Every once in awhile our choir director will take requests during the church service, and I almost always shout out, “They’ll Know We Are Christians by Our Love.” That hymn has always been one of my favorites because it rings so true. It speaks to me about appearances and also reminds me of the flip side of things. I don’t have a Jesus fish on my car because I am mindful of appearances. I don’t want anyone, especially those who are not Christians, to equate me driving in Atlanta traffic with being a Christian. I don’t wear a cross around my neck because I don’t want something that slips past my filter and falls out of my mouth to be equated with Christianity. Being seen as an example of Christianity can be a heavy burden at times, especially with someone as imperfect as me carrying the load. While I continue to battle those imperfections, I hope the good things that I do, the ways that I help, the friendships that I offer, the confidences that I keep will reflect a more Christ-like person. I hope that someone will know that I am a Christian by my love. And it is why I am baffled by those evangelicals who claim to have found their dream president. It is why I often find myself saying, “Not My Jesus.” So much so that I’m thinking about having it tattooed on my head (Momma, don’t panic. I’m exaggerating. About the tattoo, that is). Now more than ever I believe those who do not know Jesus are watching those of us who say we do. They are watching us as examples of Christianity, and I can’t seem to align the President’s actions with Jesus’s commandments.
Four or five years ago we stopped going to church. It’s not that we suddenly stopped believing in God. It’s that we no longer believed in how our church was instructing us to live. I believe in science and see its place in Christianity. I will never condemn a person because of their sexual orientation. I will always have friends that are not of the same religion or denomination. These are beliefs that I wanted my children to know and practice, and these beliefs were the exact opposite of what was being taught in our church. So we walked away. Over the next two years I often thought about finding a new church but felt like they were all going to be the same so why bother. Then one night a friend of a friend suggested I visit a Disciples of Christ church. Those that know me know that I research the heck out of everything before I commit to anything. So when I got home that night, the first thing I did was google “Disciples of Christ.” I liked what I read, but I was still a bit skeptical. I mean, what are the odds of this kind of progressive church existing here in the Bible belt. As it turned out there was one less than 5 miles away from me. The following day, I told my husband that I wanted to visit this church. So we did just that. I couldn’t believe how warm and welcoming everyone was. Like I literally could not believe it. In our old church, people wouldn’t spit on you if you were on fire. When we got in the car to leave, I turned to my husband and asked, “Do you think they were having some kind of membership drive or something?” Despite my cynicism, we went back the following Sunday. As it turns out they really were just that nice. It wasn’t long before we joined and became actively involved in the church.
Fast forward to January 28th of this year when the ban on immigration was put into effect. I remember sitting at my desk, scrolling through Twitter and Facebook with tears streaming down my face. I had quite the F5 tornado of thoughts and emotions spinning through me. I was disgusted at the Orange One’s latest attempt to play “President.” I was devastated over the support given by friends and family, some of whom I had once looked to for spiritual guidance. I had a moment of gas-lighting where I began to question myself. “Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe I’ve missed something?” That didn’t last long because immediately Matthew 25:35-40 came to mind. Lastly, two thoughts occurred to me almost simultaneously. The first was how relieved I was at having a church to go to tomorrow that had become a safe place for me. A place where I was free to grieve an election openly. A place where the congregation offered their sympathy regardless of their political beliefs. A place whose mission it is to welcome, “into full participation in the life and membership of the church all who seek to follow Jesus regardless of race, age, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, nationality, ethnicity, marital status, physical or mental ability, family configuration, political affiliation, economic circumstance or theological perspective.” The second was that if not for this church and the people in it I would have been on the verge of a major spiritual crisis. Most likely, January 28th would have also been the day that I began to walk away from the church and my faith.