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. 


Dear Vice President Pence, I Wish You Would Lead With Empathy

Dear Vice President Pence,

Today, in a ridiculously transparent publicity stunt, you abruptly left an NFL game because some of the players participated in the #takeaknee protest. Of course, it’s absolutely your right to leave an event if something offends you, as much as it is the players’ right to protest what offends them. However, to plan your exit beforehand, knowing that the “offense” would occur, is disingenuous and should be insulting to your supporters. And I don’t ever want to hear another person say that football players should protest on “their own time” when you, the Vice President of the United States, participated in your own protest today, using tax-payer dollars, and tweeted about it on your official @VP Twitter account. Then, your boss himself tweeted that he instructed you to leave the game. Your administration is not governing; you are all  participating in a reality show whose goal is to make and keep the American people angry. And sadly, it’s working.


I’m not going to argue whether or not #takeaknee is offensive. All protests are, to someone. And I don’t care if you or anyone else boycotts the NFL. But even if football players kneeling during the national anthem  is horribly offensive, why can’t you, and all Americans who also take offense, stop for one minute and consider why they are kneeling? They are kneeling not to spite the flag and what it stands for, but because they want their actual reality to match what it stands for. The flag is a symbol; we don’t revere it because of the cloth it’s made from, but for what it is supposed to represent: liberty and justice for all. And when people with skin darker than you and me, Mr. Pence, say that their liberty and justice isn’t the same as our liberty and justice, I believe them. An experience doesn’t have to be true for me in order for it to be true for someone else. 

Brene Brown says, If empathy is the skill or ability to tap into our own experiences in order to connect with an experience someone is relating to us, compassion is the willingness to be open to this process. This is what I strive to do in regards to #takeaknee and other forms of protest. I have never been treated unfairly or unjustly because of the color of my skin, but I have experienced unfairness and injustice. I understand what that feels like, and therefore, am able to empathize with those who make bold choices to inspire change. I may not always agree with their methods, but I hope that I never dismiss their hurt and that I act with compassion when I speak of them or to them.

Last night, Richard Spencer and his gang of nazis once again marched in Charlottesville (and vowed to keep coming back), desperately trying to spread their message of white supremacy. You made no mention of this on Twitter. Instead, you chose to deflect from the very real problem of racial injustice in this country and take a stand against the NFL. You are throwing your support behind teams who are making standing for the national anthem mandatory. Forced patriotism isn’t patriotism at all. That’s authoritarianism, and it should frighten all Americans, regardless of political leanings.

You have such a powerful platform, Mr. Pence. You could inspire real change in our country if you wanted to. Not theoretical, feel-good pride for this nation, but actual change. What if, instead of leaving the stadium today, you had relaxed, enjoyed some football with your wife, and then tweeted your gratefulness for our freedom of speech and your commitment to making America great for everyone, regardless of the color of their skin? I’m not sure if all that would fit in 140 characters, but think what an impact it would have made.

And, instead of week after week making football the center of our collective attention, use your platform to heal. Help us grieve the 59 people killed in Las Vegas last week. Reassure the millions of American families whose children stand to lose their health insurance that CHIP will be funded. Throw every ounce of effort you have into restoring power and clean drinking water to the people of Puerto Rico. Tell the people of color who are begging you to listen that you believe them when they say America has never been great for them.

The American experiment is just that, an experiment. We don’t stand for our flag and pledge our allegiance because the experiment is over. We keep going, and keep experimenting, with empathy, compassion, and allowing all voices to be heard. And we won’t stop until we create a nation that does in fact provide liberty and justice for all.

A Letter to My Young Children about Racism

I watched you playing in the backyard today, giggling without a care as you soaked each other with the hose. Mercifully, you are oblivious to the turmoil and heaviness that hangs over our country today. At four and almost two years old, you are too young to comprehend the violent events that unfolded this month in Charlottesville. At least today, for that I am thankful. I’m thankful because I’m having a hard time processing those events myself.

This is not the world I expected to be raising you in. I never dreamed that violent, torch-bearing Nazis would be on the list of threats I’d need to worry about. I never imagined I would be leery of letting you watch the President of the United States speak on television. And yet, here we are. I wonder, how did we get here? But more importantly, what do we need to do to change? Because we MUST change. I refuse to stand by and let you grow up in a society that normalizes racism and white supremacy.

I’m just a mom, but I’m your mom. I don’t have a huge platform, but for a few years, YOU are my captive audience. And if I’m going to do something to change the world, I want it to be by raising strong, confident children who are not afraid to be loud, disruptive, and outspoken about what is RIGHT.


I’m going to teach you that there are a lot of grey areas in life. You’ll need to learn nuance, and to consider other’s experiences and points of view when making moral judgements. Racism is not one of these areas. There is no grey. You pick a side.
You are going to be confronted with racism. It’s not an if, it’s a when. And I hope that my example will teach you that racism, no matter how slight, is unacceptable. You don’t let it slide. Ever.

You will have friends who don’t look like you. I will make sure of it. You aren’t colorblind, and you will notice the differences. Differences are not just tolerable, they are wonderful. People look differently, act differently, and live differently, and that’s GREAT! We don’t learn and grow when we aren’t challenged by and exposed to diversity.

The hard part about all this is that standing up for what is right isn’t always going to be the popular thing to do. You may be laughed at, or talked about behind your back. You may even lose some friends. I’m not going to say, and that’s ok, because it’s not. It hurts, a lot. I’ve been there. But the hurt caused by racism hurts oppressed people a lot worse and for a lot longer.

To tell you the truth, I’m scared. You won’t always be four and two, and sooner than later, you’ll be out in the world, making your own decisions and being influenced by people other than me. And the world can be so cruel. Because of the color of your skin, you won’t face some of the oppression that your friends of other races will. That’s called white privilege, and it’s real. A lot of people don’t understand privilege and will try to tell you it doesn’t exist. Privilege doesn’t mean you won’t face challenges or have to work really hard in life. It means that you won’t face the specific obstacles or hardships that people of other races face due to systemic racism and oppression. You don’t need to feel guilty about your white privilege, but you do need to be aware of it and always be an ally and condemn any and all racism that your friends experience. It’s going to be scary, but you are brave. That’s what being brave means: doing the right thing even though you’re scared.

I know there’s going to be some tough conversations in our future and you are going to have some hard questions about the reality of the world you are growing up in. The truth is, there are some really evil people with some really terrible beliefs. And sometimes, they do terrible things because of those beliefs. And our only hope in stopping them is to prevent them from feeling like they can get away with those things. Again, stand up, act, and be loud. Hate will not win.

White People, This is On Us

I’m a white, middle class, stay at home mom to three young children. My life is busy, and many times, chaotic. There are constant messes, activity schedules, and exhaustion. Racial issues don’t directly affect me and my family, so it would be easy to dismiss this weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Virginia and carry on with life as usual. But I don’t want to raise my children in a country where white supremacists marching in the streets is normal, or in any way acceptable. I want them to read about Nazis in their history books, not on their social media feeds. I’ve also come to realize that when I deliberately choose to turn away from injustice and do nothing to stop it, I’m partly to blame for these monsters feeling so emboldened.

Like so many Americans, I was horrified seeing the images and listening to the white supremacist rhetoric coming out of Charlottesville. And also like so many of my fellow white Americans, I also felt defensive and was tempted to, along with denouncing the behavior of the Alt-Right Nazi protestors, become defensive and completely separate myself from them. I really, really want to say that they are a fringe group, and don’t represent me, my community and my culture.

But I can’t say that.

And I really want to excuse myself from this issue, and believe that I don’t have any responsibility in perpetuating white supremacy in my country.

But I can’t do that.

No, I don’t know any actual Nazis. I don’t have any friends that condone the behavior or hate speech of white supremacists, although I have plenty that have remained silent. And plenty of times, I have remained silent too. I have made a conscious effort in recent years to pay attention and speak out against injustice when I see it. But I haven’t done nearly enough.

I’ve let offhand racist comments slide without saying anything. Because conflict makes me uncomfortable.

I’m surrounded by (and participated in) the mindset that there are schools in our district (with the same standards, and same curriculum) that just aren’t acceptable, but others are the best of the best. Guess which ones have more white kids?

All the churches I’ve attended in my lifetime have been overwhelmingly white. I grew up with images of Jesus as a white man with long, light brown hair, and this is how I picture Jesus in my mind, even today.

I’m guilty of making snap judgments of people based simply on their race and appearance.

Until recently, I’ve never consciously thought about my race, and all the privilege it affords me. I’ve learned that white privilege doesn’t mean that I won’t struggle, or have to work hard in life. It means I won’t have to face systemic oppression and additional obstacles due to the color of my skin. My children’s toys, television shows, books, teachers, and elected government officials overwhelmingly represent their race, and they probably won’t ever question that without deliberate conversations. I benefit from racism, and that’s a really sobering reality to face. 

Although I absolutely believe that the election of Donald Trump has encouraged the rise of these hate groups, racism isn’t a partisan issue. It’s not a liberal vs. conservative debate. It’s a problem with humanity. And the problem isn’t going to fix itself, and people of color can’t fix it themselves. It’s going to have to be white people like me. And like you. We have to use our voices and lives to denounce both Nazis marching in the street with torches, and casual racist jokes around our dinner tables. We have to hold our elected leaders accountable, insisting that they specifically denounce white supremacy by name, even if it costs them votes. We have to do things and have conversations that make us uncomfortable. All of us are responsible for allowing white supremacy to seep into our homes, our schools, and our churches. And if we don’t stop it, it won’t stop. This is on us, white people, and we must do better.

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.

Education is a Right in America, So Why Isn’t Healthcare?

Dear world leaders, dear brothers and sisters. Education is not a privilege. Education is a right. Education is peace. 
Malala Yousafzai
Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in healthcare is the most shocking and inhumane.
 – Martin Luther King, Jr.
Most Americans put a high value on education, including myself. We moved to our neighborhood specifically for the school district and neighborhood schools. Our medically fragile son Grayson, who was born with Leigh Syndrome, a progressive form of Mitochondrial Disease, is currently thriving in public school. Federal law guarantees Grayson a free and appropriate public education (FAPE) in the least restrictive environment. Obviously, this looks different for each child, depending on his disability. Grayson is physically and medically able to attend school full time in a classroom dedicated to students with special needs.


Of course, Grayson’s education isn’t really free. Texas public schools are funded by taxes: taxes that everyone pays, one way or another. Whether or not someone has a child attending a public school, he is partially paying for that public school and the education of the children inside.
I have never been told that my child isn’t entitled to an education.
Why? Because education (at least K-12) is a basic right of all American children, according to our society’s value system. For the most part, we all willingly pay our fair share to ensure our (collective) children learn in the best environment, with the latest technology, and the most qualified teachers.
Never have I heard that our family is taking advantage of the system, is a drain on society, or should have planned better so we could pay for Grayson’s education ourselves.
But I have been told, over and over, that my child isn’t entitled to healthcare.
Healthcare is not a basic right, according to our society’s value system. There are a lot of people who consider it theft if a fraction of their hard earned money goes to pay for the equipment, supplies, therapies, nursing, and medications Grayson and other children like him need to live and live comfortably.
I have heard that our family is taking advantage of the system, is a drain on society, and should plan better so we can pay for Grayson’s healthcare ourselves.
Why is education a basic right but healthcare is not?
Not many would disagree that both the education and healthcare systems in our country are broken. Obviously, there are failing and under-funded schools, and more often than not, children in wealthier areas have advantages and receive a better education than children in poorer communities. And then there’s Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who wants to privatize our education system with school vouchers, which will undoubetly hurt the poor and disabled children in this country. This is, without a doubt, injustice. But no one will completely deny education from poor children due to their families’ inability to pay. And yet, this is exactly what the GOP wants to do with healthcare.
On our family’s income, we can’t afford private school for our children. Fortunately, public school is an option for us. All three of my children will eventually enroll in public school, and our income won’t be a factor in how many years of schooling they receive, or what they learn in those schools.
Here’s the truth: on our family’s income, we can’t afford all the healthcare Grayson needs either. And this would be the truth even if my husband made twice the salary he does and I had a full-time job. We have health insurance (and yes, we are faced with yearly premium hikes just like so many other Americans), and we pay into the system. The cost of Grayson’s care that private insurance doesn’t cover exceeds our income. Affording his care without Medicaid is completely out of our reach.
Fortunately, Medicaid (through a Medicaid waiver program) is currently available to cover the costs that our private insurance doesn’t cover, costs that we could never afford.
We are not taking advantage of the system, draining society, or robbing YOU of your hard earned income by keeping our child alive, just as you aren’t taking advantage of the system, draining society or robbing US of our hard earned money by sending your children to public school.
The United States of America prioritizes the education of our children, and its citizens both pay and benefit from that priority. Why can’t we do the same to make our society healthier and graciously care for its members who are sick or disabled? Let’s start treating and legislating healthcare for what it is: a basic human right.