After staying up late to watch the American election on Tuesday, I woke up on Wednesday morning full of overlapping and powerful emotions. I felt fear and hopelessness that reminded me of the feelings I had on September 11, 2001. I was 13 years old and I remember riding home on my big yellow school bus feeling small and powerless and like nothing would ever be right in the world again. But there was also another powerful feeling clinging to me Wednesday morning, a feeling that wasn’t there back in 2001: shame.
Lying there in bed on Wednesday morning, I felt ashamed to call myself a Christian. What do I have in common faith wise with the millions of Christians who voted for someone who as fundamentally at odds with love for neighbours, with radical hospitality of outsiders, with care for this earth that is our home, and really everything that my Christian faith rests on?
I’m not doubting the importance of religion in the lives of Trump supporters, it just makes me wonder, are we really following the same religion?
Immersing myself in social media on Wednesday, I learned I wasn’t alone. Many of my friends and connections on both sides of the border were experiencing the election results not just as a political blow, but as a spiritual one as well.
Addressing Christians who had voted for Trump, one beloved friend wrote:
“you are exactly the reason I will never call myself a Christian. And if Christ were alive today, I’m certain he’d never put himself under that umbrella either. Christ would be deeply disheartened by your fear, racism, sexism and violence.”
I’m not ready to set aside the label of Christian just yet, but if I’m going to use it, I think it’s essential that I acknowledge the ways that Christianity has been used and misused over the centuries. We know these things, but they are worth repeating. Christianity has been used to justify the crusades, slavery, the holocaust, the residential school system, the marginalization of the LGBTQ community and countless everyday episodes of oppression.
I was always taught to hold my head up high and boldly call myself a Christian, but I’m thinking now that a certain level of humility, remorse and maybe even shame might be a very important thing for those who call ourselves Christians.
As much as we might try to distance ourselves from those who live out their Christian faith very differently than us, the world doesn’t always make those separations. I don’t know what to do about this, other than urging as many of us as possible to live out God’s love in ways that help the larger world to form new associations with the word Christian.
I dream of a world where people hear the word Christian and immediately think of lush community gardens, of worship services that are vibrant and inclusive, of multi-faith potlucks and peace marches, of refugee sponsorship.
These things are happening already in the community I call home and in so many other places too. That’s where I find hope.
For now, let me say that I am a Christian, and this week that label is tinged with both pride and shame.