Yes, There is a War on Christmas and The Right is Waging it

Wooden nativity.

 
Yes, there is a war on Christmas in America.

The Evangelicals were right.
The pulpit-pounding preachers were right.
Franklin Graham was right.
The Republicans were right.
Donald Trump was right.
Fox News was right.
The Religious Right was right.
Every single one of them was speaking gospel truth.

They’ve all been warning me for years, and I didn’t want to believe them, lest hopelessness set in—but the proof is unavoidable now and I need to confess they were right and I was wrong. I once was blind and now I see it clearly.

They told me Christianity was under attack here. It is.
They told me Jesus was being rejected. He is.
They told me a brazen mockery was being made of his birth. It is.
They told me the Gospels were being perverted. They are.
They told me decent people were being deceived. They are.

The only thing they neglected to tell me in their bombastic, sanctimonious, sky-is-falling sermonizing—was the source of the offensive.

The brutal yuletide assaults haven’t come from Atheists or Agnostics, not from Humanists or Muslims, not from coffee franchises or the Liberal Media or Progressive Christians or the mythical Woke Mob.

The very white Conservatives who’ve been loudly sounding the alarm, are the incessantly advancing hordes.

They’re the only ones warring with Christmas because they’ve disregarded their own story.

Christmas is a child of Palestinian Jewish parents desperately fleeing politically ordered genocide.
Christmas is a dark-skinned child, born amid the smell of damp straw and animal dung, because no human-worthy welcome could be found.
Christmas is a poor, itinerant, street preaching rabbi, living off the generosity of those around him.
Christmas is a compassionate caregiver, feeding and clothing and healing whoever crossed his path.
Christmas is a liberal activist fighting for the poor, condemning violence, shunning material wealth, and calling the world to live sacrificially for the common good.

The white Evangelical Church in America has no use for this Christmas. In fact, worse than that—it has open contempt for it.

Because this Christmas is antithetical to its arrogant supremacy.
This Christmas is incompatible with its rabid Christian nationalism.
This Christmas is counter to its ravenous capitalism.
This Christmas is resistant to its closed borders and erected walls.
This Christmas will not consent to its heartlessness, its callousness, its myopic America First hubris.

And this Christmas, is now hiding here in plain sight among the “least of these:”

It is the weary Mexican father of four taking refuge from ICE in a suburban church building.
It is the terrified young woman having to traverse three states to have autonomy over her own body.
It is the transgender teenager trying to feel at home within their own body, while being terrorized from without by lawmakers and preachers.
It is the Ukranian family trying to find some normalcy in the incessant assailing of their home.
It is the exhausted mother in Atlanta waiting for hours to cast her vote while being gerrymandered into silence.
It is the homeless veteran starving to death on the corners of opulent megachurches who pretend to care for the poor.
It is the grievously ill toddler whose parents have exhausted their resources trying to keep him breathing.
It is the young black man terrified during a traffic stop, because he has seen this viral body cam video a hundred times before.
It is the poor, sick, hungry, and marginalized of this nation, who exist on the razor-thin line between living and dying.

This is the Christmas these professed Christians are assailing.

And so this season, while they hide behind ceremonial religion, armed with recklessly wielded Bible verses, dressed in ornamental piety, and drenched in flowery prayers and sweet songs—these religious people wage their war on Christmas.

With every social media diatribe, every Tucker Carlson racist rant, with every piece of legislation, with every cell phone complaint to police, with every anti-immigrant, with every homophobic distortion, with every manufactured crisis, with every incendiary Sunday sermon.

We cannot let this happen.

We who seek to emulate Jesus and guard humanity need to speak this truth. We need to oppose their perennial act of aggression and their annual victim rhetoric.

We need to fight for the sick child, the migrant family, the transgender teenager, the homeless veteran, the young black man; because when we do, we are perpetuating the heart of the Middle Eastern child, born under duress in the place where livestock dined—the one who turned the world upside down in the name of a compassion that knew no borders and a love that had no walls.

Yes there is a war on Christmas.

The Right has chosen its side.

And so must we.

 

If You’re Done With Church

Woman looking out church window

Today may be your personal Exodus.

This year may have been your last straw.

You may have reached the limit of what you can tolerate from the Church and its people.

Perhaps you’ve been tending an uneasy peace with it all for a while now: the hypocrisy and bitterness and cruelty that call itself Love—and now you’ve finally been pushed beyond what you can take. You’ve watched the damage done by human beings like those who will fill the building you once called home on Sundays and you know that can’t go back.

Not this Sunday.
Likely not next Sunday.
Maybe never.
You may be gone for good.

Friend, I don’t blame you a bit. I have eyes. I see what’s happening out there and I know what’s been happening within you because of it.

Your defection is quite reasonable, this secession a fully sound decision. You are right not to be alright with it all. In fact, to abide the enmity and coexist with the the cruelty would be the greater sin.

And that is why you will stay home this Sunday: because you are fully yielding to the voice within you that tells you this is no longer where you belong. You are listening to the prompt of your soul’s unrest, and though you may not know exactly where this leaves you or your faith, don’t worry—you will end up where you need to be when you need to be there. God is that big and that loving, which is the point. That building is not God. That building is not the answer and right now it may even be harming you.

I understand how painful this is; the defeat you feel, the feeling of failure that grips you but you do not deserve it. I know that you don’t withdraw without profound grief and that you are deeply burdened by this separation, and I want you to know that it’s okay. You haven’t made this decision hastily and it isn’t one you celebrate. It is simply where you have arrived as you’ve become the most authentic version of yourself. Better to be honest outside that building than to remain within it as a silent objector or an unwilling accomplice.

Any guilt you feel is unwarranted. You aren’t rejecting God as much as you are removing yourself from harm’s way. You’re refusing to wear something that no longer fits. You’ve outgrown this thing that doesn’t feel like Love anymore and you are seeking something that does—and this is what the spiritual journey has always been.

I’m not going to try and talk you into coming back, and I’m not going to promise that you will ever return. You may… or you might find that once outside that building, you are fully freed to run into the wide open spaces of this world, and to experience life and faith and beauty in ways you never thought possible, and you will come to believe again.

You may leave religion and run straight into the arms of God—or not. This is what emancipation from compromise looks like.

I’ll probably stick it out here for at least another week, but I haven’t looked much further ahead than that. I too feel the turbulence that you feel; the holy discontent with this religion I once found sustenance and joy within, and I may end up joining you soon out there on the outside.

But today, I just want you to know that if I don’t see you this Sunday, I’ll understand.

Be encouraged.

When Republicans Lament the Hatred They Help Create

Woman being embraced outside nightclub shooting

Photo by JASON CONNOLLY/AFP via Getty Images

The mass shooting at a Colorado Springs nightclub on the eve of Transgender Day of Remembrance that killed five people and left dozens clinging to life or permanently disfigured and traumatized, is not a surprise.

Worse, it is entirely predictable. It is the rotten, putrid fruit of MAGA America and all it stands for and aspires to—and yet its rank-and-file seems accidentally or intentionally oblivious.

In the wake of the murders at Club Q, as usual Republican politicians have lined up to once feign disbelief and pretend to care and to dole out phony expressions of abject shock and solidarity—but the truth is, this is what they have made with great intention and care over time.

Violence targeting the LGBTQ community is not a random aberration they are trying to make sense of, it is more like a GOP campaign promise fulfilled.

When you continually label queer people as predators,
when you repeatedly accuse teachers of being groomers,
when you declare drag shows and gay clubs as societal threats,
when you intentionally target transgender children and their parents,
when you perpetually traffic in irresponsible and dangerous rhetoric designed to generate irrational fear of LGBTQ people—hate crimes like the one in Colorado are the logical progression.

The hollow culture wars that Christian Conservatives have spent the past few decades going all-in on have actually human costs. They are not ideological expressions untethered from life on the ground. They are not just tweets and slogans and disconnected pulpit diatribes devoid of consequences. They are not merely reckless words and irresponsible assassinations of character against people for their gender identity and sexual orientation.

They may begin as those things, but eventually they become young men carrying high-powered weapons of rapid carnage into places of refuge and joy, who indiscriminately fire into crowds of strangers because they have so dehumanized them as to see them as expendable and necessary collateral damage of a righteous holy war.

The tweets and slogans and diatribes eventually become showers of bullets quickly tearing through the flesh of fathers and best friends and loving spouses and favorite aunts and college students and medical professionals. They become gaping wounds too severe and numerous to withstand. They become human beings terminated on dance floors, simply for who they are and who they love.

And these living, breathing, wholly unprecedented, fully original, never to be repeated human beings become victims of two vicious hate crimes: of the person pulling the trigger and of those who made doing so, so easy for them.

There is no mystery here to be solved, no complex code to uncover, no hidden shooter motive we need to follow down endless rabbit trails to discern. This is simple cause-and-affect. It is the grotesque monster Republicans have made, because they have lacked creative ideas or noble impulses or any desire to lead responsible for the common good. By continually chasing the sensational, by relentlessly ratcheting up their rhetoric, by dragging their base to an ever-deepening bottom, and by using LGBTQ people as faceless, nameless political chips—they are nurturing the kind of wasteful violence Colorado Springs is grieving.

Politicians like Lauren Boebert and Ted Cruz, their party and their voting base will continue to pretend they are oblivious to or even outraged by the kind of violence visited on Club Q.

But until the Right reckons with the flesh-and-blood cost of their continual verbal assault on a group of already marginalized people, and until they repent and begin to fight for the rights and humanity of the LGBTQ community, these physical assaults will continue—and they will have that blood on their hands.

To Tired Blue People Living in Red America: Keep Going

I’ve spoken to a lot of exhausted people this week, even with the good news that many of us have experienced through this country.

Though, nationally there was no massive Red Wave as predicted by the pollsters and the media, these activists and caring human beings have been battered by the surrounding flood waters for a long time now.

They are self-proclaimed blue dots living in red areas who are tired of fighting what feels like a losing battle.

They tell me they are sick of seeing people in their communities ratifying racism, codifying misogyny, and amening homophobia; of watching the most incompetent and predatory of candidates be elected.

They’ve had enough of pushing back and speaking up and showing up—and feeling like it doesn’t matter because the system is so polluted and the playing field so lopsided.

In places like central Texas and south Florida and rural Georgia, millions of good people feel like their votes and their work doesn’t matter and they want to retire from giving a damn.

You might be there, too.

Maybe you are grieving your geography, the sad state of the place you call home.

If you’re in a Red area that seems destined never to embrace disparate humanity and to forever be the kingdom of the zealots and the bigots and the fear-mongers, I’m not going to tell you to keep going today—but I’m hoping you will.

Because we’re all so close to the fight, it’s easy to forget just what’s happening here, the bigger story we’re all part of in these precisely painful seconds, the way our destinies are tethered together, the long road we are on with so many others.

Well before you and I showed up, there were other people here: people whose names, faces, and stories we’ll never know. They faced similarly dire circumstances, they also endured great suffering, and they too surely found themselves at hopelessness and resignation.

But they didn’t stop.

They fortified themselves and braved the injury and the trauma and the losses and the bruises—and they walked straight into the fight, cost and collateral damage be damned. They sacrifices sleep and grew weary and yet carried on, and because they did, you and I arrived in a nation that we feel is still worth fighting for.

They surely did it for themselves and for their families but they also did it for you and for me and for our families They didn’t know our names or faces, and yet they made sure that when we got here there was something of beauty and goodness waiting for us.

I want you to think ahead, just 100 years or so.

100 years from now, you and I will be dead.
100 years from now, we will be gone.
100 years from now we will reside solely in fading photographs and in the memories of a handful of people who shared close proximity with us and still can recall what we were like.
And in another 100 years, when those photos are fully faded and when those few people who knew us leave this place, we will be all but forgotten.

And while that could all feel quite hopeless, it shouldn’t. It should clarify our purpose. It should make us brave.

We aren’t living here to be remembered or to win elections. We’re living here to be caretakers of goodness and love and justice and decency, so that those coming 100 years from now, those who names and faces we’ll never know—will find these things waiting for them.

This was our inheritance and it is our singular legacy: the world we give to those just off in the distance. We owe a debt to the damn-givers who came before us, not to stop now.

So yes, admit the toll these days have taken on you.
Inventory the wounds you’ve acquired, category the people you’ve lost, and notice how much you have spent of yourself.
Reckon with the heaviness within you and the grief you’re carrying upon your shoulders and the rage that resides in the center of your chest.
Lament every bit of what you’re seeing and don’t pretend it isn’t rightly horrifying.

But please don’t stop.

Change may be incremental and almost imperceptible where you are, but it is happening because of you and the work you do in the small, close, here, now, and doable.

100 years from now, there will be people where you live: young couples and big families and single parents and solitary travelers; teenage girls and sick children and elderly men and working mothers.
There will be gay kids deciding whether or not it is safe to speak their truest truth.
There will be young men of color asking if their lives really matter.
There will be women wondering whether or not they have a voice about their bodies.
There will be exhausted refugees imagining a life of safety and rest here.
There will be human beings needing compassion and kindness and a community that sees them.

For them, and for those who have come before, I ask you to keep fighting, knowing you are not alone in the nation we are making and renovating, even now.

To blue humans in red America, please keep going.