The Irreconcilable Differences of This Presidency

Dear Friend,

I don’t think I can do this anymore.
I’m afraid we’re at an impasse.
I’m not sure it’s fixable.

Initially I held out hope that we could find some compromise here; that we could make an uneasy peace, that despite our differences of opinion we could forge some tenuous truce moving forward.

That was a long time ago.

Back then we didn’t know what we know about the person you voted for—and I didn’t know what I’ve learned about you as a result.

Back when you voted the way you voted, we didn’t know the extent of:
his sexual indiscretions,
his allegiance to the Russians,
his dangerous nepotism,
his revolving door Cabinet,
his contempt for the rule of law,
his disregard for the environment,

his oppression of refugees and dreamers,
his neglect of sick and disabled people,
his indebtedness to the NRA,
his defense of racists,

his attacks on journalists,
his reckless financial waste,
his golf excursions and Twitter rants,
his public war on the FBI,

his impulsive hirings and firings.

Before we knew all these things, I could give you the benefit of the doubt. I could imagine that you’d never have consented to such cruelty, such incompetence, such bigotry, such malevolence.

Before we knew these things, I could believe that you couldn’t possibly harbor such hatred in your heart for so many people sharing this country with you. 

Before we knew these things I could have made every excuse that it wasn’t racism or misogyny or nationalism or supremacy or weaponized religion that motivated you to vote the way you voted.

But we do know these things now about this man, and yet your support hasn’t wavered in the slightest—and this has been heartbreaking to witness:

Listening to you regurgitate FoxNews talking points, seeing your timeline fill with fake news, sitting through bitter holiday meal diatribes, hearing offhand, off-color comments that sound just like the man you voted for—and through it all, wondering where the rational, compassionate, loving person I thought I knew has gone.

I don’t recognize you anymore.

I see you dig in your heels and double down and amen his toxic filth, and I feel myself grieving the loss of who I once believed you were.
I feel the gap between us widening.
I feel the fracture deepening.

At first I did my best not to ascribe motive to you.
I assumed that you came to your vote as carefully and rationally as I did mine.
I tried to show you the legislative damage he was doing in hopes that it would move you.
I reminded you that we are a nation of immigrants and outsiders and refugees.
I asked you to consider the duress people were under now as a result of your vote.
I appealed to your compassion for the marginalized, poor, and hurting people—left more vulnerable because of him.
I showed you the words of Jesus about loving your neighbor and caring for the least and welcoming the stranger.

I hoped that any one of these things might reach you and that you’d show me your humanity, and I’d again see the person I thought you were when we were close.

I realize now that none of these things are effective; that no amount of data, no evidence in his words or legislation, no firsthand stories of the people being destroyed right now are enough to move you.

I realize that you have no desire to entertain any reality that threatens the story you wish to be true—and in many ways this makes you unreachable right now. It makes you less and less someone I feel good about being around.

And the longer this goes on, the less and less possible reconciliation between us seems; not because I don’t wish for it, and not because I won’t grieve it—but because I can’t compromise the lives of millions of other people just to keep the peace between the two of us. That isn’t a fair exchange.

Equality and diversity and compassion are hills worth dying on for me, and if our relationship is the collateral damage of fully fighting for these things, I’m going to have to live with that.

I’m still hopeful one day things between us can be better, but I’m almost positive they’ll never be the same; because of what we know about him and what I’ve learned about you since this began.

And so this division, this impasse, this separation, as painful as it is—is far less painful than denying my deepest convictions or ignoring the suffering around me.

I need to be able to sleep at night and to look in the mirror.

Because of that, these differences we have may be irreconcilable.




To The Guy Waving His Gun During Our Dinner

To the 70-something guy in our local pizza place tonight, loudly bragging about the gun you had on you:

We could hear you.

I could.
My wife could.
My children could.

We could all hear you from two tables over, boasting about the all the guns you have at home, joking about “the bulge” your gun made beneath your clothes, and suggesting to the women at your table that they “could even get pink ones” and wear them in their bras.
We could hear you gleefully spouting new stories of the “good people” with guns shooting down bad guys.
We could hear your booming rants about why you think my children’s teachers should be armed. 

You were either so lacking in self-awareness that you couldn’t tell that we could hear you—or you were so puffed up with arrogance that you didn’t care.

Either way, it’s disconcerting.

I imagine you’d consider yourself a “responsible gun owner.”
I bet you believe you’re one of the good guys.
I’m not convinced of either of those things.

When you giddily took the gun out and placed it on the table while showing off “how safe” it was—you looked more like a third grader at Show and Tell trying to impress the other kids in the class, than an adult who gave much of a damn about safety.

And I really need you to know something about our meal tonight: my family and I felt far less safe with you there.

You were far more of a threat to us than any imaginary bad guy or statistically nonexistent boogeyman you dream of protecting us from.
You were there flashing a weapon and cackling like some painfully insecure old man, enjoying the attention of his intoxicated table mates.
You were our cause for alarm.
You were the one making us feel uneasy.
You were the close violence we were exposed to tonight.

I was going to say something to you tonight as we were leaving.

I was going to remind you of the exponentially higher incidents of violence caused by guns than prevented by them.

I was going to respectfully give you a hundred reasons why your behavior tonight was reckless and stupid and dangerous.

I was going to tell you that you made my family uneasy, and that you should do some soul-searching on waving a gun near children eating dinner with their parents.

But based on the 30-minute soliloquy you treated us to over dinner, punctuated by boastful references to the President, I decided it was safer not to say anything.

That may have been smart, but it was a mistake.

I should have said something to you—because you’re the gun problem we have in America.

You’re the problem I have with guns.

You’re the problem many of us have with guns.

You’re exactly the kind of person we who oppose guns worry about: cavalier would-be heroes; full of bravado, and seemingly oblivious to the responsibility of having a weapon.

Not terrorists or gangs or masked assailants or faceless bad guys hiding in shadows—but brazen, careless, jittery white grandfathers who feel the need to bring out weapons in a neighborhood pizza place; men who use guns to mask their insecurities and to inflate their self-esteem and to imagine themselves brave.

I didn’t speak tonight, but I will soon.

In November, I and millions of us will speak about people like you; men and women who worship their guns, who make the rest of us feel less safe, who make our country more violent.

Until then, I think I’ll order my pizza to go.

Dancing With My Daughter

I was really busy last night.

As usual, I’d piled far too much on my plate and found myself at the end of another day; hovering over a screen and keyboard, feverishly typing, furrowing my brow—and feeling annoyed at the seemingly insurmountable, important things still unfinished. 

My 8-year old came bounding into the room (which in itself felt like an interruption at first). I answered her succession of rapid fire questions abruptly without looking up—hoping she’d get the hint that I was preoccupied and stop asking.

She didn’t.

Then she said that she’d set up a light show in her room and asked if I’d have a dance party with her.

For a split second I considered declining and excusing myself; telling her how much work I had to do and how tired I was, and promising her we could do it another time.

Then it occurred to me that she didn’t want to dance another time. She wanted to dance with me now. 

I realized that there are a finite number of times I’ll get such an invitation—and I’d never again get this one.

I knew I’d never be face to face with this specific version of my daughter; at this precise age, in this exact moment, offering this once-in-History chance to dance with her.

And boy did we dance.

There in the rainbow strobe lights of her room we twirled and giggled and spun; each taking turns prompting the other to follow. We banged on drums and tossed stuffed animals and jumped off the bed. I felt my brow unfurrow and my jaw soften and my anxiety subside in the presence of this deniable joy. 

I looked into my daughter’s eyes as she bounced wildly in front of me, her face beaming. I could see that this was all she wanted in the world right now; to dance with her Daddy—and I was grateful that I stopped the world so that I was there with her. I was glad I didn’t get fooled into believing there was anything else more pressing, more urgent, more important than that moment. I’m glad I didn’t miss this chance to dance.

This morning my daughter is different. She is a day older today, imperceptibly changed.

There’s no guarantee she’ll ever ask me to dance again. This is how the lasts times with our kids are (the last tuck-ins, the last fort builds, the last dance parties, the last throw and catch.) You only realize they were the lasts, as you look back and miss them and wish you had one more chance to say yes.

I really hope my daughter asks me to dance again, but even if she doesn’t—I said yes this time.

Parents, our days with our kids are rainbow strobe light flashes: blink and they’re gone. They are beautiful dance parties that we get one chance to show up for.

This moment is a singular gift, so do you best not to waste it. Build every fort, read every story, throw every ball, accept every dance party invitation. You’ll never regret such things.

There is nothing more pressing or urgent or important than being with the version of your child that you’ll never get to be with again.

I was really busy last tonight.

I’m glad I wasn’t too busy to say yes to my daughter.

Don’t miss your chance to dance.


The Sinful Silence of Mainline Christian Pastors

Christianity in America is being radicalized.

As it further aligns with this Presidency, under the leadership of opportunistic Conservative preachers and evangelists—it is jettisoning the compassion, love, and commitment to the poor and disenfranchised of its namesake; quickly becoming a bitter tribe of angry, white nationalists who have no need for the open-hearted Jesus of the Gospels, when it can live off the closed borders of America First.

Growing in malevolence and more and more prone to violence, the American Church is becoming a safe haven for those who have contempt for the very people Jesus spent his life caring and advocating for; the poor, the invisible, the outsiders, the marginalized. It is no longer sanctuary for disparate souls looking for refuge—but a hospitable greenhouse for white supremacy and isolationism.

Yet, it isn’t the radical fringes of the Christian Right alone that have been responsible for this commandeering of the tradition of Jesus of Nazareth here in America.

They’ve had lots of help from the Center and the Left.

Right now the message of Jesus is being hijacked by extremist Evangelicals—and too many progressive Christian leaders are complicit in the crime; inwardly horrified but increasingly silent bystanders.

The shameless volume of Bible Belt Evangelical Pastors, combined with the fearful silence of their Mainline Protestant counterparts, is perpetuating the fake news narrative that to be Christian is to support this President. 

The absence of loud, clear, persistent, opposing moderate voices of faith, is giving millions of people in the middle, no choice but secession from the Church.

I hear their stories every day as I travel around this country. An army of Blue Christians in America, sharing Jesus’ heart for the marginalized, his burden for the poor, his barrier-transcending expansion of the table—are leaving their churches because they see leaders developing feet of clay. They’re watching ministers avoiding the turbulence of speaking with clarity into the injustices of the moment, choosing to hide behind vague and unassuming words they hope will be enough.

They aren’t enough.

The reasons for Mainline Protestant pastor silence are legion;
a genuine desire to be a more measured, more polite voice of faith that easily drifts into lukewarm religion,
a theology less prone to absolutes and less driven by the threat of damnation—and the urgency it generates on the other side,
a subtle, unseen privilege that feels insulated from the damage being done,
a fear of the pushback explicitly speaking into the political environment will bring from more Conservative people in their local congregations,
the simple self-preservation of keeping the peace and avoiding controversy.

The results though, are terrifyingly similar:

Christianity is becoming more and more characterized by fear and bigotry and anger—and it is driving away those who want no part of such things. Millions of people of deep faith, are choosing to join political and civic organizations in order to do the bold, resistance work that they wish their churches were doing—and as a result, they are hastening the radicalizing of the Church being formed elsewhere.

I talked to a Presbyterian minister recently while visiting Alabama. “I so appreciate you saying what you’re saying” he said. “I wish I could say it.” I asked him why he couldn’t. He didn’t respond with words, but I saw in his face an expression I’ve seen many times before: terror.

We need courageous Christians in this moment.

Right now, Protestant pastors, ministers, and the people in their communities—need to find their outside voices.
They need to free themselves from decorum and niceness, and most of all from the fear of conflict that comes when you name and directly confront injustice.
They need to read the Sermon on the Mount again, and to realize that they are charged with stewarding these words and this work, at this place and time in the history of the planet.
They need to call out evil as evil, wrong as wrong, hatred as hatred.
They need to welcome the trouble that being prophetic voices brings—because that is the holy ground on which Jesus stood while here.

There is another story and another expression of Christianity; one that isn’t marked by exclusion and hatred and discrimination. People want it and they need to see it.
There are churches all over this country doing beautiful, diversity-welcoming, equality-championing work. They need to tell people why they do that work and call out those contesting such work.
Hateful people are loudly claiming they speak for Jesus as they cause injury. We need people who will counter as loudly with his actual words. 

In a time when the story of Christianity in America is being written by those with no desire to incarnate the compassionate heart of Jesus, silence isn’t just cowardly and dangerous and irresponsible—it’s sinful.