“Now more than ever we shouldn’t choose sides.” (heard in a sermon in a New Orleans church)
Some disagreements are fun and silly and can provide entertaining debate. For example, I would love to debate with anyone about how Crystal hot sauce is better than Tabasco, how ketchup is arguably the worst condiment, or how the “Back to the Future” movies are trash. I will respect your opinion and allow you to carry on (with some lighthearted judgment) with your differing opinion. However, what’s not up for debate are the fundamental rights that every human deserves.
When I started looking for a church to attend in New Orleans during my first YAV year, I set the bar too high. One of the many ways that I am privileged is to have the support of an incredibly liberal and socially active faith community back at home in Virginia. Looking back at that time now I realize it was a little naive of me to believe that I could find the same sort of liberal bastion in Louisiana that I found at home, even with the Presbyterians. Now, don’t get me wrong, I visited so many wonderful Presbyterian churches in New Orleans with amazing people who were nothing but supportive of me and my housemates for the entire year. What I couldn’t find, however, was a church with challenging social justice preaching combined with faith in action outside the church.
In the current political climate, we hear those in power cite the Bible and their religious beliefs while they systematically strip rights away from every population that isn’t straight, white, and male. In the face of this distortion of scripture I find it incredibly frustrating and disheartening to hear churches preach that we shouldn’t pick sides and that we need to approach this conversation with nothing but an open mind and an open heart. Recently I attended a church here in New York that preached a similar message, that political division can be conquered by love and respect. Love and respect are good things, things we should strive for, but I cannot respect someone who believes that homosexuality is a sin, someone who believes taking children from their parents is the appropriate consequence for seeking a better life, or someone who willfully ignores the systemic mass incarceration of people of color.
“[…] for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him, ‘Lord, when was it that we saw you hungry and gave you food, or thirsty and gave you something to drink? And when was it that we saw you a stranger and welcomed you, or naked and gave you clothing? And when was it that we saw you sick or in prison and visited you?’ And the king will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did it to one of the least of these who are members of my family, you did it to me’.” Matthew 25:35-40
If we’re going to call ourselves Christians, this is what the Gospel tells us to do. Therefore, it’s important to me to find a faith community that does choose sides.