To Our Parents,
We know you are saddened and confused by us seeming to leave behind the values you raised us with in exchange for ideals that run counter to the faith you prayed we’d hold most dear. It seems you are both worried about us and wondering where you went wrong.
We want you to know the faith you instilled in us is alive and well, and serving as the compass you taught us it should be.
This faith began with the idea that we are each created “fearfully and wonderfully” as unique individuals, intentionally, through an act of God’s will. Because of this, the sanctity of human life, each human life, is of utmost importance to God, and, therefore, to us. Through the doctrine of original sin, we learned our very nature was both tainted by and defined by sin, leaving all humanity equally depraved. In this sense, we are not better than nor worse than anyone else. We are just all “sinners.”
However, as we learned at a very young age, the story doesn’t end there, because inserted into this depravity is the unconditional love of God. “For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son.” When we were in the depth of pain, even suffering we created by our own sinful choices, God showed up, with something free, to bring us back into relationship with him. The answer, we learned, to brokenness is love. And, this love is for everyone: “red, and yellow, black and white.”
We learned about the life of Jesus on earth, specifically how he didn’t make sense to anyone religious, anyone who thought they could prove the certainty of their beliefs with evidence. We learned that in his Kingdom, everything is backwards, the last first, the weak strong, and the oppressed powerful. We noticed that of all the things Jesus spoke against, the only thing that made him literally turn tables in a temple was powerful people using religion as their excuse for exploiting those less powerful. In this moment, Jesus’ body joined in the “no” of his mind and heart.
Core to this beautiful redemption story is the idea of sacrifice, the notion that doing what is right and good is not always popular or self-preserving. The picture of Christ on the Cross, enduring unimaginable pain and humiliation he did not deserve, all to give humankind a great gift, is the most enduring symbol of the faith to which we still hold tight. Not only does it make possible eternity with God, it also tore the curtains and erased the barriers that existed not only between us and God but also between us and each other. Even the ones the ancient texts clearly said were “out” are now in.
From there, we were raised with a deep sense of responsibility that we would be held accountable to living a life worthy of that sacrifice. This meant standing up for our faith, even when it wasn’t popular, even when it cost us opportunities, relationships, and comfort. This meant resting on “do unto others” and “turn the other cheek” when we were hurt or treated unfairly. It meant following the basic rules of not taking what wasn’t ours, being willing to apologize and repent when we were wrong, telling the truth no matter what, prioritizing “the least of these” above ourselves, protecting the innocent, fighting for those who cannot fight for themselves (specifically the unborn), promoting the strength of the family unit, crossing the divides between us to become “Samaritans” in our own worlds, being willing to bring out into the light what hid in darkness, and most of all, following Christ’s example of sacrifice when given the opportunity to sacrifice in our own lives.
We were taught that this road would be uncomfortable, and that we were called to it anyway.
This, you told us, was Biblical.
As it now turns out, we believe it all.
We believe that exploiting others by taking what is theirs, making it ours, and using it to our benefit, is not right. And we believe that when people do that, they need to repent and repair. That is why we stand with the Native American people, recognizing that we have built our lives and our wealth on their land. We acknowledge White settlers may not have survived our transition to this land in the first place had it not been for the generosity of the Native people. We responded to their help by using our power to disempower them, stealing their very way of life and the culture that had held and protected them for so long. We believe in our responsibly to repent and to stop. We know we cannot change what our ancestors did. We also know we have a responsibility to stand up for the Native American people today to preserve what little restoration they have been given. For this reason, we stand with Standing Rock and all the other Native tribes to preserve their remaining power, their culture, and their traditions, including their burial grounds. We follow the example of Jesus. Though he had power, he did not use it. Instead, he humbled himself to the service of others. In our culture at this juncture, White Americans have the most power. We chose to use it as Jesus used His, in service instead of exploitation.
We believe that we really are made in the image of God, all of us, meaning that we get a fuller picture of God’s imagine by truly “seeing” not only those who are like us, but more importantly, those who are different. We do believe that we are all “precious in his sight” and we seek to understand what is precious to God about our brothers and sisters of different races, ethnicities, cultures, and religions. We recognize that our country built our wealth on the backs of minorities and now uses that same wealth to prevent them from building the same life members of the majority can build. We realize you do not agree, that these are dynamics you do not see, and we validate they are not dynamics that are obvious in the worlds you have built for yourselves and the ones you have raised us in. Your inability to see these dynamics do not make them any less real to those affected by them or any less important for us to fight against. We cannot continue to know God at deeper and deeper levels until we are willing to embrace the parts of himself he has chosen to show through those we do not yet understand. Our faith also requires us to stand up and fight with and for our minority friends when they are treated in any way less than what they deserve as a fellow Beloved of the Most-High God, even when that happens in church. When they are dismissed, marginalized, ignored, and silenced, we will continue to hear them, champion them, and pay attention. We are committed to letting our minority friends define their experience for us instead of presuming to define it for them. As a result, we will not water down the impact of the message Black Lives Matter by hijacking it to talk about other groups. Instead, we will hear and learn about the experience of our Black brothers and sisters rather than challenging it.
We believe and seek to treat others how we would want to be treated. Many of us have our own children now. We understand the importance of medical care for those tender and sometimes scary moments young parents experience. We know the need parents feel to care for their innocent and vulnerable children so they are protected, happy, and free of trauma. We feel in our bones the fire that would come out if anyone ever tried to harm them or take away the opportunities we’ve worked so hard to provide them, and we are keenly aware that it is our privilege that eases our fears of this ever actually happening. So, when we hear about mothers and fathers in other countries, whose options are so limited that they bring their child on a lifeboat knowing his or her body could wash up on shore instead of make it across, we stand with those refugees and fight for them to have the same opportunities we would fight for our own children to have. We know that we are just as responsible for those children as we are for our own, that what we do for our neighbor, we do for Jesus himself. We know that even if our convenience or our own wealth is affected, we are responsible to fight for them. We choose to elevate their lives above our own sense of safety, because we do believe in the sanctity of each of their individual lives, and we know their lives are in danger. We will continue to fight for America to welcome them with open arms and to invoke the creativity that has always defined our nation to come up with ways to address the financial implications.
It is that same commitment to preserving life that fuels our fight for gun control, more peaceful ways of solving world conflict, sex education that is focused not only on abstinence but on prevention of unwanted pregnancies through access to birth control, the funding of programs that support young families who chose to carry initially unwanted pregnancies to full term, and alternative options to capital punishment. We really do believe that life matters, and for us, that issue extends so far beyond the unborn.
Just as Christ died for us just because we are humans and not because we were good enough, we too will offer our love and resources not just do those who “deserve” it but to those who are undocumented and incarcerated. We will also work to reform both the immigration system and the prison system, which has become a modern manifestation of segregation.
In the culture of Jesus’ day, strong hierarchy existed. Owners over slaves. Men over women. Jew over Gentiles. Jesus made it very clear that in his Kingdom, power structures were not welcome. We recognize the movement of the early church toward this goal, and we join their momentum by rejecting any theology in which men and women do not share the same power, recognizing the heart of God is the shared power of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Following that model of mutual submission and mutual power, we continue to fight for the rights of women, including the equalizing of the wages of women, specifically women of color, with what men make to do the same job. Furthermore, we will stay committed to the causes of refugees, immigrants, and minorities, recognizing how many of them are women who face complex challenges as a result of multi-faceted disempowerment. We also reject the over-empowered stereotype of masculinity in the church knowing that quiet men, artistic men, and cautious men are also strong.
We understand these conversations are unknown territory for you, and that sometimes you are scared and confused by them. If you are wondering how you can interact with us around these topics, please keep the following in mind.
- We have spent our entire lives learning the intricate nuances of your views, not just the broad strokes. Please take the time to approach our views with genuine curiosity and learn about them too. For a while, this will require you to do much more listening than talking.
- Please understand we live in a different world than you do. The gay community, the immigrant community, the minority communities, are tangible to us. They are represented by faces and stories of people in our actual lives. They are not a concept we debate; they are people we love. When you are talking about “them,” please talk as respectfully about these communities as you would about your own friends.
- Please don’t be scared for us, or let your fear convince you to try to sway us back to your side. What we need is more respectful and honest dialogue between those who hold diverse views. These diverse views are part of the fabric of not only our country, but our church. They are an important part of finding balance amongst ourselves, and erasing different views should not be the goal. When you approach us with a clear agenda to change our views back to the ones you feel more comfortable with, we can tell that is about alleviating your own anxiety, and we shy away from participating.
- Don’t call us names or label us. Don’t assume our intentions. We are still the same kids you raised, and if you want to know what drives and motivates our beliefs and actions, just ask us, and be ready to listen to the response.
Also, if we seem abrasive or disrespectful, that is not our intention, though we understand the impact is still just as painful. Please be patient with us in our confusion. Just as you are working through your own anxiety about our new paths, we are working through the disillusionment of seeing you leave behind some of these core tenants of your faith in ways that, to us, seem both selfish and financially motivated, something we never thought we would witness coming from the very people who taught us about selflessness and sacrifice.
We are confident there is a way to find common ground and common language. We are also confident it will be messy and require lots of effort. We welcome the investment of our time and energy toward these important conversations, starting in our families with those we love most, including you.