After my last post, Rachael and I had a conversation about the way white evangelicalism seems designed to make you feel like you’ve wandered out into the wilderness when you break away from its boundaries. The whole subculture’s built on a foundation of abuse strategies and social coercion, so this isn’t really surprising, but it is painful to deal with. Where I’ve been contemplating the fact that being a white Christian who is also liberal places one in a position of isolation from effective means to practice one’s faith, Rachael was thinking more about how you’re just made to feel alone when you stop believing the same things as other white evangelicals. She observed that the isolation and effective shunning that comes from leaving white evangelicalism is more a feature than a bug of the belief system. It’s totally inward facing.
At the same time we had this conversation, we were also on our way to the local Inauguration Day protest march in our town. We’ve both been incredibly upset about that man’s election, and we determined that we were going to register our discontent in public. The original plan was to go to the march on the twenty-first in Atlanta, but when we heard about the Athens march set for the night of the twentieth we decided to do that one instead.
As much as it was about demonstrating our disapproval of the new kakistocracy, it was also about seeing people in our community. Athens is a pretty liberal town, but it’s also the home of a big university that’s largely populated by white kids from relatively affluent Georgia families, and it sits in the middle of a huge swath of rural communities. Rachael and I both have found ourselves working with people who supported that man in his unholy quest to satisfy his ego at the expense of literally everyone else in the country, and we both work in education. Members of both our families voted for him unapologetically. Support for him has not been an abstract, invisible thing happening elsewhere for us, and it’s been psychically exhausting.
We are weary.
We needed to be around people who were shouting for everyone to hear that they were not okay with what Republicans have done and are continuing to do to our country for the sake of power. We needed to see others marching, waving signs that declared their resolve to fight against an administration that hates (yes, hates) women, people of color, immigrants, LGBTQIA people, people with disabilities, Muslims, and Jews.
We needed to know that we’re not alone.
So we marched, and we chanted, and we laughed to see so many people whom we know (and the many more we don’t know), and at the end after the crowd sang “We Shall Overcome” we went home to think over what we had experienced. Rachael pointed out that many of the elements of a protest were the same ones that occur in church. People gather together, they sing songs and chant, they hear messages meant to get everyone thinking about a common purpose. The whole event is built around helping attendees enter an altered state of mind (the ecstatic state of worship is remarkably similar to the emotional high you get from demonstrating). In the case of the protest, it was about getting folks to move past the social barriers that inhibit public action; in church it’s about getting people in the head space to contemplate God.
Here’s the thing, though. The tradition I want to rediscover is the one in Christianity where God’s greatest expression of love is through justice. My God is one who loves the world unconditionally and wants to see it better cared for. My God reveals themselves through actions of kindness, and unity, and mercy. Being with people marching for the cause of a nation that’s meant for everyone is holy work. It’s worship.
I went to church this weekend, and it was held in the streets.