A deep and unseated pain.

When I was sixteen, I was struck by Psalm 12:5 one day as I was reading:

“Because of the devastation of the afflicted, because of the groaning of the needy,
Now I will arise,” says the Lord; “I will set him in the safety for which he longs.”

I felt a powerful connection to this verse and felt an almost visceral conviction that this was what I needed to do with my life.  To be honest, I actually thought I heard a voice say “in my spirit” (in my head), “I will use you to do this,” but however nutty that sounds, the basic meaning is good: help people who are hurting, and pursue justice for them.  And while it’s taken me over ten years to actually start a degree that focuses on this idea, I have pursued professional and personal opportunities to help kids in tough situations.

What some Christians don’t get is that this idea is not uniquely Christian.  Furthermore, the faith that I gleaned from words like the ones in Psalm 12:5 and elsewhere–the ones that liberal Christians want people to notice, of a loving, forgiving Christ who never condemns everyone–is completely unrecognizable from the bizarre support for racism and homophobia that daily sweeps my family and friends’ social media pages.  My mother, whom I love, spends hours in prayer for those she loves, reads the Bible daily, and has kept a prayer journal since before I was born.  She also posts things every day about getting rid of illegals, how it’s time to “speak up” and not care who gets offended, and a cacophony of other vitriol-filled posts that simply don’t mesh with the idea of a loving God.

Love the downtrodden outcast looking for a better life?  Nah...all those stories were totally written by a pansy.
Love the downtrodden outcast looking for a better life? Nah…all those stories were written by a pansy.

When I was a sophomore or junior in high school, I suddenly realized one day that fueled by right-wing organizations like Focus on the Family, I felt constantly unhappy and “under attack.”  Furthermore, I actually felt hatred for my liberal classmates.  I stopped myself the second I realized that I was feeling this way, and because of my faith, repented.  The only Scripture in the New Testament (which is the part that evangelicals most embrace) that addresses persecution says to pray for one’s enemies and to bless those who persecute you.  Some people point at Peter’s denouncement of an official who was sleeping with his brother’s wife, but these same people ignore Jesus’ repeated condemnation of the Pharisees in the day.  Back at my most conservative, I surrendered the “persecution complex” associated with Christian right-wingers because I felt convicted by my faith that it was wrong. 

It would be years before I realized how twisted it was for Christians to say that, in a nation that caters to their religion, they were constantly under attack, but the consequences are dire and widespread.  On a very basic level, if you fear or detest people, it kind of makes it hard to love and pray for them like Christ commanded.  In addition, if you are constantly fighting for a past that never was–calling a country who once embraced slavery to return to the “Christian faith” of its founding–you trap yourself in a false reality that denies modern-day problems in America.  And thus, the reason for this whole post.

The dirty secret that no one talks about in regards to Christian evangelical celebrities is that they must behave a certain way, or be branded by the letter “A” and cast out.  In my experience, this means never accusing America of racism, never supporting inclusion, not drinking alcohol and admitting it, and not having sex before marriage or any kind of sexual relationship outside of a heterosexual marital relationship (even though the vast majority of conservative Christians still have sex before marriage).

Lecrae is a popular Christian rap artist who has achieved some secular success.  I think he’s talented and enjoy the wordplay of his lyrics; he includes a myriad of Biblical and literary allusions that are witty, and his music is actually good instead of just copying what other musicians have done.  But he first accidentally felt the wrath of this strange subculture a few years ago when he put a picture up of a date night with his wife, and made the mistake of having a bottle of sparkling water on the table.

Bubbles=The Devil.
Bubbles=The Devil.

Rather than praising the man for his pursuit of “family values” because he was investing time in a dinner with his wife, the crazy people went into a fury over the idea that he might ACTUALLY BE DRINKING ALCOHOL.  Commenters on Facebook quickly devolved from the classic “you might, you know, tempt kids who follow you to drink and become crazy alcoholics” to “OMG Lecrae you are going to hell.”  It was crazy, and a stupid case-in-point that showed me the inanity of the evangelical world.

(The way that evangelicals reacted to World Vision when they dared say that they wouldn’t exclude gay people from working for them is what really nailed the coffin shut for me, but that’s another story.)

The man of the hour.
The man of the hour.

Far more serious is what is happening now.  America has issues when it comes to race, okay?  I am not saying that policemen are not mostly good people.  I am saying that moving from enslaving a race of people and categorically labeling them “subhuman” to treating them as equals and creating a society that does not automatically penalize them for their ethnicity IS NOT EASY AND IS NOT OVER.

But to admit this to an evangelical audience breaks the rules, even if you’re, you know, black.  And as Christian friends who are African-American are speaking up on Facebook, it is amazing and sickening to see the results.

Lecrae recently did an interview with Billboard Magazine about the Charleston shooting.  When he put it on Facebook, he said, “Article on Billboard on Charleston Shooting. I didn’t come up with the title. Read and sincerely think.”  He couldn’t even say, “Hey!  Guys!  This is a TRAGEDY and we have some ISSUES!”  He had to put a disclaimer and try to shield himself from the onslaught of denial he knew would follow his sharing.  And that is so twisted.

What is wrong with a country whose most vocal Christians preach hate and denial?  What “Christian nation” do they want to return to?  And this is where I part ways with much of Christianity…for better or worse, I have been “gifted” with the “spiritual gifts” of “mercy” and “encouragement.”  Another way to say it is that for much of my life, I have been the INFP “Idealist.”  I am tailor-made to be so open-minded that my brains fall out, but every bone in my body was raised to deny the extreme manifestation of mercy.  I am supposed to embrace a “literal” interpretation of the Bible that ignores much of what is actually “literal.”  I am supposed to ignore homosexuals in the real world to defend a “one-man/one-woman” relationship that doesn’t even exist in the Bible.  And I am supposed to ignore very deep-seated instincts that say that this is bullshit because when I get in a room with people like my family, who love and support me, they see things so completely their way that there is nothing but a sense of betrayal and my possible loss of salvation to accompany my honesty.

It’s getting harder to stay quiet, though.  People I love apart from them are hurt by their exclusion, their denial, their words.  Ever since my first trip abroad, when I met Russian Protestants who didn’t like American politics, I have been moving further and further away from the narrow world in which they live.  To where, though?

In China, I’ve been privileged to live and work in a world where religion is hardly an afterthought.  I can go days without contemplating the implications of my life experience or the very real travesties at home in America.  Unfortunately, with a trip home on the horizon, I will need to confront these uncomfortable places.  My only hope is that, as I do, truly passionate Christians will embrace the love, reconciliation, and healing I believe Jesus represents…even knowing the ways He divides.

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