I was going to write a post on here after the election, but obviously I never got around to it. I never found a way to say what I wanted to say, or at least not in a method that I thought would change anyone’s perspective. This post was going to be about how all of us felt like we were in a minority group after the election.
Let’s look at this on the very small scale to hopefully avoid some of the visceral emotions at the federal level: My new state representative is Caleb Rowden, who won the vote 7,801 to 7,560. That’s 241 votes that won it for the guy I didn’t vote for. His agenda, however, is pretty much opposite to what I was looking for in a representative. People in Missouri really really hate the Affordable Care Act. As someone who has dealt with ridiculous insurance refusals due to “pre-existing conditions” and someone who has seen how much power the insurance company lobby has in Jeff City, I am a big ACA supporter.
Hatred of Obamacare and love of God were basically the only two things that Rowden ran on. He doesn’t have any political experience and his claim to fame is as a Christian recording artist. I’d probably get along with him just fine if we didn’t talk politics. But now he’s my rep and I don’t agree with anything he says on facebook or twitter or his campaign website. But I read his comments and they make me angry in a physical way where I feel my heart speed up and my breathing get shallow.
I believe that this is how a lot of us felt after the election about one thing or another. These ideas and political beliefs that we hold seem so logical and obvious and we found so many articles that supported our beliefs and got so many likes on our facebook posts about how this or that was killing jobs. My last post was about group mentality and we have gotten so good at homogenizing our groups that we are rarely forced to listen to anything that we disagree with. But if we do see a post we disagree with or a tv segment or article that goes against our views, our first reaction is to change the experiment parameters. That is our crazy, outspoken family member or our weird acquaintance from one class in college or a tv channel that is obviously biased and not reporting the truth. I want to make it very clear right now that I am not positing that people with a certain view do this anymore than the rest of us. I think we all do it.
So on November 7th when we were faced with hard numbers, we all felt like the odd one out in some way. People did not take this well. Our perceptions of the world were fractured. We were forced to admit (or refused to do so) that our logical and obvious views were not seen the same way by the majority. This made a lot of people very defensive. That is why you will hear things like the “War on Women” or “War on Christians” and why you may know people who have started acting like they are fighting for freedom in a dark and condemned world.
This was along the lines of the post I was going to write, but I didn’t because I couldn’t find the words and I didn’t think people would want to read them. But I’ve had a lot of people call me out on what they see as a conflict between my political and religious beliefs. They aren’t being malicious, they just have grown up with and continue to put their votes behind this idea that the Christian faith is inseparable from a specific and fixed political perspective. I think that they respect that I have actually thought through these things and that makes them wonder how I could come to a different conclusion than the one they easily hold.
I considered writing a whole post on why I am currently a democrat and why I don’t find this political belief to be at odds with my faith in any way. It was going to talk about our weird co-opt of Jesus as an American and personal wealth as something to be sought and deserved. But I didn’t really feel like doing the research that was necessary and I didn’t really think people would want to read it.
In the last week on Facebook, I started posting several stories about gun violence and our need to address it as a country. The shooting at the mall in Oregon, a murder in St. Louis, a kid in UCity who accidentally shot his friend. Then I saw breaking news about a shooting in Connecticut. It seemed at first like there would only be a couple fatalities, but the number quickly went from 3 to 26. I had started posting these stories as a response to my frustration over the way people reacted to Bob Costas’ comments after Jovan Belcher shot his girlfriend then himself. Costas read from another journalist who discussed the ease of killing with a gun and how without that easy and permanent solution right in front of him, Jovan Belcher and his girfriend would probably still be alive.
When you have clinical depression, you get one question a lot. Do you have access to firearms? Seriously, it’s the first thing they ask at every doctor’s visit. Having access to a gun when you are depressed drastically increases the likelihood that you will kill yourself. I can’t imagine the feeling of knowing you have an easy solution at your fingertips during those moments when you just wish you could go to sleep. There is not much chance of failing at suicide if your method is a gun.
I also am reminded of a conversation we had in English class my freshman year of highschool. We had read Romeo and Juliet and then we watched Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet (the one with Leonardo Di Caprio). We had a discussion about the way the modern environment in this version changed the story. In the fights between the warring families, the replacement of guns for swords really changed things in our minds. You don’t accidentally kill someone with a sword, it takes force and it’s messy. But with a gun you can easily kill someone in the middle of a fight and then realize that you actually ended someone’s life with a simple pull of the trigger.
These are some of the things I was thinking about when I was posting stories about gun violence this week. But after the shooting in Newtown, I wasn’t the only person commenting on it. The argument is expected and it has played out the same way over and over again, but maybe because of the age of the victims or because of our fresh feelings of being in the minority opinion, this argument seems louder. I don’t think it’s politicizing a tragedy to talk about the method of the murders. The thing about politics for me is that it is ingrained in life. What the employee at Panera had to do in terms of washing his hands and wearing a hair net while he made the bread I just ate is political. Having to stop at a stop sign in the parking lot is political. We are all complicit in the contract that has made our body politic a reality and it is a constant in our lives.
I recognize completely that I will not be able to convince anyone that gun control is necessary and I know I don’t have the right words, and people probably won’t read this, but I’ve got to respond to something that has come out of the gun argument this time. Mike Huckabee and now several others who have jumped on board, said this: “We ask why there is violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools,” Huckabee said on Fox News. “Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage?”. One of my facebook friends also posted this little gem which I found in the middle of a long quote about the white house supposedly calling Christmas trees Holiday trees and a generation who wasn’t spanked:
Billy Graham’s daughter was interviewed on the Early Show and Jane Clayson asked her: “How could God let something like this happen?” (regarding Hurricane Katrina). Anne Graham gave an extremely profound and insightful response. She said: “I believe God is deeply saddened by this, just as we are, but for years we’ve been telling God to get out of our schools, to get out of our government and to get out of our lives. And being the gentleman He is, I believe He has calmly backed out. How can we expect God to give us His blessing and His protection if we demand He leave us alone?”
These kind of comments have pushed me to post something today. I understand completely the sentiment that several great men and women of faith have shared in the wake of this tragedy. I agree completely with them that the brokenness of humanity is the root cause of violence. As a Christian who believes in heaven and hell, yes, I mourn with my brothers and sisters over those who are lost. But I still have a very real problem with comments like the ones Huckabee, a political figure, made.
I do not want my Christian faith legislated. I don’t want the ten commandments posted in schools or God taught as another subject. I don’t want Christianity to be the official religion of my country and I want Christians to stop predicating the idea that A) The US was founded by a bunch of God-fearing men whose ideas remain infallible at all times and B) That our Savior would be a Bible belt republican demanding that we say “Merry Christmas” instead of “Happy Holidays”.
My church right now is doing a study on the Sermon on the Mount. Two weeks ago we went over the beatitudes and in my small group the following Wednesday, we talked about how living the life described was difficult in part because it is so opposite from the life that is exemplified in our culture. But very quickly, I forgot this message. Then last week, our pastor talked about how we read the beatitudes and decide that we need to be good. Well if we are just really really good, people will see that we are different as Christians and ask us for the key to our supreme good-ness. But that is not what the sermon on the mount says. It demands that we be Christlike and the life lived like Christ is at odds with the life that the world tells us we should want. And it will always lead to persecution because it is at odds with the dream life of success and being liked. People can be good without God, but they cannot be Christlike without Him. That is why the sermon on the mount doesn’t say we should be friendly and generous and compliment people. It says we should mourn and be meek and peacemaking.
I don’t want my faith to be legislated because forcing people to be moral does not cause a change in their lives. “Putting God back in schools” does not cause people to repent of their sins and ask for God to lead their lives. It just makes people follow Christian morals without any heart change. And taking this method at spreading the gospel is a cheap and easy way out of the difficult path we are commissioned to take. But people are not going to find salvation if you force them to be good. They will only reach out to God when they are convicted of their inability to be Christlike.
God did not get miffed at us for taking down the Ten Commandments from our hallway and then decide that fair retribution would be to allow 20 six and seven year olds to be killed by multiple gun shots. Stop. And stop taking your conviction over the fact that so many of the people in our society are lost and blaming it on the world. It’s pretty much your one job to love the world and live like Christ. Maybe we aren’t doing our jobs very well.