On Inauguration Day, I was out of sorts in every way. Feeling edgy, restless, and plain confused, I was late to everything I had planned and on the verge of tears most of the day. But I watched the Inauguration, not sure of what I was looking for. Was I seeking comfort that, somehow, things will be okay? Or was I looking for confirmation that my anxieties will be realized? If I was looking for comfort or confirmation, I think I actually received both, which had the potential to make me feel even worse.
On Election Day, my teenage daughter accompanied me to the voting booth. I was fairly confident of the boxes I would check, except the one at the very top: the choice for President. I lingered and stalled and glanced at my daughter and looked at my unsure fingers, poised to check the box for Donald Trump or prepared to not vote in the presidential contest at all. Some of you will be pleased that I eventually voted for Trump and some of you will decide not to read any further. I understand but I hope you will.
I would like to say that as a registered Republican, I am cognizant and supportive of all the social, economic, domestic and global stances of my chosen party. But I can’t say that, in part because I haven’t invested myself in being fully informed. I’m not proud of this. But the fact that 66,000,000 lives in America have been lost to abortion since Roe vs. Wade grieves me to my core. When it came down to my choice for President, I had more confidence that Trump and his party would support my conscience that human life, from conception, has inherent God-given dignity and purpose and is worthy of legal protection.
Yet, I’ve had mixed feelings about Trump because I believe that a pro-life conscience involves more than anti-abortion advocacy. My personal conviction is that every person regardless of ethnic/economic status or developmental stage or intellectual capacity bears the imago Dei – the sacred image of God. When I observed how Trump has mocked a disabled man, disparaged people of other faiths, and depreciated women, his actions didn’t look very pro-life to me. As I cast my vote under the watchful eye of my teenage daughter, I felt the weight of this.
I am humbled by the nonsensical and perhaps hypocritical way that I used my precious right to vote for someone and yet I experience such conflicted feelings that he had actually won. Regardless of who you voted for, you might be surprised or you might think less of me for my struggle. That’s okay. When I look at my Facebook feed, I see you who are thrilled about Trump’s presidency and you who are worried, angry, and distraught. I hear and understand – not all – but most of these perspectives at once.
Because I am a Christian, I pray according to 1 Timothy 2, where the Apostle Paul urges believers to offer prayers, intercession, and thanksgiving on behalf of those in authority. President Trump has been and will be in my prayers. In no way do I want him to fail. I truly believe that President Trump can have a God-honoring presidency. This is true of any President of any party, not because of that particular man or woman, but by the transformative grace and power of God.
On Inauguration Day, as I watched and prayed, I took some time to simply speak with God about the confusion in my heart. Because He is merciful and gracious, He knows our thoughts and words before we can comprehend them ourselves. He invites us to intimate conversation with Him anyway.
In the stillness with God came a question. Not an accusatory question, simply a searching one, from deep within my soul. I received this question as a gift – a way to help me process and clarity my jumbled thoughts.
Are you an American Christian or a Christian American?
As I ponder these words, I see that the placement and order of adjective and noun are really quite significant. The question was offered to me, I believe, by the Holy Spirit, not to tell me that I voted rightly or wrongly. As I move on, that’s not the core issue. The main thing is how I identify myself, over and above my nationality or political party.
If I identify myself as a Christian American (an American who is Christian), I am prone to let political pressure sway me into positions, either liberal or conservative, which are not in line with Scripture. Please believe me, I am deeply proud and grateful to be an American, but I’m also aware that nationalistic or party-line tendencies, if unchecked, potentially distract me from a calling to show Christ’s love to all the earth, not just my country or my culture.
If I identify myself as an American Christian (a Christian who is American), I allow my mind and my heart to be shaped by what Jesus valued, long before our country ever existed. I see evidence of these values embraced and dismissed in the policies of Republicans and Democrats alike.
Trevin Wax wisely says, “Christians should always be looking to strengthen what is good, challenge what is lacking, and denounce what is bad in our political parties. We can’t do that with our partisan blinders on. We need the wisdom and insight of Christians who don’t share all of our political views, but who are radically committed to the Scriptures, to the gospel, and to God’s mission in the world.”
When I identify myself as an American Christian, I can be faithful and hopeful no matter which party is in power, for I see myself as a citizen of a higher Kingdom where God is writing an eternal, victorious story while He reigns with justice, sovereignty, and mercy in the here and now. I can be true to my Christian calling to honor human dignity in all people, demonstrate empathy, be slow to judgment, and do my part for the common good within and beyond my borders. For ultimately, our debates are humbly temporal in light of God’s eternal authority. I don’t know it all – as I have evidently expressed here, and I am convinced that my love for and through Christ has everlasting influence more than my opinions ever will.
I have friends who are Christians who feel differently about issues which are personally, culturally, and spiritually significant. And we cannot judge any one of us to be a better or lesser Christian than the others. What matters is for us to follow Jesus and listen for those searching questions and Spirit-inspired convictions. While always consistent with biblical truth, the Holy Spirit moves within us in ways that cannot be pigeon-holed in the American terms through which we often label and disdain one another.
On Saturday, the women’s march drove this question of my soul even deeper.
Am I a female Christian?
Am I a Christian female?
Am I a female Christian American? And on and on … my brain starts to tire of the possibilities that I could tease out here.
But the same principle applies. Who am I, first and foremost, and how does that inform – and transform – my beliefs and behavior? I did not march on Saturday, but I had friends who did and more friends who were supportive of their voice. I believe that it is essentially American to have the freedom to advocate for one’s cause. I am thankful that my friends were able to march. I look at my daughter and hope that the United States Constitution will continue to protect her fundamental and cherished rights. What’s more, I pray for a transformed culture which no longer objectifies her femininity. I long for every person who encounters my little girl to see her as a person of inherent dignity and honor. And I long for that for every daughter and son who lives, whether American or foreigner, black or white, rich or poor, outside of the womb or within.
But I felt that the women’s march, in tone and stance, didn’t fully represent me, just as Republican or Democrat platforms don’t unequivocally represent me. In our culture, which urges us to choose a side, this feels somewhat lonely at best and freakish at worst. Yet Jesus Himself felt at odds with the political, populist, and religious cultures of His day, a stranger in His own land. If I identify firstly with Him, I shouldn’t expect a different experience. I need to remember that the only absolute claim on me is that I am a sinner saved by grace.
I am a Christian foremost, an identity which gives me peace and calls me to peace.
From Russell Moore:
“Moreover, no matter what the racial and ethnic divisions in America, we can be churches that demonstrate and embody the reconciliation of the kingdom of God. After all, we are not just part of a coalition but part of a Body—a Body that is white and black and Latino and Asian, male and female, rich and poor. We are part of a Body joined to a Head who is an Aramaic-speaking Middle-easterner. What affects black and Hispanic and Asian Christians ought to affect white Christians. And the sorts of poverty and social unraveling among the white working class ought to affect black and Hispanic and Asian Christians. We belong to each other because we belong to Christ.
The most important lesson we should learn is that the church must stand against the way politics has become a religion, and religion has become politics.
We can hear this idolatrous pull even in the apocalyptic language used by many in this election—as we have seen in every election in recent years—that this election is our “last chance.” And we can hear it in those who assume that the sort of global upending we see happening in the world—in Europe, in the Middle East, and now in the United States—mean a cataclysm before which we should panic.
Such talk is not worthy of a church that is already triumphant in heaven, and is marching on earth toward the ultimate victory of Jesus Christ. Will we face difficult days ahead? Yes. The religious liberty concerns will continue. The cultural decline we have warned against is now part of every ideological coalition in the country. But the question we must ask is who “we” are.
We are not, first, Republicans or Democrats, conservatives or progressives. We are not even, first of all, the United States of America. We are the church of the resurrected and triumphant Lord Jesus Christ.
We should be ready to pray and preach, to promote the common good and to resist injustice. We will pledge allegiance to the flag, but we will pledge a higher allegiance to the cross. We can pray and honor our leaders, work with them when we can, while preparing to oppose them when needed. We do not need the influence that comes from being a political bloc. We have more than influence; we have power—the power that comes through the weakness of the crucified.”