Last night, Hunter and I went out to dinner with my parents. I swore to myself that I wouldn’t let my father drag me into a political discussion, but it happened anyway. As we were leaving, I was inspired by an idea I wish I’d thought of much sooner. I asked him to look up John Pavlovitz and his blog. I don’t know if my father will actually do it. If he does, I don’t know if he’ll read it with the open heart that I hope he still has beneath years of Fox News-inspired anger and paranoia. But I realized last night that if anyone could break through, it would be John Pavlovitz.
As I’ve mentioned before, I was raised in a devout Catholic family. From Catholic school, to Mass every Sunday (plus weekday mornings if I was at my grandmother’s house), the first 15 years of my life were filled with the words Jesus. My father is a very religious man. He has a past that’s checkered with actions he regrets. I suspect he would tell you he sought and was granted forgiveness and he makes every effort to live his life according to the teachings of Jesus. I , on the other hand, experienced a significant crisis of faith at the election of Donald Trump, that continues to this day. From one moment to the next, I question my involvement with the Church and wonder if tomorrow will be the day I walk away for good.
The moment I heard myself suggesting John Pavlovitz’s blog to my father, I was suddenly able to connect the dots in my mind. I truly believe that my father is a good man, and tries to live a good Christian life. And I struggle to reconcile this with the man who sat with me last night at dinner defending Trump. I don’t believe that my father is the kind of man who would laugh and gives his agreement if Howard Stern referred to me, or either of my sisters, as “a piece of ass,” but defends exactly that kind of man. My father would never make fun of a disabled person, but supports a man who did. My father says he is not racist, but defends a man who referred to the white supremacists who marched in Virginia as “some very fine people.” My father does not support pedophilia, but casts his vote for a party that believes “better a pedophile than a Democrat.” My father tries to live in accordance with the Ten Commandments, one of which is “Thou shalt not bear false witness,” but extols the virtues of a man who lies even in the face provable facts; a man who labels any and all critique as “fake news.” My father tries to live as a Christian, but supports a political party whose platform is the antithesis of the New Testament. The man who always complained about my love of brand names and spoke of the unimportance of material things cited the growth of my mother’s 403(b) as a sign of Trump’s success. And I wonder, if even someone like my father has bought into this warped version of Christianity, what hope is there for the Church?
I recognize that the United States was not founded as a Christian nation (as explicitly stated in the Treaty of Tripoli, signed by 2nd President and Founding Father, John Adams). I believe firmly in what Thomas Jefferson articulated as “a wall of separation” between church and state. I also understand that we are a majority Christian nation (for now). And I understand that Christians are called to live Christianity by example, to demonstrate the teachings of the Church in all they do. And yet, the party that claims the mantle of supporters of Christianity and family values seek to implement into law so many policies that forget that the most important lesson Christ tried to teach us was love: love for our families and our friends, but also love for our neighbors, and even love for our enemies and those who would seek to harm us. He calls for us to feed the hungry, clothe the naked, and welcome the stranger. I’ve read the Republican Platform, and cannot find anything in it that supports these principles, despite so many claiming that they follow God’s call.
Even as I continue to question my own beliefs, I still try to live a live in accordance with the call to love one another. Not because I have anticipation of heaven or fear of hell, but because I believe it’s just the right thing to do. I believe that love and empathy for others is the single most important legacy that I could leave behind. And I admit that it’s a struggle. It’s a struggle to watch segments such as this one from Jimmy Kimmel and not hate people who could be so cruel to others. It’s a struggle to read comments from Conservatives and not hate them for their greed. It’s a struggle to listen to witness so many so-called Christians seem to embrace an attitude of, “I’ve got mine so who cares about the rest of you,” without wishing for Karma to knock them down a few pegs. It’s a struggle to see so many that I love encouraged to channel their uncertainties and discontent into and us vs. them mentality and not want to see them, also, as “others.”
And so I continue with my struggle to reconcile Trump with his supporters, to see the humanity behind the support of inhumanity. To remind myself that a movement based on greed, anger, and fear, cannot be broken down by more of the same. To quote Corinthians (NIV) And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.” (1 Corinthians 13:13) Surely, the path to breaking down the walls of hate is to love that much harder.