As someone who was beginning to come of age four years ago, this year and this election in particular allow for an interesting time to reflect, both on myself and my country. Four years ago, in the fall of my junior year of high school, I was beginning to develop my first political ideologies and understanding of the world just as Donald Trump was becoming president. This was a fraught time to come of age—a time of division, polarization and divisiveness. At the same time that I was learning more about who I was and what I believed in, much of the social fabric of our nation was being torn down the middle.
The question of religion and its role in our democracy was at the center of these divisions. I was growing in my personal faith journey and forming a relationship with God. I saw how many of these national issues seemed to group the religious communities I considered myself a part of on one side of these debates and the political spectrum in general—almost always the side I wasn’t on. This made it harder for me to feel a deep connection to my faith community and, at times, with God.
I have grown up in the era of Donald Trump, but more importantly, the era of polarization in America. Sometimes, this division was described as the Evangelical right on one side, and the “woke” left on the other side. My Christian values taught me to fight for justice, love my neighbor, and fight for the oppressed. Because of this, I began to believe in causes on the left yet I felt like everyone around me assumed that, because of my religious beliefs, I must have been the enemy, unwilling to fight for social justice. In a country with a myriad of beautiful religions and traditions and, unfortunately, just as many opinions about each of them and what they imply, it can feel hard to be grounded in one’s beliefs and faith—and that’s coming from someone whose religious community has controlled the dominant narrative in this nation since its founding.
2020 is teaching me, and this country, a lot about who we are. In many ways, I see 2020 as a climax of undercurrents that have been at work for many years, brought to the forefront in a year of unrest and uncertainty. We’re facing a global pandemic, a nationwide racial reckoning, a mounting climate crisis, and a presidential transition. 2020 is teaching me that faith and community are more important now than ever: we must come together in shared community, with a faith in each other and whatever it is we may believe in; because when we are together, respecting one other and our beliefs, we are unstoppable, as demonstrated by democracy and activism in this election. This time of reflection has allowed me to understand that if I am a Christian who disagrees with the hatred and polarization sometimes attributed to its followers, I don’t need to explain myself because I know that isn’t what it means to be a Christian. Faith is too important to let go of because of other peoples’ judgements. I’ve learned that, in this moment, it is important to be true to ourselves and our beliefs and to accept others on that basis. 2020 has also taught me that there is so much potential for love and community in this nation, and it starts with having faith, respecting one another’s beliefs, and not being afraid to use our voice.
Have you experienced a time in which you struggled to feel a deep connection to your religious beliefs because of how you feared others would view you? How has this year helped you grow in your political, or even religious beliefs?