July 11, 2019 | Reading Time: 4 minutes
Megan Rapinoe’s Christian America
Given the evil we face, we need to recognize the religious left more than ever.
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I’ve been having a political debate lately with secular liberals and leftists about something they don’t want to talk about. They don’t want to talk about it, because they don’t think it’s real. But I think it is real even if they don’t want to talk about it. Indeed, not wanting to talk about it underscores my point. What point? Here it is.
The religious right is a conspicuous presence in our politics, because the religious right won’t let us forget it’s here. The religious left, by contrast, is small—if it exists at all. Pete Buttigieg has played a role in reviving hope of a dormant religious left. But for the most part, this has been aspirational to the point of make-believe. People on the left don’t identify themselves according to their religion. They identify themselves according to an array of commitments, one of which might be their religion. In any case, religion as it is conventionally understood is not the keystone of their identity.
But what if we’re thinking about the religious left in the wrong terms? What if we are not using the right language to describe things and ideals people have faith in? What if we’re not seeing something that’s so obvious as to be invisible? My claim is that the religious left is here, that it dwarfs the religious right, yet we insist it’s neither.
We should face reality.
The Trump administration is set to “round up” immigrants this weekend. This is reminiscent of the Nazi’s rounding up Jews.
We should recognize that we are as religious as the religious right, but not only that—we are more moral. The religious right believes it represents a “real America.” It couldn’t be more wrong. America’s nationalist ideal is equality. We aren’t going to beat “Christian nationalists” by denying our inborn nationalist feelings. We need a truly liberal nationalism, and the place to start is by rediscovering the faith in ourselves.
Before you freak out, let me enter into evidence a recent speech by Megan Rapinoe. Rapinoe is one of the star players who led the US women’s soccer team to victory in the 2019 World Cup. She and her teammates were given a ticker tape parade Wednesday in New York. Afterward, she gave one of the best sermons I’ve heard.
Sermon? Yes, it was one of the best sermons I’ve heard even though she made no pretense of it being a sermon. Rapinoe made no effort, nor did anyone, to act as if this were a religious occasion. But it was a religious occasion (I don’t mean the euphoria of soccer fans!). Just as Jesus did over 2,000 years ago, Rapinoe exhorted us to love each other as we love ourselves, and to bring the Kingdom of Heaven down to earth.
This is my charge to everyone. We have to be better. We have to love more, hate less. We got to listen more, and talk less. We got to know this is everybody’s responsibility, every single person here. Every single person who is not here. Every single person who doesn’t want to be here. Every single person who agrees and doesn’t agree. It is our responsibility to make this world a better place.
I think this team does an incredible job of taking that on our shoulders and understanding the position that we have and the platform we have within this world. Yes we play sports. Yes we play soccer. Yes we’re female athletes but we’re so much more than that. You’re so much more than that. You’re more than a fan. You’re more than someone who just supports sport. You’re more than someone who tunes in every four years. You’re someone who walks these streets every single day. You interact with your community every single day.
How do you make your community better? How do you make the people around you better? Your family? Your closest friends? The 10 closest people to you? The 20 closest people to you? The most 100 closest people to you? It’s every single person’s responsibility (all italics are mine).
I have no idea if Rapinoe lays claim to a religion. Even if she does not, that doesn’t matter, and that it doesn’t matter underscores my point. You don’t have to be a religious person, per se, to embrace, internalized and advance the best ideals of a religion like, say, Christianity. She doesn’t have to believe Jesus is her “Lord and Savior” to believe in the same things he believed or to speak the same language of human rights that he spoke. In this sense, Rapinoe is this week’s No. 1 Christian.
I’m kidding (or am I?) to make a point. The secular liberals and leftists with whom I have been debating have not established religious identity—and Christianity is but one kind—on their own terms. They still accept religion as defined by the religious right. And because the religious right places obedience to authority above all moral considerations, the religious left thinks of “religion” as a byword for Republican.
It doesn’t have to be that way. And given the evil we face, it must not be. The Trump administration is set to “round up” immigrants this weekend who entered improperly. This is reminiscent of the Nazi’s rounding up Jews. This is what evil looks like.
You need religion to defeat evil.
You have faith in humanity, and in America, or you don’t.
John Stoehr is the editor of the Editorial Board. He writes the daily edition. Find him @johnastoehr.
John, this topic deserves a lot more treatment. I find it bizarre that the Christian left, in particular, seems so circumspect in positioning its moral disapproval of the Trump administration in distinctly Christian terms. Note that there is an example right in front of them even as I write: the Jewish entity, mostly millennial-driven, called Never Again. Here are a group of young Jews who have positioned their moral outrage in terms of their Jewish identity. Note that most are not Orthodox Jews (although Orthodox Jews were among the protesters). Still this fact did not lessen their status as Jews or sense of outrage they felt in terms of the moral ethos of their religious tradition. They may not have been “religious,” but still they protested as members of their religion. This key point underscores how though less religious in appearance, they have proven to be far more religious than more Orthodox peers who see no reason to object to caging children. What seems further shocking is how vigorous the religious “left” had been during the civil rights era. So much of the civil rights movements was propelled by religious leaders who took a moral stand as Christians against segregation. Where are those leaders now? This is the part where I scratch my head.
Great comments, Bennett. Thank you.