My automatic response in a crisis is calm. It’s hard to believe when you know how NOT calm I can be on a daily basis, but as soon as there’s a fire, a death, an emergency of some sort, my coping mechanism is to be your Get Shit Done person. Last year while we had friends over, we had an ambush shooting happen involving neighbors in our apartment building hallway, ending in blood all over the floor and a stray bullet in our door. My immediate response was to make sure our door was locked, barricade everyone in the bathroom, calmly call 911, reassure everyone while we waited, and afterward keep a level head while talking to the dozen police in the crime scene at midnight. And make everyone tea and hand out magazines to pass the time with.
I apologize ahead of time to my friends if I set 8 extra plates of food in front of each of you without thinking. Now you know it’s how I cope and keep it together. Nowadays I feel this way in all kinds of situations. Lately, it’s the news. It is incredibly important to hear and truly recognize this – that many, many of us see the events on the news as emergencies, threats, and nightmares. We live in crisis mode.
On the night of the 2016 election, I listened while friends broke down on the phone, some at 2:00 AM. “What is happening? I don’t understand…I don’t understand,” one sobbed as she fought through a panic attack. Another friend told me that she was afraid of someone coming to get her and take away her rights for not being heterosexual. I feel sick when I think about the many people who are, like me and too many women I know, survivors of rape and sexual assault and abuse and violence. We are not overreacting. We see exactly what is happening for what it is. The lines in the sand that have been drawn in the last few years are stark and unprecedented. We are angry. We are frightened. Crisis mode.
Out of all the things my mind is racing with, there is one that has not stopped echoing over and over since 2016 when I read the voter statistics. I cannot reconcile what the white evangelical church has done, what they are bringing about proudly, with who I know Jesus to be. That may sound like annoying Christianese speech to you, and I don’t blame you. But it’s true, and there is no non-hokey way to say it.
For the first eighteen years of my life, my inheritance of norms, customs, values, and ideologies came from evangelical churches and being homeschooled K-12 by conservative, evangelical parents. When I entered college, my continued socialization of the world was diversified incredibly by comparison, but I poured most of my time, energy, and trust into InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, an intensely evangelical organization. I also became a Sunday School teacher at the local Calvary Chapel (an evangelical “non-denominational denomination”). I wanted to be a “good Christian” and follow God. I just thought I was supposed to. Who wanted to get in trouble with God (or worse, other Christians!) for not trying hard enough to immerse yourself in an evangelical community? Not College Anna!
However, many things that were taught by pastors, religious counselors, campus ministers, and student leadership confused me or just didn’t sit right with me at times. Topics like sex, abortion, gender roles, altar calls and emotionalism, interpretation of Scripture, outright rejection of Catholicism, and more. I often struggle with what to do with these feelings. I am no longer an evangelical, nor did I agree with evangelicals on several foundational matters even before the politics of this administration. Today my beliefs are much more in line with mainline Protestantism than evangelicalism.
We’re all watching as the self-professed Christians in our government look to fear and frantically join so many others in digging those lines in the sand. It’s happening every day, and the lines are getting deeper and deeper. They are beginning to feel like trenches. Crisis mode.
I spoke with my own father several weeks before the election on this subject. He believed strongly in the candidate who is now the President. Not “even” reluctantly…he was and is passionately supportive. My father and I have never had an easy relationship, and it rapidly became worse still as I grew older. It is very difficult for me to speak about it; there is too much there. Let’s just say it is unusual for me to call him. I pleaded with him to tell me why. To explain it to me in a way that makes sense. To walk me through the mental gymnastics he must be doing in his mind and in his heart that somehow equate a self-described desire to be a “Biblically Godly man, husband, father and grandfather” with supporting this monster. I listened as he gave me a familiar word salad: “Benghazi” and “emails” and “there’s no proof Hillary isn’t a sexual abuser herself.” It was like a very sad game of bingo, where you know exactly what’s coming next but you wish you didn’t. He refused to acknowledge that sexual predators don’t belong in positions of power, and he suggested that I was only upset because of my own experiences. Nowadays, we haven’t spoken in a year and ten months or so (for more than political reasons), but I imagine Brett Kavanaugh is his homeboy of choice for the Supreme Court. You keep on defending those abusers, dad! Lord knows they’re the ones who need some gosh darn compassion and championing right about now!
I would be remiss if I did not acknowledge that the church is bigger than evangelicalism. I cling to this. I’ve been unsure of where to go to church, which doors to open. I want to throw myself boldly and excitedly into a new community. I want to meet others who have experienced a similar change of heart, a settling shift in beliefs akin to mine. They’d exclaim, “I know just how you feel!”But right now, I mostly feel shy, lost, and afraid.
One thing is crystal clear this week, not to mention the last few years: that evangelicals have seized incredible power and continue to hand more of it to men like Brett Kavanaugh. I will never understand, and in all honesty, I feel like I will never forgive them.