It’s Hard To Go To Church In Trump’s America.

This post was also featured on Patheos’ Unfundamentalist Christians blog.

It’s hard for me to go to church these days.

It’s hard for me to give up my precious, fleeting family time to transport my toddler across town, stand in a room with people I don’t know and listen to a sermon that’s just a little too long. It’s hard to go by myself with my son when my husband is working, and it’s hard to go as a whole family on my husband’s Sundays off, when we would really rather be doing something else together. It’s hard to make the effort. Especially now.

The truth of the matter is that it’s hard for me to go to an evangelical church in the wake of Trump’s election. I don’t think I belong there anymore.

I don’t belong with a group of people that by and large believes Trump is worthy of being president.

I feel uprooted, disoriented. Homeless. The evangelical church is the body into which I was born and raised, where I was educated and how I came to faith. I’m not sure where to go next.

Knowing that 80% of white evangelicals voted for Trump, I was interested to see how the leaders at our new church here in Atlanta would handle the election aftermath. Would they be silent about it? Call for unity? Reference it obliquely? Or speak out against Trump’s nativism, racism, mysogyny, etc.?

On the second Sunday after election day, the pastor at church preached a sermon on living out the gospel in everyday life. I was cautiously hopeful that he would reference the obvious elephant in the room, but he didn’t get any more explicit than saying something like “our current cultural context.”

He made the point that the first human occupation was gardener, not soldier, that we can’t force other people to believe the same things we do, but that we can live out our beliefs in our daily lives. All pretty basic stuff, but the phrase “gardeners, not soldiers” stuck out to me. At the time I interpreted that to mean that it is not Christians’ job to be culture warriors. And I found it vaguely reassuring.

But as I got to thinking about it later, I realized that this phrase also seems to be discouraging of Christians’ efforts to take a stand against the worst parts of this upcoming administration. Obviously, I strongly disagree.

If there was ever a time to fight like hell for things that are true and right and fair, it’s now.

Before November 8th, I already knew that I was more forward-thinking than most evangelicals, that I cared more about equity and racial justice and public education than most. But I have been absolutely shocked to discover just how far removed I am from the evangelical tribe. And even more, I am embarrassed.

I am so embarrassed that calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” wasn’t enough to get evangelicals not to vote for him. That mocking a disabled reporter wasn’t enough. Or saying that he would deport millions of people, including citizen children. Or wanting to create a Muslin registry. Or admitting to, and then being accused of, sexually assaulting women. And those are just for starters.

Because these things did not directly affect most white evangelical Christians, they were able to disregard them. And that attitude makes me feel ill. The privilege is breathtaking.

I know that evangelical ministers have a difficult task in front of them in this moment. Regardless of their personal beliefs, many are figuring out how to pastor ideologically divided congregations, what they can and cannot say to avoid offending different groups of people in their churches. But this timidity is keeping me from seeing much of Jesus at church right now.

Jesus is with the poor. Jesus is with the oppressed. He is with the marginalized. Jesus is with the groups of people that Donald Trump’s supporters mock, shame and attack, whose schools and places of worship they deface.

Instead, I am finding Jesus during restful moments at home with my family. I see him in my classroom, where children are making breakthroughs, learning to do things they never thought they could, and becoming moral people who care about others. I see him in organizations that work on behalf of the downtrodden, and those that work to protect the environment.

I’m not sure where all of this is leading me, and leading my family. For the first time in my life, I am pondering concepts like “spiritual but not religious.” I know that’s not the answer, though.

I want to belong to a body of believers, a place to study and worship and learn more about God. I just think the evangelicals have lost me, and I’m not sure what comes next.

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26 thoughts on “It’s Hard To Go To Church In Trump’s America.

  1. Sigh. I know, Holly. Even before Trump, we found ourselves unable to stay in a church with a “culture warriors” mentality. For us, this frankly seemed to mean avoiding churches rooted in certain Baptist traditions.

    We’ve been in the PCA for 4 years now. Our predominantly white PCA church in St. Louis was on the front lines of the Black Lives Matter movement, We’ve moved back to Upstate South Carolina, where the racial tensions are less apparent than they were in St. Louis. But the same theology undergirds the teaching throughout the denomination–particularly if the pastor was trained at Covenant Seminary. That’s not to say that Trump supporters aren’t comfortable worshipping at our church or in our denomination; some are, and that is good. But Christ is not taught and believers are not fashioned in that way.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Michele,
    Thanks for your comment. It’s nice to know that there are churches out there that are progressive when it comes to equity issues. I’ve been discouraged on that front. We visited a PCA church for a while here in Atlanta but found the worship style to be very different from what we were used to. I think I just need to be more willing to branch outside of my comfort zone to find a church that really reflects out priorities.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I just discovered your blog and this is LOVELY. And exactly the ache in my heart too, at my little evangelical church. I went the Sunday after the election and the pastor preached on unity. I left halfway through and haven’t been back since. I’ve spent Sundays writing, praying, drinking coffee, breathing. It feels like a productive Sabbatical but I don’t want to be Homeless forever.

    I feel like a cross between a rage-bomb and a crying-bomb. Where are the homeless progressive evangelicals supposed to go?

    (Also just saw you’re in Atlanta! ME TOO!)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi Laura! Thanks so much for your comment. I’ve heard from a lot of other people today who feel the same way, and that is comforting. It’s so hard.

    I love your statement about being a rage-bomb and a crying-bomb, and I feel the same. I’ll let you know when I figure out what I’m going to do!

    And yes, I noticed on Twitter that you are in Atlanta also! I’d love to connect in real life sometime! 🙂

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  5. When I first saw the title of thus post on Patheos, I thought maybe it was something I wrote and forgotten about. I hear you.

    I came to faith as an adult in an evangelical mega church in the Chicago area, and now attend a similar church (modeled after my old church) here in Alpharetta.

    I’ve noticed all kinds of unchrist-like things running rampant in both churches. Pervasive, insidious, deeply held beliefs and biases that I cannot for the life of me reconcile with being a Christ-follower. Blatant racism, misogyny, disrespect and hatred of poor people and gay people. Not so much from the staff, but from so many of the members.

    I held on to the hope that it was just the few people that I somehow always managed to connect with and not a true representation of the evangelical church as a whole. I always gave people the benefit of the doubt… Maybe I’m misunderstanding or misinterpreting my fellow brethren. It’s my job to live them, not judge them.

    When I first saw the 80% exit poll statistic, I thought, “Well, that can’t be right. It’s a probably a relatively statistically irrelevant finding, and who knows who might define themself as an evangelical.”

    But soon it became clear that it might not be too off-base. And going to church became unbearable. Every where I looked I thought, “Are you someone who wants low income families kicked off their health insurance plans? Do you think it’s a good idea to build a border wall, and that it’s even physically possible? Do you fear and hate brown people? Do you hate my gay kid? Are you ok with sexual assault? Do you think everything you have and want is something you are entitled to? Because you have somehow ‘earned’ it, and people who don’t have what they need just couldn’t be bothered to ‘work’ for it? So they deserve what they don’t have, just like you deserve what you do have?”

    It makes for a rather dark Sunday.

    I really could not believe that there were more than a handful of Americans entrenched in racist/sexist/homophobic values and general “white privilege.” I always knew white privilege was real, but I honestly didn’t realize that so many white people were consciously fighting so hard to keep it that way. That THAT was the cause.

    I sure see it now.

    Anyway, I don’t know what the answer is. I wish my fellow church members hadn’t worked so hard at turning my social-justice-minded kids away from Christ. I tell them all the time not to confuse the church with God. But the damage is already done.

    I’m certain we are still in God’s care. Perhaps we need a church community, but maybe not the one we’re in now. But if we leave our church, where does that leave our church? More of a bigoted monoculture.

    I’m all for pulling away and regrouping. But I’m not sure leaving is the right move.

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    • Hi Bunny, thanks so much for your thoughtful comment. I am trying to keep in mind that Jesus is there through it all and that he is guiding this process.

      I am of two minds, currently: 1. Do I try to find a new church that more accurately reflects my priorities? 2. Or do I stay in my evangelical church and try to enact change?

      I’ll keep you posted on what I decide. Thanks for reading. 🙂

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  6. So Holly, why leave the church when You can be a part of the healing process! There will always be division and oppions, Jesus dealt with that very issue, but his word says to love the unlovely,so going to church is about loving one another, yes it’s hard but we weren’t promised an easy road . God is is God of the universe and knows the beginning and the end,I think he knew Donald Trump would be the president, he’s not shaken,except that his children are giving up on his own glorious church,where only healing comes. I live in a town that the jails are full of Mexican criminals I’ve been raped by one who was never even found,and God healed me .it’s Not racist to want criminals to go back to their country and get the justice they deserve. Sorry you feel the way you do,will be praying for your healing,God bless

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    • Hi Joyce, thanks for your comment. I am of two minds, currently: 1. Do I try to find a new church that more accurately reflects my priorities? 2. Or do I stay in my evangelical church and try to enact change? I know that if all the people who feel like I do leave the evangelical church then nothing will every change. Take care, and thanks for reading.

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  7. First, this blog is amazing. Second, I am right there with you. I feel like I am in the Twilight Zone. Most everyone I am related to voted for Trump and I am embarrassed and confused. Nothing makes sense.

    Mrsmommymack.com

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi! Thanks so much for reading and for your comment. It helps a lot to hear from people who feel the same way. I think the hardest thing right now is the feeling of disorientation. But since I wrote this post, I have been feeling a little better. My family visited a more “liberal” church on Sunday and I was reminded that there is life after evangelicalism. It can be so hard to think outside of the world you are used to, even if it doesn’t fit you anymore. Blessings to you as you work to figure it out. (And thanks for connecting on Twitter as well!)

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  8. When I accepted Christ as my Saviour the church I was attending was called God’s House of Hope. There was no denomination to it. They say we are all sinners, in our church that was quite evident. A prison school teacher had told me God Could change my life. We, the prisoners, were bank robbers, drug dealers, murderers, kidnappers and a few politicians thrown in for good measure. We knew the difference from being saved by a Saviour who took our punishment and the political systems under whose punishment we were under. If you want a church that absolutely didn’t vote for Trump I suggest you go to your closest prison and join a volunteer group from your community and worship out there. Btw, God did change my life and the life of the prison school teacher. We have been married 36 years, raised 3 kids and now have 6 grandchildren. Merry Christmas

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi John, thanks for reading and for your comment. Your story is amazing! A prison ministry is such a great example of loving and living as Jesus did. I’ll have to check that out. I’m so happy for you that your story has a happy ending. Blessings to you and Merry Christmas!

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  9. Hi Holly! I first read this post on Patheos, and resonated with your struggles. My husband often works on Sundays, and I take our toddler to church alone. We’re members of an evangelical, white church in the suburbs. Many people we love and respect voted for Trump, and we’ve had many hard conversations.

    We have had the most encouraging, convicting interactions with friends from my home church–Epiphany Fellowship of Camden. EFC is a multicultural, missional church preaching the good news and loving on our neighbors in Camden. As a white person, I was an ethnic minority in the congregation. We regularly prayed about racism, injustice, poverty, etc. and sought to love each other in all our messiness and look to Christ.

    EFC is planting in our city, and we are excited to be core team members. I took a moment to look for a sister church in Atlanta and found Restoration Church. If I were moving to Atlanta, that’s probably where I would visit first. And even if you decide to stay and use your privilege to speak out at your church, it may be encouraging for you to attend special events or listen to podcasts. Blessings on your journey!

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    • Hi Liz! Thanks for stopping by and for your comment! I think I’ve heard of Restoration Church…will have to check it out. The last few weeks we have been going to a Presbyterian (PCUSA) church about 4 minutes from home, which is nice for the convenience and also because the denomination is more liberal. One of the pastors is a woman! Blessings to you and thanks again. 😊

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  10. I just found your blog, and it so resonates with me. I have many friends from previous churches who voted for Trump. I grew up in Bible and Baptist churches, but I also spent a lot of time in Mexico, so I have been horrified with Trump from Day 1. Have you considered a Methodist church? We have been going to one for a year. Our church is very involved in the homeless ministry in our area. I enjoy going to a church that is more social justice-focused than what I am used to. There are also many people in our church who work in the public school system. I really like the Methodist church! I also have some friends who belong to the ELCA Lutheran denomination, which is big on social justice.

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    • Hi Sarah, thanks for your comment. I grew up Baptist as well, and as adults my husband and I have always gone to non-denominational type churches. Even though I was more progressive than many of my church friends it was never really a problem until this election. I just couldn’t stomach it anymore. For the last few weeks we have been going to a Presbyterian (USA) church about 4 minutes from my house, and we already feel known there like we didn’t at the mega churches. Blessings to you!

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  11. Hi Holly, it is good to connect with you. I also have a friend who grew up Baptist and now attends a Presbyterian (USA) church. I am glad you have found some relief in a new church so far. I have had some unexpected surprises at my Methodist church. The Jesus and the Bible characters in my son’s Sunday School handouts all have brown-skin. Our denomination also takes an offering once a year to support college students of color. It’s weird having all the same hymns and Bible verses combined with progressive causes. I enjoy it! I hope your journey goes well.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Holly as a young man I attended various churches in South Africa during the 1980’s. There was a whole confusing gamut of responses to the Apartheid state with its own heretical, pseudo-Calvinist self-justifications (there was an official church – the Dutch Reformed Church). By and large there was no preaching against the authoritarian state and its racial policies, by the state church, Evangelical churches, Baptists, Pentecostals, charismatic fellowships (although there were always dissenting voices, like Beyers Naudé who was persecuted for his courage in living the Gospel command to love). I remember being at a Word of Faith charismatic church where the pastor publicly welcomed the then Minister of Defense Magnus Malan, who was running death squads to eliminate the regime’s apponents. On the other hand, churches which did oppose Apartheid – members of the World Council of Churches (Methodists, Catholics, Anglicans…) seemed at times too closely aligned with Communist revolutionaries. I regret having received so little clear, prophetic guidance from the ministers at that time; history has judged the complicit and ameliorative churches for their failure to speak out openly against an evil regime. I personally still experience a sense of shame at not having been involved with a christianity prepared to say NO to evil. It takes conviction and courage to do so. I wish you wisdom in these troubled times.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hi Alek, thanks for your comment. I’m sorry you’re in a hard place. I pray that you will be able to find a church home for your family that isn’t painful to attend. Blessings to you.

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