If You Think The Resistance is About Politics—You’re Not Listening

Friend, we don’t think you’ve been listening.

If you’d been listening you’d understand.
If you’d been listening you’d see us clearly.

If you’d been listening you’d hear the honest cry of our collective hearts.
If you’d been listening you’d know why we’re doing this—
You’d know why we resist.

This resistance isn’t about a political party.
It’s not about blue state or red state.
It’s not about Democrat or Republican.

It’s not about a politician or a preacher.
It’s not about religion or the rejection of it.
It’s not about Coastal Elites or Bible Belters.
It’s nothing even remotely that small or insignificant.

This is an unapologetic, nonpartisan affirmation of Life
not just life that agrees with us,
not just life of one complexion or orientation or nation of origin,

not just life that aligns on every issue,
or votes the way we vote,
worships the way we worship,
loves the way we love.

This resistance is not a rebellion against nation or an act of treason—but one of the deepest patriotism.
We resist because we believe that the America we aspire to us is big enough for all who wish to be here,
because we believe that its beauty is in the richness of its diversity,
because we remember it was born out of people seeking refugee from 
because it is not a birthright to be guarded but an undeserved blessing to be shared.

If you knew this, you may have joined us in the streets of this country as we marched these past few weeks.
You may have stood shoulder to shoulder as we bore witness to one another’s inherent worth.

You’d have seen the unbridled joy of disparate souls declaring their interdependence.
You’d have felt the sweetness of strangers recognizing their kinship together.

You’d have realized that this is not a funeral, it’s a birth announcement.
It is not a protest of what we are against but a celebration of all that we are for.
And most of all you’d have realized that you too are welcome here in our America.

The greatest tragedy right now is that you believe that we are the enemy or that we believe that you are the enemy.
We don’t believe that you are; nor is faith, family, security, safety, or whatever you treasure because chances are we probably treasure it too. That’s how Humanity works.

Hatred is the enemy, bigotry is the enemy, injustice is the enemy, isolation is the enemy, inequality is the enemy.
It is against these things that we resist, in whatever form they take and from wherever they originate and whatever religious or political affiliation conceives them.

We are for every life, which means that we are for you too.
We don’t advocate for healthcare for our families alone, but for yours.
We demand well-funded public schools, not just for our children, but yours.
We fight for the rights of all women to have autonomy over their bodies, not only those who vote Democrat.
We are insisting on pristine air and water not just for our future generations, but yours as well. 

We understand that poverty knows no color, creed, or nationality,
that illness and injury are not partisan intrusions,
that age and vulnerability befall us all, whatever our orientation or distinction. 

We believe that every family is worth protecting.
We believe that every child deserves defense.
We believe that every marriage is equally sacred.

We profess all humanity as fully deserving of dignity.

We only wish you would refrain from shouting from a distance.
We wish that you would stop telling us why we’re doing this.
We wish you would stop taking a battle posture.
We wish you could see this country as large enough for us all.
Most of all we wish you would really listen, because if you were to really listen—you’d never think so small as to talk about politics ever again.
If you’d listen you’d understand that we are as much for you as we are for ourselves.

We’ll keep resisting because those we resist for are worth it.
All we ask is that you endeavor to listen.
If you do you’ll hear the immutable truth:
We really are in this together.
This really is the way forward.
It truly is America’s greatness.

The beautiful photos in this piece were taken at the Moral March on Raleigh, and are used by the kind permission of Raleigh photographer Daniel Hosterman

To She Who Persists

She was warned. She was given an explanation. Nevertheless, she persisted.
– A small, scared man named Mitch

Senator Elizabeth Warren was not the first like her to stand where she stood this week, she was simply the latest.

She was yet another in the near infinite chain of strong, intelligent, capable women, having to shout to be heard above the hissing, frantic noise of insecure men in her midst, all desperate to silence her. She was both making history and yet sadly repeating it. 

Yes, she was doing something heroic, something extraordinary and yet unremarkable too, as billions of women make such defiant stands each day. They may not do it in the blinding glare of the entire watching world, but their courage is no less breathtaking, their resilience no less planet-altering. It happens in the unadorned beauty of their ordinary days, without fanfare or bombast or applause. It happens in the quiet and the laborious and the unremarkable. It happens in cubicles and classrooms and churches and board rooms: women persisting—and gloriously so.

Most of them will never be trending or have their signal boosted by the world or be known by name, but their lives are sending powerful seismic ripples into the world in these very moments, and as the father of a young daughter just beginning to discover who she is and who she can be—I am grateful.

Thankfully, my life has been filled with women who have persisted despite warning and explanation; leaders and pastors and friends and co-workers who chose to define themselves, rather than be defined by the media or the world or a chorus of small, scared men not unlike those cowards who badgered Senator Warren. These women have taught me and challenged me and shaped me—and one of the most persistent of them, raised me. I have had the great blessing to be married to a beautifully persisting woman for the past two decades. This front row seat to such courage has made me a better human being, I’m sure of it.

The irony of a woman being silenced by men while speaking the words of another woman ( and one of color) was thick in that room—especially given the staggering misogyny of our new President and the fact that the majority of Americans had chosen a woman named Hillary over him to lead us in these days. I grieved over the nation we could be working toward and the lessons my daughter could be learning, while being reminded that women have been pushing back and pulling us forward for a long time now—and they haven’t needed permission or blessing. Maybe that is the real lesson.

Cleopatra, Joan of Arc, Marie Curie, Harriet Beecher Stowe, Susan B. Anthony, Emily Dickinson, Hellen Keller, Eleanor Roosevelt, Amelia Earhart, Harriet Tubman, Rosa Parks, Mother Teresa, Katharine Hepburn, Frida Kahlo, Billie Holiday, Gloria Steinem, Billie Jean King, Oprah Winfrey, J.K. Rowling, Bree Newsome, Malala Yousafzai, Michelle Obama, Hillary Clinton, Sally Yates… The glorious parade of persistence marches on.

They persist in marriages where their true voices are not yet fully embraced.
They persist in dusty churches still reluctant to make space for their gifts.
They persist in workplaces still overpopulated by men threatened by their presence.
They persist in places on the planet where they are seen and treated as less-than.
They persist despite a million reasons not to, after being given a warning and an explanation—and knowing these things are not good enough reason to stop.

After watching Elizabeth Warren make her brave stand on the floor of the Senate, I walked into my daughter’s room and looked at her engulfed in a swirling pile of blankets and stuffed animals. I pushed her hair back from her face and smiled. I pray that she will grow to be such a woman; a woman who will not be shouted down or tamed or defined by anyone. I pray that she will find her voice and that she will use it in whatever way her furiously wild heart compels her too.

And I know that when she does, she too will face the cowards and the bullies and the choruses of insecure men (and sometimes even a voice inside her head) telling her she needs to be quiet and sit down and not cause trouble.

And I hope when that happens, she will stand defiantly undeterred and with dignity; warning and explanation be damned—and she will persist.


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A Message to the Heartbroken

At times like this, feeling is hazardous to one’s health.

A working heart can be a liability in these days because its treasure, its beautiful, sacred tenderness—is the very thing that leaves it vulnerable to injury. Every false word, every act of violence, every appearance of injustice strikes a vicious blow to its surface. Like a twisting piñata, it sustains the damage until it can no longer help but to break and spill out all the goodness within it. It is a bloody and brutal thing to endure, to be emptied in this way.
And so to prevent this daily breaking, most people decide that their only protection is to stop feeling altogether; to become so calloused and so hardened that they are no longer moved by the pain in their path, no longer burdened by the suffering of another. They begin to stop caring until one day their hearts become stone things, heavy and cold and immoveable. Yes, they’ve escaped further wounding but they’ve lost their softness, they’ve surrendered their supple flesh—they’ve become stone themselves.
These days that will break the working heart, and I imagine right now you’re wondering whether or not it’s worth it to be this badly broken. You’re so exhausted by the feeling and the breaking and the bleeding, and you’re asking yourself if you should just stop giving a damn.
You shouldn’t.

Empathy is the lifeblood of our fragile humanity, dear friend. It is the thing that sustains us all, and in moments like this it is more precious than ever. The world needs people like you who are willing to have their hearts broken; people who wake every day prepared to be wounded on behalf of another, because they know that this wounding allows someone to be seen and heard and known when they most need to be.

It is in inviting ourselves to feel the pain of each other that we see our kinship with them, our connectedness, our sameness. It is in the crucible of such bruising that the best parts of ourselves is formed. 

And the thing is, we’ve seen the price of becoming heartless. We know what happens when a human being loses the ability to grieve for another’s suffering, when it disregards everything but itself. We’ve seen what such a life yields—and this is not the path worth walking, pain or no pain. You know that and I know it.

No, you and I are doomed to live this way because that fragile, flexing muscle in the center of our chests will not let us live any other way. And yes, this heart is a weakness make no mistake it is a weapon, too. It is the thing that lifts us and moves us and propels us straight into the bloody battle when every instinct says to run the other way. It is the defiant, relentless, rebellious force that will not allow us to turn away when someone is hurting.

And it is the one thing the heartless people are threatened by, because they know that there is no more formidable adversary than a pissed-off, heartbroken human being who refuses to stop giving a damn. This is who you are.

So nurse your wounds, sew up the gaping holes, and rest until the blood returns—and then jump into the fray again; heart affixed to your sleeve and prepared to break once more.

Yes, you are hurting—and you are the person the world needs right now. 

Be encouraged.



Conservative Christianity and White Supremacy’s Scary Kinship

There are times when you realize how far Humanity has drifted, days when you see how sick we’ve become, moments when you notice how badly Christians have lost the plot. It often comes when you see strange alliances form; agreement where there should not be agreement, affinity that should not exist.

This week while reflecting on the disheartening Evangelical Christian support for Donald Trump’s Muslim ban, I tweeted out these words:

Equality means believing that a child living 5,000 miles away is a precious as the one sleeping in your nursery right now.

The Tweet was shared by renown metrosexual hipster Neo-Nazi Richard Spencer, whose black boot-licking fan boys swiftly descended from their parent’s basements, to hurl all sorts of online vulgarity at me from behind the safe anonymity of fake Twitter handles with photos of German stormtroopers and fatalistic Nietzsche quotes.

They marched lock-step to call me vile and evil, and to let me know that my “Jewishness” was showing. (Never mind that I’m not Jewish, but that’s another conversation for another day). They began to inundate me with all sorts of hypothetical situations where my son and some imaginary Muslim boy were both hanging from a ledge and I could only save one of them—illustrating in their minds the inherent flaws of my position. (These are the kinds of things people say to try and justify their contempt for entire people groups, and I’m used to it.)

The responses weren’t a surprise coming from these Urban Outfitters wannabe Fourth Reichers, who view everything and everyone through the lens of their perceived (and unearned) superiority. This kind of entitled, bratty bigotry is their daily bread and butter. I expect hatred of people of color from them.

The more revelatory and concerning feedback came from people like Amy, a Conservative White Christian mom who replied to the same Tweet:

“If you have children, I feel sorry for them.”

Her words joined a similar outpouring from professed Bible-believing, God-fearing Jesus folk, punctuated by lots of venom, familiar FoxNews cut-and-paste criticisms of Islam, and lots of references to making America great. They too rushed to join the pseudo-Fascists in disputing the idea that a child in Syria was as important as their child, seemingly oblivious to the red flag that such agreement should raise.

This is a symptom of the heart sickness American Evangelicals have inherited, one revealed in a growing Christian nationalism as well as a highly selective pro-life position, where apparently life isn’t just more valuable inside the womb than outside of it—but inside America than outside of it all well.

At the core of this inconsistency is a deeply embedded, subconscious belief that a child is worth more if their trip through the birth canal happens to deposit them within our borders. This is especially true if it looks like them, is likely to worship and believe and vote like them—if it will replicate them. 

Amy’s response and the responses of many white Christians to my Tweet were telling. They imagine that my capacity for compassion is so minuscule that it can only accommodate my own children. They assume that love for one, must come at the expense of another. They reflect a fearful religion which instills in them that they are perpetually in danger. They reveal a faith rooted in superiority and self-preservation; one that breeds hostility to those it sees as outsiders.

Far too much of American Evangelicalism has become this—and it’s a problem.

It’s a problem because the lineage of our Christian tradition leads back to Moses being saved from Pharaoh’s ethnic cleansing of the Jewish people.

It’s a problem because the story of the Israelites is one of continual escape from violent oppression as marginalized, despised foreigners. 

It’s a problem because Jesus was born to refugees desperately fleeing genocide.

It’s a problem because the core of this Jesus’ teaching was the command to love your neighbor as yourself, and that designation of neighbor had nothing to do with geography but with shared Humanity.

It’s a problem because the Evangelical Christian’s go-to Bible drop quote John 3:16, begins with the words, “For God so loved the world…”

To claim the Christian faith is to practice the most radical kind of  hospitality and the most counterintuitive compassion for the other. Jesus was a homeless, dark-skinned immigrant who modeled sacrificial love and who welcomed to his table both beggar and soldier, both priest and prostitute, both Jew and Samaritan. It’s almost impossible to simultaneously emulate this Jesus, and champion exclusion, superiority, or even protection for that matter.  

And that’s the heart of this for Americans who profess a Christian faith: eventually you have to choose.

You cannot be both For God so loved the world—and America First.
You cannot preach the Gospel, while despising refugees and foreigners and immigrants.
You can’t claim that “all lives matter”, while protecting only your own kind.

You cannot be fully pro-life and uphold your supremacy based on color, geography, or religion.

You either believe all people are made fully in the image of God—or you don’t.

You either aspire to a benevolence without conditions or caveats or border or color codes—or you don’t.
You can’t pledge complete allegiance to both Jesus and America simultaneously. At some point one will have to yield to the other, and when your religious position on foreigners begins to align with a malevolent Fascist extremist—it may be time to reconsider your interpretation of the Gospel. It may be time to see if you’ve made God in your own caucasian image.

I don’t imagine Amy or the Christians like her would say they have anything in common with a blatantly racist Neo-Nazi like Richard Spencer, but there is a disturbing congruence in their shared hostility toward non-White, non-Christian, non-Americans. The aggressive territorialism they have in common is alarming, as is their explicit or implied assertion that life is somehow worth more, the closer to you it is—either in placement or pigmentation.

There is nothing of Jesus in this. (who by the way was Jewish, Teutonic fanboys.)

Yes all life is equally valuable wherever it arrives or resides, and yes, a child 5,000 miles away is as inherently beautiful and worthy of protection as my own—and your own.

If you’re a Christian and you care to argue with that go ahead, but you’re going to have to argue with Jesus while also aligning yourself with White Supremacy as you do. (I’m not sure that’s a good spot to plant your theological flag.)

There is no border on real compassion and there aren’t varying degrees of human worth either—no matter what Richard Spencer or Amy or Steve Bannon or Donald Trump say or believe.

And if America is first, Jesus can only be a very distant second.

And that just won’t do.

As for my kids: they are well loved. They know that life is bigger than just our home and bigger than only America. They walked with us in the Women’s March, they have deep compassion for hurting people—and they recognize that loving their neighbor as themselves is the greatest aspiration they can walk this planet with. I’m good with that.