Coming Home

Blame the gays.

It’s all their fault.

Seriously, they’re the ones who broke me.

 

They made me miss Jesus.

 

A few weeks ago, I took a short road trip to Chicago to hang out with my cousin and his boyfriend. Our plan was to go to Pride together – the first time for all of us. And that’s what we did, but it ended up being so much more than that for me.

First things first – as soon as I arrived in the city, I met them at their church for Sunday service. I figured it would be a relatively typical church experience – at least typical for me these days. If David and Seth felt comfortable and accepted there, I figured it would be a decent experience. But I didn’t plan on much more than that.

It snuck up on me. I wasn’t immediately blown away. Nothing was crazy unexpected or meaningful. But that was kind of the point. Throughout the service and even more as I dwelled on it for a while thereafter, I realized how normal it felt. How much like home it felt. Not my current living situation or my current place in life —  My roots. My upbringing. HOME.

And yet. There was so much diversity in that small congregation. Black, brown, white. So much queerness. So much joy.

That part wasn’t like home. But that part is my current home. Past and present were colliding. And it was wonderful.

After church, we all (most of the congregation!) ran to the train in our rainbow church clothes to stake out our starting place in the parade. We walked for two hours through the streets of Chicago, giving high fives and hugs, smiles and love. So much love. I have never felt so much pure love and joy in one place. It filled me with a happiness I have rarely known and I felt like I was overflowing with the love I had soaked in from the literally thousands of people there. Later we went to a neighborhood Pride party, danced, had drinks, and just talked, and there was again just so much happiness and freedom. The people were amazing, the atmosphere was incredible, and the joy was palpable. It was a day I will not soon forget.

That weekend was honestly one of my favorite memories in recent experience, not just because of the festivities, but also because David and Seth are two of the most amazing people you could meet and I had such a wonderful time with them. But even in the few weeks that have passed since then, I have kept thinking about that weekend. And something has been happening in me.

I have gone through a period of huge progression in my worldview and faith the past decade or so, and especially in probably the last 6-7 years. I have not once completely lost God – even when I wanted to, I couldn’t stop believing in Him. But I had been hurt by the church, let down by the church, and most importantly, found that I could not reconcile a lot of things I had grown up believing with what I saw and learned in the reality of the world. Life was bigger, fuller, more beautiful, but also more complex than I had grown up believing. It required nuanced thinking, compassion, and understanding. Things are not black and white, and therefore black and white answers to complex issues are not sufficient. I saw a lot of hypocrisy and inconsistency in the tradition in which I grew up, and needed a clean break. This caused me – mostly unintentionally – to start to view a lot of things I had once known as inherently frustrating and/or repulsive. There were some legitimate issues I had with things, to be sure, but I had started forming some of my own black and white reflexes to things that made me feel antsy. Whether or not this was right, it actually was necessary at least for a while so that I could look at things through a whole new perspective and leave the pain and confusion behind for a while.

But as I stood in the Chicago theater-turned-church, in the midst of the rainbow congregation, I sang with the small praise band and clapped my hands and remembered what it felt like to express through emotion and song what a great God we serve. It was the same kind of singing and clapping I had grown to despise, but it felt real for once. I could put my heart behind it because I believed the words and I truly believed those around me believed them too – that God loves EVERYONE and is proud of ALL of His creation. That His LGBTQ children are not a mistake; that He created them just the way they are and He loves it. That He demands that black lives matter, and that He weeps with the mothers of murdered children and the refugees who have their children ripped from their arms. I listened to the sermon and I believed that there is hope in the church – that we are not okay with the way the world is, that we are determined to make it better, but that we are also okay sitting in our pain and acknowledging it, rather than having to put on a happy face and try to make it go away.

I felt the things of my past that were good. I felt the emotion of falling in love with a God that is truly good. And I was reminded that I do need His help daily and I need a community of people to walk with me in life. But I felt the things of my present as well. I felt the passion for those who are marginalized, for a world that is broken, for a desire to make it better. And I finally – for the first time – truly saw how my past and my present could fit together. That it was possible. That I didn’t have to sacrifice one for the other. And it gave me hope for the future.

I don’t know what this new evolution of my faith will look like yet. I’m still figuring out what it even means. But it is giving me life. I’m starting to get out of my head and stop trying to have all the answers, even though I thought that’s exactly what I was running from. It wasn’t; I was simply going about it a different way. None of that was wrong. It was exactly where I needed to be at the time I needed to be there. But now it’s a new stage. And I’m ready. I am ready to fall in love again.

The New Normal

Late last night, I found myself weeping on the bathroom floor in my apartment. I had finally broken down and cracked under the weight of all of the pain and anger and frustration I was feeling both personally and for others, and I could not stop the tears from streaming out relentlessly. The only word and coherent thought I could even muster right then was: “Why?”

A day and a half ago, a man opened fire on a crowd of people gathered to enjoy music and a good time. This good time quickly devolved into a hellish nightmare that ended the lives of 59 and injured over 500 more, as bullets from a fully automatic machine gun ripped and tore through helpless and innocent bodies.

Yesterday morning, when I woke up and first read about what happened, I posted this to twitter:

At this time, the casualty count wasn’t even as high as it now is, but any at all is too much. How are we expected to go on and act like life is normal when this kind of thing happens? We are not created with the intention of processing these kinds of events. While humans are clearly more than capable of such actions, in our purest design, we were not meant for this. In our humanness, though, we always feel a compulsive need to try to explain and reason through any kind of situation, but when there just is no rhyme or reason to such intense pain and destruction, our brains and souls become overwhelmed and want to shut down. Any violence and tragedy affects me, but something at this magnitude just made me numb.

All day yesterday I was reading of the events that unfolded, the pieces of the investigation that were trying to be put together, and the outrage that so many were feeling in response. I felt this as well, but I was trying to even process what happened before I could put together any good thoughts or words on the topic.

Then I was told by someone close to me who saw my tweet that it worried them and that I should seek counseling for PTSD. I honestly don’t know if that was genuine concern, or if they were mocking me. If they were mocking me, that is incredibly cruel. But even if it was genuine, it still struck a blow to me as to how clueless and heartless it seems that they apparently can not comprehend such an emotional response to a senseless act of terror committed against fellow humans. I was not there, I did not experience the violence firsthand, and I do not know anyone personally affected by it. So clearly, I am not so incredibly depressed or distraught that I am anywhere near having PTSD. But to feel so overcome by reading the news of this tragedy that I don’t know how to face the day like everything’s okay – is that really so crazy?

Is this where we have come to? Do we really trivialize pain and suffering so easily? I read this response last night and it honestly crushed me. I wasn’t even so much personally offended, as just dumbfounded by the callous lack of empathy about the whole situation. Have mass shootings just become so much the norm in our country that we say “thoughts and prayers” and move on with our lives, so long as we weren’t the victims ourselves? Is this the new normal? I refuse to be so unmoved.

So I sat on the bathroom floor last night and shed tears for 59 lives that should never have been taken so soon. I shed tears for the fact that this has happened so many times before in our nation and we never act to make it stop. I shed tears that human beings can be so cruel to other human beings, not only by committing acts of violence, but by being those who stand idly by and do nothing to curb the violence of others.

What is it going to take for us to wake up? When are we going to have leaders who will actually fight for the literal LIVES of their people and put a stop the bleeding? I for one am exhausted. I haven’t even done as much to make a difference as I would like, and I want to do better. But even caring is exhausting. And yet, I refuse to sit comfortably by and act like there is nothing we can do to prevent crazy people from doing crazy things. That kind of attitude is simply a denial of common sense, and can only be afforded by those who are not touched by violence directly.

This is not about politics, people. This is about innocent American citizens – human beings – being massacred for no reason. Moms and dads are losing their children. Children are losing their parents. Spouses are losing their loved ones. And for what? Stop acting like there is nothing we can do. We can act and we must.

***

If you haven’t yet, PLEASE read through these profiles of the victims of the Las Vegas shooting. Until we force ourselves to face the realities of the humanity being lost, we will not be moved. You can’t truly feel the weight of the atrocity until you acknowledge these victims as people just like you and me. May they all rest in peace.

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/las-vegas-route-91-shooting-victims_us_59d235cde4b06791bb11d6b1

Land of the Free, Home of the Kind

I’m angry. I’m frustrated. I’m heartbroken. I’m exhausted.

And I don’t know how to resolve any of it.

I am overwhelmed by the pain and need and devastation that exists in the world. Even more than that though, I am overwhelmed by the lack of response from those who are capable of helping or spurring others to help. There are more than enough resources in this world for everyone. No one should be hungry, or homeless, or hurting. There is literally no excuse.

Yet we sit here and bicker about what is “disrespectful to our flag” like a bunch of petty and entitled children while people are dying in our streets and whole island nations are being destroyed by hurricanes. We sit by and watch governments systematically massacre their own people and argue over what approach to the situation helps our own cause the most. We laugh nervously at leaders who openly curse people who dare to stand for justice and threaten other nations who are looking for an excuse for war, and we chuckle it away, hoping that we’re just over-exaggerating things in our minds, and none of this will actually affect us. We demand respect for a piece of cloth that represents our country, but we don’t stop to consider if that country represents and respects all its citizens.

So you know what? Screw governments. Screw “America First.” Screw “making America great.” America will never be great by putting our own shallow priorities first. America will never be great by shutting out and condemning the most vulnerable. Pride in a nation simply for being the largest empire on the earth is not a kind of pride I want to have. I want to be proud of America. I do. I was born here, my family has been here for a long time, and I think there is a lot of good in this country. But I want to be proud of it for more than just it being my homeland. I want to have pride in my nation for having the widest arms open to receive those who need our refuge and our assistance the most. I want to have pride in my nation for openly celebrating diversity so much that we show CLEARLY that we truly value each and every life of each and every race, gender, creed, and sexual orientation. I want America to be kind. We have got to kill the hypermasculinity that is so worshipped in our society, and stop trying to be the biggest, the strongest, and the most militant force in the world. As long as we keep fighting injustice with violence, we perpetuate a violent and destructive society.

It’s time we learned to be kind. It’s time we learned to shut our mouths, put down our weapons (be they literal or figurative), and listen to each other. Try something scary: just pretend the “other side” is right for a minute. Take them at their word and don’t immediately assume they have an angle or that it’s all a conspiracy. Listen to their side, word for word, and take it at face value. After you’ve weighed the facts of their statements with what you know to be true in your own experienced world, then you can decide on which side to land. If you still believe the way you did before, fine. But maybe now you’ve actually taken the time to see things from their side and understand where they’re coming from. This can make for much more productive conversation. If you happen to actually side with them now, great! It’s okay to change your views. It is not being wishy-washy; it is simply being a discerning, mature individual who can filter new information through their processing systems and form opinions.

Humanity, I know we can be better than this. We are better than this. But nothing can change until we let down our guard and be willing to be wrong. Sticking to our guns simply because we are scared of life as we know it changing will get us nowhere. Being vulnerable is scary. Admitting we are wrong is scary. Giving up privilege is scary. But if we all come to this point together, we will meet on equal ground. And life is better on equal ground.

Love is Love

I have felt the need for a long time now to get something off my chest that I have been to afraid to be open about. It simultaneously seems silly to me that I feel that way, but nevertheless it is true. I have seen the way others who speak their hearts on this matter are treated, and it is not exactly something I want to sign up for. And yet I also cannot remain silent. So it’s about time I admitted it, fully, openly, and publicly.

Though I am a straight woman myself, I am an LGBT ally. I am 100% LGBT-affirming.

It feels a bit like coming out, though I by no means want to equate it to the experiences LGBT people have in actually coming out. Mine is merely a stance; theirs is their whole being.

I have kept my stance on this issue relatively internal, opening up only to those closest to me and those I know are also affirming. To those who disagree, I have hidden this part of myself (though perhaps not as successfully as I think). I instinctively hate conflict, and even more, I dread being a disappointment to anyone who may think less of me for my views. But this is why I felt the need for this admittedly lengthy post.

It doesn’t feel like something that I should have to make a formal statement on, and yet I want there to be explanation and discussion behind it, so that it is not immediately dismissed by anyone. It is not a flippant stance, and it is one behind which was put years of thought and listening and learning. And it is purely BECAUSE of my faith that I have come to where I am, and not due to a lack of it.

I was raised in a conservative, evangelical Christian church household. We went to church every Sunday, were involved in music, Bible studies, youth group, and many other activities. I “accepted Jesus” when I was 4, and was baptized when I was 13. Our faith was very personal and very integral in our lives. There was an enormous amount of importance placed upon it in the way we were raised, and I am thankful to my parents and grandparents for that. As just one part of this faith, we were taught that homosexuality was a sin, as it goes against God’s design for humanity and against what is written in the Bible. I accepted this, but honestly never even gave it much serious thought. Virtually the only people I knew were gay up until high school were celebrities. Even in high school, I really only knew of a couple of gay people, but didn’t know them personally, and actually didn’t really know if they were even out – it just seemed obvious to everyone.

So it wasn’t until college that I even really began to give the topic much thought. Contrary to stereotypes, it was not my “liberal” classes or any of my actual collegiate studies that had any impact on these more serious topics for me. It was actually church. And the interactions with the friends I made there.

Although, even before much of the conversations with those friends started to be about the LGBT issue, the gay rights cause began to pick up steam in the media. This was around the time that the debate began to be a hot button issue in our legal and political systems. The fight was specifically about whether or not to legalize gay marriage – both federally and at the state level. Like I said, I was just beginning to start thinking about this topic, so this was really the first aspect of the issue that I was faced with.

I heard both sides of the argument – pro-gay rights activists, who were made up of both LGBT people and straight allies, and anti-gay rights activists, who frankly, were largely made up of Christians. I understood where the Christians were coming from, believing due to their faith that it was wrong. This is what I had always been taught.

And yet.

I didn’t understand from a legal standpoint how it made any sense to prohibit gay marriage. There’s a thing called Separation of Church and State, right? We can’t expect non-Christians to abide by a morality that is solely based on the Christian faith. If it is to be a law, there must be some other practical reason as well, that could easily make sense to ALL reasonably moral people, not just those of a certain faith. For example, murder. All reasonable people recognize murder should be punishable by law. Theft. Assault. Rape. Basically every law in the books has something in common – the offense is punishable because it harms someone else. Whether it is their physical person, their possessions, or their human dignity, it is harmful to someone else. Who does being gay harm? I asked myself this question and I didn’t have an answer. It simply involves a loving relationship between two human beings, who want to live in harmony and make each other better. Can there be corrupt relationships that are harmful? Of course. But we see plenty of those already in straight relationships, and we don’t ban heterosexual marriage. The majority of gay people simply want exactly what the majority of straight people want – the right to be fully themselves, love another person who accepts their true selves, and spend their life with them. And that harms absolutely no one. You could try to argue that it harms any potential children they might have, as they need a father and a mother, but the evidence has proven that that is not true. Children with loving, nurturing gay parents grow up just fine. Different parents can fill different roles without having to be a certain gender – that goes for straight parents too!

So I came to the conclusion that gay relationships by nature hurt no one, and do not hurt society. Therefore there is no logical reason the law needs to prohibit them. I still wasn’t sure where I stood morally on the issue, but I became politically okay with the idea of gay marriage.

From there I began to read and discuss. I read many stories, between blogs and books and other sources – both firsthand accounts and secondhand. One of the best books I read and one of the most formative for me was ‘Torn’, written by Justin Lee. He grew up in a very strong Christian household, where church and faith were extremely important and he was heavily involved. He actually became known as ‘God boy’ at school because he took evangelism so seriously and was passionate about sharing his faith. He was the model Christian kid.

But he had always known he was different. Eventually he realized he was not attracted to girls in the ways the other boys always were, and that in fact he found himself attracted to boys. Having been raised a conservative Christian, he had been taught this was wrong. He hated himself for it, and fought with everything he had for years to make it go away. He tried ex-gay therapy and the whole nine yards. But nothing worked.

Long story short, he came to terms with it, after discovering his faith in a new way and realizing what God actually intended for his life. He is now openly gay and a Christian, and his story is extremely compelling.

Between this story and many others like it, and finally actually getting to know some gay people personally, the next thing I became convinced of was that being gay was not a choice. I still didn’t know if I agreed with it morally, but I firmly believed these people were not choosing to be gay. In fact, pretty much all of the stories I had heard were that these people wanted more than anything NOT to be gay. Life would be so much easier if they didn’t have to deal with that struggle! They wouldn’t have to worry about coming out, being bullied, harassed, perhaps even disowned by their own family. Who would choose that?!

Once I became convinced that being gay was not a choice is when I started to have a real problem with it being called a sin. Attractions are a very innate part of who each of us is. It is not just a physical, sexual thing. It is who we find attractive not only physically, but also emotionally, in terms of personality, and just a matter of who we want to spend life with. If a part of who you are – the very fabric of your being, not just an action that you take – is a sin that is an abomination in the eyes of God, what kind of God is that? What kind of creator creates something like that, only to decide it is no good and expect the creation to somehow try to change itself? I think, frankly, this realization was the most convincing of all to get me to the stance I now hold.

So if I was going to believe in this God that I claim as a good and loving God, He had to be bigger than this. In my studying and reading, of course I came across what are known as the “clobber verses” – because Christians like to use them to clobber the LGBT community over the head. In all reality, there are only seven – SEVEN – passages in the Bible that can be found for people to use as an argument against homosexuality. And only one of them contains anything spoken by Jesus.

Without going through each one individually (if you’d like to, I recommend Brandon Wallace’s book “Straight-Face”), the biggest key to them all is that they are wildly pulled out of context – not only in regards to the verses surrounding them, but also the history and culture of the time in which they were written. The bottom line is that what they condemn is actually rape and the use of sexuality as a means of power and degrading human dignity. As just one example, it was common practice of the day (actually this unfortunately isn’t just an ancient practice) for a conquering army to rape the men they had defeated. This was not an act of loving homosexual relationships – it was a means of demonstrating power and dominance. The writer who referenced this act was merely saying that as followers of God we are not going to act like that – he says nothing at all in regards to loving relationships.

Secondly, any passages referencing the “design” of marriage are not as they may seem. Marriages of the day were not built out of love the way we now experience them. They were business transactions. A man would pay a good price for a young woman to marry his son, and they would be able to continue the family line in this way. This was the sole purpose of marriages. She was merely property for the man, with a status only slightly above a slave. It was not uncommon for a man to have other, passionate love-driven relations outside of his marriage, which could be with other women or men. Alternatively, he could have this kind of relationship without a heterosexual marriage at all. All relationships in the day were commercial transactions, so if a man wanted a male companion, he could buy a “servant,” who in this context could be called a pais in ancient Greek. This word had a few nuances – it could be interpreted as simply “servant,” or it could also mean “his master’s male lover.” Interestingly enough, when Jesus heals the centurion’s servant in the Gospels, it is the word pais that is used, and it is also notable that the centurion even went to such lengths to ask Jesus to heal him, as not just any servant would be worthy of that. Many scholars believe the meaning of “male lover” is the one implied here, and so it is quite interesting that Jesus makes absolutely no remark to condemn this relationship, but rather tells the crowd that he has “not found such great faith even in Israel.” He not only doesn’t rebuke the men, but holds them up as an example of faith.

You can go into further depths on these passages, which I have done in reading and discussion with others, but they all boil down to this: the only clear things the writers are condemning in these passages are rape and sexual abuse of power, as well as breaking contracts. There is not a single word on loving, same-sex relationships, and there is an especially notable silence from Jesus on the topic. So while the Bible perhaps doesn’t explicitly spell out support, it equally spells out no condemnation. And in the silence, all I see are my friends who fought being gay for most of their lives only to realize it was a part of themselves that they couldn’t change. And I can’t live with a belief in a God who would want them to change or suppress an integral part of who they are as human beings, nor do I want them to be deprived of one of the most basic fulfillments and happinesses in life that we all seek.

And for that reason, I will no longer be silent in my support for their rights. Above all, we are all equally human beings and we all deserve the same respect and dignity, and for that I will never stop fighting.

More Alike Than Different: My Afternoon at Masjid Al-Fajr Mosque

About a week ago, a mosque and Islamic school in my hometown city of Indianapolis received a threatening letter. It is the same letter that has appeared at a few other mosques in the country recently, particularly in California. You can read the full letter here, but suffice it to say it dealt a great amount of hatred for Islam, even going as far as to invoke the Holocaust in reference to what these people expect to see happen to Muslims. Understandably, the community there – kids, parents, teachers – were shaken and deeply bothered by this letter. Though it may not have been a direct targeted threat to their location, it was nevertheless extremely threatening to their dignity and way of life. Safety should not have to be of particular concern when going to your place of worship and education; not in a country that claims to pride itself in those freedoms.

When I read this news, I was distraught. I had seen it happening in other parts of the country, and I had already been enraged by it. But now it was happening in my backyard. I couldn’t sit by and do nothing. I contacted my priest, and suggested a response that he encouraged me to organize and proceed with. The following Sunday, I invited my fellow parishioners to join me in writing letters of love and support to our Muslim neighbors. It may not immediately solve any issues, but hate will continue to win if it is not dispelled by love. The least we could do is encourage and stand up for our brothers and sisters.

We wrote letters intended to be directly opposed to the letter they received. We told them we love them, they are welcome in our country and in our city, and that we stand up for love in the face of hatred. I gathered somewhere around ten letters from my St. John’s family. We are not a huge church, but it matters more the statement we make than the numbers we have.

I got in my car and headed over to Masjid Al-Fajr, which is only a few blocks away from St. John’s. I had intended on probably just leaving them in the mailbox, because a) I wasn’t sure if anyone would be there, and b) I am an introvert who doesn’t like unfamiliar situations. However, one of my best friends, Bonnie, was with me, and she always knows how to make interactions happen. We missed the mailbox driving in, and then realized the place was packed with people, both in the school and the mosque, as well as kids playing football outside. Bonnie suggested we walk in and see if there was an office where we could drop off the letters. I agreed, but told her she would do the talking (#introvertproblems).

We walked in the doors of the school, where the office window immediately greeted us. There were hijab-clad women all around, and the halls swarmed with young children running around and teenagers huddled together gossiping. Bonnie had no sooner started handing the letters through the office window and beginning to explain what they were, when I heard a woman yell “Hold on!!” and come running around the corner from the office. I wasn’t sure at first if she was talking to us or the children, but it soon became apparent as she grabbed another woman and beelined for us. The first words out of her mouth were “Hi! I’m sorry…can I just have a hug??” My heart swelled and I said “Of course!!” Bonnie and I hugged both women tightly as they thanked us profusely. They knew immediately why we were there, without even reading the letters.

It turns out the woman who had grabbed her friend was Rubina, the vice-principal of the school. Her friend was the principal, Rabia. We spoke to them of why we had come – in response to the hateful letter they had received, which did not speak for us or many other non-Muslims, we assured them. They responded that they knew it didn’t, and had actually been receiving an enormous outpouring of love that week, via letters, flowers, cookies, etc. And yet despite knowing that there is more love than hate, every single act of love means so much and makes them feel so supported and welcomed.

Rubina then asked if we would come into their senior class that was in session right then, so we gladly obliged. She brought us in and introduced us and explained why we were there. The kids and the teacher were all very gracious and extremely kind. Rubina proceeded to speak on why these threatening messages telling Muslims to go back to their countries is so disheartening – she herself has been in the US since she was 7, and almost all of the kids have been here their entire lives. This is their country, as much as it is ours. As she explained, if the kids were to go back to “their countries,” they would be foreigners there. They don’t know the language, the culture, or anyone there. They are Americans. As we nodded in agreement and understanding and exchanged words of gratitude and solidarity with Rubina and the kids, we were all tearing up. The kids thanked us as we left the room, and I could see it meant so much to them to be appreciated and understood for who they are.

Rabia then insisted on us staying for some snacks, which meant samosas and Indian tea – we were not about to put up a fight on that! The food was wonderful and we sat around and talked for a little longer with the women, as well as Rubina’s daughter. She is fourteen and extremely bright. She is already thinking about what she wants to do with her life, which entails something in social work, probably in a prison environment. Bonnie, the social worker, gave her some advice, and she seemed excited at the possibilities. We then took a tour of the school and the mosque. Along the way we met some other people, including Omar, who is a refugee. He was from Palestine, but actually born in Iraq. He now works with refugees here, providing whatever help they require, even their most basic needs.

Throughout the tour and explanation of the mosque and their worship practices, it seemed the women felt the need to clarify and debunk the stereotypes that so widely exist about Islam. They told us how Allah is literally just the Arabic word for “God” and nothing more. They told us how they do not separate boys and girls in school or anything else except for prayers in the mosque, which is the Muslim custom. But this, they explained, was only to reduce distraction and preserve modesty. Rubina made sure we knew she had a voice in her house! Although she asked her daughter who was the boss in their house and her daughter said “me.”

Because Bonnie and I have both interacted with Muslims and learned much about Islam previously, we were already aware of the things they explained, though we didn’t want to sound arrogant so we politely listened. It felt sad, though, that they even felt the need to explain so much. The actions of a few have been so skewed to form a perpetuated false perception of their religion, which is why we have the issue that we do with anti-Muslim hatred.

After about an hour of being there, we finally wrapped up our time, but not before I exchanged numbers with Rabia. She mentioned several times that it would be wonderful to partner with our church however we can – with service projects, having our kids visit each other’s places of worship, whatever we can work out. She made sure we knew that we are always welcome in their doors and among their community, and we told them likewise. We agreed to stay in touch and then said goodbye.

We left feeling so full and so encouraged. We went not trying to be anything special, but just hoping to show love and support for people who are being marginalized. They definitely felt the love and support greatly, and poured out so much gratitude in return. But we left feeling at least as equally encouraged and supported as they did. The community at Masjid Al-Fajr is full of the most kind, sincere, loving, and hospitable people you could ever meet. This is why you can never judge people on your assumptions of their way of life. You cannot claim to know anything about them until you actually get to know them, face to face. Once you get to know people, it is a lot harder to hate them.

I will end with a text I received later that afternoon from Rabia:

“It was a pleasant surprise to see you at our school today. I can’t put my feelings in words properly, but all I can say is that we appreciate your support and love that you are expressing through letters and visits. Our doors are always open for you and so are our hearts.”

Why I Care: A Post-Election Plea to End Silence

November 9, 2016. I think I will remember that day as long as I live.

I went to bed the night before prior to there being a final official result to the election, though it appeared to be getting obvious who would win. However, I was still in denial, grasping onto the last shred of hope I had for a miracle.

When I woke up in the morning, I checked my phone before even getting out of bed, and I saw the confirmation of what I had been dreading. It was a fight to get myself up and moving.

All morning I was numb. I was in shock. Throughout the day some of my shock wore off, but then I felt literally as though I was going rapidly over and over through the stages of grief. My tears didn’t come until the next morning.

One of my coworkers who was also upset but apparently more easily able to move on said to me, “Wow, you’re really letting this get to you, aren’t you?” Um, yes. Yes I am. How could I not?

The interaction that struck me most that day, though, was in the afternoon, when I had a meeting with my boss and one other coworker. My coworker, a Puerto Rican-American, and I had been lamenting to each other all day. We started off the meeting talking about the election, and I was visibly worked up about it. My boss, an Egyptian Muslim, asked me why, with a surprised look on his face. Essentially, he implied, “as a white person, why do you care?”

I was stunned momentarily by this question. Shouldn’t we all care about each other? The expectation of white indifference was simultaneously humbling and saddening.

I’m by no means perfect at this caring thing. I’ll be the first to admit that I fell into the privileged trap of not ever truly believing Trump could be elected. I shouldn’t have been as stunned as I was. And I know I have not done my part fully to speak up for others and speak out against injustice. But my heart was WRECKED on November 9th, and every day since, at the effect that this movement in our country is having on basically everyone who is not straight and white. And I am determined to fight it however I can from here on.

If you are still confused or skeptical as to why I am furious and grieving, please allow me to explain. This is not at all about politics as usual. The usual partisan topics of debate do not even factor in, so this has zero to do with whether I lean to the right or left, or whether the other option was a good option. I wish that this election had just been about that, because then if my candidate hadn’t won, I’d be more than happy to just accept it and move on. But this is about a man who staged his entire campaign on feeding white nationalism, bigotry, and hatred. His rallies were infamous for slinging death threats and hatred at peaceful protestors – which at the very least he did not condemn, and often he even incited or encouraged it. He called names and vilified whole groups of people – those whom he is supposed to protect as leader of our country. He acquired Steve Bannon to be the CEO of his campaign, someone who is a proven white nationalist and anti-semite, and the former head of Breitbart, a publication that spews forth the same bigotry, hatred, and white supremacy. He got endorsements from David Duke and the KKK itself, and did not denounce them. Not to even mention the tape that leaked of his statements insinuating at sexual assault and the multiple accusations that followed, along with years of misogynistic behavior.

It saddens me that enough people in this country are either actively racist and hate-filled or (probably more often) so caught up in certain political ideologies that they will overlook ardently bigoted rhetoric to further those ideals. It saddens me that men – fathers, husbands, brothers – will vote for someone who so disregards women. But it saddens me most that the white evangelical Christian church made up the majority of the voting bloc that elected him. How can Christians presume to follow a man who preached peace and love and acceptance when they elect someone who spreads such fear and hatred and does not denounce violence and racism done in his name? This is what the world sees, and who can blame anyone who doesn’t want to follow a God that looks like that?

You can try to argue whether Trump himself is as bigoted and white nationalist as this all would imply, but honestly that is neither here nor there. He has sought the company and counsel of those who clearly are, and has spent a year plus whipping up these sentiments into a movement that is emboldened by his win and sees this as a chance to act on their beliefs.

Whether or not 3 million people will actually end up getting deported, those in this country who think they should now feel they have the right to make it known through intimidation and violence. Whether there is an actual wall, a reversal of civil rights, or any of Trump’s rhetoric actually enacted, the ideas have nevertheless been given life, and hate crimes have risen because of it. Even if this is all that comes of it, it is way too much. We cannot deny it or be okay with it. And at worst, there is a very real and dangerous threat of extremely negative actions being taken by our government with those who appear to be headed for power.

The first danger we are facing is the attempt to normalize all of this. It already started throughout the campaign, with the media and others downplaying the things Trump said. They would act either like he’s just a crazy man who can’t be taken seriously or just as a dramatic exaggerator who doesn’t mean things as drastically as he says them. And it is only getting worse. After initial post-election panic, there is now a lot of talk of giving him the benefit of the doubt or saying “let’s just wait and see how it plays out” for the sake of trying to unify. But the chance to unify was lost way back in the election season when Trump’s own rhetoric as well as his supporters’ was very specifically divisive, with no remorse or retraction. And at what point does “waiting to see” become too late? We have to act while we still can, to prevent what could potentially get so much worse. Don’t take seriously any kind of talk of Trump softening or compromising or trying to unify – look at his actions. His first actions have been appointing militant white supremacy to the White House.

We can’t let ourselves settle into the all-too-easy mindset of thinking maybe we’re just overreacting and that things can’t possibly get that bad. I find this tendency much too tempting myself, but I am determined to not let it happen.

Think of all of your friends of color. Your black friends, your Latino immigrant friends, your Muslim friends. Think of your LGBT friends and loved ones. Think of the people who have been assaulted on the streets in the past week for looking different. Think of the kids (kids!) going to school in the past week only to see death threats written against them on the bathroom wall in the name of our President-Elect. I implore you – put aside your partisan and policy differences, and look at the humanity that is being endangered. Our country is at risk of losing its very soul.

When I look back at slavery, or the Civil Rights era of the 1960s, or any other major social movement in history, I often wonder – if I had been alive then, which side would I have been on? I can hope I would have been on the side of truth and justice, but there’s no way to know. But we have a choice now. A choice to fight and not be silent in the face of hatred and injustice.

I choose to be on the right side of history.