“Hope has two beautiful daughters; their names are Anger and Courage. Anger at the way things are, and Courage to see that they do not remain as they are.” -Augustine of Hippo
Donald Trump may have lost the election, but it looks like Trumpism is here to stay. Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined a well-defined ideology characterized by nativism, white supremacy, and conspiracy theories, embraced by American Evangelical leaders. Now “Patriot Churches” are a thing. In reading their propaganda, I see no Jesus. Their platform is just an extension of the Religious Right’s crusade to condemn the LGBTQ community and maintain the power of the status quo. Hate didn’t disappear with the election results; it’s just flexing its muscles within the sanctuary walls.
“You can’t go home again,” is the sad reality for many Ex-vangelicals like me.
In these past few weeks, I’ve been giving a lot of thought and prayer into what comes next. Like most Americans, living through 2020 has left me exhausted. Almost seventeen million Americans have been infected with COVID-19, and over 300,000 have died. Black people continue to be disproportionately murdered without consequence. Poor children continue to go hungry. The rich continue to grow richer, and with the spread of COVID out of control, the number of “less fortunate” Americans is increasing exponentially.
So what’s a Christian to do?
That’s what I will be exploring in the next few weeks. Certainly, the election results are eliciting reactions from both sides. But as a follower of Jesus Christ, I should have a default behavior. Hope used to be my baseline response. I wore my innocence and trust in Christianity like a sparkly garment, woven from the shimmering threads of my relationship with Jesus and life as part of a church. After three years of believing the Evangelicals would come to their senses, Hope’s daughter Anger blew in from out of town. She surprised me with her power, ripping the fabric of my beautiful cloak away and exposing the reality of politics and religion. She and I left the shredded remnant hanging by the sanctuary door.
Months later, my former church family is still married to Donald; together, they’re birthing Patriot Churches. I’m afraid the massive damage to the Evangelical establishment cannot be undone. The wreckage of relationships smokes in the ruins. Sunday mornings are now spent at the supermarket. With COVID running rampant, it’s hard to form new social groups, and the loneliness is exacerbated by isolation. It’s tempting to throw in the towel on finding a new Jesus-based community.
However, I haven’t given up just yet. Recently I was listening to a podcast from a fellow Christian outcast, and he shared the Augustine quote about Hope’s daughters.
Without meaning to, I had invited Anger to spend the last year helping me cope with this tragedy. Her power helped me reach beyond my technological limits and find ways to fight on a national level. She coaxed me out of my comfort zone as well as my tiny little town. I am grateful for the time we spent together, but I believe I have learned everything she had to teach me.
Now I’m inviting her sister, Courage, to come stay for a while.
Courage’s broad following is nothing new, but she’s breaking fresh ground among Ex-vangelicals. Many former believers have given up on Christianity, but we must fight devolving into sofa spuds. We who are still on firm footing with Jesus Christ must pray without ceasing for new direction. Young people are this disaster’s greatest casualties. My husband and I hear from them all time: kids from our Sunday School classes, now in their twenties and thirties, who watch in disbelief as their parents continue to follow the pillars of Evangelicalism-turned-Trumpism. All we can tell them is this:
“Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever.”- Hebrews 13:8 NIV
“The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things through his powerful word.”- Hebrews 1:3 NIV
We ask them to keep talking to God. We urge them to keep reading the Gospel accounts of Jesus’s life and teachings. We pray for them. And if we don’t give up, hopefully they won’t either.
Leaving Anger for Courage
I want to spend more time learning from people who lived out real courage. In searching for a quote, I discovered Mary MacLeod Bethune (1875-1955). Mrs. Bethune was an American stateswoman, educator, philanthropist, humanitarian, womanist, civil rights activist, and a national adviser to President Franklin D. Roosevelt. Known as “The First Lady of the Struggle,” this daughter of slaves changed the world in a time when women of color had no voice and, seemingly, no power.
She said, “We have a powerful potential in our youth, and we must have the courage to change old ideas and practices so that we may direct their power toward good ends.”
I suspect Mary MacLeod Bethune spent time in Anger’s company but used what she learned with Courage against what must have appeared to be impossible odds. I, on the other hand, am a white middle-class American. To give up the fight, no matter how dark the forecast, would be a self-centered and lazy waste of my God-given gifts and an insult to the brave warriors who have gone before me. The American Evangelical landscape appears littered with broken relationships, and our leaders have revealed their all-too-human quests for power. But Jesus is still King. His Word still stands. His glory still shines. His power still conquers. And most importantly, His grace still covers us—me, Religious Right leaders, Trump-supporting neighbors, estranged family members, all of us who have lost something in the fight.
As we approach winter’s coldest days, I have sewn a new cloak to wear. This one’s not sparkly with the naïveté of 2016. Instead, she’s heavier; woven with a fresher awareness of racism, threaded with dark strands of rebellion I wear in solidarity. Her rainbow buttons serve to remind me that all of God’s children deserve equal rights and to be part of a family. The collar is ratty and torn, stained with the blood of the desperate and ripped by razor wire. This isn’t a coat I would have worn to church four years ago.
But I should have. Jesus would love this coat, and his opinion is all that matters.