I remember the first time I realized that the god of the majority of American Christianity was basically racist. Someone dear to me was trying to make a case for Christian Zionism and as I stood in a dim lit hallway listening intensely, I felt this sort of - what the fuck, are you actually being serious right now – type of confusion.
The label “American Christian” is largely and globally associated with negative connotations. I mean how many American Evangelical Christians supported the Muslim Ban? Who are we bombing today? What was that reason we can’t love the most vulnerable? American Christianity far too often looks nothing like its savior.
Self-proclaimed Christian nation, I wish the lives of others mattered to you as much as Starbucks coffee cups. I know the guy you call savior instructed you to love others as yourselves but that seems to have become more of a catchy phrase than an actual command to live by.
A few days ago, a handful of miles north of where I am sitting right now, a chemical attack massacred innocent Syrian children as they slept. As the internet floods with yet more images of small, limp, lifeless bodies piling up, my heart falls apart knowing this just adds to the atrocities the world watches yet refuses to respond to with love.
In a few short days my husband and I will be taking a team to the Syrian border in Jordan to Love, serve, and learn from our Syrian neighbors who are refugees in the region. I’m pretty sure I am not supposed to say this but here’s the deal, I don’t feel the couple of weeks we spend abroad is some wildly meaningful act towards the wonderful people we encounter.
What if the Great Command of Jesus – Love others- was literally the entire point of following his ways? What if you didn’t have an underlying motive of, I don’t know, conversion? What if you are not meant to be a little messiah and in your attempts to “save” others, you are actually putting yourself on a pedestal which tends to dehumanize others.
To My Former Latinx Students,
I am truly sorry, I lied to you.
Do you remember the first week of our US History class during the Fall of 2015? We discussed America’s first national motto, E Pluribus Unum. As I explained the meaning, Out of Many, One, we agreed that a wonderful attribute of America is the many immigrants with diverse cultures that make up this nation.
I’ve never really understood that handsome, light-skinned, blue-eyed Jesus who never seems to smile in the portraits that hang on the walls of so many American churches. I’ve always had the tendency to lean towards skepticism when it came to American Christianity. I think I picked up on the hypocrisy rather early in life.
Dear American Conservative Church,
I know I can be pretty hard on you and you deserve an explanation.
I am trying to follow the ways of Jesus, I’m sure you are too. My struggle is within the contradictions I see between your speech and actions, and the ways of your savior. The red letters are not aligning.
Man our world is a mess right now, I bet you would agree. However, I don’t quite understand your response to the chaos; the self-protection approach doesn’t make sense when it overrides Love.
American Christians, those who support the refugee ban, I have a friend I would like you to meet.
Let me tell you about my dear friend. He happens to be a refugee in the Middle East where he and his beautiful family live in an incredibly old refugee camp that looks more like cement apartment complexes than the camps you see on the news. Kind of like a unique sort of small neighborhood.
And, oh yeah, the camp is partially surrounded by a massive, internationally deemed illegal, wall that cuts through their country’s land.
“Women in America have equality; if you want to see oppressed women go to (fill in the blank country)!” Okay, we have all been hearing a lot of this rhetoric since the Women’s March, often coming from American Christians.
First of all, I want to acknowledge that there are indeed many countries where women have far fewer rights than here in the good-ole USA.
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s take a closer look at Western culture, where the objectification of women here is real and some would say majorly oppressive. Let’s talk a bit about that.
Jesus is not a white guy. I hate to break it to you, but all those pictures you grew up seeing on the walls of your church or in your grandma’s dining room showcasing the fair skinned, blue eyed, handsome white Jesus, are fabrications. They lied to you. Jesus isn’t American; he’s not even campaigning for America’s greatness! He actually doesn’t care more about Americans than any other humans in the entire world (including Muslims and Communists). I’m serious; I checked the entire bible and couldn’t find one sentence pertaining to America being the most amazing nation ever in existence. I know, I was shocked too.
Saying we should Love others is a pretty easy statement to make. If you are a follower of Jesus, it's the essence of his teachings and kind of required. I think many of us desire to and probably feel that we do pretty okay at Loving others. However, if we really think about it, there are more than likely some serious stipulations we tend to employ, many of which even sound like straight up logic.
“The smile is the beginning of love.” Some of my favorite words of Mother Teresa, a human I deeply admire. Love can be a big scary word, especially for a young shy introvert whose favorite thing to do is sit in a coffee shop, alone, looking completely unapproachable listening to music, completely engulfed in writing my thoughts or reading someone else’s. Regardless of my natural draw to solitude, I love people and something as simple as smile from the soul captivates my heart more than any amount of small talk from the most charismatic of people. It’s so simple, yet so powerful in the way of Love and kindness. This past summer my husband and I traveled from Jordan to Palestine, basically winging our entire adventure. One of the most beautiful things we encountered, over and over on our journey, was experiencing the deep loving comfort initiated with a simple smile from a stranger.
Two months ago, my husband and I were watching the Kardashian-style drama (my spell check just corrected the spelling of Kardashian, our culture is in clear crisis) of the RNC unfold and I find the ongoing “Christian card” being played fascinating. Before some of you get too excited or pissed off and quit reading, this is not going to be a Trump-slamming rant, but more of a reflection, trying to understand where Jesus fits into the ideals of many of those whom call themselves Christians in this country during this election season.
Three weeks have passed since we left the Middle East and come back to the world of consumerism, bikinis, bad coffee, endless supply of clean water, and not so terrifying driving. I’ve had some time to reflect on my experience on the Syrian border and the following is a mixture of thoughts I wrote while in Mafraq, as well as some reflection at home. In other words, as the busyness of life in the US quickly reemerged, I may have procrastinated putting these thoughts that I have deeply wanted to share on paper.
If they say home is where the heart is, then I have come home. The sound of horns constantly honking, the smell of cigarettes and cardamom, and the air, it's like my first breath all over again, I even like the near death experiences of driving in the Middle East. It makes no logical sense that some random white girl who grew up in Texas and Canada's heart only feels the most complete in the Middle East. Weird and unnatural, but it's one of the most beautiful feelings I've ever experienced. It could be because I've always loved adventure, culture, hospitality, and amazing coffee is always a win in my life. But more than likely, it's because this is where I learned who Jesus actually is, thousands of miles away from the West.