red) in the face.

It’s about love, character, and common human decency.

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