Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Letters to My Dear Sophia: When Evil Wins the Day

This is a series entitled "Letters to My Dear Sophia," which I intend as a compilation both for my daughter when she grows up, but for you as you raise your children, and think about yourselves in the oft-parental relationship to your heavenly parent. My intent is that, through reading these letters to my daughter and the intense love I have poured into them, you might hear an echo of the kind of love and hope that God has for all of us.

My dearest Sophia,

I cried this morning holding you in my arms. Yesterday, we went to vote in the presidential election for the first woman to ever hold a major party nomination. I wore a pantsuit and a white shirt as a nod to all my sisters who came before and fought for my voice to be heard. I cried while filling out my ballot. Let me tell you why.

When I was in sixth grade I wrote an essay about Helen Keller. It was so good that my teacher accused me of having my older brother write it. When I was in 8th grade I got 104% on a US History test about WWII. The teacher made me take the test again under her supervision because she didn't believe I could score that high without cheating (I got the same score). When I was 18, I was mailed a flyer for deaconess training, the approved ministry track for women in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, who believe women cannot be pastors. When I was 26, I was told I was "a good little preacher" but that I wasn't "enough like a pastor" to lead a congregation (a pastor is male, apparently). When I was 27, a parishioner cornered me in the church office and joked about "getting me on the church bus" and "not letting me escape." He worked across the street from my house, where I lived alone.

All my life, I have been told that I can do lots of things! Except those things that are for men. I can be eloquent, but surely not as eloquent as my brother. I can be smart, but surely not the smartest in the class. I can be a minister, but not an equal to male church leaders. I can preach, but my words will always be hindered by my femaleness--my voice, my expressions, the length of my skirt. I voted for a competent, knowledgeable, tough stateswoman, with you, my daughter. And you and I and every other girl and woman were told that it doesn't matter how accomplished you are; you are still less than the least qualified man. That hurts. That's why I cried.

I cried because you deserve better. I cried because I worked so hard my whole life, have fought so hard for recognition, to be considered equal. And yet our president elect has admitted to sexual assault, and now he will become the leader of the free world. He has valued women only for their sexuality and appearance, and now we must listen to him; follow him, as a qualified woman sits, once again, on the sidelines. I am angry. I am angry at our country, for being so partisan that they would vote against me, against you, against our LGBT family and friends, against our Muslim and atheist brothers and sisters. I am deeply wounded. I have been told, once again, that I do not have value, and that you do not have value, except for what we offer to men. I am discouraged, that we have come so far only for so much racism and sexism and self-interest and white, angry hatred overtake it so easily. I expected better of us.

This is the first major historical event in your lifetime, but I think it's important for you to know about it even though you don't remember it because right now I feel fear, and anger, and disappointment, and pain, and you will feel these things too, someday. You will be told you have less value because of your gender identity or appearance. You will be told your voice means less, that your consent doesn't matter, that you aren't as smart or worthy of leadership positions. You will be told that justice is impossible, and self interest is the only way. But my dear Sophia, those are lies. You, like every boy and man in this world, were created in God's image.  You are worthy, not because of your appearance, your orientation, your reproductive organs, or the color of your skin, but because you are a child of God. Never forget that. Those who judge you as less, value you less, give you less regard, tell you who you love is wrong, tell you you do not have autonomy over your own body, they are speaking from their own brokenness. We are all sinners, and we are all separated from God's goodness by our mortality and the evil in and around us.

And yet, Christ is here. Christ is here declaring your worth as a child of God: "There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus." (Galatians 3:28) And most importantly, Christ has made us a promise, that we will be redeemed. That "that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation will be able to separate us from the love of Christ Jesus." (Romans 8:38-39) To me, this says that evil didn't win. Today, our country voted for injustice, for fear, for self-centeredness, for separation. But while our lives, our nation, and our world are finite, God is infinite. God's justice reigns supreme over all our human failures, over your life and your neighbors' lives, and the lives of every person who has ever existed. 

Do not let the evil of today define and discourage you, but continue to seek justice, love mercy, and walk with your God who is bigger than Donald Trump, and Vladimir Putin, and hate, and greed, and all evil. Let that God rule your life. Fight for justice. Know you will fail sometimes, and despair, as I have today. Know you will let unkindness win, as I have today. But know that the love of Christ connects us both to our (gay, trans, black, immigrant, Muslim, atheist, pro-life, pro-choice, fearful, lost, angry, confused) brothers and sisters, and that it also connects us to the future that we have been promised. And that future is one of peace, equality, and redemption.

My prayer for you today is that you learn to let hope overwhelm you, and never give up, even when those around you tell you that you can't do it. And that the peace that surpasses all our understanding work in your heart as you act justly and love even those who persecute you.