On this Super Tuesday tensions were high as 13 more states rushed to the polls to make their vote heard for the 2016 race to the white house. Today I have been reflecting on my past political self living inside of the Christian bubble in hopes that my Christian brothers and sisters do not make some of the same mistakes or judgements I have made — all in the name of Jesus, of course.
My name is Amanda and I am a recovering conservative.
Let me explain what I mean. If you now or have ever considered yourself a part of the Evangelical Christian community or tradition there are probably very specific images that come to mind when you hear the words “conservative”, “right-wing”, “republican”. And they probably make you feel warm and happy inside.
Now close your eyes and think about the words “progressive”, “left-wing”, “democrat”. As someone deeply immersed into evangelicalism in the bible belt, a very different picture probably comes to mind, complete with flames and pitchforks.
I suppose that you could say that it goes both ways on either side, but I just want to tell my story. Growing up in the church even at a very young age, when it comes to politics there are really only two issues that will be consistent pulpit fodder: abortion and the “sanctity” of marriage. At each stage of my evangelical experience the “pro-life” cause resonated deeply with me and reverberated from the core of my being. I was devoted. From holding Rock for Life signs on the side of the highway at 9 years old to being deeply invested in my local Bound 4 Life chapter at 19, all the way through college I was known as “that pro-life girl.”
Almost to a fault. As early as middle school I had friendships sour over political discourse. I was so black and white on issues that I wouldn’t ever entertain a grey area because everything I ever heard from the pulpit was life or death. No need to investigate further. You may as well be on trial for any stance that wasn’t red. Even when I went off to bible college we were told to “vote our conscience” and to “choose life” since it was a conflict of interest to come right out with an endorsement of a party. Teetering on the edge of blue was taboo and I soon found myself go so far as to even question the salvation of friends who were more moderate. It would seem that there was no eternal hope for my friends who were self-proclaimed bleeding heart liberals. When an organization you respect is cheered for mottos like “You can’t be a Democrat AND a Christian”, it’s easy to become a pious ass.
It’s easy to run wild with these two issues when you don’t look outside your comfortable Christian bubble. Before I go on, I do want to be clear on something. Although I no longer consider myself conservative, I hold fast to the idea of personhood and I don’t take that lightly. I believe that ending a viable pregnancy that poses no risk to the mother’s life is unethical. However, pregnancy is unpredictable and we should not be quick to cast judgments when the decision is not (and should not) be ours to make. This is where the distinction needs to be made between pro-choice and pro-abortion because you can be anti-abortion and still be pro-choice. This is where my liberal friends may disagree with me.
In defense of the conservative pro-life movement, I will say this– in my 15 years being involved with multiple anti-abortion organizations and events that I have been a part of, including “sieging” outside of abortion clinics and participating in solidarity events, don’t believe the hype. The media wants to portray these individuals as hateful zealots towards these women. I know it exists out there, but every single person that I know personally who invests their life into this cause would lay their lives down for these women. “It’s not a protest, it’s a prayer meeting.” is the motto of the organization Bound 4 Life, and I think that the distinction between prayer and legislation is where the political right gets it so very wrong. The legislation on abortion is irrelevant when conservatives do nothing to change the outcome of these women, and in fact hinder them from getting the support that they need.
From a Christian perspective, it is absurd to think that legislation will change the actions of the people. Think about it. The same people that say that making guns illegal won’t stop people from using them are campaigning to make abortion illegal in efforts to stop abortions from taking place. And no matter where you stand on same sex marriage, the legislation we try to put into place to protect our herero-normative view of the nuclear family will not change the sexual orientations of LGBT folks. Even God gives us the choice to choose Him. Christians should know more than anyone that a set of laws does not produce change any more now than it did for the children of Israel in the wilderness. Once I started peering outside of my tidy Christian bubble, I started realizing that the way that I perceived “choice” was not only biased, but significantly flawed.
It was easy for me to be a cookie cutter conservative in my privileged bubble where I didn’t really have to think about issues other then those pertaining to religious focus groups. But then life had to ruin everything. When I became a single parent, suddenly I breached Christian protocol. I had to look outside of my safety net. I became a single parent while I was pregnant, folks. Now, I never entertained the though of abortion, however I began to empathize with the hopelessness that women who found themselves in my shoes must feel. I learned that not all single parents are bottom dwellers of society, leeching off of taxpayers. I was one of them, and I was a full time mom, full time college student, and had a full time job, and it still wasn’t enough. The shame I felt was a result of the same stigma I used to place on people that received government assistance.
Then I had to go fall in love. The trouble with that is that I fell hard for a charming (is there any other kind?) Mexican who happened to be undocumented, so I could no longer ignore my indifference on the despicable, hateful stance on immigration that the right has to offer (not to mention the xenophobia we relish on our fellow humans in the middle east). Falling in love with a man that treated me as an equal and not as a subservient counterpart made me realize how abusive Complementarianism (a pretty word for Patriarchy ) is in the Church and how God’s design was always for equality. Now I was in really deep! How could I ever reconcile this with the inexcusable apathy for equal pay in the workplace that is ignored over and over again by the right?
Just before my son’s Third birthday, he was diagnosed with Autism and I instantly became an ally for the Autistic community. I was soon dismayed to find that the legislation on the right caters to a cure culture that seeks to find a way to “solve the puzzle” instead of trying to accommodate the autistics that are already here and are wondering when they will be valued instead of seen as challenge for science to find the answer to.
What. A. Pickle.
I didn’t rush to declare a new political affiliation after these events ran their course. All I knew was that I could not go along with the agenda of the conservative right with a clear conscience any longer. If that makes me a trouble maker in the eyes of the evangelical community, so be it.
This is not a plea to my conservative friends to change their political allegiance, however I would ask that you try understand that everything is not always as black and white as it seems. I have burned many bridges in the past by being so ruthlessly rigid. It would do us all a bit of good to stop looking so far inward that we forget why we are here in the first place. Whether we like it or not, we need each other. We are better together, warts and all.