I prefer to keep my political views offline, but 2016 has proven to be a whole other ballgame. I love being an American. I love learning about our country’s history (the good and terrible), I love voting and following the political process, I feel so blessed to live the comfortable and safe life I live (unlike war-torn countries or those with a lack of freedom). And I really want to be on jury duty. (Like really, really bad. I just get so jazzed up by participating in a historical process. I feel like I’m making history – because I am.) I even made “USA” watermelon treats for a 2012 summer Olympics watch party. Because: ‘Murica. And J and I LOVE attending rodeos. I feel like we’ve talked about this before, so that shouldn’t surprise you.
But lately, being American has not been…easy to be proud of. The violence happening in our country and the ridiculous rants coming from the presidential election and some protests are sending me into sadness, then rage, then…what are the five stages of grief? I feel like I might be somewhere in the middle…
So I had to speak up. I believe it’s important that we all speak up in favor of bringing good things to all people. But this election season has been and continues to turn a hateful corner, especially during this Republican National Convention. I know all election seasons are heated, but the hatred-filled words coming from men and women who claim to be followers of Jesus (and many who are not) are really missing the boat on what it means to be a messenger of the Gospel – or just a kind frickin’ person.
If you claim to be a follower of Jesus, you should recognize God’s greatest commandment, as cited in Matthew 22: 36-40. Some context: the Sadducees and Pharisees were testing Jesus with all kinds of questions about Jewish (Old Testament) law. A Pharisee asked:
“‘Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?’ And he said to him, ‘You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”
It doesn’t say to spite people groups because of their sexual orientation, or gender choice, or race/ethnicity, or religious choice. Sure, you can find Bible verses that support hating things (that’s a whole other conversation, and one which I hope to blog about soon), but the key piece of information so many fail to recognize is: hate the sin, not the person. And Jesus tells the people to love – and not judge.
How can a pro-lifer encourage a scared, pregnant woman when shouting, “Abortion? The Supreme Court also legalized Slavery” (seriously – I found this suggested slogan on a pro-life website. But to give them credit, there were a ton of slogans listed with very supportive messages. So it’s not all bad and many are providing outreach in a helpful, positive manner). Then I found a website that sold super offensive bumper stickers, including one with a slash through a rainbow-colored “equal” sign, and another that, I kid you not, said: “My Apologies! If you look like a fag, walk like a fag and act like a fag, I naturally assumed…” WHAT?!? I about came unglued. These all communicate to me: not approachable. And that’s the nicest phrase I could come up with for right now. Which I think is rather generous.
Jesus shows himself living the great commandments when an adulterous woman is about to be stoned to death. Jesus stops the crowd, asking, “…Let anyone of you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” (John 8:7b).
I know this verse well because my dad would recite it to my siblings and me often as a child. Missing Catholic mass in my house was not an option. And if you were too sick to go, you got sat on the couch and watched “The Hour of Power” on TV. Not Catholic, but close enough to meet reparations, at least in my parents’ eyes. Even on vacation, my mom would scout out the Catholic church and mass times of the town we were in. Not keeping the Sabbath is a sin, according to the 10 commandments (it’s #4, followed closely by #5 – Honor your mother and father). And we weren’t missing. But my mom didn’t bug my dad about missing – and it really only happened a few times a year, to give the guy some credit (“I was an altar boy. I’ve done my time.”). As soon as I started ragging on him about missing church, he’d all, “He who has no sin cast thy first stone,” me. And I’d have nothing. Oh, it’s a darn good verse to get you out of trouble.
And one American Christians need to start praying about. We are all sinful. I’m not perfect (though I wish I could be). We all fall short of his perfection. But we can all love. And when we greet Him one day in heaven, as a result of my love for others (which I fall way, way short of doing everyday people. I’m super judgy. It’s a problem. But I’m trying), I hope He will say to me: “Well done, good and faithful servant. Well done.”