If You Voted for Donald Trump, You Owe My Children an Apology

If you voted for Donald Trump, you owe my children an apology.

You owe them an apology for making them grow up with a hateful, incompetent, petulant, predatory monster as their President.

For placing their safety in the hands of an impulsive child, who trolls world leaders with nuclear weapons and wields our military like an insecure coward brandishes a gun at a party.

For unleashing the fierce tide of bullying, racism, bigotry, and homophobia they have to see in their classrooms and ball fields and neighborhoods—because the man you chose has repeatedly encouraged and legislated it.

For making them do “shooter drills” at school, because you’ve sanctioned a man who is fully in bed with the NRA, who removes barriers to mentally ill people getting guns, and who does nothing to prevent military weapon proliferation.

For the terrifying images of a crowd of emboldened, violent, torch wielding Nazis terrorizing a town—and of a President who coddled them afterward.

For the inexplicable disconnect they see in a man claiming to be Christian—while being so devoid of anything remotely resembling Jesus.

You owe my daughter an apology for excusing his reprehensible words about women when voting for him; for ignoring the multiple accusations of sexual assault against him, for placing a man with such clear disregard for her at the highest level of leadership in the country she calls home.

You owe my son an apology for taking someone with a lifetime resume of filth and misogyny, and asking him to look up to that man as a leader; for rewarding the very sexist, ignorant, repugnant behavior we implore him never to engage in or abide in those around him.

You’ve let my children down by thrusting them into an America that is far less secure, less compassionate, less decent, more fractured, and more violent than it was a year ago—and because that truth alters children immersed in it.

But lest you think this is just about me, about my family, about my children—be assured it is not.

Yes, you’ve surely failed my children with your vote, and more so with the way you’ve doubled down on the toxicity released over the past year—but you don’t owe an apology to them alone.

You owe your children an apology too.

They too are inheriting this jagged, hateful, angry nation you’ve co-created with your vote. They too are reminded every day by their President, that honesty and integrity and empathy and kindness are of little value; that going low gets the intoxicating applause of the crowd and the affection of the ignorant.

They too will have their personalities, their priorities, their sense of safety, and their very identities formed in the crucible of this scalding hatred Donald Trump presides over and continually cultivates.

If your children one day become ill, they too will have a difficult time affording care or staying alive without going broke.

They too will have to breathe the air and drink the water and reside on the planet that this President leaves to rot.

They too will be saturated in the enmity and the callousness of this country—and make no mistake it will change who they are. It will change the way they perceive truth and the way they respect differences and the way they value people’s bodies and well-being. 

And not just my children and not just your children.

You owe an apology to every child who has to spend their formative years in an America that is defined by:
fear of the other,
an epidemic of cruelty,
a poverty of decency,
a deadly allergy to facts,
a Christianity of coercion and malice,
a defiant resistance to diversity.

You owe an apology to every young woman growing up in an America where celebrity preachers vilify assault victims and defend predators, where accusers are tried and offenders elected.

You owe an apology to every young man who forms his identity in a culture where men can do whatever they want to women and they will rarely be held accountable; where gentleness is a liability and brutality an asset.

Yes, this horrible stuff existed long before this year, but it’s never had such a powerful and uncontested cheerleader with such an ability to ratify it all—and that’s something that’s on you and that you’ll have to own. That’s just how it is.

So yes, you can puff out your chest online, and posture and boast all you want.
You can cling to the fading lie that you’ve won anything here, or that you’ve somehow struck a blow for America or Jesus or patriotism.
You can tell me to suck it up and to let it go and to f*ck off—which I’m now quite used to.
But at the end of the day you’ve simply let a lot of people down:

My children.
Your children.
The children of this country and the planet.

They all have lost because you were irresponsible with one of the greatest responsibilities you’ve ever had in their lifetime, and now they have to live with the terrible fallout—and you owe them all an apology.

I’m well aware of what your likely response to all this will be. I don’t imagine an apology will be forthcoming—so I’ll apologize to them on your behalf.

Then, I’ll spend every day living that apology.

I’ll remind my children your children and all children, that there are lots of adults who still believe that people are inherently valuable and stunningly beautiful—that not all adults fear brown people and gay people and foreigners and immigrants.

I’ll remind them that there are still people committed to the truth and to equality, and the richness found in diversity.

I’ll do my best to make them feel safe and loved and hopeful here, even on the days that I don’t.

I’ll even teach them to forgive people who fail and hurt them, because I know how difficult that it is right now.

And I’ll remind them that even when bad people are rewarded, doing the right thing is still the thing most worth doing.

I’ll teach them that when hatred seems the most treasured currency, that love is still worth more than gold.

I’m just sorry that they have to live with something (and someone) far less than they deserve—and they didn’t have to.

 

Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.

 

 

 

Men, We Need to Stop Being Horrible

Guys, we need to talk.

I’m sure you’ve been watching the news. I know you see what I see.

It seems like every day there’s another stomach-turning mass shooting to grieve over,
another bombshell revelation of a high-profile public figure’s sexual misconduct, another sexual assault on a stranger while they jog or walk their dog or return from a class.

And you may have noticed that there’s one, terrible thread tying all this perpetual horror together—it’s us.

The sickness that so afflicts us in these days, transcends political affiliation, religious tradition, race, orientation, and vocation—but it rarely transcends the Y chromosome. 

You can find our horror stories every single day without even trying. You can find evidence of it where you work and study and shop and browse. If your eyes are at all open when walking through this world, it’s a fairly noticeable reality that there are vile things that as a general rule—women rarely, if ever do:

They don’t prey upon those over whom they hold power in the workplace.
They don’t lie in wait to sexually assault strangers who pass by them in the street.
They don’t shoot up movie theaters and shopping malls and churches when they feel wronged.
They don’t murder spouses and lovers when they try to leave a relationship.
They don’t commit random violence against LGBTQ people they pass on the street.
They don’t subject strangers who pass them on the street to disgusting catcalls.

Men, we do these things—with alarming regularity and proficiency. And it’s a problem.

Obviously we can find anecdotal evidence in each of these cases to the contrary, but the fact remains, that as a fairly reliable rule we men have a seemingly inexhaustible capacity for violence and ignorance—one that women simply can’t touch.

In fact we’d be hard pressed to find any such examples of wide-scale or systemic malevolence to point to with regard to our sisters on this planet.

I suppose there are all sorts of explanations that will be proffered to explain it all: some toxic cocktail of genetics, societal gender roles, religious tradition, familial hand me down misogyny, Hollywood propaganda, and caveman muscle memory—but I’m not particularly interested in that.

I don’t want to entertain any mansplaining that excuses or justifies this.

I just know that we need to get our sh*t together and stop being horrible:

We need to stop leveraging our power and position to gratify our libidos.
We need to understand that someone else’s body is not our jurisdiction.
We need to stop believing we’re entitled to whatever we want in this world—and that we can grab or attack or shoot anyone when we believe we don’t get it.
We need to stop enabling or protecting or defending other men who do terrible things.
We need to stop waiting until we’re forced into an apology and earnestly express contrition after the fact—and decide we’re not going to be reckless or lecherous or violent at all to begin with.

In other words men, we need to recover our humanity again in real-time. It’s really that simple.

We need to start pulling our weight here in decent, adult civilization and to stop settling for some perpetual, urge-feeding, (stup)id existence.

There is a better way of being human; a way of compassion and gentleness and decency, a path that shuns violence and selfishness and self-gratification—and for far too long we’ve embraced the lie that real men aren’t wired for it or capable of it.

That’s a crock. It’s a coward’s way out. It a weak person’s crutch.

We can’t act inhumanely, we can’t behave like animals, we can’t live with complete disregard for everyone around us—and then pretend that just because we’re men this is just how it is. That’s a cop-out; one that any man aspiring to the best of himself wouldn’t ever settle for.

I’ve been fortunate in my life to know, work alongside, and be mentored by men of great characters and I know there are many such men out there. But I also know such men seem to be a severely endangered species. They seem to be yielding the floor to the bullies and the predators and the aggressors, and that’s a tragedy. It’s a tragedy for those who work and study and worship and live alongside us. It’s a tragedy for the children who are inheriting the world this is creating. Most of all perhaps, it’s a tragedy for those among us who will see the lowest definition of a man, and only aspire to that.

Men, may we look intently inward and look critically at one another. May we dig deeper. May we stand taller. May we be better versions of ourselves, and may we redefine what it means to be a man and a gentleman—by simply being human.

 

Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.

 

 

A Letter to Survivors of Sexual Assault

To every person who has survived harassment, abuse, or violation:

Dear Friend,

I’ve been thinking about you and wanted you to hear a few things today, in case you never hear them for anyone else. I so hope this reaches you.

I imagine these days must be difficult for you.

Not that every day isn’t difficult given what you’ve endured, but I imagine these are especially painful times—
to see the headlines and the hashtags, and to be continually reminded of the personal hell you’ve walked through;
to watch people debate the veracity of accusers,
to see survivors cross-examined by strangers,
to hear supposed adults suggest a child’s consent,
to listen to professed Christians defend predatory politicians using the Bible,
to see lawmakers take the side of the victimizers,
to witness admitted offenders being rewarded.

I can’t fathom what it all must feel like to bear the brunt of such enmity and violence.
The chronic pain it all manufactures must be more than your heart can handle,
the rage it generates within you, immeasurable.
I imagine it all causes you to silently relive the nightmares over and over again—and I wanted you to know that I’m so very sorry.

I’m sorry for the first time you had your story so terribly altered by another human being—and equally sorry for the countless times others have knowingly or unknowingly perpetuated that moment; for the way we have further preserved your pain and prolonged your grief. 

It’s likely that you quietly carry much of this burden alone, and that must make the strain tremendous. I imagine it further confirms your decision to stay silent and to remain in the shadows; seeing what those who speak out are greeted by—the ridicule and minimizing and condemnation.

I know that you alone have specific proximity to this pain.
I know there isn’t anything I or anyone can do from a distance to step into that pain and sit there alongside you in it—though I so wish I could.
I know there’s little I or anyone can say to fully lift the weight from your shoulders; to replace the things you’ve lost, to rewrite the sickening plot twist you’ve had to live through—but I hope these words lighten the load enough today for you to keep going.
I hope they send a sliver of light to you there in the darkness, and that it makes a difference.
I hope you find in these words, something that feels like love—and that you rest in it.

My friend, I’m sorry for both your initial injury—and for the way the world causes you further damage when you take the risk of stepping forward, or simply as you endure our daily oblivion. You deserve far better. 

Even though I can’t walk in the shoes you’ve walked, know that I am standing beside you as closely as I can, and that I am for you.

And above all, know that you are loved and valued and respected and believed.

May you be greatly encouraged today.

 

If you are a survivor and you need help, or if you want to find out how you can be an advocate for survivors, here are some places to start: 

RAINN
National Sexual Assault Hotline
EROC (End Rape on Campus)
National Domestic Violence Hotline

Safe Horizon
INCITE (For Women, Gender Non-Conforming, and Trans people of Color)
On Eagle’s Wings Ministries
Human Rights Campaign (LGBTQ)
NCLR Nation Center for Lesbian Rights 

Not Alone
Safe Helpline (Victim support for members of Military) 

 

 

Why Would Anyone Consider Christianity Today?

I’ve been a Christian most of my life; raised in the faith since before I could remember, and serving as a local church pastor for the past twenty years, much of that time here in the American Bible Belt.

Though it is a fairly tenuous connection these days, I am still tethered to my religious tradition by a combination of present personal conviction, along with the spiritual muscle memory of my past—and right now it honestly feels like more the latter than the former.

There is an attrition to my joy lately. I find it more and more difficult with each passing day to outwardly claim this faith because of what that declaration now immediately aligns me with in the eyes of the watching world. It now aligns me with transphobic politicians and Muslim-hating celebrity evangelists and perpetually oppressed Christmas warriors. It now aligns me with gun-toting preachers and damnation-wielding social media trolls and predatory Presidents. It now aligns me with the least-like-Jesus stuff I can imagine.

To some people, this is all Christianity is—which as a professed Christian now makes me a jackass by association. These people believe they know me. They believe that know my politics and my passions. They believe they know how I feel about gay marriage and immigrants and women’s rights. They don’t realize that I am sickened by this thing professing to be Christianity too. They don’t know that I am as burdened as they are to resist its damage. They don’t see that I totally get that this monstrosity claiming to be of Jesus would be unrecognizable to him—that he would be as horrified by it as they are. 

I know that I am primarily still a Christian primarily because I have always been a Christian; because I know what I know about Jesus, and I can see when people are stealing his identity and bastardizing his legacy. I know when they’re twisting the Scriptures to subjugate people, when they’re fashioning God in their own bigoted image, when they’re slapping a veneer of religiosity on something with no redemptive value. I’m able to see the frauds and the false prophets because I’m experienced the real and the beautiful of this faith—but not everyone has, and so I don’t blame them for rejecting it all. It is profoundly reject-able.

At this point, I don’t know why anyone would choose Christianity if they weren’t already a Christian. If all I had to go by was this homophobic, power-hungry, bullying, bitter thing I see running amok every day in America, I’d run from it to. If following Jesus meant signing-up for this, I’d have no interest either.

The American Bible Belt Evangelical Church has become the greatest argument for someone not becoming a Christian, for them rejecting organized religion and never looking back.

But there are other expressions of this faith here, though they may not have the megaphones and megachurches. There are loving, inclusive, beautiful communities filled with people of compassion and generosity and mercy. There are men and women of faith in every corner of this country who are striving to emulate Jesus and who are rightly embarrassed by the hatred perpetuated in his name.

We believe in loving our neighbor as ourselves.
We believe in welcoming the outsider and the outcast.
We believe the table is open to anyone who comes hungry.
We believe compassion is our highest aspiration.

They are millions of Christians who reject the bigotry that you reject, who are sickened by the hypocrisy you are sickened by, who condemn the violence you condemn, who deeply grieve over the hatred you grieve over.

Maybe these things aren’t enough for you to reconsider your aversion to organized religion, but hopefully it will be enough to let you know that people like us are standing with you; that many of us who claim faith in Jesus have no interest in this kind of Christianity either—because we know Jesus wouldn’t either.

Be encouraged.

 

Order John’s book, ‘A Bigger Table’ here.