My Own Church Rejected My Generation
There are no words that could adequately explain what I am feeling these days. I'm stuck and I don't know where to turn. I don't know if this story will help anyone else, but I know that the most comforting thing for me right now is to know that I am not alone.
I am a young ("Millennial" if you want to segregate) pastor intern in one of the most conservative denominations in America. Last fall (being a part of generation "Why not?") I decided to work a hypothesis I was having. I used myself as a guinea pig and decided to see if I could retain my conservative Christianity while becoming a "progressive" politically. I was met with much more success that I could have thought possible. In fact, as I studied my theology it seemed to amplify the need of a change in the church and our country. We are called out to support life from conception to death (not just pre-birth and not just post-birth). Although, no political venue seemed to cover the means of supporting ones entire life. The progressive side seemed to help a lot more diverse populace AND focused on the need for the family to discuss how to support each other (instead of pawning it off to the government with anti-abortion regulations).
I felt confident in both my faith and my political ideals, comfortably retaining both. With the ministry context I was in (California) most of the Christians I served felt about the same. They were able to look at all the issues and how they affected the lives of those around them holistically (instead of being distracted by just one or two issues and how they effected them privately).
As a side-note, I also accepted climate change as a major issue. Whether or not it can be proven scientifically, I felt that we are called to be stewards of our environment either way and a call for new clean energy would boost the economy.
Since last fall, I have moved to the ministry context of rural Michigan. I thought I would be safe retaining my mentality (as well as my political Twitter and Facebook posts). Michigan is generally a liberal/blue state (Michael Moore, Shepard Fairey, and Eminem are all from here!!!). I was wrong. As the general election drew closer, the conservative Republicans of the area had already made it through most stages of grief with their candidate (starting with denial ... see Paul Ryan) and were ready for someone who claimed to overthrow the establishment. In many ways, this election was more about establishment vs. anti-establishment than either of their political platforms. But, at the same time my new congregation didn't realize that. No matter how much bigotry, misogyny, or hate that their candidate seemed to show, they were just focused on keeping his competitor out of office.
I remained silent. I don't know if it was because of my job or because I didn't want to contradict the head pastor or didn't really think we should preach about politics (I would much rather just talk about them if you understand the difference). Either way, they won. I lost.
I felt more isolated than ever, as if my own church had rejected my generation (Trump would have lost in a landslide to those under 30). But, I still couldn't speak. I couldn't open up to anyone. Progressive comedians and trending Christian articles seemed to comfort me. But, I was still at a loss for words.
I didn't know whether to be more ashamed of the "Christians" who put their hope in Trump to fix their nation (instead of God) or of my "peers" who were protesting ... openly against the government (instead of following Romans 13). Why can't we just work together? Why don't we stop preaching politics and start talking about them? The main issue that either builds up or tears down relationships is communication. But, how do I talk to people that I know have already rejected me? What hope is there for my generation when they realize that 81% of people like me (white evangelicals) voted for a candidate who ran his campaign on hate?
That same 81% seemed to rally against President Obama for not being "Christian" enough. They often discussed his persecution of them. But, now, whenever the government persecutes someone in our country, our country, especially those my age who already feel ashamed and rejected, will believe that the church (or at least the church's anointed one) is what has brought along the persecution this time.
The only way I think I can move on is to continue to stand with the marginalized ... to live a life that proves that there isn't just one type of Christian. But, that the church is for everyone. I hope to build relationships through communication ... not destroy them before they even begin.
The only way we'll get through this election (on either side) is if we do it together.