How the Election of Trump Made Me Want to Stop Calling Myself a "Christian" 

    On November 9 of last year at about 2:00 AM I remember getting a text from one of my best friends saying they love me and we're going to be okay. I'd sat up unable to sleep watching Facebook posts and tweets go by showing friends feeling the same way...and some people I know feeling the opposite. I listened to others try to say that's how it feels to lose and that's what it was like for them when Obama won. I'm really not convinced it's the same. Losing and fear don't feel like the same thing. If all I felt was that kind of loss, I don't think I'd feel it anymore,  but I do... a lot of people do.  

    This isn't about one man. Donald Trump is only one person and I know he can't actually just do whatever he wants. It's not about republicans either. I'm tired of people just disregarding any opinion like these saying "Well, you're just liberal." Yeah, I am but sometimes it's not left vs. right. Sometimes it's just right vs. wrong. This isn't about about Trump. This is about the movement that put him where he is, as the republican nominee and then president. It's a movement that made me turn bitter towards the overall evangelical community and want to avoid using the term "christian" to describe myself.  

    This isn't a "well Trump was the lesser evil compared to Hilary" debate. NBC News reported 40%  of "white evangelicals" voted for Trump in the primaries so this goes further than that. Now, I grew up in church and it was pretty embedded in me that you should treat everyone with respect, love your neighbor as yourself, everyone is equal to each other, etc. Here, however, we have a man who has insulted his opponents looks (Carly Fiorina) , said McCain wasn't a real war hero because he was captured, mocked a disabled reporter, has encouraged violence at his rallies, declined to disavow racists, said he'd bring back "a hell of a lot worse" than waterboarding when it comes to interrogation techniques, has had several instances of sexists comments towards/about women, and actually bragged about sexual assault. 

    Now I'm just saying... I was taught in church that all of those things would be wrong. It doesn't take going to church to even know those things are wrong. So how is it I've spent the last year and a half or so consistently watching "christians" defend this man and make excuses? I've even been in an argument where someone tried to use the actual Bible to defend the waterboarding technique. I'm sorry, but if you want to take a vague verse that's up for debate on translation to tell me the bible is clear about homosexuality.... You can't try to defend waterboarding (aka. violence which is definitely not up for interpretation and is clearly wrong).  Violence is wrong. Racism is wrong. Disrespecting women is wrong. Sexual assault is wrong. There shouldn't be a "political stance" to have on these issues.  

    It's not about politics anymore. I watched the majority of christian people I follow on Facebook stay silent about the white supremacy rallies in Virginia while they were anything but silent about the NFL and players kneeling during the anthem. Can you see the irony there? That's the problem. Silence speaks louder than words sometimes. I watched the same people be nearly silent about the Pulse shooting. I just saw the same people now try to defend guns after 59 people were killed and more than 500 people were injured in Las Vegas. I've seen some of the same people make jokes and make light of sexual assault claims. I see the same people on occasion post about "religious liberty" which basically is a fight against the LGBTQ community, one I am part of with some of my friends. The same people constantly post about banning Muslims when if I'm alone,  I'm more nervous about a white man on any given day. These same people voted for Trump. They also voted for a man (Pence) who believes the LGBTQ community shouldn't be protected from discrimination. They're people I'm related to and friends with and I admit I sometimes struggle seeing them same way. It's a constant battle to "agree to disagree" and take the high road because it's not worth sacrificing relationships. Sometimes I've failed and I have sacrificed them and I'm not proud of it. On the other hand, I can't just sit and be quiet because that's how we got here in the first place. 

    I don't think the church is "under attack" quite like people want to claim. Every generation also tries to say God's coming back really soon and it's the end times so let's stop that narrative too. Honestly, I think the "it's inevitable because it's the end times" view is just an excuse to be passive and not do anything about issues. There's a quote that says, "When you're accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression." I think that's what's really going on here. Trump's not going to save the church from whatever danger it thinks  it's in. I hate to break the news but God and  politics can't even go in the same hand. Political sides can't be "christian". I think it's become more important for some christians to be republican than it is to be actually christian. I don't think Jesus would've been a republican anymore than I think he would've been a democrat. I think he'd just be a humanitarian and we should all be picking up that fight.  

    I've found a church where I'm comfortable and  that has shown me another side to christianity. However, outside of it I've found that since the election shenanigans began, I've felt uncomfortable in my old church community and in any church I've visited. This shouldn't be so. I'm surely not the only one feeling this way either. I still believe in God. I still believe in love. However, my opinion is I think the church or "evangelical community" as a whole has now become its own worst enemy because it won't stand up. If I'm honest, I was already walking on some thin ice here. Things keep happening to make me think, "This is it. This is when the church community will have to say something's wrong." Instead I just see more excuses or silence. In these instances, silence is a knife you hold to your own throat. I encourage everyone to stop being silent when they see things are wrong because they don't want to rock the boat. Let's throw our political stances out the window. Sometimes they're nothing more than an illusion that we're different from one another. I'm not asking anyone to really even vote differently. Just admit things are wrong that are wrong and stand up against them regardless of who's responsible. We have to hold people accountable and do better at protecting each other. They say "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind." In my retaliation I admit I've tried to rip some eyes out as well, but I still believe we can fix this before we let politics blind us least I'm trying. 

I Exist 

I guess you'd say the closest I've come to having a complete meltdown happened in a Kroger parking lot in Nashville around September 2014. One of the only two friends who (both of which being from elsewhere) knew I was gay was visiting and although we were supposed to see each other that night, I couldn't track her down. This resulted in me driving all over the place and ending up in a parking lot hoping for a phone call because I was in the midst of feeling more alone/conflicted/paranoid than ever and all I wanted was to see them. In the end, it all worked out but the point is that was the moment I thought, "Things have to change." My situation's different now, but externally things still need to change. 

    I grew up as a super church kid. I was there all of the time even as a teenager and eventually I was playing in the worship band every Sunday until early this year. Being so involved positively shaped who I am now, but I also struggled intensively with the fact I was gay and I'd known it since before I even understood what it meant. Looking back I'm pretty sure I was really trying to cover it up by being extra involved in church. If I was that involved and that "good" maybe no one would suspect.  

    Then something would happen. I'd hear a family member make a comment about gay people or it'd be referenced at church in a message. My heart would drop and I'd be reminded I had reason to fear. You see, there's this saying "sin is sin" I'd hear people throw around, but by the actions and words I heard, I felt like an exception to the rule. That may be the case for God, but it sure felt like everyone was always ready to get the pitchforks out when homosexuality came up. My only theory is that it's easy to single it out when it's something you know you 100% don't fall under.  

    I don't think it's a sin, but that's not the point of this whole thing. Whether it is or it isn't, I feel it's time for the attitude to change when it comes to confronting it. For the longest time, it was the most difficult thing to reconcile my beliefs with my orientation. The general assumption is the two can't coexist, but they do. It isn't nearly as uncommon as most would probably think. It's a fight sometimes to stay in the game when it comes to believing in God. Believing in God isn't the struggle, but being bitter about how you're perceived and talked about by other believers (knowing the truth about you or not) sure is. 

    I just wish for a change in approach when it comes to this issue in the church. It's pretty simple: Love. This doesn't mean just saying the cliche, "You're no different than who you were before. I still love you the same." Honestly, the word "love" in our society seems to have lost it's meaning. We say we love people and just stuff all the time when we don't really mean it. The word won't, but the action of love can knock the breath right out of you. The action has to follow. I can't say words mean a whole lot at this point. You have to prove it. Make me not have to second guess it. Make me believe you. The truth is, if you can't make me believe you and I still have to sit there listening to things that doom me as a person for something I know I can't change, you can't expect me to stick around for what else you have to say.  I've already witnessed a majority of silence from the church community  when the Pulse shooting in Orlando occurred. I've already seen how World Vision had 10,000 children lose sponsorships in a matter of a few days when they announced they'd hire gay married couples. I see you fighting for "religious liberty" laws that use my own religion against me because you somehow fear my existence/influence. I've worked for a company (Lifeway) who would've fired me for being gay had they known. A hole has been dug. People in my position are falling through the cracks and I cringe knowing a 13 year old version of me is out there somewhere in the same place I was wondering what's wrong with her. I want her to encounter love in a way I didn't that shows it's safe to talk. I want it to actually be safe to talk and safe to not hide because mentally it's not something I wish for anyone. The environment has to change so this can happen. I don't want them to turn into me in that parking lot.  

    The truth is love wins, regardless of what side of the argument you fall on. If I'm honest, I don't think I fully felt the love of anyone until I was able to let people in and see they truly loved me back regardless. Until I let them see me at the most vulnerable point, I couldn't feel it. It may seem hard to grasp but I swear I didn't even encounter God's love until I fell into that place because I felt him through people I was telling. Jamie Tworkowski once said "God's not invisible when we come alive." He was right because I felt and saw  him through some family members' responses or through the night one of my best friends sat with me until 6 AM in a literal intersection so I could talk it out because I was scared to fly home and face the music after the truth came out. I felt it when the same friend's mom kept telling me, "You're worth it," after I'd came out to her and expressed fear of telling anyone else. I felt it every time I still felt included despite any differences that now existed. I felt it every time I was absolutely horrified to tell someone and was met with pure love. However, the current tone suggests it's risky to open up and be vulnerable about it. As long as that's a problem and it keeps you from being open, it also distances you from love itself. 

    So I call for a change in the church and personally. It's not worth it to single out this issue anymore on the grounds of religious beliefs. It's pushing me away. I've spent a long time thinking silence was a better route because I feared making people uncomfortable but that's not going to incite any kind of change when the cost is too much. The younger versions of me can't afford silence. So I'm here to say I believe in your God. I'm also gay. I'm far from alone in this. I'm still worth it. We exist. I exist. 

You're Worth It 

            New Year’s Eve is an interesting thing. There’s a lot of hype…hype about “starting over” like the previous year gets erased when the next one begins. I’ve never been one to get into that side of things, but I can acknowledge it as being like a new chapter and hitting “save” and “print” on the previous one to put into the book. I think maybe this past “chapter” has been my favorite one thus far even though it was difficult at times. Maybe I don’t fully understand why I feel compelled to write a little something about it, but I do and I have a point so here we are. 
            Last year I came up with this idea to write a little something about everyday. That literally lasted until January 3rd… However, I managed to find what I did actually write and I took note of what I had to say on New Years Day of 2015. Although mostly a blurred distant memory now, I certainly didn’t think 2014 was that great. To skip the chatter, 365 days ago I was fed up with having to miss so many people due to distance and I was straight up “absolutely terrified” to accept who I was and what I wanted to do in life.  Apparently I was pretty bleak about things. 
            I was totally unaware of what I was in for this past rollercoaster of a year. I will not be giving a play-by-play life story but boy did I learn things are capable of shifting. It was a bit of a process but I think it’s the year I truly grasped the concept of what love is like, and by that I mean… I learned about the receiving side. I’m not saying no one ever loved me or I never loved anyone before this, but I am saying I don’t think I let myself “accept” it. Back in March I talked to someone about all kinds of stuff I was dealing with within myself and she said the words “You’re worth it.” I swear for the first time I believed it. That’s when everything started to change. Maybe it’s easier to love other people than to let yourself accept it from other people.  
            From there I was straight up honest with myself about what I needed to do and who I wanted to be. Fast-forward to now and I feel more surrounded by love than I ever have. Sometimes I don’t know what to make of it. I’m closer to family members and I’ve somehow stumbled into having friends who’s existence feels kind of impossible most days. A couple of them seemed to have fallen out of the sky, but I definitely will not complain. It's certainly been a year of several good conversations with friends in coffee shops. I've learned if you’re honest with other people, you give them the chance to be honest back. 
            Maybe the point I want to make here is this: Be honest and be who you are, whoever that is. I’m not saying it’s a “cure all” life solution, but it did me some good this past go around so maybe it can do something for you. It also in the end turns into being more about other people. By hiding any parts of ourselves, we hinder others from truly being able to show us their true selves and their love for us. Open that door. I promise you will literally feel the love more when you go through it, thus allowing you to love more yourself. After all, "You're worth it."