It was the year 2007. I was in seventh grade, and a close friend had invited me to be part of Barack Obama’s 2008 campaign for president. I didn’t know much about Obama, except that he was a democrat, my mom loved him, and he seemed like a super cool dude.
I obliged, and together we spent hours calling local residents, asking them to support Obama for president. We got some yeses, some nos, and a lot of “why don’t you just go to hell?” We were the youngest precinct leaders nationwide, and were given tickets to Obama’s Casper, Wyoming campaign stop where I actually got to shake his hand.
I felt good about participating in the political process, until one Sunday. My friend and I both met through church, where we attended Sunday school together every week. That Sunday, before the lesson had started, about twenty of us were sitting around, talking. My friend mentioned offhand that she and I were volunteering for Obama.
The mood in the room shifted in that instant as all eyes turned to us. “Do you guys know he’s in support of killing babies?” “You think abortion is a good thing!” “He’s a horrible person, the worst thing for this country.” “Some people think he’s the Antichrist!” We were peppered with vitriol as everyone in the seventh grade Sunday school class informed us that we were, in fact, supporting Satan’s 2008 bid for the White House.
I, for one, was taken aback. I hadn’t experienced that kind of anger from my peers, who I generally got along well with. I had no idea that the Christian church had apparently agreed on a political candidate, and it was not Barack Obama.
I had so much to learn.
College was by far one of the most formative experiences of my life. The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania was where I realized how the world worked in a way that I never could have from my middle-class, semi-rural existence in Wyoming.
I came to understand that while I was middle-class and checked many of the privilege boxes (white, cis, straight, Christian), there was another level of wealth privilege I had never understood.
I also became more fully aware of the issues of race, sexuality, and gender, and the profound impact they had on those that didn’t check the right privilege boxes.
While all of this was happening, my faith life was undergoing its own transformation.
My faith had largely grown dormant during college. A busy schedule and the fact that most of my friends weren’t Christian meant that my faith had taken a back seat in my life.
I also started to question my faith. Where I grew up, almost everyone was some brand of Christian. Maybe it was just Easter-and-Christmas Christian, but almost everyone was Christian. Things were different in college. Most people were agnostic or atheist. God and religion were viewed with skepticism and sometimes disdain in my classes.
The secular environment of liberal arts education made me start to question my own faith in God. I’d believed in God for almost my whole life, but my faith wasn’t impacting my daily life in any meaningful way. I’d always been Christian because it seemed like the “right thing to do” but now, I wasn’t fully confident it was what I wanted and believed. The more I felt more conflicted, the more I pushed God to the back of my mind and to the bottom of my priority list.
That changed my junior year. A good friend invited me to church, and that rekindled something within me. For the first time in a long time, I felt a zeal for God. Soon, I was going to two Bible studies a week along with church every Sunday and staying up late every night to read my Bible after I finished my homework.
My faith in God and my belief in social justice and the humanity of others grew alongside one another during my time in college. This made sense; to love others was to be like Christ. Or at least I thought it was. I’d soon learn that my views were not shared by most.
Getting married to and moving in with my husband in 2016 was pivotal in developing my own political beliefs.
My husband’s passion since childhood has been politics. As a kid, he’d turn on all the televisions in the house to different news networks during election night and run from room to room, ecstatically watching the elections results come in.
I was never like that. Besides a random and still unexplained obsession with Al Gore in 2000, I’d never been into politics (hated it, actually). When my husband and I got married and moved in together, I found myself talking about politics all day, every day. Through debates during road trips and late-night pillow talk, I began to realize what I really believed.
I realized…that I was a liberal. A moderate liberal, to clarify.
Despite being a Christian, most of whom are conservatives, my passion about issues like race, women’s rights, and economic equity put me squarely somewhere left of center.
I was liberal, Christian, and as I’d find out shortly, apparently going to hell.
When Trump was elected in 2016, something shifted in the Christian church.
It seemed that, to many Christians, it was no longer enough to believe in Jesus Christ and trust him as your Lord and Savior to be saved. Christians also needed to pledge their loyalty to the GOP — and to Trump.
If you’re not Christian, let’s be clear — that’s nowhere in the Bible.
People I loved and admired for their faith started espousing the belief that you could not be saved and go to heaven if you were a Democrat.
I couldn’t go to a church function without hearing people murmur about “the liberals,” spitting the words out of their mouth like they couldn’t stand the taste, as if talking about liberals and talking about Satan himself deserved the same level of disgust.
Memes circulated across social media that portrayed Trump as a savior in his own right, claiming that he was somehow making our nation more Christian, more righteous, more safe, more prosperous.
Many of my Christian friends were singing his praises, dismissing his rough language and “unconventional” (read: unprofessional, improper, inappropriate) style as mere quirks of a man who was really going to get the job done.
Meanwhile, as Trump locked children in cages, engaged in juvenile name-calling with just about everyone, defended white supremacists and KKK members, and called Mexican immigrants “rapists,” my Christian friends stayed silent.
As someone who is not only liberal but despises Trump to the point where just hearing his slimy used-car-salesman voice makes my blood pressure rise, I started to feel uncomfortable around other Christians.
I started to feel that I had to keep my political beliefs hidden, that it was controversial among my church friends to even say that I disliked (more accurate: despised) Trump, even though he’d proved to be a thoroughly unsavory and immoral person.
I started to feel that in order to be a good Christian, I had to be a good Republican. And it made me sick.
I am a Christian. I believe in the Trinity, in God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit. I believe Jesus came to earth, died, and rose again to atone for my sins.
This is what is required for me to be saved, to go to heaven.
It is not required, however, for me to believe in the infallibility of the GOP or of Donald J. Trump.
I believe instead that Trump is a disgusting racist, sexist, ableist, misogynist narcissist who has sown seeds of hate and division in our country and slowly but surely eroded the rule of law, all for his own self-interest (and that’s me showing some self-restraint). I believe that the GOP, despite being “pro-life,” has done too little in the way of being “pro-life” for those who have already been born.
I don’t understand why many Christians believe that Trump and the GOP are the best vessels through which to express their values, but the point is that I don’t have to.
When my fellow Christians express their views that the church is really the church of Trump/the GOP, our body of believers becomes less inclusive. People like me who love the Lord and work hard to follow Him every single day but also believe in climate change or racial equality suddenly feel unwelcome.
And that’s a problem.
Jesus was all about inclusivity. He hung out with the tax collectors, who were outcasts. He showed love to foreigners and immigrants, loved all those he met, and treated women with respect and kindness, making them critical in his ministry and his church.
When we begin to place additional restrictions on who can be Christian, who can join our church and our body of believers, we go against everything Jesus advocated for.
I’m not asking for Christians to trash the issues that matter to them. I’m not saying that we should throw beliefs about the sanctity of life or anything else out the window in favor of the most outrageous socialist dystopia you can imagine.
I’m just saying that it’s high time that Christians rethink how we’re speaking about politics. The GOP is the GOP, and their platform is not an addendum to the Holy Bible. Trump is a politician, not a prophet to be heeded or a savior to be followed. Jesus is the only Savior, and if you really read into the New Testament, let’s be real — Jesus would have been a democrat anyway.