I fought with myself as to whether or not I’d post this because this is more of a confession and almost more of myself than I’d normally be so open about. But, in the end, I’m trying to break myself of those kinds of insecurities. This is like therapy to me. If you don’t like it, don’t read it.
“I shall tell you a great secret my friend. Do not wait for the last judgment, it takes place every day.” ― Albert Camus
Let me be abundantly clear about something just in case you haven’t already come to this realization. I have never completely fit in. Anywhere. Ever. I’m a strange breed of human being that vacillates between introversion and extroverted tendencies, creative spurts and severely logical arguments, and then there’s the teetering between misanthropy and philanthropy. I deal a lot with dualities in what feels like some very curious ways that has one or two good friends referring to me as an anomaly. I can’t say I disagree. It’s something I’ve grown to embrace over time but, by my very nature, sometimes I’m extremely insecure about it. On top of that I am prone to both depression and anxiety, so I really relate to the words Hunter S. Thompson used to describe Raoul Duke’s lawyer, Dr. Gonzo, in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: “There he goes. One of God’s own prototypes. A high-powered mutant of some kind never even considered for mass production. Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”
Something you should also know about me is I’m a Bible believing Christian. I believe Jesus came as God and man in one to redeem the world. I sin a lot but I believe I am saved. It’s the only thing that has kept me from going off the deep end and becoming an alcoholic like my father or done something else to completely ruin my life. I went to college and got my BA in studying scripture and so I like to believe I am very theologically conservative. I attend church regularly (though not recently) but even there, where most people know me and I have friends I still feel disconnected, like I don’t completely belong. In an environment that is, thankfully, the first I’ve belonged to that is mean to be all inclusive, I sit by myself and strain myself to be social with people after. It just doesn’t seem to do any good. Since I teeter between seeking acceptance and not really giving a damn (yes, a Christian who occasionally uses swear words!) it can be really hard to cope.
I used to think I couldn’t get any farther away from belonging. Then I became a Liberal.
This deserves some background. I didn’t register to vote until this month. I didn’t care about politics or the state of affairs of this country until this past year because of something that’s actually rare for my generation: apathy. Nothing I saw politically seemed to affect me or how I lived and I was extremely jaded thanks to the media coverage of the Presidential terms from Clinton all the way up to Obama, and let’s not forget the glorious thing that is the electoral college. Not to mention my own personal demons kept me pretty well occupied with myself and trying to sort through abandonment and depression on and off for the four years I was in Bible college and the year and half that followed. My gaze was too busy looking inward to care about the world around me.
Something happened to me when I came out of what was easily the longest bout with depression I’ve experienced in my 15 years of dealing with Bipolar II and Seasonal Affective Disorder. It may seem silly to some but I needed a laugh and, in my boredom one night after work, I watched an episode of The Daily Show with Jon Stewart on Hulu Plus. While, admittedly, Jon Stewart is not a journalist but a comedian and a news commentator (like Bill O’Reilly, Shawn Hannity, or Rachel Maddow except, you know, funny and not insane) it made news accessible to me for the first time and showed me political issues I wasn’t even aware of, world news I hadn’t paid attention to, etc. This was kind of like the spark that ignited the flame. Since then, I’ve consumed books on American history, media bias, politics. I started following the news and I started to feel like I was more of a global citizen, hell, a citizen in my own country.
What I began to discover, though, was I was not the conservative I was raised as and I definitely was not the conservative of my early environment here in Nebraska which is a red state through and through.
I watched the conservative side, though, and I couldn’t fit myself into that mold. There are too many issues where I lean heavy on the constitution and heavily eschew the legislation of morality. And right then and there, when I discovered that about myself, I did something I never thought was humanly possible and made myself feel as if I fit in even less in the one place I came the closest to belonging and that was within the realm of the church universal. I can feel the scorn naturally creep up on my face as I write this.
In my experience, and this is not to put anyone down, the evangelical church is replete with registered Republicans. In Nebraska it can come fairly close to the caricature later turned photo sharing trend of holding a gun in one hand, a bible and American deity (excuse me… flag) in the other. I don’t particularly like watching people tote guns around for the same reason a dog licks it’s testicles but it’s their constitutional right, I guess. And while I believe YHWH, the God of the Bible is the one true God, and I believe in the doctrine of the Trinity, I draw a very large distinction between the workings of government and legislation and the teachings of the Bible. That is to say the Bible teaches Christians about their faith and how they should live, but the U.S. Government is, in no way, beholden to those teachings because America is not, despite die-hard politically conservative believers, a Christian nation. It was not founded as a Christian nation; it was founded on the basis of religious freedom. To impose the doctrines and beliefs of just one group of a widely diverse nation is tyrannical, unconstitutional, and actually unbiblical.
Why unbiblical? Look at the model for salvation presented to us in scripture. God seeks out his people and makes a treaty with them before they are subject to his laws and statutes, establishing a Theocracy. Then Jesus came and gave up his life so those who believe in him would be part of the same treaty. America was founded by sinners and Christopher Columbus was definitely not the second coming of Christ. He was barely a saint if you know your history.
So, when I found my footing in the political realm I really started with no boundaries or ideas of what I stood for but, as I read, watched, researched and encountered, I found I could not identify with what felt like a staunch hatred, anger, self-righteousness, and even indifference I saw in the GOP’s representation of their constituents. Now, to be fair both sides of the aisle are not without blame. Politicians are a curious folk to be certain so I’m not absolving either party. However, I did find myself identifying more and more with stances, especially on social justice issues, that would put me in the Liberal camp. So, I didn’t really choose to be this way; my convictions led me there.
Would a few examples help? I’m sure.
Let’s start with my favorite hot-button issue: LGBT rights. This was one issue, as far as civil rights are concerned, I did not really have to think very hard to come to a conclusion on. Biblically, I still wrestle with some issues but that’s a whole other blog post. I’ve had gay friends, I have gay coworkers, which personalizes the issue for me quite a bit.
As a country we believe all people are considered equals. Discussions I’ve had with conservatives and news articles I’ve read by conservative “news” sites essentially renders these people as subhuman, undeserving of any rights for various reasons. It depends on the particular issue which, quite frankly, the government is still ill-equipped to fully address. Some of the issues are just too new, like which bathroom a transgender student should use in a public school. We, as a country, are having to adapt.
My conviction here is this: I cannot define people by their sexual orientation, gender, or sex alone. As creations of God they are all on equal footing as sinners in need of Grace. As human beings, we all struggle with pride, lust, idolatry, etc. The sanctity of marriage argument is null and void to me because America doesn’t hold marriage all that sacred anyway. The church, now that’s another matter. But, as someone from the ACLU said to me, “it’s not like we’re going to force your pastor to marry anyone he doesn’t want to.” As long as the rights of the church are upheld, then the LGBT community should get all the rights associated with marriage. Why? They’re people. Ultimately, no one should be allowed to decide who is and is not a person.
I’m a Christian. I should be pro-life, right? I am, yes. I believe everyone has the right to live from conception. I cannot support legislation to see that all the way through. Given the choice, I would vote for a pro-choice candidate over a pro-life candidate. It is inconceivable to think a woman of sound mind gets an abortion because it’s the easy choice. I know women who have had abortions and they count it as one of the hardest decisions they’ve ever had to make. Abortion is not taken lightly. But pro-life beliefs lead to the closing of women’s health centers which also provide contraceptives to women which can help prevent pregnancy and therefore removes even having to think about abortions.
This is where my stance on legislating morality kicks in. Banning abortion isn’t going to stop abortion. There’s a huge crack in that line of logic for me. We tried to do that with alcohol and we got speakeasies and well-funded mobs. We did that with marijuana and we got the war on drugs; a complete waste of US tax dollars especially since we were selling arms to the countries supplying the pot in the first place. Removing a woman’s right to abortion doesn’t then necessitate she take the option but, if she does take that option, it will be done by someone who is qualified, in a sterile environment, with the proper tools thus avoiding complications which could ultimately end another life prematurely.
And yet I’m still pro-life. I think as Christians, if we’re willing to be so adamantly against abortion we shouldn’t be picketing abortion clinics because that just lumps us in with people like the Westboro Baptist Church, we should be working to offer alternatives that protect both mom and baby. I’m still pro-life because I think people should be paid a wage that allows them to support themselves. I think the death penalty is a joke because our legal system thinks money is free speech and rich dudes who molest young girls can’t go to prison because “Do you know what it’s like in prison?!” I think life is sacred and all sin is redeemable in the eyes of God. I believe if you’re pro-life you need to be pro-life for the duration a human is alive.
So, there you have it. I have declared to the internet I am a Christian who is theologically conservative but culturally and politically liberal. That’s been hard for some to accept but it’s how I’m wired. Maybe I’m inconsistent, maybe I don’t have all the facts mustered, but I know where I stand. In Christendom as well as government that’s the best place you can be, I think. And I don’t think where I stand is mutually exclusive because they share one thing in common.
We the people.