I’m grateful to have grown up in a small factory town in Indiana, where everyone shopped at the same grocery store, went to the same school, and called each other’s parents by their first names.
What seemed to set us apart from the larger towns and cities around us were the lack of funds and resources and, with that, the lack of opportunities.The town was too small to support community centers, kids-oriented nonprofits, theaters or arts organizations. My high school consisted of three hundred students, which meant fewer recruits for sports teams, band and choir, academic clubs than many other schools. We fought harder for what we had and what we did. My town was unpretentious, hard-working, and community-driven.
My parents are from working class families that farmed or worked jobs where you clocked in and out. My heritage is found in a collection of small towns in the rolling hills of Southern Indiana, and I’m proud to have come from these folks. My hometown and my extended family are good parts of the foundation of who I am.
But few of the people I knew growing up or even attended college with (a small Evangelical school in Indiana) are a part of my life besides being Facebook friends because we no longer have enough in common.
My environment has changed, now living in Chicago. Gone are the days when I saw mostly cis, white, straight faces — I now feel more at home in the diversity of my neighborhood and my chosen communities. Chicago is not better than my home town; it’s just very different.
And my lifestyle has changed. At odds with most individuals from my past, I’m unmarried and have no kids. I’m queer and polyamorous. I’m not an Evangelical. And because I live what feels like a very different life, I don’t know how to bridge the gap between us.
I call upon our Christian values when I consider how to live a life of integrity. Personally, as I’ve studied the politics of Jesus, it has made more and more sense to me that the people he would be fighting for are people of color, transgendered individuals, women, illegal immigrants, political refugees, and Muslims. Because Jesus was the one who drew the line in the sand when men were ready to stone the woman. Because Jesus taught the parable of the good Samaritan and called upon his followers to be the caretakers who transcend politics. Because Jesus ate with the unwanted and the impure. Because Jesus always fought for, protected, and loved the most vulnerable members of society.
So when I voted, my choice was simple. Protect those who need protected.
When I say black lives matter and trans lives matter, I’m not saying that other lives matter less. I’m saying that the lives in most immediate danger require my priority. I believe Jesus felt the same when he focused his ministry.
So when I voted (beyond caring in general about women’s rights), I didn’t consider the people I grew up with or my extended family. And while I feel I made the right decision, this still bothers me.
How do I actively love everyone? I care that there are fewer classes being offered to students now attending my old high school because there’s less and less money in the town as factories close and people leave. I care about the shitty ass health insurance system that’s hurting the working class. And I care that the direction my faith has gone continues to further isolate me from the more conservative faith of so many.
You know how you can fold a piece of paper and make a crease that makes it easier to tear? I feel like all my life choices have been creating that crease between who I was growing up and who I am now. And when I see other Christians in particular who are well-meaning people on my Facebook feed cheering about Trump’s election, I feel the crease tearing.
I didn’t reach out to anyone before the election because it felt arrogant to only reach out about something that divides us. And it saddens me that I’ve had no other reason to be a part of their lives more than liking pictures of their kids. This includes even many of my good friends from college, an Evangelical school, and some aunts, uncles, and cousins that I’m not close to.
I also didn’t reach out because if they follow me at all on Facebook and read my blog, they’ll know I’m proudly queer and non-monogamous, and I didn’t believe they had any reason to listen to me. And I worried that starting a true authentic conversation would lead to more estrangement.
I want to know if I should accept this divide. I want to know if it’s inevitable or if there’s something I should be doing about it. I want to know if caring and writing about the things that I feel called to care and write about means I can only move forward and never heal the growing rift behind me. Is there a more loving way to protect those who need protected, and practice self-love which means being proudly open about my life choices, and also be in community with those whose opinions I disagree with?
Cross posting from scarletchurch.com.