A few years ago, I had my first experience of being mocked for going to college. As she laughed at my decision to go to college and become “one of those educated people who think they are better than everyone else”, I sat there in disbelief. Her words were like swords in my heart. Aside from being upset and angry, I found myself confused. I couldn’t help but to think that maybe I was wrong for wanting to further my education.
Just a few weeks later, I was told that I “have let my godless, liberal college professors lead me off the path of righteousness.” Again, I sat in disbelief. These remarks did not come out during some sort of argument or because they were intentionally provoked. As I wrestled with these two remarks for months, I could not understand why education is demonized. I could not understand how someone could make a blanket statement about a group of people and their religious practices without knowing any of them. This comment cut deeper than the last. I knew that these remarks were ludicrous and spoke no truth to my experiences, however I was filled with guilt. For many years, I’ve been burdened with the guilt of abandoning my Christian foundation and I’ve allowed these two comments by born again evangelicals to ridicule my thoughts.
On this morning after the election of Donald Trump, I am disappointed but not surprised. I’ve spent the morning processing the results and looking over the exit polls. According to a New York Times article, 81% of white evangelicals or white born-again Christians voted for Trump. I am not as much surprised as I am perplexed. As fascinating as it is to ponder Trump’s relationship with American Christians on a sociopolitical level, on a personal level, the only thought running through my head is, today I am grateful for my “godless, liberal college professors.”
Before I go any further, let me be clear that my experience in college was not defined by moral-less and godless academics brainwashing me into heathenism. I was fortunate enough to have had professors across the faith and political spectrum including atheists. They pushed and challenged me to think critically about my beliefs. I was never mocked but encouraged to move beyond my comfort zone to better understand myself and the world which I live. They taught me respect, tolerance, love, and sacrifice. I began to understand the issue with my adamant support of George Bush in the 2000 election solely based on him referencing God more in his public speeches. Letting go of my absolute truths did not diminish my faith, it only allowed it to flourish. I finally began to listen to others with an open heart. Without the impact of my college professors, I do not believe that I would have received my call to ministry. I would not think more deeply or compassionately about the world around me. I would not be willing to challenge myself. Today, I am grateful for my “godless, liberal college professors.”
Now what? How do I move forward knowing that a majority of my fellow believers do not share the same political viewpoint while maintaining all the qualities that were instilled in me by my mentors? This election has shown me that I can no longer allow guilt to consume my life. I will not allow this guilt to make me believe I’ve abandoned my principles. I will fight the feeling that I must justify my beliefs or faith journey. I will no longer be discouraged by the insults of others. I will not feel shame when I do not share the same opinions as many other Christians. I will not let fear consume me regardless of who our political leaders are. As someone who chooses to follow Jesus, I will maintain hope that we can create a better world. I woke up this morning knowing that regardless of who won the presidency, I would have continued fighting for things that I believe in. I will not compromise my character by demoralizing the other side and making this about the educated verses the non-educated or good Christians verses bad Christian. I will continue finding courage in the Spirit to tear down walls, build bridges, create larger tables, and pour out love to all. I will pray and support our elected President, knowing that when and if the time comes, I will not be afraid to fight like hell for those not included in this newest vision of the United States.
But today, I will be grateful for my college professors in whom I have discovered a beautiful Spirit in all of them that has taught me to see a future hope even in times distress.