In this bonus episode, I share personal thoughts about my faith journey and the U.S. election. See transcript for full dialogue.
Hello friends, and welcome to a bonus episode of the Reframe It! Mindset Motivation Podcast: Stress Reduction through Positive Storytelling.
My name is Erica R. Maier, creator of Reframe It! Mindset Motivation and your host for this podcast.
Today’s bonus episode is very personal to me. It might be the toughest episode I have ever recorded.
Full disclosure, this bonus episode really has nothing to do with positive storytelling, and it will not likely reduce your stress, either, sorry about that. Still, in advance of the U.S. election, it’s a personal message I’ve been composing for weeks. And the time to share that message has come.
If there is only one thing you take away from the following 1500+ words, my hope is that it’s this: Jesus holds. Jesus holds. Jesus holds. That I know for sure.
I've clung specifically to His words and His actions so tightly these last few months. His unconditional love astounds me still. I long to love like Him. I fail often. I fail every day, in fact. But thankfully He is merciful. And He gives me chance after chance to love better. We don’t deserve Him, but grace gives us full access, hallelujah.
But I’ve been quiet about something for far too long. Sadly, today, I must admit I am disheartened by the American evangelical church. I actually have been for years. Many, many years.
Something seemed off, and I could never quite put my finger on what it was. But I dismissed it, assuming it was just a lie from the devil. Because HOW could the evangelical church — where I was inspired to develop my relationship with Jesus — possibly be anything but right and good and just? Surely, I had to be incorrect. Surely, I had to be alone in these thoughts. So I never voiced any of it. Ever. But I kept the evangelical church at arm’s length as I wrestled.
Still, my husband and I faithfully streamed services every weekend, read nightly devotionals, prayed. Even though my faith in the evangelical church waned, I never, *ever* lost faith in Jesus. I need to make that abundantly clear.
And then, this year, I was finally able to arrive at the reason why the evangelical church felt off all those years — because the example of love Jesus exudes is no longer reflected in many of its spaces, and in turn, no longer reflected in many of its people.
I can actually credit Donald Trump for that. His version of leadership has caused such immense brokenness in the U.S. that many of its cracks rose to the surface, including those within the American evangelical church. That inspired me to pay attention.
Those cracks challenged me to sincerely ask myself why I believe what I believe. I’d never unpacked it all before. And I found that some long-standing beliefs held. Some didn’t.
While I was digging in and scraping at those cracks, I learned that many evangelical churches, and many of its congregates, have brought considerable harm to numerous people — more than even the church itself may realize: to LGBTQ people, to minorities, to anyone who may dare interpret scripture in a way that doesn’t fit inside a “pre-approved” box. And that’s not an exhaustive list.
And while that grieves me, it also serves to remind me that the evangelical church is comprised of deeply, deeply flawed humans. So I try so very hard (and fail so very hard) to extend grace as Jesus would. Because I’ve certainly been guilty of -- heck, I’m ACTIVELY guilty of -- hypocrisy, judgement, hate, conditional love, all the usual suspects. I need that grace too.
And even though I have seen immense cruelty displayed by some who claim to be Christ-followers, I still choose to believe most Christians are really good people with genuinely good hearts, with nothing but the best of intentions. And I sincerely believe if more Christians knew some of the harm they inadvertently cause, it would give them pause. It certainly gave me pause. It humbled me to my core.
At this point, you may want to ask me for specifics. How exactly have evangelical churches brought distress?
This may sound like a cowardly answer, but I am not ready to talk specifics. Much of my work next year (and perhaps years to come) will be about bringing stories of such harm to light. The content I intend to share will take months and months to develop and research. It could very well change the trajectory of my career, but that remains to be seen.
Shifting gears to the election. It's unpopular for a pro-life Christ-follower to vote for Biden. But I did just that. No, I don't align or agree with all of Biden's platform. But if he wins, I have the freedom to make my voice heard regarding policies about which I don't agree. My vote for Biden was a vote for better leadership, especially the handling of COVID.
Truthfully, the vast number of high-profile evangelical Christian leaders who stand behind Trump has deeply saddened me, but hasn’t really surprised me. I believe much of it is (although definitely not limited to) partisan loyalty. I say that because many of those very same leaders wrote scathing remarks about Bill Clinton when his affair with Monica Lewinsky came to light. But when asked to address similar actions and behaviors from Donald Trump, they were much softer on him and offered excuses instead. I know deep down that if Donald Trump didn’t have an “R” under his name on the ballot, many evangelicals would rip him to shreds. You know it too. And yet ....
When Trump’s reality show, The Apprentice, premiered in 2004, I ate it up. I was a HUGE fan of the show. It was incredibly entertaining, TRUMP was incredibly entertaining, and sometimes funny. I really liked him a lot. I also noticed he had this uncanny ability to believe something so assuredly — even something false — that it became undeniably true in his mind, and as a result he was able to effortlessly sell others on its validity.
That’s how Trump can say things like, “I am the least racist person in this room” or that he can list "ending the Covid-19 pandemic" as one of the top first-term accomplishments of the Trump administration and many believe it. Because *he* wholeheartedly believes it. He’s a master manipulator.
Even though I was conflicted about it at the time, I voted for Donald Trump in 2016. I thought it would be interesting to watch a non-politician and businessman shake things up. I knew he had talent to sell folks on pretty much anything. So I was curious how he might use that talent in The White House.
My choice to vote for Trump in 2016 remains one of my greatest regrets.
He has destroyed far more than he’s built. He’s shown zero remorse for hundreds of thousands of deaths. But in his mind, he’s been a resounding success. (I could go on and on about the racism, misogyny, wall-building, inhumane treatment of children outside the womb, but that’s well-documented.)
And non-Christians are watching. They see the unwavering support of Trump and the brushing aside of his atrocities by evangelicals. They’re taking note. And it’s driving them further away from ever even *considering* attendance of *any* church ... and sadly further away from Jesus, the most innocent One in all this. Yes, because of the actions of many Christ-followers, non-Christians are, by default, also suspect of our Savior and as a result may never know or seek His love. Who can blame them?
I’m not sure what our country will look like on November 4. One of the most frequent commands in the Bible is to “Fear not!” But I am afraid. That’s my truth. But even as fear tries to burrow its way into my heart, I will meet it head-on with hope. Jo Saxton said, “Hope still wins, but it often has scraped knees because it keeps crawling forward.” Even if my knees are raw to the bone, I will remain hopeful.
Above all else, I know Jesus holds. I know He loves me and He loves you. I saw a post online recently that caught my attention, illustrating how Christ sees our candidates. It read: “Kamala is beloved. Donald is fearfully and wonderfully made. Mike is cherished. Joe is important enough that I died for him.”
I sometimes try to see those four through Jesus’s eyes. And then I remember I should be doing exactly that for all.
With regard to that love, you may argue I am holding the evangelical church at fault for shortcomings I too possess. That’s fair. I recognize that. It’s no small feat to extend to my enemies the kind of love Jesus exudes. It’s no small feat to extend to those who have deeply hurt good friends the kind of love Jesus exudes. It’s no small feat to extend to those who commit heinous crimes against humanity the kind of love Jesus exudes.
Like I said, I fail often. But every day that God blesses me with another 24 hours of life is another day to try.