Growing up as the child of Asian immigrant parents, growing up in a middle-class family, I was very insulated to many things that perhaps were common knowledge to my peers much earlier in life. Academics, sports/activities, church, friends & family were the sorts of things we focused our attention on and talked about. As a child I was never instilled with a strong sense of patriotism, nor was the importance of voting stressed to me. Maybe this is a little bit of a tangent, but as a high schooler when 9/11 happened, I only barely had a grasp on what had happened, what the World Trade Center was, and the concept of terrorism and how it could affect our country. Most of my understanding of our country was built on little more than what I had learned in history class at school and what I had seen when visiting landmarks around the country. My dad listened to NPR, but I guess I didn’t pay much attention to it.
As such, I never grew up feeling particularly attached to my country, and in many ways I still am on my journey of taking ownership of the country that I have lived my whole life in. I have spent most of my life enjoying and taking for granted the privileges and civil liberties offered by the United States and not put a lot of effort into defending them or taking action into truly caring for my fellow citizens to ensure that they are able to enjoy the same freedoms that I have become accustomed to.
I also had the privilege of enjoying a high quality (at least relatively speaking) education that has found me a job and allowed me to continue living a middle-class life. It’s not an excessively exuberant existence, but certainly one with security, stability, and one that allows me to provide my children with the similar opportunities that I was raised with.
At 30, I participated in my 3rd election (I haven’t voted in midterms before), and since Tuesday evening, as I watched the election unfold, while frantically texting a few of the people close to me, and the day after, as I walked around like a zombie and felt a sickness inside as if someone close to me had died, I realized that for the first time in my life, I was actually engaged and invested in my country.
And now I’m realizing that it’s long overdue, in some ways too late, and that people like me are also responsible for the results of this election. It’s the first time I’ve really told anyone that they should register to vote, and it’s the first year that I’ve really researched at all down-ballot, and the first year where it’s even occurred to me that I do not only have the right to vote in a midterm election, but it is my responsibility to do so.
Elections and policies are complex, and while I never was willing to identify with a party before, I think this election has made it clear to me that I am in fact a Democrat. I say this not out of some sort of allegiance I feel to the party, but because of the types of policies they pursue and the general big picture of their message. There’s been a lot of tension among my Christian peers in particular, and while I don’t want to get into the finger-pointing and suggesting one group of Christians is more correct than another (I do have plenty of opinions, but when are these conversations really productive?), I think one important things that we should be able to agree on is that a holistic picture of your options is important to have when you are trying to make a decision based on your faith.
Maybe some of this will come off as left-leaning propaganda to some, and sure, flame me if you want… call me a… (what was it I saw on my Facebook feed the other day… “Libtard”?) if it makes you feel better, I don’t really care. But if we are considering the a pro-life platform, what all does that involve? Here are some of the things I personally believe need to be considered:
-Abortion (life of child) – This in itself is a complicated issue, but let’s go ahead and say life begins at conception for the sake of simplicity). What about when there are complications with the pregnancy, do we factor in quality of life here?
-Abortion (life of mother) – While many people disagree about when a child is a child, I think we can all agree that a mother is a living person and should complications arise, her life should be a priority.
-Contraception – How are helping those that cannot afford contraception have access to it, and therefore reducing the number of scenarios where abortion could be a potential outcome? (I’m assuming here that contraception is permissible, which I know may not be the stance of all Christians)
-Death Penalty – Are we okay with killing people because they’ve considered heinous crimes?
-Refugees – Allowing refugees into our country saves many from the devastation and often impending death caused by war
-Healthcare – How are we helping people who are suffering from life-threatening conditions take care of their health and extend life? (By the way, Trump already released his healthcare reform and it has no provision for this group of people. The protection from being denied insurance for pre-existing conditions will most likely be gone with the repeal of Obamacare)
-Pharmaceuticals – How are we helping people who need drugs to help them survive life-threatening conditions from being taken advantage by the pharmaceutical industry ?
-Jobs – How are we helping people find sustainable jobs that pay them enough to provide for at least the basic necessities for themselves and their families?
-Environment – How are we ensuring that people are not living in harmful conditions to their health, so that at a minimum, they can at least have clean water for their children? (I’m not going to bother getting into the global warming thing here).
-Murder – I don’t really even know where to start here… haha.
-Drugs – Opioid abuse in particular is an epidemic right now, what can we do to fight this?
I’m sure you could continue going on, but to me I think all of these are some of the many things that someone should be considering when voting on a “pro-life” platform. And next a few thoughts about a voting on a platform regarding the sanctity of marriage. Disclaimer: I’m a bit more opinionated on this one…
-Gay Marriage – Should we allow gay marriage? To many, this is a simple issue. But really, this is so much more than just a question of whether or not we believe being gay is moral or not. I will go ahead and say that I do not believe that being gay is a true reflection of who God has designed us to be. However, there are additional questions to ask for those of us that fall into this camp. Do we enforce our beliefs through the government upon those who do not share them? If so, what are our reasons for doing so? Does blocking gay marriage help more people come to Christ? Does it stop more people from being gay? Personally, I don’t think either of those things are true. Rather, I think it makes the LGBTQ community not only persecuted and unloved, but it makes evangelical Christians their enemies. It is not enough for Christians to defend their position by pointing at a handful of people in the LGBTQ community that they have loving friendships with, because there is no denying that the LGBTQ community as a whole feels that Christians are targeting them and hates them. How do we change this narrative and bring them to the love of Christ? By forcefully taking away one of the civil rights that they hold most dear? Perhaps some people truly believe this, but I do not. If we are to be a Christian nation, it should be because we have done such a good job at spreading the good news of Jesus that they have embraced and bowed down to our Savior, not because we have shoved our beliefs down the throats of the people who do not know share the same value set.
-Divorce – Are we as a Christian people tough on divorce in a helpful way? (I am only talking about situations where divorce is not a result of a toxic and/or dangerous situation) Who are we choosing as our political leaders? Are they people who reflect our stated values of marriage? If we don’t truly regard the sanctity of marriage between men and women in this way and consider a strong marriage as an important trait of our leaders, how can we make such a big fuss about marriage in the first place?
A less complicated issue than life, but there’s still nuance required. And one last one for caring for the disenfranchised:
-Minorities – Are we loving minorities, and allowing them to be heard? Are we seeking their representation in our political leadership from people that have influence among their people groups? Whether or not you believe in the BLM movement, telling a black person that they are wrong or don’t know what they are talking about is not a productive way to approach them. Are we listening to and considering their grievances or do we already have our minds made up? Are we empathizing with their fear whether or not we agree with them about a particular case? Are we thoughtful about the plight of illegal immigrants, many of which travel in horrendous circumstances to reach our country in hope of a better life for their family? Do we consider them bad people for trying or is our opposition to them more out of self-preservation? I come from a minority group whose parents’ generation was welcomed into this country because of their pursuit of education and because it was relatively easy to get a green card. I don’t consider it fair to put their experience and the experience of lower-class working immigrants today side-by-side and say, well we did it the right way. Our parents still worked their butts off to make it here, but there were also a lot of things working in their favor. Are we loving our Muslim brothers and sister with how we run our nation, or are we willing to sacrifice their well-being because we fear the terrorists associated with the same religion?
-Working Class Whites – Ah yes, the group of people that many angry evangelicals have seem to have just discovered as this election has unfolded. If some of us are just coming to the table, why is that? Have we failed to care for and give a voice to these people just because they haven’t fallen into our traditional framework of the poor and disenfranchised? Many seem to have only now after the election put forth some effort into understanding where they are coming from, when really the issues at hand aren’t that complicated. So now we know they’re at the table, now what? How are we looking for policies to help rural communities create new, sustainable jobs that are relatively future-proof? How are we helping them understand how these policies will serve them well? To me, there are many tragedies in this election, but one of the biggest is that a man that is basically the antithesis of a champion for these rural communities in fact… became their champion. He, a man born into extreme wealth, who sticks it to his workers by underpaying them, and abuses loopholes only available to the wealthy that benefit only him, sold them a message on bringing back the glory days manufacturing, coal, etc… but the reality is that we are living in an age when alternative, renewable energy is not only much more environmentally friendly, but becoming much cheaper, and automation is also cheaper than traditional manufacturing and here to stay. Even if somehow he was able to bring those jobs that these people groups lost, they almost certainly would not be long-term solutions. Maybe if we had spent more time helping advocate for the creation of jobs in these communities instead of telling them that they are racist and xenophobic…
Obviously all this blabber comes out of my own world view, and I am a very flawed and broken person, and certainly not a theologian. But, I hope that there is something of substance here for some people (if anyone even reads this) to mull over, whether or not they share my beliefs. Personally, I feel very confused as to why the Republican party has traditionally been the de facto party for Christians. I understand the angles of abortion and gay marriage, which I covered above, but even so, it is only part of a much more complicated system that we are engaging. And outside of these two items, I feel that the Republican party hangs it hat on a number of things that really don’t align with Christian values, such as second amendment rights (I’m not saying this shouldn’t be respected, but I don’t know of a biblical basis for why this is important), the death penalty, military spending, slashing entitlements (which mostly benefit the disenfranchised). I don’t like more money coming out of my paycheck, but if it is for the sake of working system that benefits those who are suffering and less fortunate, then so be it. I am far too privileged to be voting in self-preservation. I’ve also seen a number of posts saying that Christians shouldn’t be putting so much of their faith and hope in the government. Of course the government is not a replacement for a savior, but it is certainly a tool to be used by God’s people to help care for the world that he created. Should we not be distraught when a man who has preached hate throughout his campaign has become the leader of our country?
Also, whether or not you believe voting one way or another was the correct thing for the faith, why are many Christians flaunting the result and publicly declaring “Praise Jesus for the results of this election!” These are appropriate remarks to be making to your church communities that share your same beliefs, but plastering it over the internet is showing complete disregard and disrespect for both your Christian and non-Christian peers who voted the other way, for many legitimate and carefully considered reasons. Even praising God can be done in unloving ways… If you think that the election is such a clear cut decision, then I implore you to dig deeper.
Anyway, back to where I started… I personally am horrified by the outcome of this election. I have at least one friend whose mother’s life will be at risk because Obamacare will be repealed. The day after the election, Melissa has had a coworker who had racial slurs spewed at her by a man she walks by every day. Maybe there’s some overreaction, but there is also a lot to be concerned about. When the results of the election were certain, I felt like all the good things I had come to believe about my country had been thrown to the ground and trampled. If the primary reason most of the people voted for either candidate is because they didn’t want the other one to be president, then we as a people need to do much much better. We need good people to engage with the system on both sides and deliver better candidates from the bottom up. We have a duty to do our due diligence and know who the people we’re voting for are in every election and whether they deserve our vote, from the top to the bottom. And if there are voids, maybe we need to consider stepping up and filling them. There is work to be done, and I still don’t know exactly what that looks like, but I think it’s important for all of us to work together and learn. I never thought I would want my children to become politicians, but now I wonder… why not? If I do my job and raise them to be wonderful God-loving people, why would I not want them to influence my country and my people?
After all, Juliette probably already has a better temperament than the man we have just elected to lead our nation. -_-