You know what question I get as a millennial Christian in today’s divisive political season?
It’s always phrased so politely but there’s a tone of sarcasm and bitterness that always manages to reach the surface.
How can you be a Christian and still have such left leaning views?
Guys. Guys. The question never gets old. And let me tell you, I’m always ready to answer it. So instead of waiting for the next person to ask - I’d figure I would write it out, explaining what, how, why and my beliefs are what they are. It’s a little bit of a long journey so I hope you’ll ride it out with me. Figuring as today is my first day in Dubuque for my Seminary August Intensive, it seemed like the right time.
If not - totally get it. We’re all pressed for time these days. I’ll put a short paragraph summary at the end for all my none readers out there 😉
When you’re born and raised in the same church for as long as I was - it’s easy to become blind to the differences between not only different faiths but even different denominations of Christianity. My naive middle school self going through confirmation had no real grasp on what Presbyterianism was or why I was taking a year long course on it. But I did it anyway, was confirmed and officially introduced as a member of the Presbyterian Church.
I think the first time I really paid attention to what Presbyterians believed was in my junior year after the Presbyterian Church of the United States of America (PCUSA) voted to allow the ordination of openly gay candidates.
Straight up guys, I was like, we didn’t already? I went to a progressive church... or so I thought. Faith Presbyterian Church felt that decision in the loss of many key members after the fact. The following years of my life I would continue to learn the ways in which my denomination was changing. I had always been Presbyterian, but I was finally able to learn and understand how much pride I gained from my faith.
As I continued to become a more “woke” teenager in high school. Yeah, I’m not sure I’m using that right... I became more outspoken on politics that were important to me including the Marriage Equality Movement, the Pro-Choice Movement, and eventually recognizing the significance of racial, socio-economic and gender divides that were happening in our country as I continued through college.
When I say the Church is hesitant to change, I mean it, specifically Presbyterians. Need a new pastor? First you have to form a committee which is helped through one of our governing bodies, The Session, this committee works to form another committee who will be in charge of pre-screening, interviewing and offering a position to candidates. But it all has to be approved by the regional Presbytery first so it can take months, even years sometimes. All jokes aside, we are seeing denominational churches shifting in this nation, including proudly, the PCUSA.
In college I struggled to find a faith home as I was living in a smaller, Mid-Western town with more conservative roots. While there were a few open and affirming churches, many hadn’t made a public statement about that decision and would hesitate to bring it up. If you are not aware, open and affirming (OAN) means a church in which the congregation has affirmed the full inclusion of the LGBTQ in its life and ministry. My time at Mizzou was riddled in political upheavals, which had me yearning more for a church where my beliefs would be understood.
Freshman year was met with Mizzou Football Player, Michael Sam, coming out as gay to the nation. This struck some cords in the city and around the nation, we were quickly protested by Westboro Baptist Church, but the community of Mizzou came together to stand in a line with our backs facing the protestors, protecting our school, and making a statement to the world that we “Stand with Sam”. I realized then the power of our generation and continued to ask questions about my faith, my denominations beliefs and how it all intertwined with my stances on some important political movements happening at the time.
Over the next two years The University of Missouri was met with very serious protests following the police shooting of Michael Brown in St. Louis during the summer of 2014. The two years that followed Mizzou saw protests of all kinds including student “die-ins”, boycotts, hunger strikes and online activism all in hopes of the creation of actionable changes for racial issues Mizzou was facing. These students were powerful and important to shaping not only myself and my understanding of the reality of racism in our country, but also the University’s.
As the 2016 Election geared up, it was becoming evident that Trump would have a chance at winning, and would eventually become the President. The few months before this were more difficult than I would have imagined. At the time I was in an organization that had not only been my home on campus, but was also the place in which I had met many of my friends. During this time I learned of some practices by the governing body of the organization on a National level and on a campus level that, in correlation with other events, made me no longer feel comfortable holding my membership. But, wow God had a plan. At the time of my decision to leave this organization, the Interim Youth Director position at the PCUSA church opened up and hired me on.
All in all, I’ve grown up a lot with my beliefs on the world because I recognize that I grew up with a lot of privilege. Meeting people and allowing them the chance to tell me about their lives and struggles has opened my eyes to what is going on around me, even when I may not always see it because of that privilege.
When it comes to my faith, my mind set is simple. If my actions turns someone away from God, how is that doing his work? One of the things that bothers me most about the Christian faith in our world today is this idea that if someone doesn't agree with you or act the way you think they should act, that then they're not worth your time. Or that by screaming at them them and telling them that they're wrong or evil or going to hell, that it will somehow make them want to be with God. There's no reasonable way that this makes sense.
We should be professing God's love and acceptance and forgiveness of sin, not preaching hate.
I wholeheartedly believe that multiple denominations and religions are what the world needs. There will always be differing views on what we believe to be God’s word. One of the reasons this is so incredibly difficult is as Christians we believe the Bible is God’s living word but, it's also been translated hundreds of times by imperfect humans, and it was written by imperfect humans. Meaning that, as society has shifted and changed over hundreds of years, those words could be changed and tweaked to say what society wanted them to say. Also, times have changed since the time of Jesus Christ. Divorce is common, women are pastors, sermons are heard on social media, television and the radio. We must recognize that the Bible is a sacred text, but also that it has imperfections.
[TL;DR] Basically, I 100% respect people’s decisions to vote within their Party, I also will always try and show love and respect to those of all races, genders, sexualities, religions and socio-economic statuses. I believe that differing denominations and religions exist so people can find one in which their beliefs are validated and agreed with. In my opinion, we need to stop seeing the world as only black and white and look for the gray area of common ground; seeing each other as the human race rather than our differences, extending love and kindness. I believe God loves and cherish all people, that the Church is a place for all people, and we should live as such.