YOU DID IT, ALT-RIGHT! Congratulations.
You assembled your tea party, you preyed on the economic insecurity of America’s rural poor, you revived an old trick – pitting Black and White against one another when the 1% needed to reconcile with the working class. You did it. You found a man who could be considered a Populist – a man who “tells it like it is.” You allowed your “Grand Old Party” representatives to stay silent as his fear mongering and hateful speech grew louder. You stayed silent in the polls – not wanting to admit your fears of people that are shades of brown and Black, who wear hijabs and niqabs, who don’t speak the same first language. Then you elected a man, a man who has no regard for American democracy – let alone human rights. You elected a career businessman to serve We the People. You did all this – you even disregarded the message of the Gospel in your fear.
I don’t hate you. I don’t blame you – you’re human, just like me. It’s easy to get scared, to make mistakes. It’s what we do from birth until death. And accepting Christ is not a signal of the end of our mistakes in this life. Every day we fail, every day we are forgiven. Besides, living like Christ in the day-to-day is an impossible task – yet it is one we are charged to keep striving for each and every day. That’s the beauty of faith in Jesus – he loves and forgives. However, we are charged with getting up each day, no matter our doubts and fears and beliefs we were brought up with, and loving anyway.
America was founded on many things: freedom of speech, of religion, and separation of Church and State, to name a few. I’m not one to get nostalgic about the Founding of our country – I find it misleading, and nationalism is not something I find useful. It is a bit difficult to navigate the world of American politics (separating government and religion), and standing true to one’s Christian values. But saying you love Jesus, and quoting the Beatitudes at bible study or laying in your Eno is easy – recognizing and fighting for the freedoms of your fellow humans is not.
“What good is it, my brothers and sisters, if someone claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save them? Suppose a brother or a sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you says to them, “Go in peace; keep warm and well fed,” but does nothing about their physical needs, what good is it? In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead.” -James 2:14-17
I’m pretty fond of this excerpt from James. It’s a really good reality check, for me. Am I going to Church? Check. Am I having my quiet time to read my Bible? Check. Am I talking with the Lord regularly? Check! Except God doesn’t care about checking the boxes of Christianity for appearances, or even so we can just feel good about ourselves (don’t believe me? check out the book of Acts!). God cares about actions in faith. The example James uses above is really similar to GOP Congresspeople publicly stating their emphatic remorse of history on Holocaust Remembrance Day, yet staying silent as Donald Trump signed an executive order banning entry to the country for citizens (save permanent U.S. residents) from Iraq, Iran, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, Syria, and Yemen on the same day. This keeps students from returning to school in the U.S., keeps parents from their children, and dwindles the already deplorable number of refugees we allowed into the nation from those places to zero.
“All Lives Matter.” This phrase rang in cacophony when people of color spoke out against the relentless killing of unarmed Black citizens by the police. “Black lives matter!” we cried, fearing for the safety of our fathers, brothers, sons, and cousins. “Black lives matter!” we cried when Trayvon Martin and Tamir Rice and Philando Castille were murdered. Clearly, Black lives do not matter. Black (and Brown) lives have never truly mattered in America, unless the struggle of the oppressed pressured the government to change its legislation. If “all lives matter,” why are the people who yelled this phrase the loudest – meaning the conservative, often Christian right – not enraged by the barring of families in war torn areas from safety? America is the largest democracy in the world – a democracy envisioned from those fleeing oppression – and yet we turn our backs on those oppressed? Not only is this un-Christianlike, it is un-American.
There are 1.6 billion Muslims in the world – 23% of Earth’s population. Islam is not scary, or bad. Jihad is not scary or bad. Jihad, in it’s truest translation, means struggle – struggle within oneself against sin, struggle to inform others about their religion – sound familiar? It does not mean violent war in which innocent lives are taken. Jihad is given boundaries in the Quran – and extremist groups such as Al Queda, ISIS, and Boko Haram have diverged from the meaning of Jihad and of Islam itself. And they prey on those who feel shunned by the Western world in times like these, American disdain further catalyzes extremism. These groups are admonished by the overwhelming majority of Muslims across the globe – and yet in America, Islam as a whole is seen as a threat. Attacks against Muslim groups have been on the rise since Donald Trump won the Republican primaries, with the latest attack occurring in Texas mere days ago.
The “alt-right” sees the Middle East – its people, culture, its dominant religion – as a threat. We characterize the 1.6 billion by the actions of few. And yet, most American mass shootings, serial killers and drug crimes are committed by White men – and we do not fear them, or consider these actions “terrorist” even if that is exactly what they are. We see White violence in America as individualized, yet we see immigration as a group threat.
“‘When a foreigner resides among you in your land, do not mistreat them. The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt.” -Leviticus 19:33-34
This is important, too – and I’m not the biggest fan of Leviticus. We are charged with loving those who come to our lands, those who become our neighbors. God’s followers have long gone through phases of persecution, rejection, and violence – who are we to cast the same fate on others?
Trump’s attorney general choice, Jefferson Sessions, opposed the Violence Against Women Act – a federal law that established protections for victims of sexual violence and abuse. As attorney general, Sessions would be the main legal advisor for the federal government, counsel Congress, and assist in enforcing laws passed. Think of the women you know: your mother, sister, daughter, niece, friends being victims of sexual abuse in a nation where the legal reprieve and support systems for these crimes are stripped away. I shouldn’t have to make this personal, I shouldn’t have to make you think “What if it happened to me?” – you should just care. That is what we are supposed to do, as Christians – care for, and look out for, and protect one another.
Mike Pence, our freshly minted Vice President, is a violent opponent of LGBTQIA rights, and in one of previous campaigns, conversion therapy was a platform. He quickly met with anti-choice organizations, but has yet to consider the importance of the right to choose. I shouldn’t have to spell out the immorality in manipulation and physical torture imparted on someone due to their sexuality, or the injustice that an adult woman’s bodily autonomy is less important that the fetus inside her. Clearly, LGBTQIA and reproductive rights issues are a touchy point for many Christians (though I consider myself an ally and am unabashedly pro-choice – all while being Christian). Notwithstanding, to that disdain for those issues, I give you another gem of a verse from James:
“If you really keep the royal law found in Scripture, “Love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing right. But if you show favoritism, you sin and are convicted by the law as lawbreakers. For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” -James 2:8-10
Your sins are equal to the sins of every other person – and in no way should someone else’s sins cause you to wish them harm, instability, or fewer freedoms. We are guilty of breaking all of God’s charges to us by not loving one another. That means it is possible to be both a good Christian, and a good American (shocking). That means not questioning the women in your life when they say they are marching for equal rights, that means not saying “I understand both sides” when we ban scores of people in need from our country, that means not picking your political party over your neighbor when the Trump administration targets people of color, and the LGBT+ population, that means opposing construction of the Dakota Access and Keystone Pipeline when it threatens the health and safety of Native Americans, that means demanding that Flint, Michigan receives clean water before we spend billions of dollars on a wall.
White America elected Trump – it is hurtful, it has been harmful. You did it, alt-right. You did it, GOP. That does not make me hate you. That makes me inquire on the true faithfulness much of White America claims in supporting this new administration. That makes me look closer when I look to see if you have come to your senses, if you are standing up for your fellow American, your fellow human, when injustice comes their way. 4 years of Donald Trump in office does not have to mean four years of regression, four years of escalated hate, four years that will be spent in heartache. It can mean four years of demanding human rights be applied to all humans, it can mean four years of being the Good Samaritan, it can be four years of proving that Christ’s love is something that cannot be diminished by state violence, neglect, and disdain.
You did it. But what are you going to do now? Upholding the values of Christianity does not mean you have to change parties, but it involves how you carry yourself in times like these, and how you lift others when they are knocked down. Each of us has a choice, and each of us has been given a charge: “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”
-till next time! Niara