I’m talking about politics as much as religion in this series. At least on the surface. Feel free to move along to something more innocuous (like dwarf bunnies) if you don’t want to enter this quagmire with me.
Last week, I expressed my pro-life position. And I also expressed my disappointment that my lack of uterus prevents me from having a place in the discussion according to so many.
This is where it’s so hard for people like me and Rev. Rasmussen, the Lutheran pastor who wrote Being Pro-Life and Politically Homeless.
As I wrote two weeks ago, I hate it when people assume things about me. When someone assumes something, it’s out of sheer ignorance. They don’t have any clue or evidence, so they just throw something out there. But I can forgive ignorant assumption because it’s born out of ignorance.
What’s harder to forgive (though I still do) when someone presumes.
It’s a subtle but important distinction. If an assumption is made in the absence of evidence, a presumption is made in light of circumstantial evidence or general probability.
In effect, a presumer knows enough to know there’s more to the story, but fails to give credence to individuality out of intellectual (or relational) laziness. Where assumptions are driven by a simplistic worldview marked by ignorance, presumptions are driven by an utter disregard for individuality.
And it works on both sides of the field.
Presumption to My Left
It feels like half of America despises me because I’m a Christian white male.
After all, evangelicals supported Trump. Plus, I have family members who proudly voted for Trump.
After all, Trump was endorsed by the Klan. Plus, I have family members in the Klan.
After all, Trump is arguably misogynistic. Plus, I have family members who are misogynists.
The numbers lean in a certain way, for sure.
Like most things, the microcosm of my stay in prison provided a fascinating example of this effect as an election unfolded. If you were white, and you didn’t support Obama, you were presumed racist. Period. There was literally no way that wasn’t possible. Barrack Obama, you see, was a black man, not a presidential candidate with positions and platforms.
What I witnessed in this most recent election, here in the free world, wasn’t much different. So many on the left said any vote against Hillary was due to misogyny. Because she was a woman, not a candidate men could disagree with on positions and platforms.
My presumed position is clear: “Drill baby drill. Don’t abort babies; give ’em guns instead. And go make me a sammich, woman.”
Ironically, the political spectrum that depicts itself as accepting and anti-stereotype aggressively typecasts me as another bit player to struggle against. And more ironically, it’s due to my religion, race, and gender.
It feels like half of America despises me because I’m a Christian white male.
Presumption to My Right
Unfortunately, the other half of America despises me because of my application of Christian ideals.
And on this side, it’s more insidious.
This is one of those moments I’m thankful for pseudonyms and the anonymity of the internet. I wouldn’t feel all that safe writing this in full sight of my immediate culture. I would expect criticism from friends and peers. I’d likely lose out on business opportunities. Which is mind-boggling.
But the fear is real. The last section was pretty long in part because I was procrastinating this one. It was longer, actually. I cut out some examples of me being typecast. I tried to convince myself it was to lend credibility to my statements like a good writer should. But who am I kidding? Okay, I’m stalling again. Let’s get this over with.
I’m pro-life, but I think we need to discuss things and come up with a realistic, compassionate compromise with the pro-choice side. But if I express that view, I’m morally compromised.
I don’t serve a caucasian Jesus.
I support reasonable checks for gun ownership, and I’m not convinced of the practical threat in a registry (let a corrupt future government try to use a list of gun owners to target and see what happens when they’re reminded of the original intent of the second amendment). But if I propose this as reasonable, I’m an anti-gun libtard.
I think a wall along our southern border would expensive and ineffective, and that immediately deporting millions of illegal immigrants would be borderline sociopathic. But if I suggest a middle ground that doesn’t alienate children, I’m supporting criminals and rapists and murderers.
I believe the black community in America faces a demonstrably higher risk of violence by the police. Seriously. Do the math, and consider the context. But if I suggest that Black Lives Matter, I hate cops.
I know a number of kind-hearted, loving, and fully patriotic adherents to other religions who act more like Jesus than most Christians I know. But if I try to pursue their ideals or cite them as examples, I’m denying the power of God.
I am disappointed that our country is led by a man who has questionable qualifications, no political experience, and is seemingly defined more by sound bites than sound policies. But if I take a moment to recover from the shock that we’d actually elect such a man to the highest office in the land, I’m a snowflake.
I believe in the separation of church and state, seeing as how the church’s historical relationship with political power has been fraught with tragedy, and how Jesus himself indicated his Kingdom was something else entirely (listen to Greg Boyd’s The Cross and the Sword series or read The Myth of a Christian Nation). But if I say my Christianity might lead me to vote against a Republican — or worse, for a non-Christian — then I’m a heretic.
At the end of the day, I don’t serve a caucasian Jesus. He’s not white, Republican, or alt-right. These things didn’t even exist in the first century.
In 2016, I voted third party for president for the first time: Gary Johnson. I held remarkably similar reservations about both Clinton and Trump (both rooted in character and integrity). While Johnson’s Aleppo gaffe (and other things) called his suitability into question, I admired how he owned his mistakes (something I never saw from either major party candidate). And I saw his choice of running mate a good sign of the sort of cabinet he might assemble.
I’ve found it’s easier to be authentic if you’re just quiet.
And this is more than polite debate. Let’s be clear: the only reason America isn’t in civil war right now is because everyone’s would-be “enemies” are geographically dispersed throughout the country, and the US is too big and populous to redistribute sensibly.
And so many of us are caught in the crossfire because not because we’re indecisive bystanders, but because we don’t stand to the red or blue side. The left won’t have me because I hold to some of their ideals but not their methods. The right won’t have me because I hold to some of their methods but not their ideals.
And that line isn’t even all that cleanly drawn. Life is ambiguous, full of unconsidered context and relevant nuance, and neither side seems to acknowledge these truths.
As a result, it’s difficult to be honest because of brutal condemnation from both sides. I’ve found it’s easier to be authentic if you’re just quiet.
I’m not surprised to find a similar grief expressed by Rev. Rasmussen. I suspect this sort of political homelessness and the helplessness it infers could abide inside the hearts of most Americans. Because existence, much less something as subjectively experiential as humanity, is never binary.
We always divide into camps, but we never agree with everyone in our camps about everything. Finite life is inherently ambiguous.
Finding Solace in Love
The one thing that is certain to me is God’s love. And it should be certain to all. It could be if the American church could step up in the name of His love.
Why are we so aggressively pursuing politics instead of love?
Am I narrow-minded or short-sighted to think that evangelicals could gain far more traction if they were recognizable for the fruit of the spirit and not their political platforms?
Am I naïve to think that a systematic, cross-denominational (even inter-religious) effort into supporting mothers and placing foster children might go further toward reducing the number of abortions than legal avenues?
I don’t know. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t think any one of us does.
And that’s kinda the point. No one of us has the answers.
But if we listen, without assumption or presumption, we just might find some of the answers we’re missing.
We’re each created to be unique, and we each carry untold experiences that can offer insights to one another if we could just love each other enough to listen.
This divide is nothing new. Neither is a two-party system. So goes a fallen world.
But the answer is to be found in loving embracing, not divisive presumptions.
Originally posted 2017-06-26 08:00:17.