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Insert pun about being Left out here

November 3, 2012

A while back, a friend of mine asked me to blog about how American “liberal” politics and “conservative” theology can coexist in my brain and my life. I delayed, and I have since become addicted to a Korean dramedy (now available on Netflix) called Secret Garden:

This has been your daily non-sequitir

I’ve been having that political/theological conversation so much these last few months (gee, wonder WHY) that I felt like I’d said everything I have to say on the topic in my real-life circles of people. Much has been said on the internet about such things, whether you follow the typical sources like Sojourners, Christianity Today, CNN, etc. Again, I felt I had little to add in the way of political commentary.

I could ask questions about why so many of my evangelical brethren are positively hateful toward our sitting President. Or why one of my die-hard Republican friends is currently chum in the water with her pals from Liberty University because she cannot, in conscience, support a Mormon candidate for the highest office in the land. But when I ask such questions, I have no credibility. Instantly. Because I’m a committed Democrat.

Our evangelical community struggles intensely with partisanship.  I’m tempted to blame both parties for that. It might spread the sting around if I could do that. But honestly, I’ve never met a Christian Republican afraid to “come out” about it. In fact, more often that not, people will launch into political conversation with me, having just met me at church or some church-related event, and assume from the get-go that I hate Barack Obama or that I’ll chime in with an anti-liberal rant. It’s awkward because I rarely know when to lift the veil and let them see the Democrat underneath the evangelical exterior.

Not long ago, I attended a get-to-know you breakfast for some women at church. It was one of those events where you don’t really know who is going to show up at the restaurant, but you’re taking the gamble someone you know or want to know better will be there. During the meal, while we were still playing the “do you have kids? how many?” game, the conversation veered toward politics.  I felt safe offering a comment here or there because most of the people in my immediate table area knew I was a Democrat (and loved me in spite of it, hee hee). A woman I’d never met before was railing against the new health care law and I calmly pointed out that not much press had been given to its merits like the elimination of pre-existing conditions (including “diseases” like being the victim of domestic violence or having a c-section. THANKS, insurers.) The woman was getting pretty steamed talking about how the President secretly planned the whole thing through back-room deals (most of it was played out over months, through the papers) and rammed it through Congress (with a solid majority). I added that to many people on the left, myself included, the whole thing was a complicated compromise and a lot of us wanted something closer to a single-payer system. Her reaction was…well…I may as well have declared my allegiance to the Führer/Chairman Mao (wait, you mean they’re not the same thing?!).

Why the President cannot be both a communist AND a socialist. Also, it’s an awesome and often applicable quote.

My new frenemy(?) leaned across the eggs and sausages and ripped into me, “HAVE YOU EVEN READ THE CONSTITUTION?” “Yes.” “The Federalist Papers!” “Why, yes. When I was getting my Master’s in Government at Pat Robertson’s university, we had to read all that stuff.” (For the kids at home, The Federalist Papers, while influential, don’t actually govern anything. Neither does the Declaration of Independence. We will now return to programming.) At this point, I evaded further discussion on the topic (or any topic) and turned back to chat with my smart, lovely, conservative friend who wasn’t going to yell at me over pancakes about such things.

This encounter wasn’t the first and it wasn’t the worst.  In my time as an “out” Democrat in the evangelical church (roughly a decade), I’ve been called a baby-killer (though a third of my life and almost all of my professional life was spent working in the pro-life movement), a socialist (which I probably almost am, at least sorta), a communist, unpatriotic (with more vehemence and vitriol than if I was being branded a heretic), and told all my causes were “just depressing,” among other things. It’s all par for the course.

Recently, I went to a new friend’s house and while we were sipping coffee and talking about what the week ahead was going to be like, she sat back in her chair and asked me why I’m a Democrat. It was a little abrupt and completely unexpected. Like, “explain yourself, readysetgo!” only with genuine curiosity. I was taken back a bit and I stuttered and stammered my way through. “Uh, er, I like poor people and women and helping and education is good, and the environment, plus pharmaceutical company lobbying OY! And guns, and the death penalty is racist and bad bad, YEAH. See?” It was a mess. I told her I really wasn’t making an articulate case because I was utterly surprised at the question. She was apologetic and said, “I would think people ask you this all the time.” I told her, “Noooo? Not really. No one wants to know why.” My friend was sincere, but the truth is, most of the church folks I know don’t even want to know I’m a Democrat at all. It’s like political colorblindness, only in this case, instead of polite lies like “I don’t see race,” people refuse to see my liberalness.

A different friend recently told me, “I just don’t see that when I think about you. I mean, we’re all sisters in Christ, so that doesn’t matter.” But it does matter. Because talking about your views as a Republican is acceptable in all the churchy places. Talking about mine stops conversations cold.  (Whoa. Liberal, okay… Football? Weather? Bible? We all agree, right?)  Also, for what it’s worth, I like my opinions. I like other people’s opinions. I think our opinions should get together and see if they can make baby opinions. Then we can watch them grow up into God-honoring opinions and won’t that be better for AMERICA?

Another friend said (through unsolicited advice), “When you’re in leadership, sometimes you have to give up your right to certain things about yourself. Like if you were a second-amendment nut, as a leader in Christian community, you might let that go so you can be a better servant and avoid offending people.” Except that I know for a fact that several people at our church work for the NRA. We have Republican candidates, members of Congress, Senators, local representatives going to our church. We may have a few Democrats in office who attend, but they are seriously outnumbered and out-talked. The majority always wants the minority to give up their bit so “we can all by happy.” That never, ever works in the long run. It breeds contentment among those who need a little discomfort and resentment among the put-upon.

There’s this sense that you shouldn’t be partisan, but “partisan” doesn’t apply to political conservatives because that’s just “good Biblical values.” I’d like to vote the Bible (whatever that means. Seriously, because I can’t wrap our craptastic electoral options around the whole of that statement). I can’t parse out the “love your neighbors, love the alien, love the jailed, love the sick,” “don’t kill,” “don’t oppress the poor,” from the “knit you together in your mother’s womb” like that. For me, voting is always awful. I identify with Democratic values but I can’t stomach what mainline Democrats do to the right to life for the unborn (or to the elderly or disabled; hello, Massachusetts, looking at your face right now). I can’t handle either party’s commitment to war or capital punishment or their lack of commitment to campaign finance reform. But I would like this country to be a little greener, and a little less mean to those who live hard lives. That sounds sentimental. Probably. Gee, I give a flip. How awful! Blame it on the bleeding heart and whatnot.

I believe in just laws, but I think more often than not, justice has a high price tag in America: for the poor, for people of color. Reading and praying over the two major parties’ platforms, I don’t see the Republicans trying to do anything about those problems (evicting people from America is not helpful). Voting on abortion alone has elected many a Republican, even given them majorities at times, and abortion is still available on demand in America (and that demand is made higher when we pass immoral budgets that neglect the poor at best or, at their worst, punish working women and mothers). Our churches have been sold a bill of goods on that, and I wish people would start to see it. I’m not happy with Democrats, but evangelicals are frequently too happy with Republicans. But maybe all this talk of unhappiness is depressing my readers…

Know who else had some constant sorrows? Jesus. Isaiah 53:3 and Luke 19:41-43, peeps.

I have friends who will hear out my rants and affirm me. Some affirm me just by listening and tolerating it (especially if they whole-heartedly disagree). Some affirm by respectfully arguing back (those are the BEST). Some affirm by agreeing (also BEST) and being thankful that they are introverted and feel no need to tell the world where they stand, Amen (cheaters). These friends keep me going, because honestly, I live in fear that every new relationship, every new Bible study, every new opportunity for me to become a visible or authoritative figure/teacher/leader in our church will be met with an “Oh, we judged too quickly. She snuck in under the radar.” Or, “we knew she thought that stuff, but we didn’t know she was going to talk about it. A lot. Ugh!!”

I expressed to a few people that I’m close to that after much contemplation and prayer, I decided to vote for the President’s re-election. I’m not stoked enough about it to work a phone bank, and I don’t know if I could ever be comfortable giving money to a pro-choice campaign. I’ve worked too long against abortion to do that (though in the past I might have been willing). Thankfully, there are pro-life Democrats to support, who promote a whole-life or a “consistent life” perspective. But right now, I’ve examined my conscience, and as 1 John 3:21 says, ” Beloved, if our heart does not condemn us, we have confidence before God…” (ESV) I feel okay about voting this way. I have friends who don’t feel okay about it or who can’t bring themselves to choose either candidate and are exercising other options like not voting or voting third party.  I’d never encourage them to violate their consciences, but I might ask why, so I can be sure I’m keeping my own conscience as informed as possible.

As much as I’ve said here about being an out and outspoken Democrat, that tale is only partly true. You see, I’ve been clear about my beliefs to people I know well. I told breakfast lady that morning in part because I wasn’t sure if she’d ever MET a Democrat and thought we all had horns or tails or something.  I didn’t expect her eggs to scramble right before my eyes. But usually, this is third date information. Once you know me and like me enough to give me your number or prayer request or choose to friend me on Facebook (where I keep everything on the record and unfiltered for my own accountability), then you get the full scoop (and can defriend or filter at will). But if you’re waving me into the church parking lot, or signing up for a Bible study I’m leading, I won’t tell you. Certainly not. Once I do, you might know and bring on the hate, or worse, keep it inside and filter everything I say, teach, or do through the “Well, she would say that, she’s one of those liberals” lens. And while I have good reason to be cautious and reluctant, I’ve learned recently that all that hesitation is plain old fear. And when I’m scared, I become a very judgmental person. I decide who gets to know what based on what I think they will do with the information. That’s my right to self-preservation, you see. So I can become the very person I’m afraid of, if that’s what it takes to be secure.

But I have a Preserver. I have a Defender and I have security knowing that whatever doubts other people have about my salvation, my faith, yea, even my sanity, it doesn’t matter if I’m standing open-handed and open-armed before God.  I don’t have to be afraid of people (this is not, note to self, license to be a total ass). I also have friends scared to say what they think in their churches or mine because they don’t want to receive the blows. On the B side, I have acquaintances who go around telling people they can’t believe evangelicals would ever be Democrats. I can’t afford to hide out in selfishness nor for safety’s sake.

So, after a little consult from partisan and non-partisan friends alike, I launched a minivan campaign. I told these trusted counselors I got a prObama bumper sticker in the mail (for free, no money exchanged hands) and I was scared to put it on the car. My husband threatened to march out and do it himself. (He’s a newer devotee so his zeal has yet to be beaten out of him.) My friends were all supportive, collectively chanting “Do it, do it!” in my head. I think some of them were looking at it like a social experiment, waiting on the Republican T-Rex at our church to take down my minivan like it was a tethered goat.

Well, I’m a sucker for a dare (emphasis on the “sucker”), so I did it:

EEKS! A mom with an opinion (and the minivan equivalent of Malt-O-Meal cereal). Look out!

So far, no bruhahas in the parking lot. I was encouraged when I pulled up last week and saw another Obama sticker in the sea of Romneys, even if it was parked in the ambiguous territory between our church and a nearby business. “Maybe that car goes to our church, too!” I thought, proving all the conservatives right about the failure of public schools because cars themselves do not go to church. At least not on Sundays when the people go.

After Tuesday, I’ll remove this sticker-on-magnet and replace it with my pro-life Democrats sticker. I want to let this election go, but keep the pressure on a little for our church, me included, to make room for people who have different opinions. I want us to not live in fear of each other, and to not instantly judge one another. If that means I’m the goat, then I’ll be the goat for now, because one day, I’m going to be a sheep:

“When the Son of Man comes in his glory, and all the angels with him, he will sit on his glorious throne. All the nations will be gathered before him, and he will separate the people one from another as a shepherd separates the sheep from the goats. He will put the sheep on his right and the goats on his left.

“Then the King will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father; take your inheritance, the kingdom prepared for you since the creation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’

“Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’

“The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

“Then he will say to those on his left, ‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’

“They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’

“He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’“Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.” (Matthew 25:31-46, NIV)**

**A friend once jokingly tried to tell me once that the parable above illustrated why those on the left were going to Hell. Jokingly. It’s funny because it’s mean to Democrats. Ha ha. I responded that if you’re facing Jesus, then His left is your right and vice versa. My response was ineffective and unfunny because 1) I was playing the same meanness game my friend was and, again, only funny if you’re a liberal loser, and, 2) no one gets that whole stage right/stage left thing, even actors. Sometimes my jokes get too elaborate and I lose people. Then I try to explain it and it just gets embarrassing, but I still believe in it, so I save it and put it on a blog because I have that kind of love/hate relationship with myself.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. November 4, 2012 9:56 pm

    Great post, Cayce — I can relate to a lot of this. Except that Catholic Republicans and Democrats are pretty equally hated since we’re like split down the middle. And I still don’t really call myself a Democrat. I’m pretty prObama right now, though, because I just cannot even begin to deal with the alternative.

    I got a prObama bumper sticker in the mail (for free, no money exchanged hands) and I was scared to put it on the car. My husband threatened to march out and do it himself. (He’s a newer devotee so his zeal has yet to be beaten out of him.)

    This made me laugh/cheer. Go D.

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