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.


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. 


#NaBloPoMo Day 5: Sunday Mornings

Sunday mornings are the most peaceful hours of my week, and yet, my most conflicted. A few months ago, I gave up trying to figure out our very complicated church situation, and for now, I am sitting out Sunday morning church. I look forward to my Sunday mornings all week long, when I sit for hours and hours in a coffee shop with my computer, a large cup of coffee, and I write. This ritual fills my introvert cup like nothing else, and at times, can very much be a spiritual experience.

We never lived “close” to our previous church, but when we moved a year and a half ago, our new home put us 25 miles from the church, by way of a toll road. Putting aside any spiritual or theological concerns, logistically this wasn’t going to work for our family long-term. And although the church is filled with wonderfully supportive and kind people who have loved our family for years, we were never able to get deeply involved due to the distance, our schedules, and our unique situation with Grayson. I don’t want anyone to think I’m blaming anyone or myself for this, it just objectively is what the situation is. And I do still attend weekly Bible study at the church; in fact, Tuesdays are my favorite day of the week. Charlotte and Nolan love the kids program (they talk about their friends and teachers there all week), and I love the little community of women in my group.

I’ve always felt like an outsider at church. Even as a child, I remember getting really good at pretending to feel the things I was supposed to feel, and going through all the right motions. I’ve done many, many Bible studies and attended countless Christian activities. Church has been a weekly ritual for my entire life. But I’ve never felt truly connected or at home at any church. I can still picture cliques at church from 25 years ago, inner circles I never figured out how to become a part of. And now, I see friends who have tight-knit small groups who are “doing life together” and once again, I’m on the outside. And most of that is probably me, my personality, aspects of life beyond my control, and the effort I put in to the community aspect of church. But at the present, putting forth that effort is beyond my emotional bandwidth.

When I think about trying to find a new church, it seems impossible. Honestly, there aren’t a lot of people who feel safe to me, especially other Christians. And the idea of building community feels exhausting right now. And maybe that’s it…I’m exhausted. Exhausted with feeling hurt, angry and and confused with Christians. I’m exhausted with feeling alone in a crowd, so I’d much rather just actually be alone. And attending church as an introvert, even when one is in a good spiritual place, can still be exhausting. There’s so much small talk, so much trying to say the right things, use the right words, wear the right clothes. And adding a special needs child, a preschool and a toddler to the mix leaves me unmotivated and anxious about church most of the time.

For a year now, I’ve been deconstructing, questioning everything I thought I believed and the institutions I trusted. I was listening to an episode of The Liturgists this morning on spiritual trauma, and one of the things they talked about was that “deconstruction” is seen as a progressive buzzword: a trendy and popular thing for those who call themselves Progressive Christians to do. And it’s seen as a Snowflake bandwagon to jump on. But real deconstruction is incredibly painful and isolating (and so, so slow), and no one would choose to do it if it didn’t feel absolutely necessary. The easy thing would be to not question, push aside doubt, and conform. It would be much easier to slip right back in to the Christian machine and carry on in the same manner as I have the last three decades.

I don’t know what my church future looks like. My husband and I now have very different theological stances on some key issues. And that’s ok, but it will make finding a church we can attend together really difficult. Right now, he is taking the kids to the church he grew up in, and the kids are happy there. But if I am going to dive in and do the heavy emotional work of finding a new faith community, I want it to be in my actual geographical community. I’ve spent my adult life driving all over the city of Houston, putting thousands of miles on cars and probably taking years off my life in traffic. So now, I want to live where I live. But our community is conservative, and I don’t know if I’m in a place to open up and be vulnerable with people who ultimately don’t believe the same as I do on major theological issues. I don’t want to be talked about behind my back or seen as a prodigal child by a whole new group of people- I already have enough of that from people who I love and trusted.

So for now, my Sunday mornings are for me. They are the only hours I truly have to myself, and right now, they feel precious. I can relax. I can breathe. It is truly a day of sabbath for me. I’m trying so hard to be gentle and kind to myself as I navigate this interminably painful season.

I Don’t Want to Call Myself a Christian Anymore

I don’t want to call myself a Christian anymore. To clarify, I don’t want to be known as an American Evangelical Christian. For years, I wore that label comfortably and confidently, as it has been the core of my identity since my earliest memories. But now, that label makes me uncomfortable, and even disgusted, and I want the rest of my life to be defined by something very different.

As a child, my Christian faith was just as much a part of my identity as my brown hair, my shyness, and my love of softball. My family was at church every Sunday, we prayed before dinner, and read the Bible before bed. I went to church camps, youth retreats, and Christian concerts. I attended a Christian high school, and pledged a Christian sorority in college. The Christian label accompanied a good majority of my activities, even through early adulthood.

Today, as a not-so-young adult and a mother, I find a lot about my Christian upbringing problematic. And now, in 2017, my eyes are wide open to how much of the world views my faith, and in many ways I don’t disagree with that perception. I’m horrified and embarrassed at the ways American Christianity is promoting nationalism, political agendas totally contradictory to Christ’s teachings, and a president who in no way represents the Jesus I was taught to love.

The adults who mandated I wear a one piece swimsuit to church camp (to fulfill some arbitrary standard of “modesty“) also cemented a core belief that sex outside of marriage is sinful and damaging. And I believed them. I followed all the rules and wore the right clothes. I saved myself until marriage, which had it’s own far-reaching consequences, regardless of how Biblically I behaved. And then, many of these same adults endorsed Donald Trump for president, even after undeniable evidence that he is an adulterer, misogynist, and sexual assaulter. And I am devastated.

The Christian leaders who taught me that every life is sacred, who sang Jesus loves the little children…all are precious in his sight, are silent or make flimsy excuses about escalating racism and police brutality in our country. They celebrate travel bans that discriminate based on religion, but are all for Christians being able to discriminate because of their religion. They boast tagline in their church bulletins saying Come as You Are…but wait, not if you’re gay.

I will never understand how so many Christians who have worn, marked up Bibles and prayer journals continue to support the political party who seems intent on destroying access to healthcare for the most vulnerable Americans. The poor and disabled in this country (as well as millions of children) are facing massive cuts to Medicaid. Without Medicaid, how are these people going to get the healthcare they need to live? For those that say it’s the church’s job to take care of the sick and poor, where is the evidence for that being a sustainable, long term solution? Because right now, the church is missing the need by a long shot. I don’t believe the church has a responsibility to pay my child’s exorbitant medical bills, but I do  believe as a Christian, I have a responsibility to graciously contribute to the programs that are capable of meeting those needs. Most of the time, that means I pay my taxes so programs like Medicaid can exist to take care of the poor and disabled.

I feel like a child who has discovered her parents have been lying to her for decades. How could I have missed this? How did I not realize how off I was about the religion that shaped the path of my entire life? How do I reconcile that both elders and peers in my faith think a president who bullies journalists, mocks the disabled, and repeatedly disparages women’s physical appearances is perfectly acceptable, so long as he is “pro-life“, “pro-Israel” and “pro-America”? It seems to me that the selling out of an entire religious moral code is a steep price to pay for a Supreme Court nominee or two.

I’ve been told I need to pray for our leaders. What exactly am I praying for? Because prayer alone isn’t going to fix the mess that our country is in. Prayer alone isn’t going to save Medicaid for millions. Prayer isn’t going to allow refugees fleeing terror to enter our country. Prayer isn’t going to give a desperate woman seeking an abortion resources and support so she is able to keep her baby. And prayer certainly isn’t going to take away Trump’s twitter and keep him from acting like a junior high boy with no filter. So yes, I will pray. But I’m also going to do something.

I’m not going to hide behind my Bible, or my privilege, and stay quiet about injustice because it may not impact me personally. I’m not going to show up at church on Sunday, talk about God with a bunch of people just like me, and pretend that makes me a good Christian, or even a good person. I’m not going to stay out of politics, despite being whispered about behind my back by pearl-clutching Christians who find “liberal” and “Jesus” to be incompatible terms. The Jesus I know was loving, fair, and gentle, but he was also bold. And political.

I really don’t know where I go from here. I’m frustrated, angry, and lonely. I’ve lost friends, and the foundation of my entire life has been cracked, probably irreparably.  I don’t know how to answer my children’s spiritual questions, because none of my answers feel genuine anymore. But I’ve decided I don’t need all the answers immediately, and I’m content to be discontent and wandering a bit right now. I may be disillusioned by religion, but I don’t doubt God and His power in my life. I also don’t doubt that He loves me, even with my instinct to walk away. I still want to be a Christian, but need a new definition of what that truly means.