What is America Worth To You?

How much is America worth to you?

What would you sacrifice in order to stop the suffering you’re seeing every day on the news and on your timeline and in your neighborhood and in your living room?
How much would you be willing to lose if you knew you could alter the trajectory of this nation away from fascism and toward democracy?
What courageous, selfless acts might you be capable of if you were certain that you could be the difference in millions of human beings living or dying? Having voices or being silenced? Finding refuge or being brutalized? Marrying who they love or being denied the right?

If America were placed in your hands alone, how much would you give to protect it?

Would you be willing to be assassinated in front of your children?
Would you allow yourself to be beaten in the street until nearly dead?
Would you consent to be hung from a tree surrounded by a jeering crowd?
Would you slowly starve yourself until your body simply expired?
Would you intentionally face bullets and fire hoses and vicious dogs and baseball bats?
Would you be willing to lose your livelihood, your family, your friendships, or your very life?

Fortunately for you, you’re not being asked to do any of those things right now.

They have already been done for you.
Those costly payments were made on your behalf decades ago by people you’ve never met and whose names you’ll never know.
Your forebears endured these bruises and scars and this unthinkable suffering—all so that you could live with the invaluable gift of the voice that you have now and take for granted.

No, you aren’t being asked to bleed or to kill or to die in order to honor them and to steward the nation entrusted to you—you’re just being asked to give a damn and to vote.

You’re being asked to click on a website and register without even moving from the spot you’re sitting.
You’re being asked to order an online ballot that will come directly to your home.
You’re being asked to take a literal minute or so to fill it out in comfort and anonymity and either place it in your mailbox, or drop it off on your way to the grocery store or the gas station.
These efforts might take an hour, at the very most. You likely could have done them in the time it will take you to read this piece.
Or, if you prefer to show up in person, you can vote early to avoid long election day lines, making your voice heard usually in a matter of minutes.

And failing all of these less-invasive options, you could be required to make a massive sacrifice on November 8th:
You may be asked to give up 7 or 8 hours out of the 168 you’ll get that week; out of the 8,760 hours you get this year—and stand somewhere, step into a voting booth, and with a flip of your finger, bend the moral arc of the Universe toward justice.
Then, you’ll get to return to your life already in progress, to enjoy the other 16 or 17 hours of that day.

The only question left, friend and fellow citizens of this beautiful but presently assailed nation: is that too much to ask of you?
Is one day, too great a hardship to endure in order to defend your homeland and its people, the Constitution undergirding them, the planet sustaining them?
Are there more pressing issues you need to tend to that day that outweigh what hangs in the balance; greater than defending the worth and dignity of the disparate human beings around you, than stewarding liberty and justice?

I’ve heard you lament how horrible this nation has become in the past few years.
I’ve watched you grieve deeply over the cruelty of our politicians and their sustained assaults on our human and civil rights.
I’ve recorded your sustained anger at the prolific disregard for humanity trending every morning.
I’ve listened to you speak eloquently about how far we’ve fallen as a nation, how wrong everything feels, how broken our systems are.

I just want to know what you’re going to do about it.
I want to know if you’ll do the one thing that complaining and protesting and marching and tweeting and arguing can’t.

I want to know you’re going to invest one day to save America:
One day to stand for the right to choose.
One day to condemn violent Christian nationalism.
One day to secure free and fair elections.
One day to uphold democracy.
One day to welcome exhausted refugees.
One day to denounce exclusionary, supremacist religion.
One day to defend transgender teenagers from the bullies.
One day to call out anti-Semitism, Isamophobia, and homophobia.
One day to stand with the embattled environment.
One day to repudiate police brutality.
One day to provide a sick child healthcare.
One day to reject gun violence.
One day to affirm Science.
One day to displace dictators.

One day (or, more likely an hour or so) to say thank you to the generations before you who suffered and sacrificed and fought and lost and bled and died—so that you could have the voice you now have and are still undecided about using.

Is a bit of your time worth what it cost them?
Are your children?
Are mine?
Is America?
Is the planet?

Between now and November 8th, you’ll have responded clearly and explicitly—not on social media and not in coffee shops and not in think pieces, but at the polls.

And on November 9th, we will all wake up in the nation we’ve chosen together.

We can save America in a single day.

Will we? 

How The Religious Right Made Cruelty Sacred and Compassion Unchristian

Well, they’ve finally done it.

The Religious Right has completed their wholesale reboot of Christianity and it now bears no resemblance to the original. It has fully abandoned its namesake.

This week, watching Republican governors shipping exhausted migrants to other areas of the country in brazen acts of performative cruelty has been horrifying—but not nearly as much as witnessing the theological and mental gymnastics so many professed Christians have engaged in while trying to justify traumatizing already traumatized people.

It has been a grievous thing to see human beings who openly wield their adoration of Jesus, miss the stratospheric irony of their intentional mistreatment of those he claimed such affinity for while he was here: their heartless, loveless response to those he called “the least of these,” in the way the world disregarded and injured them. They find all of this perfectly fine, even Christian.

Supposed followers of the same Jesus whose family fled to Egypt to avoid genocide, are actually celebrating these malicious political stunts and branding our condemnation of them, partisan politics. That is how far afield they have drifted in 2,000 years.

Republican Christians have so lost the plot, that affirming anything remotely compassionate or decent now feels to them like a political attack; so fully embraced a Christianity of cruelty that actual empathy seems an act of defiant resistance to them.

In many ways, it now is.

Advocating for sanctuary for refugees,
Protecting immigrants from Government harassment,
Demanding full equality for women,
Insisting on affordable healthcare for every human being,
Opposing the proliferation of assault weapons,
Affirming religious freedom for all traditions,
Fighting the degradation of our planet and the gutting of our public schools,
Defending our Press so that it remains free,
Championing the vulnerable, the sick, the poor—these have somehow become partisan politics and assaults on their religious freedom.

And the simple reason, is because the leaders of the Republican party and the Evangelical ministers in bed with them, no longer care to be burdened by the expansive heart of Jesus, the basic goodness he preached, the people he poured out his life for.

And so his values now seem offensive to them,
his words are convicting,
his very life feels confrontational.
The extravagant love, overflowing compassion, and sacrificial generosity that marked him are foreign to their ears and threatening to their sensibilities.
And these things all have no home in their religion.

The very idea that coming to the aid of refugees and migrants now feels like culture war salvos to Republicans, instead of the beautiful defense of the inherent value of all people that it is—should be a red flag to people who are paying attention. It should be an alarm, warning them that things have gone sideways—especially to those folks who claim faith.

If speaking the very words of Jesus, if reiterating his compassion and generosity seem like partisan politics to those of you reading this who identify as Republicans—well maybe that’s a problem. If someone aspiring to be a loving, empathetic human being causes you discomfort—that should give you great pause.

Maybe the truth is that equality, diversity, justice, and compassion are indeed now solely “Democratic talking points” because you have gone all-in with something that Jesus would rightly be horrified by.
Maybe you really no longer aspire to loving your neighbor as yourself as much as you imagine or profess to.Maybe your expression of faith is lacking something essential.
Perhaps the absence of gentleness and mercy in your midst have left him no choice but to head elsewhere, joining the religious of every tradition and the non-religious who together are affirming these things.

I wonder where Conservative Christians see the Jesus in shipping beleaguered migrants to Blue areas of this country; how they can celebrate with joyous middle finger defiance using human beings as some sort of prop in political posturing.

I have seen Jesus in the response of those on the ground in Martha’s Vineyard, as disparate human beings there, some claiming faith and some not—understand that empathy is the only redemptive path worth taking and have appealed to their better angels.

So yes, my dear Republican Christian friends, maybe homeless refugees and sick children and the working poor and black lives and fewer guns and universal healthcare are indeed now “Democratic talking points”. And if they are, then you should take a long look in the mirror, let your knees hit the floor, and ask Jesus just why that is. Maybe some repentance is in order.

As for me: I know where my heart is, I know where my loyalties lay, and I know that I can sleep at night because I know that love is a nonpartisan decision and I am choosing it.

 

Stop Being So Damn Hopeless

Hopelessness is a waste.
It’s useless.
It’s powerless.
It’s also contagious.

Friend, if you’re feeling hopeless today you’re in good company.

For many of us, it’s been a tall order lately to try and fend off the discouragement that seems unrelenting: too many emergencies for us to keep track, too many wounds to attend to, too much bad news for our battered minds to contain, too much sadness to bear.

Sleep and rest have been hard to come by.
Joy seems in short supply.
Peace feels elusive.
Frustration comes easily.
I get it.

If your eyes are tired from scanning the horizon and straining to see something good off in the distance, do me a favor today and take a look in the mirror.

Are you grieving?
Are you angry?
Are you brokenhearted?
Are you pissed off?
Are you at the end of your rope?

Good.

This is cause for celebration.

These are signs that your heart is still functioning. They are your soul’s alarms, telling you that things are not okay and that you are not okay because of it. It’s also confirmation of that precious ability to suffer greatly and still give a damn that has always sustained humanity in inhumane times.

Physical pain lets us know when our bodies have been damaged. Similarly, despair tells us when our spirits have incurred injury. Both are uncomfortable but necessary prompts to protect us from further damage and they demand a response. These days demand one too.

Friend, right now everything in you that is so bruised and so tender and so broken, is also the most powerful weapon on the planet. This is the catalytic fuel of revolution and you have access to it. In days when things seem to make no sense, when darkness seems to have the upper hand, when we’re overwhelmed by the prevalent wrong in our midst, we often lose hope because we wonder where the good people have gone.

This is your reminder that they haven’t gone anywhere: here you are.

So yes, you’re exhausted and you’re pushed to the brink and you feel like you’re a few bad moments from falling apart, but you’re also right where you need to be to do what is needed in this moment. You have everything you need to begin altering the planet in the only place anyone ever can: the here, now, close, small, and doable.

Whether your greatest present burden is a political reality, a relational fracture, a financial challenge, a medical diagnosis, or a personal demon—you still have great agency in the decisions you make, the attitude you approach each day with, the way you use your time and your resources to reflect whatever it is you value.

You’re here and able—and you’re also not alone.

One of the lies hopelessness tell you is that you are the only one who is not okay with this; that you are the last remaining warrior for your cause and that surrender isn’t only necessary and sensible—but inevitable. Refuse to believe this. It’s manure straight from hell’s public relations department, the worst kind of fake news designed to make you forget you belong to a sprawling community of like-hearted friends and strangers out there who share your emotional nausea at how upside-down so much seems.

As you read these very words, millions and millions of people are also similarly discouraged, convinced no one cares as much as they do that everything’s gone sideways and wondering what to do right now. I can promise you that.

You only need to get about the work of finding all those other noble but wounded souls, and fashioning a collective response: to use your gifts and hands and voices to speak into the not all rightness and make it right. Look for ways to help in your local political process; to volunteer with organizations already working there on the ground to help, feed, and heal; to leverage your circle of influence in person and on social media to do one small thing that you feel burdened to do; to create and give and support in whatever ways you are able.

The only way humanity loses is if decent human beings allow the inhumanity to win, if they stop fighting, if they resign themselves to their circumstances.

Hopelessness has never made the world more safe or just or beautiful—and it is of no use right now.
Anything else we can work with.
Anger can be redirected into something productive.
Outrage can be channeled into a useful response.
Grief can be transformed into goodness.
In days like these, nothing helpful can come from resignation.

The first step and the greatest victory today is simply in seeing that yes, good people still inhabit this place and that you are one of them—and that is where the hope is.

Take a look in the mirror, friend.

See the grief on your face.

Feel the full depth of your sadness and be encouraged by it today.

Hear your heartbeat and know that while that is happening, so much is still possible.

Keep moving, keep working, keep helping—and stop being so damn hopeless.

 

Trump Didn’t Break America, He Revealed Our Brokenness

America is broken.

I’m not sure that’s up for debate at this point.

But let’s be clear about something: Donald Trump didn’t break it.

He didn’t create anything.

Not the unmasked racism so proudly parading itself down crowded main streets, in school board meetings, and on neighborhood message boards;
not the antagonistic, gun-loving bravado still opposing sensible safeguards designed to protect our most vulnerable;
not the white-washed nationalistic fervor screaming its start-spangled supremacy into the ether;
not the strident, anti-Science, conspiratorial arrogance refusing to take any measures to preserve life from an insidious virus,
not the homophobic, misogynist religion being weaponized against women and the LGBTQ in church pulpits and supreme court rulings.

He is not the genesis of these things, or of hate crimes, book bannings, mass shootings, vaccine opposition, or violent insurrections.

Donald Trump did not invent any of these present national cancers.

What he did, was normalize them.

He removed the social stigma of bigotry by wielding it openly and with a kind of perverse joy.
He continually appealed to the lowest and the worst of humanity until it all became commonplace.
He railed against the educated and the qualified until ignorance became a badge of honor.
He gave people license to celebrate the profound ugliness they’d once concealed for the sake of decorum.
He showed gracious hospitality to the darkness residing in the recesses of human hearts.
Then, he simply let people reveal themselves—and they have.

Since the initial days of his 2016 presidential campaign, this solitary, morally-bankrupt serial grifter has become a kind of moral x-ray machine for hundreds of millions of us: exposing a deeply-embedded cruelty in our families, church members, friends, and neighbors that we never imagined existed.

As those we live alongside and loved have embraced this monstrous man and his predatory movement, we have been forced to reckon with it all:
how close and prevalent the hatred around us is,
how little progress we’ve actually made as a nation,
how little we really knew people we’ve shared staff meetings, church pews, and Thanksgiving tables with,
how many of our relationships were simply misinformed mythologies or marriages of convenience.

And since so many placed their very identity with him from the beginning, for years now they have applauded every bit of moral filth he’s generated, defended each reckless and dangerous act, doubled-down on every abuse of office and every betrayal of country, ratified high crimes against the very nation they claim to want to save.

They have chosen him over former political heroes, historically-revered journalists, once-beloved members of his own party, over any dissenting voice of reason or goodness—and in doing so, they have exposed their own hearts.

I suppose we should be grateful.

Had Donald Trump never been allowed to ascend to the highest levels of the political system and not been so transparent in his contempt for decency, we might never have found ourselves here at this pivot point in our history: not merely a nation politically but a people fractured relationally.

And that’s really the story here: not only a Republican Party and Evangelical Church that have fallen prostrate before this barren, empty husk of a man, disgracing both their oath and calling—but the mothers, uncles, sons, and best friends who have revealed something that we simply could not fathom being true before he appeared.

And no matter what transpires in coming elections or how the courts rule or what legal ramifications come or what legislative alterations take place, we are going to be left with this mess:
the social media separations,
the wordless disconnections,
the silent ghostings,
the expletive-laden terminations.

Even after he is gone, we who remain are going to exist in an America that is grievously broken, perhaps permanently so.

And as terrible as that reality is to contend with, it is still better than living in the numbed sedation of ignorance and denial that came before him; a veneer of politeness belying a terrible truth.

That truth is out now. We know who we are. We have no illusions. We have all declared our allegiances and chosen our hills.

Every facade has been torn down, every phony trapping of religiosity or patriotism stripped away. Now, there is only the sickening, unvarnished truth of who we are as a nation, and staring at it in the raking daylight is the only chance we have to confront and repair it.

In his craven lust for power, his absence of morality or character, his complete disregard for human life, his stratospheric narcissism, his full rejection of the law—Donald Trump has not broken America but revealed our brokenness.

He doesn’t deserve our thanks, but we are indebted to him just the same.

Now, we have to decide how we mend ourselves.