Republican to Christian
*Everyone mentioned in this blog has read and approved their stories being shared.
When Donald Trump became our President, I was thrilled. I had been tweeting all day about "Crooked Hillary" and liking comments made about "liberal snowflakes" posted by my fellow Republican tweeters. I remember watching live as it was announced. I was in my dorm room bed, eating potato chips and drinking a Dr Pepper (classic Val). I remember Snapchatting a friend in celebration after "our guy" won the election. I remember feeling proud to be a Republican. I had Ronald Reagan stickers on my laptop and cute little elephants on all of my water bottles. Later on in the year, I would be added to the College Republican officer list and become the Vice President of the organization for the following year. I was completely immersed in the party.
I knew close to nothing about politics in 2016. What I did know was my dad used to be a Republican, my mom was a Republican, the majority of my Christian pals were Republican, and I had just ended a long relationship with a MEGA Republican Marine. We all believed abortion was murder, homosexuality was a sin, and that Democrats supported the opposite of those two platforms. I believed in the wall. I said "All Lives Matter". I blindly stood by and watched as the Republican party, my party, took so much away from people that I loved.
I am ashamed of that part time in my life. Incredibly embarrassed.
Don't hear this as me saying I am ashamed of being part of a party. I am ashamed of the person that I let the party turn me into. I let the conservativism completely cloud my eyes.
Luckily, people can change. People can change their hearts and their minds.
Not to mention we have a God who offers Grace and Forgiveness.
In the Fall of 2018, I met Yesenia Gomez. She was rushing my club at school (Theta), and I was determined to make her my Little. We had so much in common. We were the only Bible majors that would be in Theta, we were both 8's on the enneagram, and we both had a hunger for justice and equality in the world. (Yes, you heard me, equality. Crazy right? A Republican being an activist?? Just hang on, I'm getting there.) Yesenia taught me alot about injustice. I watched her countless Instagram stories, read her tweets, and listened to her speak out against all of the injustices we have here in America. She spoke out against ICE. Being both Hispanic and Latino, the imprisonment and mistreatment of immigrants at our borders was an issue that hit close to home for her. Yesenia spoke out in support for Black Lives Matter. She spoke up for and supported our homosexual brothers and sisters who are bashed in Christian communities every day. Just this year, Yesenia founded Libertad Por Todos (Check her out on instagram). She is one of my biggest role models, and one person that I attribute most of my justice-seeking attitude to. Thank you Yesenia, for not only being my friend, but for introducing me to being an advocate for those who need it most.
I wanted to be like Yesenia. I wanted to use my voice, and my privilege as a white person, to amplify the voices of those who didn't have as strong a platform. But I didn't...yet.
In the Summer of 2019, I was hired as a youth intern at a church in Wichita, Kansas. I was faced with a challenge I hadn't been faced with before, and it changed me. I got to spend time with two incredible people that Summer: Andrew Brown, my boss and one of my favorite Youth Ministry role models, and Jace, a transgender male student (I'll talk about Andrew later). Jace (Pictured above, middle) was the first trans person I had ever met. I was nervous. I didn't want to mess up. My job, ultimately, was to love and support my students so I tried to do that to the best of my abilities. I stumbled with pronouns quite a few times, and Jace never corrected me. I tried to avoid pronouns altogether, and Jace continued to calmly and kindly let it slide. He was patient and understanding, which really confused me. After all he had been through, after all of the people who had put him down, and after the BATTLE for his life to be something he was proud of, he was patient and understanding. It was inspiring. I thought, if this kid, this teenager, can exude the Love of Christ to those who don't understand him and continued to dismiss his feelings, who was I to sit by and let him go through that fight alone? During our mission trip in Houston, Jace and I bonded over our skills with drills and drywall, and I got to see him as more than just the transgender teenager. Jace showed me that I'm not any better than someone who identifies as something different than I do. I'm no more worthy of God's Love or the Kingdom of Heaven because I am straight. We've been wrong on that one for years. Thank you Jace, for your heart. Thank you for opening my eyes to the very human aspect of the LGBT+ community.
As mentioned previously, Andrew Brown is one of my biggest Youth Ministry role models. I learned a lot from working with him last Summer in Kansas, but one of the most important things I picked up on had to be the unconditional and LOUD love that he has for all people. Andrew loves HARD. I'm not sure everyone sees how hard he works for his students, or how late he stays up to respond to students' calls and texts, or even notices the times he would hold a devo with a student before church to make sure they kept coming back. I bragged on him- big time- to everyone who asked about him that Summer. I stand by it to this day; the time I spent learning and watching Andrew minister to his students was the most impactful on my ministry, and it only continued to impact me after the internship.
This year, for example, after George Floyd was murdered and Breonna Taylor was murdered. I watched Andrew day after day posting on his Instagram and his Facebook advocating for African Americans and pleading for his followers to understand and do the same. He loved HARD. Post after post, message after message, I watched him struggle with the fact that our country isn't loving the way Christ would. It encouraged me to watch that struggle, if that makes sense. Don't get me wrong, I was already posting and doing what I could to spread some truth, but watching his relentless action lit a fire in me. He inspired me to fight louder and fight harder for those that I love. Thank you Andrew, for showing me what it means to love everyone with everything you've got, and to fight for those who are hurting or oppressed.
So, here I am, almost 4 years after Donald Trump won the election.
And I could not be more liberal.
But what's crazy, is I don't consider myself a Republican, Democrat, or Libertarian.
The way I see it, I bow to one authority, and that authority is found in the Kingdom of Heaven. Sure, my beliefs are "liberal" or "extreme" by the standards of American politics, but in God's house they're considered pretty middle of the road and reasonable.
It's reasonable to believe that Black Lives Matter.
It's reasonable to believe that children don't belong in cages.
It's reasonable to believe that all people deserve housing and food.
It's reasonable to believe that the death penalty should be abolished and that prisons should be treated more as rehabilitation facilities than what they are now.
I don't want to live by America's standards.
I want to live by my God's standards.
Jesus doesn't and wouldn't belong to a political party.
Jesus loves, accepts, and protects all people. All of them.
That's where I belong. That's where my allegiance lies. In God.