I've seen the skeptical looks people give me when they hear both my religious and political opinions. Some say I can't possibly be a believer in God, a Christian, while also being one of the most politically liberal people they've ever met. Some can't figure out how it adds up.
That doesn't mean that I don't consider my spiritual beliefs when making political decisions. I absolutely do. But everyone seems to assume that Christian = conservative or Republican or whatever other labels you want to give it. A lot of people believe that me celebrating the fact that I'm wholeheartedly a Democrat means I'm automatically an atheist and look down on all religious believers. If they hear that I supported Hilary Clinton, or worse, Bernie Sanders, in the 2016 election, then they assume that I couldn't possibly have a strong relationship with God.
Writing it out like this makes it seem even crazier to me that a lot of people think that these two things depend so heavily on one another. I'd like to remind those people that the separation of church and state exists for a reason. For this very reason.
I'm pro-choice. I unequivocally support a woman's right to choose. I'll advocate for women to have autonomy over their bodies, to have safe and legal access to abortion, until the day I die.
I'm a fierce ally for the LGBTQ community. Same-sex discrimination is something that haunts me to my core and the people I love in this community will always have my support. I will always hold firm in my belief that everyone, regardless of sex or gender identity or sexual orientation, deserves the same opportunities to love and marriage and starting a family.
But these beliefs of mine don't invalidate my belief in God. Or my relationship with church and religion itself. I can be both. I am both.
I've had more than one someone tell me that I can't support same-sex marriage and be a Christian because of what the Bible states. I've had scripture quoted at me in response to the fact that I am and will always be pro-choice. I've even gotten my fair share of dirty looks for having and wanting tattoos.
I've let it roll off my back because I know, in my soul, that I believe in a God who loves. That's it. No buts, no conditions, no restrictions. And even more than that, He tells us to love as he does. No questions asked. My political beliefs don't affect the love I have for human beings. They don't dictate how I get to practice religion. And vice versa, religion doesn't get to dictate what issues I support or which candidates I vote for.
I struggled for a long time to grasp the understanding that I can have my own beliefs, separate from what "traditional" Christians would have me do or say. For a long time, a voice in my head told me that I would be a bad Christian or that God would be disappointed if I chose to believe certain things, say certain things, or be certain things.
It took a long time for me to realize that generosity, compassion, and love should be my number one priorities. That I shouldn't focus on what society and tradition tell me about how Christians have always behaved. That I shouldn't put all my energy and effort into the strict rules or do's and don'ts of religion. Believing in God is about loving your fellow humans. In whatever shape, size, race, or gender they come in.
To me, my belief in God is about creating a safe space for everyone to be exactly the way He made them. Gay or straight. Transgender or Cisgender. Black or white. Christian or Muslim or Hindu or Catholic or Athiest.
It's about morality and standing firm in my own beliefs. It's not about checking each box on a ballot with what the majority of my religion may believe.
Here's the thing about religion: there are over 4000 of them around the world. It's not my job, or yours, to try and correct or dispute every single religious belief on the planet. At their cores, most religions are founded on the same thing. On the ideas of love, of kindness, and of being the best version of yourself.
Throughout history, we've seen that the overlap of religion and government usually don't end well for most involved. We've seen that mass, forced conversion from one religion to another, for reasons politically motivated or otherwise, is not something that can be done humanely or without fatal consequence.
Religion should not be the basis on which every law is created. It shouldn't be an excuse for persecution or alienation of certain minorities.
The only part of any religion that should be carried over into politics is the basis of love and respect.
I can support the LGBTQ community and be pro-choice and support immigrants and vote for whichever candidate my political views align with the most, despite the perceived Christian stereotypes.
There's a lot of pressure for young Christians, or young people a part of any religion, to fit into boxes that have been carefully molded over thousands of years. Boxes that say you can't believe one thing while also believing another, just because your religion says so.
My religious and political ideals are two separately formed belief systems. And most importantly, neither of my beliefs invalidate the other.