Don’t Read This

It’s the day after the election.  I’m going to swear a bunch and be honest and make some people upset.  Just don’t read it.  Or don’t read it and complain to me.  You’ll only be disappointed.

This means you, mom.

According to the Washington Post White Evangelicals voted in Donald Trump, by 81-16 according to exit polls.

Holy Fucking Shit, people.

As a person raised in conservative white evangelical churches, this has been an interesting time.  Watching the politics of the conservatives, who I used to vote with, shift further and further to the fringe and most divisive and obstructionist, I felt the glow of smug superiority in knowing that while I had voted for W. Bush TWICE (my heart wasn’t in it the second time but I was mid-process) I also voted for our first black president and therefore was now on the side of angels.

I would tell my friends at work, when they found out that I spent my weekends playing music in church, that I was “not like some of those other Christians”, but I was one of the Good Kind.

Earlier this year, watching yet another media-focused conservative religious voice support Trump because he’s given some verbal assent to a statement of belief, I came home and asked my wife “are we evangelicals? I don’t think we are.”  She said “ok” because she’s cool like that.

I stopped feeling at home in political Conservatism more than ten years ago, in my mid-20s.  I stopped feeling at home in Evangelicalism in my mid 30s.  I’m a late bloomer, folks, this is my process.  It’s not enough for me to say “well, I’m sort of one of those people, but also more like this.”  I do not consider myself an evangelical by any popularly held definition.  I do include myself in the following critiques because I have been a part of the system for years.

  1. White, conservative, American evangelicalism is unable and unwilling to separate itself from political agendas regarding “small government,” to the point where they are required by party loyalty to support a system that has measurably harmed many marginalized groups.
  2. Where Jesus crossed boundaries to accept people the religious establishment considered Other, we have done the opposite.  We have actively harmed, through our words and actions, members of the LGBTQ+ community and decided that only certain people who conform to our comfortable ideas are allowed to pursue matters of faith in our churches.
  3. We have repeatedly been on the wrong side of history in matters of race equality and civil rights.
  4. We have made the pursuit of Roe V. Wade an idol, a token of political Christendom and power to be seized, and we’ve been willing to overlook all manner of injustice in pursuit of that idol.  We could be working together to reduce the amount of abortions that actually happen through reductions in poverty and systematic injustice, and through better reproductive education and contraception, but we’ve played a game of mutually assured destruction rather than making measured, incremental progress.
  5. We have made Thinking the Right Thing more important than Doing the Good Thing.
  6. We have abandoned a defense of the freedom of religious practice for everyone, being only concerned with making sure our religion wins out over all others.
  7. In short, we have been conservators of our own power and self-perceived rightness far more than we have been like Jesus.

So, no.  I no longer tell people that I’m one of the “good evangelicals” or even one of the “good christians.”  That’s just not a group I identify with and the tribal identity hurts more than it serves me.  I know that some of my non-conservative-evangelical friends of faith look at me like I have three heads when I explain why this is hard for me, because they come from backgrounds of rich faith without some of these social and political issues, or maybe just with different ones.  But it’s been an interesting time for the adults in my house to be more honest with ourselves and each other about how we process belief and affiliation.  If this is foreign or irrelevant to you, I apologize, but I warned you at the top not to read this.

Social identity and constructs run deep.  Ask my Irish Catholic friends in Boston or Philadelphia why they send their kids to confirmation classes even though they don’t personally attend or claim a lot of deeply held beliefs.  These groups help us to define our place in the world, and give us a sense of belonging and a sense of “home.”   Sometimes acknowledging, out loud, a change of identity and social group can help to shape a new identity, or even encourage others who are feeling homeless.  I’m writing this primarily, if I’m honest, because I’m angry today.  But I’m also writing something that some close friends have been suggesting that I write for many months, in hope that others might see themselves in our story and feel less alone.

If you want to get deep into plumbing the technicalities of my belief system, looking to weigh and measure them and see if they are close enough to what you consider acceptable, you are going to be very disappointed because we’re not having that conversation today.

It is very clear that the vast majority of white evangelicals in America believe in a system of faith and life that feels utterly foreign to me and counter to my own notions of God and the teachings of Jesus, and I’m not pretending to be a part of it.

too long for Twitter, too complicated for Facebook

I think its funny when people say “Well, he Loves The Lord” as part of a personality explanation or apology. I hear it as “he’s an asshole, but a member of our particular tribe.”

I would like it to be said of me “he was sometimes skeptical, and occasionally even ambivalent about The Lord, but he was kind.”

I’m not there yet but it seems like a good goal.

Star Wars is Bigger on the Inside

(contains spoilers, and tree-nuts)

Lots of people are posting their criticisms and complaints about the new Star Wars movie. They’re right.  Everything you say about it is probably right.

And I don’t care.

Recycled plot points?  Fan service?  Yes.  Remember Return of the Jedi? “We have to blow up ANOTHER Death Star!”  Blowing up Death Stars is pretty much what Star Wars is about.

“Not as good as…” what?  I like Star Wars as much as the next nerd, but here’s a thing we have to admit: There is no perfect Star Wars movie.  The Platonic ideal does not exist. They were all flawed, silly, ham-fisted sometimes, awkward, and gloriously imperfect.  The originals hold a special place in our hearts and minds, but because we’ve been buying the toys, showing the movies to our kids, dreaming of owning of lightsabers for the last 38 years, we’ve invested our own blood and breath and soul into it. That thing that no other movie ever seems to live up to is a thing that you and I have invented, by filling a simple story with our own set of meanings.  Star Wars is bigger on the inside, because you and I have lived inside it, and made it our home.

A few years ago I came across this article (it’s a lazy Saturday morning, do your own search) about the act of remembering things.  It’s as if, after a while, we are only remembering that we remember an event in the past. Our stories get taken off the shelf and hand-copied into a new journal.  We are comparing Star Wars to the idea of Star Wars that we’ve grown up with, from when we first saw it with young, uncritical eyes.  It can never compete.

What I really want in a Star Wars movie is “Star Wars Feels.” Spaceships!  Sassy pilots and Princess-Generals!  Romance! Swashbuckling!  Magic, not midi-chlorians.  A simple story about good and evil and doing hard things and facing down darkness.  This is what I show up for, every time.  Nerd-splaining how The Force works doesn’t make the stories better.  Fictional genealogies and debates about who decides what is canon don’t draw me back the way seeing the Millennium Falcon does.

There’s a whole other point that I realize I want to make here.  I don’t want to double the length of this post, so here’s a take-home exercise:  Apply everything I’ve said so far (powerful, simple stories, arguing over the extra meanings and details that we’ve brought in ourselves) to your favorite religion.