Pro-Lifers, Your Whataboutism is Outrageous When it Comes to Families Separated at the Border

The United States government, in an effort to deter illegal immigration at the border, has separated over 2,000 migrant children from their families in the past 6 weeks. Two. Thousand. Children. 

This is not a partisan issue. It’s not a grey issue. We cannot agree to disagree on this one. This is evil.

And yet, as they do with every social justice and humanitarian issue, pro-lifers shout, but what about the millions of babies aborted every year? 

Let me be clear. If you consider abortion an act of violence but not an infant being ripped from his mother’s arms at the border, you are not pro-life. Your response to the cries of injustice about the systematic torture of children is actually the flawed logic of whataboutism. You are attempting to deflect from the issue, and therefore excuse yourself from responsibility to act on behalf of those children. Again, you are not pro-life.

Some of you could not bring yourself to vote for the most qualified presidential candidate because she believes in a woman’s right to choose whether or not to carry a pregnancy. And yet, you are digging in your heels in support of the “pro-life” president, even though he is using children’s lives as bargaining chips in one of his “deals”. It’s gross.

Every one of those children taken from their parents’ arms and currently living in modern day concentration camps was once a fetus. And every one of their mothers did exactly what you claim to value over all else: they chose life for their children.

Of course, life outside the womb is often less convenient to love, value and cherish. But Life IS inconvenient. It’s often messy, costly, and dangerous. Life doesn’t always speak our language, follow our religion, or even obey our laws. Life is sometimes desperate, and desperately needs compassion and empathy.

You can’t have it both ways. Words matter and actions matter. You can’t can’t scream, “It’s a Child, Not a Choice!” and in the same breath, use dehumanizing terms like “Illegals” when referring to fellow human beings. If you are truly pro-life, you don’t get to pick and choose which lives to value.

A mother breastfeeding her infant is giving her life. How is it pro-life to take that baby away from her? Who is feeding that baby tonight, holding her, keeping her warm? Who is comforting that mother, her breasts likely engorged with milk with no baby to feed?

A family fleeing violence and making a treacherous journey to give their children some glimmer of hope of a better situation in America is choosing life. How is it pro-life to shrug and dismiss them saying, how do we even know that they are really a family? 

If you are like the attorney general, and use scripture to justify the atrocities happening at the border, you believe that God has ordained the laws of the land. Then, by this same logic, you really should shut the fuck up about abortion, because the law says abortion is legal. 

You are passionate about the abortion issue- fine. Passion is admirable. But stop with the whataboutism. It’s not helping your cause and it’s actually making you less credible. The fact that women are legally allowed to have abortions in this country doesn’t then mean that our government has the right to tear families apart. If you want to protest an abortion clinic,  you should be just as willing to protest a building or camp holding children as prisoners.

If you believe a fetus has a right to life, but an actual child at the border doesn’t have a right to stay with his family, you are not pro-life, you are pro-birth. There are  over 2,000 children whose mothers chose life for them, only to be separated by a cruel administration that is pro-life in name only. Stop deflecting this real humanitarian crisis, and prove that you do indeed value ALL life.

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Separating Families as a Deterrent to Breaking the Law is Inhumane

I tucked my children in their beds last night, with no fear for their safety or their  separation from me. They fell asleep peacefully, warm and confident that their dad and I would both be there when they woke in the morning. Meanwhile, a mere 350 miles from my home, hundreds of children, many of them infants and toddlers, slept in wire enclosures in a border processing facility in McAllen, Texas. Their parents, who love their children as much as I love mine, were gone, unable to hold and comfort them as they fell asleep on concrete floors under foil “space blankets”. I imagine my own children in this situation, how confused and scared they would be, and I want to vomit.

How is this happening in America? How are we letting it continue? 

Any decent human being with a conscience should be outraged and sickened by the treatment of these families by our government. By definition, this is torture. I am especially saddened by the apathy or defense of this policy by Christians. I’ve seen many professed Christ followers justify the separation of infants and toddlers from their parents because those parents are “breaking the law”. The Jesus I follow would not have sided with enforcers of an inhumane law over the physical, mental, and emotional well being of families.

Ironically, most of the families separated at the border are not breaking the law. They are legitimately seeking asylum from horrendous violence in their countries of origin. Imagine the impossible dilemma these families face: staying in their home countries and waiting to be brutally murdered or have their children trafficked into slavery, or fleeing to the United States border with a glimmer of hope for a new, safer life. It’s disheartening to watch those who take summer mission trips to these countries to “love on the people” refuse to offer that love when those same people flee to the United States for protection. It’s frustrating to see those fight diligently against sex trafficking in their comfortable, suburban neighborhoods, yet turn a blind eye to families fleeing this same atrocity in other countries. This is the very definition of cognitive dissonance and privilege.

The horrors of family separation at the border isn’t a new problem, and the atrocities of these practices can’t be blamed completely on the Trump administration. However, there has been a dramatic increase since the Trump administration’s new “zero tolerance” policy went into effect last month. This policy uses family separation as a deterrent to undocumented immigrants from trying to cross into the United States. This same administration claims to be Pro-Life and Pro-Family. What a joke. Research is clear: when children suffer trauma in this way, there are both short and long-term physical and mental effects. The trauma even changes the structure of the brain irreparably. Children’s heath and emotional well-being should not be used as a pawn to deter their parents from trying to enter the United States. 

I will challenge those who are firm believers in immigration law enforcement that even those families attempting to cross the border illegally deserve basic human dignity. Separating young children from their parents is cruel, inhumane, and devoid of any dignity. And it’s certainly not pro-life.

I am certainly not arguing for open borders. A society cannot function or thrive without laws. The United States needs reasonable immigration laws with reasonable penalties for those who break those laws. But when the law allows and encourages enforcers to treat other human beings like animals, ripping children from their parents as punishment, the law is evil, and must be abolished. 

Jesus never said to blindly accept and follow the law. Remember the adulterous woman that he stopped from being stoned to death in John Chapter 8? According to the law, that woman should have died that day. She broke the law, and the penalty for her crime was stoning. Had Jesus sided with the law, the woman’s broken, bloodied body would have been carried away as deterrent to adultery. Instead, Jesus showed mercy and challenged the Pharisees with, Let any one of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.

Although I feel desperately heartbroken and mostly hopeless about these atrocities happening so close to my comfortable, privileged life, there are steps all of us can take for change:

  • Speak out. Challenge friends and family who support morally reprehensible policies against families in the name of “obeying the law”. I promise, you won’t die.
  • Call your representatives. Separating children from their parents is not a partisan issue and we can’t just “pick a side”. This is an election year-make it clear to your representatives, regardless of their party affiliation, that failure to act on behalf of these families is complicity and could cost them their jobs.
  • Donate to organizations who are funding legal representation for these children and helping reunite them with their parents, such as Glennon Doyle’s Together Rising. 

A mother seeking asylum from violence or crossing the border illegally loves her children as much as I love mine. My children are no more deserving of safety, security and a warm bed to sleep in than hers. The policy of forcibly separating children from their parents is not making America great, it’s evil. Jesus wouldn’t stand for it, and neither will I.

 

To the Moms Who No Longer Have Toddlers, But Still Remember How Hard it Is: Thank You.

A lot of ink has been spilled about the “Mommy Wars” and how mothering has become a competitive sport. I know this is a real problem, but thankfully, I’ve been immune to most of it. The moms in real life that I choose to share my life with have, for the most part, been kind, supportive and non-judgmental. The one exception to this, however, are certain moms who are years, and sometimes decades, ahead of me in the parenting journey.

I always try to be honest and vulnerable about my parenting experience. It’s no secret that I am finding the thick of the toddler and preschool years to be far more difficult and draining than I ever could have imagined. I grieve this reality every day; I wish it were different. But I do find that by talking about it, and writing about it, makes me feel less alone. However, there have been several instances where an older mom has shamed me for my parenting decisions or the behavior of my children.

Shame hurts. It erodes my confidence, and makes me feel small. It makes an already difficult season seem impossible. But, as Brené Brown says,

If we can share our story with someone who responds with empathy and understanding, shame can’t survive. 

So, to the moms of older kids who do this for me, who respond to my struggles with empathy and understanding, thank you.

Thank you for coming to my defense when I was shamed by another mother online. This could have easily shredded my confidence caused me to spiral into anxiety and self-doubt, but instead, you lifted me up with encouragement and love.

Thank you for your honesty. For admitting that raising older kids and teenagers comes with its own set of (really hard) issues, but also acknowledging that toddlers are really hard too. Takeaway: it’s all hard.

Thank you for refraining from uttering the words, Just you wait or You think it’s hard now

Thank you for reassuring me over and over again that there are aspects of parenting that really do get easier. You have no idea how hard I cling to this truth some days, when all I want to do is get in the car and just drive away.

Thank you for Liking and commenting on pictures of my kids online. They really are adorable, delightful, and hilarious, and I love that you think so too.

Thank you for not throwing my generation of parents under the proverbial bus by telling us we are raising spoiled, entitled kids and pointing out all our failures.

Thank you for not telling me to Enjoy every moment and You’re going to miss this. I CAN’T and I KNOW I WILL. But I’m in the weeds now, and sentiments like these aren’t helpful.

Moms of older kids, I see you. I see you navigating the world of school-age, teenagers and adult children. I see you struggling, but I also see you raising bright, thoughtful, and kind kids. Thank you for braving the uncharted waters of raising kids responsibly in the era of social media; I know I’ll be there soon enough and will be looking to you for advice. But most of all, thank you for your empathy, and for not forgetting that every child is different, no two families are the same, and that every stage of parenting is hard.

 

The Paradox of Motherhood

Is there a more complicated, paradoxical role than being a mother? I can’t imagine any other experience in life that is filled with so much joy, yet at the same time, pain.

The intoxicating joy of holding my first newborn on my chest was simply the flip side of a coin. The other side holds the pain that because of his disabilities, he will never walk, talk, or say, “I love You”.

The pride of watching my daughter explore her creativity through art and pretend play can instantly turn to anger when she stubbornly refuses to comply with my request to clean up her mess.

The delight that my silly, rough and tumble, “all boy” toddler gives me can devolve into exhaustion and a desperate cry to just go to sleep.

I never could have predicted that motherhood would involve the tension of an unbreakable, intertwined bond with my children, yet a yearning to define myself and be defined apart from them. My children are a part of me, but I crave experiences, and work, that are just mine.

Of course, I can’t completely compartmentalize motherhood. My children’s needs, desires, and very existence bleed into every choice I make about how to spend the precious hours of my day. And the cost is high.

The Financial Cost

The financial burden of pursing a dream, or even just adult conversation, is significant. My work is about contributing to the world in ways that don’t involve wiping bottoms, handing out snacks, and breaking up fights. Time away from home to attend conferences or girls’ weekends in another city is crucial for my mental health. But quality childcare is expensive, and I constantly analyze the tangible cost of these endeavors.

The Emotional Cost

The emotional cost of finding myself apart from my role as mother can be excruciating. Am I permanently damaging my kids when I can’t attend all the class parties because I have to work? Do they know I love them unconditionally even when I lose my temper, forget to pack a snack for school, or leave them with their father for a weekend? Sometimes the guilt, both internal and external, overwhelms me.

The Spiritual and Relational Costs

The spiritual and relational costs of my choices have been the most surprising, and painful. Motherhood has directly impacted my faith and what I believe about God, the church, and specific religious teachings. Unfortunately, this has caused division and broken relationships, both in family and friends. There are people in my life who cannot accept my shifting faith and therefore fear for my children’s spiritual development. There is a real paradox in this. The more I change and grow in my own spiritual life, the more confident and free I become. And yet, I mourn the loss of those relationships that were destroyed as a result of that confidence and freedom.

Damn, motherhood is complicated.

This Mother’s Day, I am reminded that I, like most mothers, am doing the best I can. And sometimes my individual best just doesn’t live up to my (or others’) expectations. I am working to balance raising my children with everything they need from me, while still pursuing my individual dreams and goals. I don’t always get the balance right, but I’m trying.

Happy Mother’s Day, friends.

Hamilton!

 

After 15 months of anticipation, I saw Hamilton on Tuesday! The traveling tour is in Houston for the next month, and my parents got tickets and were gracious to ask me and my sister, along with her husband and my mom’s friend, to be their guests.

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I’ve been listening to the soundtrack for the past 22 months almost daily, and know almost every word. The only time I’ve ever sang karaoke in my life was last August when a good friend and I went to a Hamilton Karaoke event. I still maintain it was one of my highlights of 2017. I’ve heard from friends and strangers who have seen it on Broadway or in their cities, and knew it would live up to all my expectations of awesomeness. And of course, it did. But going in, I thought I had reached the pinnacle of my love for Hamilton, after listening to it, reading about it, and counting down the months, then days, then hours until I sat in that theater and heard the familiar opening notes of the first song. But I was wrong. I love it and appreciate it even more now.

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Seeing Hamilton live, of course I was blown away by the music, the talent of the performers, and the choreography. But it was so much more than that. I’ve been thinking a lot over the past few days about what else makes this particular show such a masterpiece.

The Humor: There are so many genuinely funny lines and characters, and you just don’t get the full effect and timing of the humor just listening to the soundtrack. Of course, King George steals the show in his scenes and he opens the whole show talking to the audience and welcoming them to “My Show”. But Thomas Jefferson had me laughing almost every time he opened his mouth- his timing, facial expressions and the inflection in his voice just slayed me.

The Humanity: I have so much love for John Laurens after seeing Hamilton onstage. There’s one scene in the show that isn’t in the soundtrack, and it brings me to tears thinking about it (probably because it comes right after “Dear Theodosia”, which always makes me cry anyway). And also, every scene with George Washington gave me such compassion for him and the enormous weight that was on his shoulders in leading a brand new country. And the version of “Burn” in this show was the most raw and emotional performance I’ve ever seen- Eliza’s pain and anger was tangible. Every character is so dynamic, and human. There are no absolute heroes or villains in Hamilton.

The Writing: One thing I have always loved about the character of Alexander Hamilton is his obsession with writing, and how he used his writing to literally change the world. It’s just so inspiring to me. The show really emphasizes this, both in the lyrics and the actual performance. There’s a lot of letters, and writing scenes, and paper (paper flying, paper burning, paper being collected). Why do you write like you need it to survive? Because I do.

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The past few days, I’ve been kind of sad- sad because I’ve never loved a piece of art like this, and I’ll never see Hamilton again for the first time. I’m going again in a few weeks with my friend, and I know it will be just as incredible. But I’ll probably be sad after it again, because who knows when the next time will be.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, as he often does, inspired me with a tweet this morning. I’m going to take his advice…let’s go.

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Sunday

Yesterday, I nervously walked into a church for the first time in many, many months. Sunday mornings have become my refuge, my only time of the week that I am truly alone. I love people, and especially my people, but too much consecutive time with people makes me twitchy. As an introvert who doesn’t like to feel needed all the time, I feel a constant tension. It’s a pull between passionately loving my children who feel like an extension of my heart and body, and the internal voice that screams LEAVE ME ALONE!!! when I reach my limit. So for the better part of a year, my Sunday mornings have been about solitude: writing, reading, sipping hot (not re-heated) coffee while being still, and occasionally listening to a sermon podcast while folding laundry. All things I think Jesus would approve of, by the way.

But still, I miss church. I miss the routine of it, the familiarity of hymn and scriptures being read aloud, and the sense of community. I’ve been so hesitant to “go back” though, because really, I don’t have anywhere to go back to. My physical distance, as well as my theology, has shifted since I was going to church regularly. I find myself longing for the church style of my childhood, which may just be a longing for nostalgia of a simpler time- the hymns, the organ, the doxology and benediction. And for some time, I’ve desired to be at a church with women leading worship- I’ve been at churches for so long where such is forbidden, and I long to be somewhere where that is not the case.

So somehow, maybe through divine intervention, yesterday I walked into the little Presbyterian church I attended in my preschool years. While I don’t remember specifics from that time, except for one anxiety-inducing Noah’s ark performance where 5 or 6 year old me was cast as a turtle and told to shake my bottom (nope), the sanctuary felt familiar. At the time, my mom was the choir director at this church, and yesterday as the choir sang, I pictured her leading the choir in their long robes (I haven’t seen choir robes at church in forever!). The people were so kind and welcoming, and the predictability and familiarity of the service was peaceful.

Part of the sermon was on doubt, and the legitimacy of questioning, and doubting. I appreciated this because of where I am right now. I never ever thought I would struggle so much with doubt at this point in my life- doubt about what I believe as well as how to continue on as a “doubt filled believer” as Rachel Held Evans puts it. I’ve seen memes posted berating people for leaving the church because the church is full of hypocrites. I don’t think this is why most people leave the church- it’s not why I left. I left not because of hypocrisy, but because of theology. I don’t want to pour my life into a place that doesn’t affirm women in leadership, or LGBT inclusion, or speak out publicly and loudly about issues like racism, the refugee crisis, or violence. I don’t want to attend church where Biblical issues aren’t nuanced and different interpretations of scripture aren’t welcomed for discussion.

I don’t know where my spiritual and church life is headed, or if I’ll go back to that little church. I’m trying to give myself the grace that Jesus has given me. I know he is patient, and faithful in this painful, yet hopeful process.

Christian and Progressive: Yes, Franklin Graham, I Can Be Both

Hey Christians- you do know they think we’re assholes, right? Yes, they: the rest of the people in this country just trying to live their lives, but who are constantly berated because their lifestyle, political views, or religion don’t fit in the box labeled “Christian”. They want nothing to do with a belief system that preaches love thy neighbor, but in practice, only if that neighbor looks like us, lives like us, agrees with us and worships the same God as we do.

Franklin Graham, one of the loudest and most recognized evangelical voices and unapologetic Trump supporters, boldly declared on Thursday that someone with a “progressive” label cannot also wear the label of Christian.

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Excuse me, what?

I’m a Christian. For my entire life, I have been taught a Christian is a person who accepts the gift of grace given to to them by Jesus’ sacrificial death and resurrection, and therefore lives their life according to the teachings of Jesus.

Did I miss something? Is there a verse in the Bible that voids my ticket to Heaven if I vote for a “Progressive”? Maybe it’s in Two Corinthians; I need to check.

But seriously, I consider myself progressive and vote for progressive candidates not despite being a Christian, but because of it.

I vote for politically Pro-Choice candidates because protecting life should be about so much more than being pro-birth. How is criminally punishing a woman because of a choice she made for her body spreading the good news of Jesus and his message of forgiveness and mercy?

I vote for candidates in favor of healthcare for all, because of Jesus’ example of healing the sick and disabled, and touching and ministering to lepers. How is denying human beings lifesaving and preventative medical care simply because of their inability to pay in line with what Jesus would do?

I vote for candidates in favor of common sense gun laws and regulations, because Jesus said Blessed are the Peacemakers. Jesus never said to arm yourself with an assault weapon thats only purpose is to kill.

I do not vote for candidates just because they are Christian, because Christians aren’t the only people who do good and make positive change in this country. Jesus himself told the story of The Good Samaritan, and spoiler alert, it wasn’t the religious leaders who were the good guys.

If calling myself a Progressive gets me kicked out of the Christian Club, then consider this my resignation. I am fed up with professed Christ-followers using Jesus and their moral beliefs to continue the toxic othering of their neighbors.

I have to believe that although Franklin Graham may be one of the loudest (and most obnoxious) “Christian” voices spouting off the nonsense that Progressive and Christian are mutually exclusive, there are plenty of people shouting just the opposite. May our voices collectively drown out all the bigotry, exclusiveness and falsities that are ruining the reputation of Jesus Christ.

Come on Christians, let’s not be assholes anymore.