Being Pro-Life and Politically Homeless
I was prepared for Secretary Clinton to be president. (I almost wrote "I was ready for Hillary," but then I realized the present tense of that statement was a campaign slogan!) I really was. I knew what her presidency could potentially mean for religious freedom, the secularization of the public square, and Christian ethics related to marriage and the sanctity of life. Perhaps some of these concerns were conjured. But then again, when Time magazine runs an op-ed calling for the revocation of religious tax exempt status two days after the Obergefell ruling, maybe there's something to those fears. So, with that said, I was mentally ready to live in exile, to be misunderstood, to be forever consigned to the wrong side of history, etc., etc. - but all the while I was ready to pray for Clinton to do well, speak the best about her as my president, and disagree where needed with a mixture of winsome confidence.
Misunderstanding on Another Level...
But I had never prepared to be misunderstood in an entirely different way... With the election of Mr. Trump, some Christians may feel safer on the religious freedom end of things. But, as others have pointed out, his election also brings grave spiritual danger. Michael Gerson articulated those dangers well in a recent Washington Post column. And not only spiritual danger, but also the added burden of misperception by neighbors who live in the political left.
Now that Trump is president, I transfer to him the same mindset I had ready for Clinton - I will pray for him, and speak respectfully about him because I respect his position of authority. And, likewise, I will not hesitate to note where his politics conflict with kingdom of God commitments. However, now I anticipate misinterpretation of my faith in a much more nuanced way. The word that comes to mind is "exacerbated."
It all became real for me as I was watching the inauguration. Trump quoted the Bible and made references to "God" and "our Creator." I cringed inside. Oh no, I thought. For some people, this will be their image of Christianity, and for many others, this will only confirm their worst experiences with Christians or their deepest held stereotypes. Would some people look at an angry "America first" platform, interpret this as Christianity, and then project that interpretation on me? In other words, prepare to be misinterpreted.
Franklin Graham approached the podium and called the rain that morning a sign of God's blessing - a sign of God's blessings on an event that many people are grieving and fearful over.... Once again, prepare to be misunderstood.
When Obama was president, I made it a point to pray for him by name in church. Is the division in our nation so deep that when I publicly pray for President Trump by name (as I would have for Clinton as well), will I inevitably be misunderstood? Interpreted as not just praying for him but also giving full allegiance to his policies and personality?
Pro-Life Doesn't Mean Republican Party Punch List
I am unapologetically pro-life. Jesus calls me to nothing less. I am also pro-woman. Jesus told me clearly that groping hands need to be cut off and lusting eyes are to be plucked out (Matthew 5:27-30). I will raise my boys to respect women and tell the porn culture to go to hell. I will raise my daughter to be strong, smart, and confident enough to never need her dad to threaten young men with castration or hunting trip mishaps. But the recent Women's March on Washington told me that I can't be pro-woman without being pro-choice, when all along I thought the terms "pro-woman" and "pro-life" compliment rather than contradict. Will my pro-life tweet now be taken as closeted misogyny? I was not prepared for this.
I was prepared to live in a nation where abortion rights would continue to be the norm (unfortunately), but still work on a local, grassroots level to communicate that life matters. I was in no way prepared to be the recipient of deep rage toward a president and a political party that incidentally hold to one of my political commitments.
I would gladly fund the relocation and settlement of a Syrian refugee in my neighborhood. Whether the family is Muslim or Christian makes no difference—both are under the status of neighbor. Am I now a liberal who no longer has an "America first" commitment? I was not prepared for this...
Is it possible for me to reject nationalism in favor of a kingdom of God first commitment, and not be misunderstood as unpatriotic or ungrateful?
Can I believe in higher wages and better opportunities that make choosing life over abortion a more realizable goal... and still avoid political categorization?
Can I hope and pray that Planned Parenthood will be defunded because it obscures better options in favor of convenient ones (perhaps even profitable) and not be put into a corner with a red elephant? And at the same time can I see that defunding as a complete failure if it's not backed by churches willing to adopt, mentor and support women in crisis pregnancy situations, and fund clinics that offer comprehensive health care?
And can I believe these things with all my heart, even though I lack a uterus, and happen to be white, male, and middle-class? Do these incidental categories disqualify me from publicly grieving over abortion and striving for the day when we'll no longer have to debate what it means to be a person? Yes, I can. And I will. But I very well may be misunderstood, labeled, categorized - put in my place with a social media slap on the wrist.
Embracing our Homelessness
If the church is faithful to the politics of Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount, we will to some degree end up politically homeless. And those who are politically homeless will often be harassed and pressured to get off the streets and find a place to live. But how can we cozy up to all the agenda items of political parties that will no doubt conflict with our deepest held convictions? We live in a mix of post-Christian secularism and a cultural Christianity that is ripe for judgment, both polarized, fighting, and raging back and forth - and here we are, many of us, homeless in the middle!
But Christ was misunderstood. His family thought he was out of his mind, and tried to take him back home (Mark 3:20-21). Will not the same be true of the church?
And Christ was often homeless. "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head" (Luke 9:57-58). Will not the same be true of the church?
Even the first Christian apologists in the Roman Empire sought not first to defend the truth of their faith, but rather to give an answer to accusations—misunderstandings. Christians were accused of gross immorality and rebellion—cannibalism (eat his body?! drink his blood?!) incest (greet each other with a holy kiss?), and insurrection (Jesus is Lord?!). Perhaps we're in that place once again. Under Clinton it would have been more clean-cut. In the present situation it's a bit more exacerbated and confusing.
Being politically homeless is uncomfortable, but it's also an opportunity to shed illusionary allegiances and speak the truth of who we are. We will stick out like a sore thumb. We will often fail to translate. We may get lumped together with agendas and allegiances we want nothing to do with. But hopefully this will be when people ask - "What?! Why?" And that is when we give an answer to the hope within us (1 Peter 3:15-16).
Rev. John Rasmussen - Our Savior Lutheran Church - South Windsor, CT