Growing up in Arkansas and attending university in Oklahoma, I benefitted from many privileges. Most of these privileges only became fully evident to me after moving elsewhere, after meeting many people from backgrounds vastly different than my own. This weekend, I became aware of another privilege I once had, but now must ask you to exercise on my behalf.
The first week with Trump in the White House included lots of actions I personally disagree with, but his Friday edict banning refugees and restricting Muslim immigration is heinous beyond political leanings or personal convictions. It violates truths we all hold to be self-evident, and endangers rights we all hold dear. Don’t relax, just because your (or my) particular brand of religious expression or country of origin wasn’t deemed a threat by this executive order.
I don’t know what the news where you live or the articles in your Newsfeed might tell you, but you are no safer than you were on Thursday, or a week ago. Trump is using fear as fuel for directives that have one ultimate, ill-concealed goal: to increase and solidify his power, and the power of those in his camp. Right now, your representatives are intoxicated — intoxicated by power and political relevance they’ve only dreamt of for 8+ years. Perhaps feelings of unease are rumbling in some of their stomachs, but power’s inebriation is an even better mask for pain than it is a mood enhancer.
Like me, many of you are white, middle class, and profess faith in Christ. You may have voted as I did, or you may have voted differently. I didn’t send you any impassioned pleas to vote like me, and I have no interest in discussing your vote now. But, regardless of your vote, you have a voice and a privilege that I now lack––because you, almost certainly, have a Republican congressperson. At least one national representative from your district is feeling the effects of newfound legislative power, and their stupor has them forgetting the Constitution they so recently used as a rallying cry. Instead, they’re affirming security and safety––not for all, but for those whom powerful people have deemed most deserving of protection. I understand the emotional and practical appeal of these promises (especially if you and your family are among those whose protection is prioritized), but I would argue they’re not Constitutional––and they’re absolutely not Christian.
Right now, your congresspersons and their staffs think they’re representing your beliefs. Their silence speaks volumes––they remain silent, because they think this is what you want from them. They think they’re protecting you and affirming your beliefs. They think their voting base is secure, and that you’re either happy with or indifferent to the decisions of the new administration.
Many of you are the ones who taught me about Jesus, who helped reveal portions of His character to me. I’ve prayed with you that God would bring His Kingdom on earth as it is in heaven, that He’d set captives free. You taught me the value of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I learned from you that Jesus chose to lay down His power (and His life) for others––for all of us, all those too weak and flawed to save themselves. I’ve grown up with you, and you’ve played a role in making me who I am today. You are part of the reason I abhor Trump’s edicts. Your influence caused me to love Muslims and immigrants and refugees and prisoners and everyone else. I don’t consider anyone in the preceding list my enemy, but you taught me I’m supposed to love and pray for them as well. You led me to believe that “if God is for us, then who can stand against us?” But yet, our nation is gripped by fear, and our leaders are legislating and ordering based on it. And many, many of these leaders derive their power and conviction from the support––both real and perceived––of Christians like you.
So please, use your voice. Protesters fill the streets of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, and elsewhere. This weekend, they inundated airports in these cities, and other major international entry points to the United States. But their voice and impact isn’t sufficient. Our newly-inaugurated President and his current political party believe their power and opinions are secure. New Yorkers’ outrage won’t change this. Me calling my Democratic representatives in Congress won’t change this. But you––you can change this. If the base starts to crumble, the structure––however formidable––cannot stand.