Today I Celebrate My Faith and My Patriotism, but #NotMyPresident Because of My Faith and My Patriotism
The other day, a person whom I do not know commented on a Facebook post I made objecting to Donald Trump’s announcement that “We’re going to start saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again.”
This man’s response to me coupled a number of common rejections of Democratic political views, and a number of appeals to Jesus.
I’m adaptating my reaction to him as the basis for a long overdue OMG blog; a blog overdue in part because most of my time and energy has been dedicated to the launch of my Spent Dandelion Theological Retreat Center, but overdue also because I’m dedicating so much of my time to resisting the presidency and the agenda of Donald Trump and the present-day GOP.
Resisting them is a mark first of my faith, second because of my patriotism, and third because I know history.
This gentleman’s engagement with me on FB moved me to pull a few thoughts together, impressions and reactions that have been swirling around in my mind about the relationship of politics and faith.
His words were a bit of a summary of some main themes I hear from those who support the standing GOP and, particularly, Trump.
Below, then, is a rephrasing of my response to him, which now has become less to him and more to the political and religious situation of today.
Perhaps this blog will offend some OMG readers, maybe even lose some.
I do hope not, and do encourage people to comment–but I ask that comments be both civil and grounded in what we know of God’s agenda in Scripture and Jesus.
Our present presidential situation and the culture which led to it begs people of faith to more closely examine, and then act on, our faith principles.
It is a myth that our faith should not be involved in our politics: in fact, it should positively drive our politics.
Below are just some ways that we can serve God by serving our country…and serve our country by serving God.
SERVING THE REIGN OF GOD THROUGH GOVERNMENT
Jesus didn’t just teach us to help our neighbor: it is a very mark of whether we are a disciple or not.
In so far as it is what we do as Christians–that is, if we follow Jesus, we can’t help but help our neighbors–helping others is a sign of our identity as people of the reign of God, and of the very reign of God.
Government is one way that we can collectively do just that: help people.
But the Government is not some entity ‘out there.’
WE are the government.
We vote these people in–or out, as the case may be.
Now, in so far as we are Christians, everything we do represents our primary and essential commitment (our ‘allegiance,’ so to speak) to God over anything and anyone else.
That means that even our vote is a sign of our faith.
Our vote for a candidate, therefore, is also a vote toward the person we think best represents Jesus’ vision for the world.
So, to parse it numerically out:
- disciples of Jesus help one another, because that is who we are and what we are to do (Matthew 25, for example);
- citizens ARE the government;
- as people of faith, our vote is not an expression of -our- will but on our take on God’s will;
- to circle back, our vote can serve to help people, becoming therefore not only a mark of our faith, but of our role and stake in government.
SERVING THE REIGN OF GOD THROUGH TAXES
One way to help people is to pay taxes, and proportionate taxes.
I paid German taxes for five years when I studied there for my doctorate in theology.
I know about high taxes.
I also know that everyone was covered there…even U.S. citizens, who, when they paid taxes, benefited from full health care coverage.
This truth in and of itself saved our lives on and after the day that my three-year old son and husband crossed a street and were hit by a car. My husband died, and my son suffered a traumatic brain injury–still suffers from it.
For six weeks he sat in ICU, had countless MRIs, C-T scans, surgeries (including the removal of his skull, the freezing of his skull, and the reinsertion of his skull); then when he was medically stable enough, he was transported to the Alps to a rehab center where he had more MRIs, more C-Ts, more OT/PT/Speech therapies for an additional six weeks.
Our housing and food were covered.
I am pushing the estimate when I say that I may have paid $100.00 out of pocket for the entire matter.
Not only that, my two children and I fled the state of South Dakota in large part because while the taxes were low, so was the standard of living, not least of all for people with disabilities.
For example, we were there for three years and were only yet 8th on the waiting list for a social worker, without whom we could access no state assistance.
This state assistance not only included medical and health equipment care, but care for my child when I was working.
As it was, I had to pay out of pocket for an incredibly high level of care based on my son’s needs.
Even as a college assistant prof, even with a Ph.D. I was on the brink of poverty. I recall yet the night I looked at welfare programs to cover my realities.
We moved to Minnesota last year, not least of all to protect my son from South Dakota.
This state’s taxes are significantly higher, it is true.
What is also true is that within two weeks of moving to Minnesota, we had a case worker, we were assured of 70 hours (70 hours!!!) of care for my son -per week-, coverage of all of his medical expenses, and our bathroom will be remodeled for accessibility.
That frees me up all the more to focus on my family and live out my vocation, without the same degree of financial worries.
Meanwhile, those who are helping my son get paid a decent wage, and are able to give back in their own ways to our communities.
So I am not the woman to attempt to convince about the evils of high taxes. They saved my family’s life, and the lives of countless others, I know.
SERVING THE REIGN OF GOD THROUGH HEALTHCARE FOR ALL
One more thing: I am convinced that Germany and the Scandinavian countries, those with higher taxes and a higher standard of living, including health care coverage for all, do so precisely because they come deeply out of a Lutheran heritage where it was emphasized that grace is for all people.
Health care should be for all people not because they have a job, but because they are human.
The Greek word we render ‘salvation’ is soteria, and means ‘health, healing, and wholeness.’
When Jesus said, “Today salvation has come to you,” he clearly meant right then, in that moment.
If we relegate the benefits of living as a person of faith to what we get when we croak, we miss a significant message of Jesus: God wants us healthy, healed, and whole now.
As the people of the reign of God, everything we do should be to bring about soteria, namely salvation, now.
That includes our vote, and our insistence that all people have access to affordable health care, which is a commitment with a vast gap from the lobbied health care agenda of Trump and the GOP as we see here and here, not to mention the numbers of people who would die under their proposed plan, and who would suffer most under their proposed plan: the working poor, the elderly, the disabled, the sick, those affected by the opiod crisis, and Medicaid recipients; in other words, as Jesus in Matthew 25 calls them, the least of these.
SERVING THE REIGN OF GOD BY RESPECTING ALL RELIGIONS
Christianity a persecuted religion, you say?
Perhaps in some regions of the world, but not in North America.
We have privilege the sorts of which perhaps one can only appreciate if one imagines that Trump issued a mandate that we are required to say “Ramadan Mubarak.” That that would jar you is reason enough to realize that Christianity does not suffer en masse here.
In fact, I wish it would suffer more, but for the sorts of reasons to which Jesus actually calls us rather than the pettiness and ludicrousness of saying “Merry Christmas.”
Jesus did not die for such silliness.
SERVING THE REIGN OF GOD BY PROTECTING REFUGEES AND IMMIGRANTS
Be it by using immigrant children as bait, creating a culture of religious bigotry and fear, and denying the safety of people fleeing the very sort of terrorism of which we are afraid, Trump and Trump’s supporters–many of whom say that they are people of faith–forget Exodus 21:22, “You shall not wrong or oppress a resident alien, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt,” and Leviticus 19:34, “The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God,” and Deuteronomy 10:19, “You shall also love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”
I am proud that religious voices from across the spectrum of belief have unified our outcries against this hateful agenda.
SERVING THE REIGN OF GOD BY HOLDING TRUMP ACCOUNTABLE TO THE REIGN OF GOD
Trump gropes women, lies, incites violence not least of all toward the press, calls for policies that bar the stranger, that will kill tens of thousands of people by removing them from health care, that take away food from children, and that benefit the rich by taxing the poor–many of whom voted for him.
I am challenged, and challenge anyone, to find in Trump’s habits in his personal, professional, and presidential life and agenda anything that consistently exemplifies the ways of Jesus.
I have not yet found one.
SERVING THE REIGN OF GOD BY SERVING THE LEAST OF THESE AS THEY HAVE NEED
Some say that liberals, especially progressives, are too quick to give a person a fish instead of teach them how to fish…a quote too often mis-attributed to Jesus.
Jesus, and those of us who strive to vote in a way that honors his call to us, realize that not everyone has even a fishing pole.
Perhaps instead of finding political moorings from this quote, we should instead consider the texts of Jesus feeding the 4,000, and then the 5,000, fish and bread, for they were hungry, and had nothing to eat.
SERVING THE REIGN OF GOD BY RESISTING
My last point is really the final parenthesis to my beginning point:
People of faith are not first Americans.
We are first Christians.
Everything–absolutely everything–ought to be done because we honor God above everything and anyone else.
That is the radical claim of belief on each of us.
That is also why I do what I do through OMG: encourage people to identify what they believe, why they believe it, and what difference it makes.
I understand that there is ambiguity in religious principles, and in political ones too.
I understand that there are areas of religious and ethical conversation that are not clear in the least.
But there are some principles which, when you know something of Jesus life, and you know something of Jesus’ death, and you know something of Jesus’ resurrection, are clear:
Feed the hungry. Clothe the naked. Welcome the stranger. Heal the sick.
Do justice. Love mercy. Walk humbly with God.
There is nothing about Trump or the reigning GOP agenda that resonates with these callings.
Per the hard-won wise words of Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel, “We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”
I will not be silent.
Christians, we cannot be silent.
We are in a dangerous age where our commitment to our faith is being challenged.
So, in fact, is our commitment to our country, a country which has never been purely great (no country and no person is through-and-through beyond reproach).
It has, however, had moments of inspired and personified compassion, justice, and righteousness.
These are hallmarks then not just of what it is to be a proud citizen of the USA, but a faithful participant of the communion of the saints and an ambassador of the reign of God, and of soteria.
For this reason, on this Fourth of July, I am celebrating my faith and my patriotism, but #notmypresident, precisely because of my faith and my patriotism.