I want to help you understand my lament.

I'm hurting, friend. I'm hurting deeply. And I'm being told to suck it up and put away my pain and move on. Rather than call those responses insensitive, I want to help you understand my lament, if I can. 

My heart is so tender, and I'm praying with each word that they will be received in the manner in which I intend. I know a lot of voices are shouting right now. I hope to be a voice that pulls up a chair to chat over coffee and share my heart. 

I occupy a unique space. Here is our family from a couple Easters ago.

I'm white, but four of my children aren't. I was born here into a family that dates back to the pilgrim days, but four of my children are immigrants from Asia and Africa. I have ancestors who fought under the Confederate flag, but I've been targeted online as a "race traitor" for adopting outside of our ethnicity. I easily pass as having no disabilities (though I live with chronic conditions that are invisible yet can be disabling plus I have minor physical disabilities from childhood abuse), but I'm raising children who live with autism and cerebral palsy and HIV and visual impairments, including one who uses a wheelchair. My husband and I are straight and fit into accepted gender norms, but we have dear friends and neighbors who aren't or don't. I'm a Christian, but last year a Muslim friend of mine and her son waited at the preschool until we arrived to walk in with me and Zoe because she was afraid to walk in by herself after the Paris terrorism attacks.

And I occupy one common space: I am a woman who, like 1 in 6, has been raped. I am a woman who was sexually harassed in my workspace and whispered about when I filed a grievance against the man in power who objectified me. I am a woman raised by a father who doesn't "read books by women because they aren't any good." (And I'm a writer, so the hurt is doubled there.)

I am grieving. Many are reading this as being a sore loser. But that's not how I'm feeling. I have voted in five presidential elections, and my candidate only won one of them. It's not new for me to watch election results and see that it didn't go the way I voted.

But I've never felt this way before. And I want you to understand my lament. I want to try to help you grasp the depth of and heart behind this pain.

Before that, let me be clear about what I'm not saying. I'm not saying that I feel this way because the candidate I voted for wasn't elected; that's not the basis of my feelings. I'm not saying that I don't trust God; I do. I'm not saying that I reject anyone who disagrees; I find beauty in our diversity of all forms. 

What I am saying is please don't dismiss my pain or put a timeline on anyone's grief. Hold space. In the words of James 1, please be slow to speak and quick to listen and slow to become angry. 

(And if you're wondering, I've confessed to God and others when I've fallen short there too. I'm not pointing to a speck in your eye while I have a log in my own. I promise. And I wrote these words today instead of yesterday because I couldn't ask others to repent yet then without words dripping with my own sinful arrogance.)

I'm not going to list every way Trump acted or spoke in hurtful ways about groups to which my family belongs. This post isn't about him. He is our next president. I am praying for him. I'm even rooting for him. I genuinely hope none of the grave concerns I have about his leadership, character, and policies will be accurate. I would love nothing more than to be proven wrong.

But I believe Maya Angelou is right when she said, "when people show you who they are, believe them." This post isn't about who Trump is. We've known that for a while. This post is what the votes of white evangelicals have shown me about who they are. 

I don't believe most people who voted for him did so because of his expressions and actions of racism or ableism or xenophobia or misogyny or sexual assault or religious discrimination. I'm not saying that's who you are if you filled the bubble by his name. I want to think the best of my neighbors, so I'm telling myself you were driven by other reasons. 

But? Whatever your reasons, a vote for Trump required a rationalization. 

What he said about "the blacks" is terrible, but...

What he said on mic about sexually assaulting women is awful, but...

How he mocked several people with disabilities isn't okay, but...

His statement that immigrants are rapists and criminals was out of line, but...

I could keep going. I think you get the idea, though. In order to vote for Trump, something mattered more to you than his mistreatment or discrimination of certain groups. Whatever followed the "but..." is why you voted for him. Maybe it had to do with the economy or the Supreme Court or his anti-establishment vibe or [fill in the blank]. I trust that you had your reasons. Some policy aspect of his was compelling (or of hers was so awful to you that you felt like you had to vote for the person with the best chance of stopping Hillary).

But here's the deal: Your policy stance followed the "but..." Our personhood preceded it.

So to me, here is what I hear:

What he said about Patience, Philip, and Patricia is terrible, but...

What he said on mic about sexually assaulting someone just like you were assaulted is awful, but...

How he mocked Zoe and Robbie and you isn't okay, but...

His statement that Patience, Philip, Patricia, and Zoe are rapists and criminals was out of line, but...

Can you pause for a moment and empathize with how that feels?

You can say I'm being too sensitive. You can tell me I'm taking it too personally. You can try to dismiss my feelings. (You wouldn't be the first.)

I'm writing this because I want to help you understand my lament, though. I do. But it is sensitive and personal and rooted in some valid feelings. So trying to help you understand means I have to be vulnerable and open myself up to criticisms from the cheap seats. 

My heart was broken when I realized Trump had won. I didn't have much time to work through my feelings, though, because I'm a mom. Our kids had been being told by classmates that they would be sent back to Uganda if Trump was elected. I had been responding with truth and compassion, but I also didn't think he'd win. When he did, I had to struggle with how to find the words to help her feel secure and prepare her for how to respond when those kids said anything that day after, emboldened by a Trump win. (This is the same child who had a classmate yell, "go back to Africa!" at her last year after Trump's campaign had taken off with racist undertones.) I coached her white sister through how to respond and how to have her sister's back. I walked them in to the elementary school, and I spoke with my kids' teachers to make sure they were aware of these concerns. 

And then I walked back to my van and wept. 

And then I went on social media and was told that my grief came from being a sore loser, that I was being divisive by sharing my hurt, and that I was more concerned with the gospel of Shannon than the gospel of Christ.

And I wept some more. 

I don't think most of my white Christian brothers and sisters intended their votes as racist or ableist or misogynistic or anti-immigrant acts. But? Overwhelmingly, white evangelicals voted for Trump, deciding that their "but..." reasons trumped discrimination against our family. This isn't an isolated event, though; our previous church supported the adoption of black children but then members became critical of me and my faith when I began speaking out about racial injustice, and every week I hear from families who are asked to leave their church because their children's disabilities are too much to accommodate. That makes me feel like the church - at least the white church - isn't for my family, if their political priorities are more important than our personal pain. 

I knew how to handle it when my daughter didn't feel safe at school. But the church - especially the white evangelical church - does not seem safe to me right now for my family. I'm not sure how to handle that. I am listening to try to learn and love better, but what I'm hearing is often hurting me more deeply. I want to understand you, but I'm being wounded in the process. I really don't know what to do with this.

Right now, I'm feeling like the man left beaten and bloody by the side of the road, while my religious neighbors pass on the other side. A sizeable chunk of my white Christian brothers and sisters - maybe you among them - voted for a man who unapologetically disrespected so many groups to which our family belongs: immigrants, women, people of color, those with disabilities, and sexual assault survivors. It's good that my faith in God is firm, because right now my faith in his church is shaky.

I'm still for the church. I'm just not sure the church - at least the segment that looks like me - is still for me. 

And that's why I am lamenting. 

10 reasons I’m voting for Hillary, even though I’ve always voted Republican

I’ve shared a few Facebook posts lately in which I’ve drawn attention to flaws of one candidate and asked people not to reply with “but Hillary…” I think we all should vote for the candidate we support and not against any other candidate. So I’m taking my own challenge. That’s only fair, right?

My first political post – I’m pro-life, and I’m voting for Hillary. Here’s why – compared the two major party candidates. This post, however, will answer “why Hillary?” without invoking the other candidate’s record. As aversion to the other candidate is a key factor in voting decisions in this race, I think it’s important for any decided voter to speak more about why they’re voting for their chosen candidate and not just why they’re not voting for the other one.

I’m not voting for Hillary because she’s the lesser of two evils. (I don’t buy that.) I’m not voting for Hillary because she’s better than the alternatives. (Even though she is, in my opinion.) I’m not voting for Hillary because I’m brainwashed by liberal media. (So please don’t insult my intelligence with that counterargument.) I’m not voting for Hillary because I’m a Democrat. (I’m unaffiliated, though I used to be registered Republican and I’ve historically voted for the GOP in most national elections, including every presidential one.)

I’m voting for Hillary because I – a white pro-life evangelical suburban Christian housewife and mother of six – am for her.

I’m with her. Below are 10 reasons why, many addressing some of the most common criticisms I’m hearing about her campaign. Like my previous post in support of Hillary, I’m not writing this to change your mind. (I think most of ours are set by now.) Rather, I’m offering an explanation. I don’t think every Christian is obligated to vote the way I am. I think we all need to vote our conscience, and that might not look the same for you as it does for me.

(Side note: A few commenters have tried to argue with me on that last point. They say it’s moral relativism to say that your vote and my vote can be different, even as we share the same faith. That’s nonsense, y’all. I believe absolute truth exists. So many issues are clear cut in the Bible. Murder is wrong. Justice is good. Adultery is not good. Sinners can be forgiven. Jesus lived the perfect life we couldn’t and then became the perfect sacrifice to defeat sin and death. And so on… those are points on which I hold that there’s only one biblical stance. But I also believe the Holy Spirit convicts us in different ways on other issues. And who to vote for? I don’t see an unambiguous single verse that says “Go, therefore, and be with her” or “Voteth third party” or “Let the GOP come to me and do not hinder them.” It doesn’t work that way. So, yes, I do believe Christians can worship together on November 6 and vote differently on November 8.)

We’re all responsible for making the best choice we can make. In North Carolina, those options will be Hillary Clinton, Donald Trump, Gary Johnson, or – as a write-in candidate – Jill Stein (and any other write-in votes will be grouped as miscellaneous and not counted toward the person because our state has strict requirements for write-in eligibility, and only Stein met them). In your state, you might have more options. In any state, abstaining from voting in this particular race on principle is a valid choice too, no matter how anyone tries to vote shame you (though please engage in the process by voting down the rest of your ballot!).

As for me, here’s 10 of the reasons my best choice this year is Hillary Clinton, in short, and then you’ll find the expanded reasoning below. (Like my pro-life post, this is a lengthy one, so feel free to scroll to the sections that interest you the most! Or, if you’re sick of politics, then come back Monday for an apolitical post in this space.)

1. Her experience is deep and extensive.

2. She owns her mistakes.

3. Her career has demonstrated concern for vulnerable children and families again and again.

4. And, no, she doesn’t want abortion readily accessible up until birth.

5. While we’re at it, she doesn’t want to take away your guns.

6. But she does care about security, both our officers at home and our armed forces (and those of us they protect).

7. I don’t think her Supreme Court nominees would be dangerous to our country.

8. Her economic plans make sense and benefit average Americans.

9. She is bringing together a divided nation (to some degree).

10. She is a woman of faith.

A friend asked online a few weeks back what parts of the Bible had led me to support Hillary (and acknowledged she would ask the same of a Trump supporter, though I suspect she asked me because her network doesn’t include many Christians who are vocally supporting Hillary). I struggled to answer the question, not because verses didn’t lead me to where I am but because I feel like matching Bible verses to human candidates is dangerous. I can only share where I have landed, after a lot of time between me and God, wrestling with all this. I will be writing a post soon about what key passages in scripture have guided my political views, and they’ll probably answer that friend’s question in a roundabout way, but I think including them here – though I could – would carry with it a sort of implication that there’s only one biblical way to vote.

As for you, if we share the same faith? Get your Bible. Sit with God with all of this. Wrestle through it. Do the work yourself. This post – and my one to come about the Bible and my political views – isn’t your fast track to skip that. (Sorry.)

You shouldn’t take this post as anything more than the opinion of a flawed woman striving to be a faithful follower of her God. This post isn’t scripture. I’m not God. But I think he has given me a mind and a voice to use them, as well as a nerdy desire to research topics in depth, and many people have asked pointed questions as follow ups to my prior posts, so here goes…

1. Her experience is deep and extensive.

She is a proven leader who, yes, has made her fair share of mistakes (which I’ll get to in a moment). She started her career before federal special education law IDEA or its predecessor Public Law 94-142 had been passed, yet one of her earliest projects with the Children’s Defense Fund was advocating for kids with disabilities to have a place in the classroom. As First Lady of Arkansas, she was active in HIV/AIDS advocacy (back in the 1990s when most were steering clear). As First Lady of the United States, she championed the health care needs of vulnerable children. As senator, she fought for the responders to 9/11. As Secretary of State, she met with leaders in 112 countries (in addition to the 82 countries she visited as First Lady). Since then, she has continued to stay involved in local and global issues that matter to her.

In other words, Hillary has served in a wide range of roles over the course of my 34-year lifetime. I’ve heard some scoff at what her record is if she has all that experience. That’s a valid question. I’ve known some veteran teachers who were crummy teachers and others who were nothing short of heroes. I could point to some senators who seem to just warm a seat and others who champion needed stances. So in the rest of this post I’ll dive into the quality of her experience too. But I think it’s important to start by taking note of the quantity.

(Also? She’s a person. If your opposition to or discomfort with her is based in dehumanization, then that’s not biblical or humane. Find some pieces – like this one – that she about her as a person. If you’re hating her and you’re a Christian, then that’s sin. I would say the same if we were talking about Trump. She was created with intent by God, fashioned in his image, and is valued deeply by him. She’s not a villain or a caricature or a devil. She’s a person.)

At this level, we need someone who is more than an apprentice. I didn’t vote for Obama in 2008 because I thought he lacked the experience necessary to be president as that point in his career. So why wouldn’t we consider someone who has held a variety of public service positions at all levels as a worthy candidate?

2. She owns her mistakes.

During the first debate, Hillary’s shortest answer was about the email situation. She didn’t lecture or deflect. She simply said, “I made a mistake using private email.” Yes, she messed up, but she was piggybacking off a secure system set up for her husband, using a protocol similar to previous secretaries of state, and deleted emails prior to major investigation that can’t be accounted for now. The whole scenario is bothersome, though not on the same scale as when the second Bush administration lost 22 million emails. I wish no Secretary of State used personal email for confidential matters (including Rice and Powell). I wish Hillary had made different and better choices with regard to email. I do. But I’m not convinced this is as huge or unforgiveable as we’ve made it out to be. (Maybe it is, in your opinion. If so, that’s valid. All I can offer here is my own. But that rumor that she’s legally ineligible for the presidency because of the email debacle? Even the guy who started it has conceded that it’s not true. And the additional investigations? The FBI declared today that they warrant no additional action. Many media sources oversold the story, and the facts have me far more concerned about the ethics of the FBI, particularly Comey, than about Hillary

As far as last month’s conspiracy theories after she didn’t fare well at the 9/11 memorial? Well, we found out shortly thereafter that she had pneumonia, chose to keep working, and came clean about it once something was obviously wrong. That’s not concerning to me. That’s impressive.

(Both major candidates are roughly the same age – Hillary 69 to Trump at 70 – yet women tend to outlive men, so our better health bet is on her anyway, right? As for other concerns about her health, I’m not quite sure when we started believed websites no better than the National Enquirer for truth, just because they fit your political slant. I just know it’s well past time for that to end. I know many of us are too old to have learned lessons in school about verifying online sources, but find a college student or even a middle schooler for some lessons if need be. “I saw in online” isn’t a valid excuse for passing along nonsense. Please. Stop and check before re-posting something.)   

As for all the scandals I’ll see listed in the comment section, it seems like most of you have made up your mind about her honesty, despite the fact that she is rated highly again and again for her truthfulness. Surprised by that last bit? Then you might be surprised that the family of ambassador Chris Stevens doesn’t blame Hillary for his death in Benghazi. His sister said, speaking for their family, “We all recognize that there’s a risk in serving in a dangerous environment. Chris thought that was very important, and he probably would have done it again. I don’t see any usefulness in continuing to criticize [Clinton]. It is very unjust.” As for the rest of the families, their accounts of what Clinton said or didn’t say following the attacks is unclear.

On so many issues, I’ve seen conservatives say again and again that the media is misleading us. So, if you believe that, then dig into the full email report and the full Benghazi findings (and earlier ones too). Given the total number of pages, I doubt most casting her as evil have even skimmed the full contents.

Well, for me to be confident in voting for her, I thought reading it all myself was important. So I did. (Yes, every. single. dadgum. page.) I didn’t think it would be fair to write this piece without doing so.

And? I see mistakes, certainly, but the smoking gun? It’s not there. This seems like many instances in the past in which lives were lost and hindsight 20/20. Sure, we can pick apart each move now, and Hillary has admitted she would do some things differently (and will from the Oval), but the incident doesn’t disqualify her from leading our country. Tragic loss of life happens in unstable parts of the world. That’s the reality in which we live.

At this level, mistakes cost lives. Every president has seen that happen under his watch; Benghazi was a mistake, but it wasn’t an anomaly. So why wouldn’t it be a benefit to elect someone who already has learned those hard lessons prior to being Commander in Chief?

3. Her career has demonstrated concern for vulnerable children and families again and again.  

In her work with the Children’s Defense Fund, she advocated for the inclusion of kids with disabilities in public schools. She increased access to preschool for poor families in the state of Arkansas and helped rural families access healthcare.

As First Lady in Arkansas, she made huge strides in improving public education there, cooperating with numerous teaching organizations and listening to constituents from throughout the state in doing so. She co-founded the Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families as a non-partisan organization to benefit the wellbeing of minors in the state. She served on the board of the Arkansas Children’s Hospital, helping it to grow to become one of the nation’s ten largest children’s hospitals.

As First Lady of the US, she advocated for children in foster care to have permanent placements with the Adoption and Safe Families Act and for those aging out of foster care without families to have needed supports with the Foster Care Independence Act. She also worked with both Democrats and Republicans to help create the Children’s Health Insurance Program during that time.

And in this campaign, she is the only candidate with detailed plans for our most vulnerable kids, from those with complex medical conditions to autism to other disabilities. On education, her stances are solidly backed by research. And while I’ve heard some say that she’s pro-Common Core, what she’s actually said is “like many Americans, I have concerns about how the Common Core has been implemented.” In other word, she holds the same view I – as a former teacher in multiple states with a MAEd in special education – do: the concept was good but the execution wasn’t. 

And now to the two child-focused stories I’m asked about the most: the so-called story of her tearing apart a rape victim and the myth of her using a derogatory slur about a group of children with disabilities. You can tell from my wording here how I feel about both. They’re fiction. As a rape survivor and mother of multiple children with disabilities, I would be the first to criticize her if these stories had merit. They simply don’t. 

Let’s start with the rape case. She was assigned, against her expressed wishes, to defend a 41-year-old man accused of raping a 12-year-old victim. (I’ve written about being a rape survivor in the past. Well, I was young when those assaults occurred, so I would be first in line to stand against Hillary if some of the claims about this case were accurate. But they aren’t.) She took the case in accordance with the 6th amendment to the Constitution, which states that accused parties shall be provided with legal representation in criminal proceedings. Some old recordings captured a conversation she had about the case a few years after the fact, and she laughs at a few points at her naïveté in the justice system as a young lawyer. Despite what some sources say, she didn’t laugh at the victim. She didn’t mock the victim. She didn’t tear apart the victim. She did her job, in accordance with the Constitution. And her client ultimately pled guilty and was sentenced for the rape. The facts certainly seem a lot different than what hard right think pieces would have you believe, don’t they? (You’ll find the same to be true about her so-called attacks on women involved with or making accusations against her husband. And as far as claims against her husband, he’s not the one running this time, so I’m not so interested in those, to be honest, at least not in weighing who I will vote for.)

As far as the story alleging she used the r-word about a group of children with disabilities at an Easter egg hunt as First Lady of Arkansas, this story is even less grounded in reality. The source? A mistress of Bill’s. The citation? A tell-all book that, without salacious content, wouldn’t sell many copies. The event described? A public remark at a well-attended function with many in earshot, yet no one else has confirmed the story and no one shared it until now.

Here’s my rule when it comes to scandalous stories on hard right or hard left media sites: treat them like Wikipedia. I don’t accept anything as fact, but I take a look at the basic information and then search for credible, less-biased information to back it up. In good journalism (and even on Wikipedia), those links or citations are there, so it’s not hard, but sometimes they aren’t. If the links shared are circular – just bringing you to another post on the same site, for example – then the credibility of the story is suspicious. Dig deeper.

At this level, the lives of the most vulnerable are at the greatest risk of exploitation. We need to fight for them, and we need to elect someone who will champion them. So why wouldn’t it make sense to vote for the woman who has literally spent her whole adult life advocating for children?

4. And, no, she doesn’t want abortion readily accessible up until birth.

I know some of you bristled at my remark about “the most vulnerable.” But what about the unborn?!? you cry. I hear you. I do. I share your concerns. I am pro-life and I am opposed to abortion.

But I won’t spend much time on this topic, because I’ve covered it in depth in another post. I don’t side with Hillary entirely here. I’m grieved that she used to talk about wanting abortion to be “safe, legal, and rare” but now usually just says “safe and legal.” I consider all life valuable and sacred, from the womb to the tomb. And her stance on access to abortions doesn’t align with that.

That said, I also wrote recently about what actually reduces abortion rates. Many of her policies would, based on the research I examined, function in that way. For example, having better supports for maternal and family leave make giving birth less of a financial hardship, which is important since 75% of women receiving abortions in 2014 were classified as poor or low income. So while access to abortion might increase under a Hillary presidency, the demand would decrease, given historical trends and factors.

Even by the assertion of a conservative former presidential candidate, Rick Santorum, Hillary’s opposition to the partial birth abortion ban wasn’t because she is a huge fan of killing babies. As Santorum writes in his book It Takes a Family (titled as a conservative response to her book It Takes a Village), she expressed – back when they were both senators – that her “great hope is that abortion becomes rarer and rarer.” They were debating the partial birth abortion ban at the time. She asked, “Does the Senator's legislation make exceptions for serious life-threatening abnormalities or babies who are in such serious physical condition that they will not live outside the womb?” And he answered no. In response, she said if this law “does not have such a distinction under any circumstances, I think, demonstrates clearly the fallacy in this approach to have a government making such tremendously painful and personal and intimate decisions,” she couldn’t support it, but followed up by saying “I value every single life and every single person.” That value for life is why she voted against that bill. She wasn’t taking a stand in favor of partial birth abortions. She was taking a stand for a terrible option to be available in the terrible circumstance if a mother’s health required it or if a baby had a condition incompatible with life.

(I do see the risk here for such exceptions to be exploited. I know babies are aborted at times because of prenatal conditions that are completely compatible with life but aren’t compatible with a secular worldview that measures a person’s value by what they can do or how they look or who they worship or where they’re from or some other irrelevant metric instead of seeing the inherent worth of every single person created by God. I’ve written about this again and again and again and again and again and again. So, please, don’t pick a fight with me in the comments over that. We agree here. But? Based on what I’ve just shared, Hillary isn’t disagreeing with that point either. She is simply expressing her political stance that the government should not be able to regulate how an expectant mother chooses to respond to life-threatening news for her or her child. As much as conservatives talk about the government not being involved in so many other issues, I’d expect this one to make sense to more than just me.)

Finally, the myth about Hillary’s intent to abort babies up to their due date is false. Carly Fiorina brought it up, as if it were true, in a Republican debate, bringing the rumor to life for this election cycle. Here’s what Hillary actually said:

I have said many times that I can support a ban on late-term abortions, including partial-birth abortions, so long as the health and life of the mother is protected.
— Hillary Clinton, Senate debate, 2000
This decision [that is, abortion], which is one of the most fundamental, difficult, and soul-searching decisions a woman and a family can make, is also one in which the government should have no role. I believe we can all recognize that abortion in many ways represents a sad, even tragic choice to many, many women. Often, it’s a failure of our system of education, health care, and preventive services. It’s often a result of family dynamics. This decision is a profound and complicated one; a difficult one, often the most difficult that a woman will ever make. The fact is that the best way to reduce the number of abortions is to reduce the number of unwanted pregnancies in the first place.
— Hillary Clinton, (Speech to the NYS Family Planning Providers, January 2005
I think abortion should remain legal, but it needs to be safe and rare. And I have spent many years now, as a private citizen, as first lady, and now as senator, trying to make it rare, trying to create the conditions where women had other choices.
— Hillary Clinton, Speech at Messiah College in 2008
Roe v. Wade very clearly sets out that there can be regulations on abortion so long as the life and the health of the mother are taken into account… So you can regulate if you are doing so with the life and the health of the mother taken into account.
— Hillary Clinton, answer during the second presidential debate, 2016)

She’s backed up these stances with a focus on healthcare reform and legislation like Prevention First to reduce the demand for abortion by reducing the number of unplanned pregnancies. As far as the Hyde Amendment goes, I wish her position were different. I don’t think tax dollars should pay for abortions. I pray that the legislative support won’t be there for her to follow through with that repeal.

At this level, even loading the Supreme Court with pro-life justices wouldn’t overturn Roe v. Wade right away and, even if that were done, abortion laws would revert to the states. In other words, I don’t see logic or wisdom in hanging our hopes on the president to be the changemaker some of us want for abortion. So why wouldn’t I consider supporting a candidate who sees the tragedy in abortion and is open to regulation as long as it accounts for the health of the mother and child? (And then work with others to hold her accountable to that and remind her of her own words.)

5. While we’re at it, she doesn’t want to take away your guns.

I like guns. I’ve shot guns. My husband goes hunting on occasion, and I’ve enjoyed that meat. He holds a concealed carry permit in North Carolina. And he’s a lifetime member of the NRA.

In other words, I’m not anti-gun. But I am concerned about gun violence in this country. I am concerned with statistics that indicate that the presence of a gun in the home significantly increases the odds of suicides, homicides, domestic violence, or accidents involving firearms. Despite claims to the contrary, guns don’t necessarily keep women safe. I could go on, but I won’t. I’m not saying guns need to be confiscated. I’m just saying we need to be having real conversations about these issues instead of sound bites.

Hillary isn’t saying guns need to be confiscated either. Surprised? I’m not guessing here. I’m just going by what she’s said:

What I support is sensible regulation that is consistent with the constitutional right to own and bear arm. I think a total ban, with no exceptions under any circumstances, might be found by the court not to be (constitutional).
— Hillary Clinton, April 2008 debate
“You know, my dad took me out behind the cottage that my grandfather built on a little lake called Lake Winola outside of Scranton and taught me how to shoot when I was a little girl. You know, some people now continue to teach their children and their grandchildren. It’s part of culture. It’s part of a way of life. People enjoy hunting and shooting because it’s an important part of who they are. Not because they are bitter.
— Hillary Clinton, comments during the 2008 campaign
Now, I lived in Arkansas and I represented Upstate New York. I know that gun ownership is part of the fabric of a lot of law-abiding communities. But I also know that we can have common sense gun reforms that keep weapons out of the hands of criminals and the violently unstable, while respecting responsible gun owners. What I hope with all of my heart is that we work together to make this debate less polarized, less inflamed by ideology, more informed by evidence, so we can sit down across the table, across the aisle from one another, and find ways to keep our communities safe while protecting constitutional rights.
— Hillary Clinton, remarks to US Conferences of Mayors following the Charleston massacre, 2015
If we can’t figure out how to respect the constitutional rights of responsible gun owners, but keep guns out of people who have felony records, who are fugitives, stalkers, have domestic violence restraining orders against them, are dangerously mentally ill, shame on us.
— Hillary Clinton, C-SPAN interview, February 2016
https://www.c-span.org/video/?405409-1/hillary-clinton-campaign-rally-fairfax-virginia&start=1495
Keep guns out of the hands of domestic abusers, other violent criminals, and the severely mentally ill by supporting laws that stop domestic abusers from buying and owning guns, making it a federal crime for someone to intentionally buy a gun for a person prohibited from owning one, and closing the loopholes that allow people suffering from severe mental illness to purchase and own guns. She will also support work to keep military-style weapons off our streets.
— Statement from Hillary’s 2016 campaign website
I think what the court said about there being an individual right is in line with constitutional thinking. I’m not looking to repeal the Second Amendment. I’m not looking to take people’s guns away. But I am looking for more support for the reasonable efforts that need to be undertaken to keep guns out of the wrong hands.
— Hillary on Fox News Sunday in July 2016

In other words, the claims that she doesn’t care about the 2nd Amendment? Not true. Wants to repeal it? Nope. Wants all guns out of all hands? Not that either.

At this level, we need someone who can protect the gun rights of those who should have guns and restrict access to those who shouldn’t. It’s a balance between a sense of security and a sense of safety. So why wouldn’t I vote for the person who has regularly called for that?

6. But she does care about security, both our officers at home and our armed forces (and those of us they protect).

When she was a senator representing New York, she advocated for first responders. Many of them speak highly of her. She didn’t know she was stepping into that role just prior to 9/11, but she excelled nonetheless.

Meanwhile, some people accuse her of being anti-police because of her stance against police brutality, but no one says I’m anti-parent when I speak out against child abuse. It’s the same thing. Speaking against those who abuse power is actually a way of showing deep respect for those who don’t abuse their power. And her plans for police accountability? They hold a lot in common with what many police chiefs have advocated for. That doesn’t sound anti-police to me. Sure, she’s walking a fine line in both support for the police and opposition to police brutality, but I think that’s where we should all be.

She also championed the needs of veterans and military families. You don’t have to take my word for it, though. She is more heavily endorsed than anyone else by leaders in our armed forces, with more supporting her than is traditionally the case for a Democrat. They aren’t just resigned to vote for her; they have overwhelmingly voiced their confidence in her ability to serve as commander in chief for our nation, with a few samples here:

Clinton has demonstrated the ability to conduct foreign affairs and achieve the objectives and goals of the United States.
— Retired Major General John Phillips
[Under Hillary,] our armed forces will be stronger. They will have the finest weapons, the greatest equipment. They will have the support of the American people – you! — and the American military will continue to be the shining example of America at our very best.
— Retired Marine General John Allen
Our votes have always been private, and neither of us has ever previously lent his name or voice to a presidential candidate. Having studied what is at stake for this country and the alternatives we have now, we see only one viable leader, and will be voting this November for Secretary Hillary Clinton.
— Joint statement from Retired General Bob Sennewald and Retired General David Maddox

And about our borders? She has never said they should be wide open. In 2007, when campaigning last time, she said, “A comprehensive solution to our immigration crisis must include strengthening our borders.” She has affirmed that stance since then. (And? Immigrants actually commit less crime than US-born citizens.)

At this level, our leader influences several layers of safety for all of us. So why wouldn’t we want someone experienced in the multifaceted needs of national security?

7. I don’t think her Supreme Court nominees would be dangerous to our country.

I get that the Supreme Court is a touchy subject right now. We often cast this as a pro-life issue, centering on Roe v Wade, but I think that’s an oversimplification. In July 2014, there was no party difference in Supreme Court job approval, but now – after the ruling to legalize same-sex marriage and uphold the Affordable Care Act – the gap is wide, with 67% of Democrats, 42% of independents, and only 26% of Republicans now approving of the work of the Supreme Court.

But can we all admit that our debates about the Supreme Court’s future are based in hypotheticals and suppositions and guesses? And even then, knowing how any president’s nominee will rule in the future is another game of uncertainty and hypotheses. So all our arguments about the court are about predictions. The truth is that none of us know for sure who will end up on the court under either candidate. (That’s why this point begins “I don’t think…” because none of us can forecast what will happen with the court under either candidate.)

That said, I regularly hear conservatives say they’re concerned about the kinds of justices she would nominate, but I’m not. Why? First, as we’ve seen by the partisan stalling of Obama’s nominee, a justice nominee isn’t solely determined by the president. He or she must be confirmed by the legislative branch. I am ashamed that we’ve reached a point in our polarized politics that Republicans refuse to let a Democrat president nominate a justice to a vacant Supreme Court seat (and I’m confident the same thing would happen if a Republican president were in office, as I think Democrats would use the same tricks they’re decrying now).

Second, when Hillary was a senator and faced with voting on Chief Justice Roberts’ nomination, she wrote in her statement, that she considered the ideal justice to be “someone I am convinced will be steadfast in protecting fundamental women’s rights, civil rights, privacy rights, and who will respect the appropriate separation of powers among the three branches.” I want those rights protected and those powers separate too. (That said, I do believe the rights of the unborn should be protected too, though Roe v. Wade denied them those. Legally, as Hillary has stated, the unborn do not have constitutional rights in our country; that’s not a personal opinion on their value but a legal opinion by a woman with a law degree.) 

Third, the Supreme Court decides far more than issues related to abortion. For example, I was grieved recently by the 5-3 ruling in Utah v. Strieff in which the rights – and lives – of minorities weren’t valued. Racial profiling was upheld as constitutional under a broad swath of circumstances, in direct violation of 4th amendment rights. After detailing the evidence that minorities are more likely to be stopped without cause, Sotomayor states, “By legitimizing the conduct that produces this double consciousness, this case tells everyone, white and black, guilty and innocent, that an officer can verify your legal status at any time. It says that your body is subject to invasion while courts excuse the violation of your rights.” (I encourage you to read Justice Sotomayor’s complete dissent, starting on page 14 here.) Hillary says she believes protecting civil rights, like this case failed to do, is a priority for her nominees. I’m okay with that. Why wouldn’t we all be?

(And if you’re wondering about my views on Obergefell v. Hodges, I’m fully in support of that ruling. No matter where you stand on religious views about sexuality, we don’t restrict marriage to Christians in this country so I don’t see why a single biblical interpretation for marriage should be set as law for everyone, regardless of beliefs. Additionally, the legal protections this offers for gay couples, as well as security for their children, is profound. How can anyone, regardless of faith views, look gay friends and neighbors in the eye and say, “I love you, and God loves you, but I don’t think you should have the legal protections Lee and I have and I think your kids should lack the family security that ours have?” Even if you believe homosexuality is a sin, I don’t see why that means civil protections should be denied. For example, as a Christian, I don’t think people of other religions should be denied freedom of religion just because they don’t follow mine. Why can’t this be treated the same way? Finally, within the body of Christ, we’re not all straight, so can we stop talking like gay Christians don’t exist?)  

Fourth, I trust the process. I look forward to the hearings. (Though I think it’s ridiculous that they haven’t even considered Obama’s nominee and some are already posturing to oppose any Hillary would appoint.) I am thankful for the rights and freedoms afforded us in this country. I don’t think Hillary will appoint the exact people I would if I were in office, but I don’t ascribe the same evil intent to her as it seems like so many friends of mine do. And her experience as a lawyer – both in advocating for others and working in corporate law – is worth noting too when we’re talking about the court.

At this level, so many of us like to talk about the politics of the court. But the court’s role isn’t to make laws but rather to interpret them. So why wouldn’t we trust the process in the hands of someone who has proven her own legal abilities?

8. Her economic plans make sense and benefit average Americans.

She plans to raise taxes on those earning the most, to allow for the programs she’s proposed as well as tax cuts for the middle class. The numbers say this is possible. While so many of us were talking about pussygate, she proposed a policy to help families with children, especially poor families. I do have concerns about how/if she’s be able to enact all the tax plans she intends in order to fund all her campaign plans, but I trust that she has the experience to adjust as needed. (Again, this is why I’m encouraged by her extensive political career.)

As far as the Clinton Foundation, I think that’s relevant here as their financial practices have been questioned this election season. If you can’t trust the economic practices of a candidate’s philanthropic arm, how can you trust them with our national economy? So I think these questions are fair. So I dug into everything I could find. I was surprised, but maybe not in the way you might expect. Did you know that neither she nor Bill (nor Chelsea, for that matter) have taken salaries from it? In other words, the claims that they financially benefit from that charitable work aren’t true. And nearly 90% of their funds go toward charitable causes. (As such, the concerns raised about those with oppressive governments donating toward the foundation? They’re irrelevant. If those countries or individuals choose to fund the beneficial work of the Clinton Foundation, so be it. I’m not sure why that’s a big deal, unless the Clinton Foundation were using said funds to further oppression, which they aren’t. In fact, it’s a kind of Robin Hood situation of taking from oppressors to give to the oppressed, which I consider to be rather ingenious.)

At this level, we need someone who understands how to manage the finances of a country. While businesses aim to benefit those at the top, good economic plans for a country require consideration for all citizens, with special consideration to the most vulnerable among us. So why wouldn’t I choose someone who shows in her policies that she understands this?

9. She is bringing together a divided nation.

Every week, more and more high-profile politicians voice their support for her. Sounds normal for any election year, right? But here’s what’s noteworthy: these are Republicans. The most recent was Colin Powell, joining many others. For the love, even a former prosecutor of hers has thrown his support behind her. I see this among my friends too. I’m not the only one voting for a Democrat for the first time in this presidential election.

Beyond partisan divides, Hillary isn’t vilifying marginalized groups. Her immigration plan isn’t based on the myths that immigrants don’t pay taxes, that they drain the system, or that a simple solution is just following immigration laws. She has stood up for religious liberty, including for Muslims. Her proposals related to the LGBT+ community come from a place of deep understanding of research and life experiences. She has related to people of color, in admitting that her concerns aren’t the same as those of a black grandmother. And Hillary isn’t just a symbol for women but an active advocate for their rights.

In reality, the only demographic she doesn’t carry is white men. Historically in our country, this demographic has held the power, money, and decision-making for all of us. That’s not true anymore, and this shift – especially after 8 years of our first black president and heading into the first term of our first female president, given what polls suggest – plays a significant role in the unrest we’re seeing throughout our country. Whereas calling women “honey” and “darling” and touching them in unwanted ways was once accepted, it isn’t anymore. Whereas racism and xenophobia and homophobia were the norm once, they aren’t anymore. None of those things made America great. This tide that’s turning is healthy and good, but any change brings resistance too. .

At this level, we need a leader who can relate and work well with others, not just those who agree with them. I don’t feel like any politicians do that well nowadays. So why wouldn’t I consider someone who has support from diverse groups instead of just one?

10. She is a woman of faith.

Hillary’s faith has been central to her since her youth. Throughout her life and this campaign, she has often repeated the Methodist saying, “Do all the good you can, for all the people you can, in all the ways you can, as long as you ever can.” (It’s often attributed to John Wesley, but there’s no evidence he actually said it.) She doesn’t talk about her faith often, but she has made consistent mention of it throughout her public life. She has shared that watching her father kneel to pray regularly made an impression on her in her childhood. In 2009, she gave the eulogy at her old youth pastor’s funeral and said no adult, other than her parents, was more influential in her life than he was. (This religious leader was the same one she turned to during her husband’s public infidelity scandal.)

But don’t take my word for it. When she was asked about her faith at a town hall meeting in January, she said,

Thank you for asking that. I am a person of faith. I am a Christian. I am a Methodist. My study of the Bible … has led me to believe the most important commandment is to love the Lord with all your might and to love your neighbor as yourself, and that is what I think we are commanded by Christ to do. And there is so much more in the Bible about taking care of the poor, visiting the prisoners, taking in the stranger, creating opportunities for others to be lifted up… I think there are many different ways of exercising your faith. I do believe that in many areas judgment should be left to God, that being more open, tolerant and respectful is part of what makes me humble about my faith. I am in awe of people who truly turn the other cheek all the time, who can go that extra mile that we are called to go, who keep finding ways to forgive and move on.
— Hillary Clinton

I’ve heard people of other denominations make remarks about “real Christian churches that preach the gospel,” implying many Protestant churches – including Methodist ones – and most Catholic ones aren’t really Christian. We almost didn’t visit the Methodist church to which we now belong because we believed that might be true. But we’re finding a rich tradition of faith in action and of the gospel proclaimed in word and deed and of a deep love for God’s word at Church on Morgan here in Raleigh. So, please, don’t come back at me with, “well, she says she’s a Christian, but she’s really a Methodist,” as others have, because that’s just not going to be convincing for me. (Also, for what it’s worth, George W. Bush is a Methodist too.)

If you have a knee jerk reaction against this point, maybe you should read this piece. The hate for Hillary shown by some Christian groups is appalling. And I think it’s influencing more of us than we’d like to admit. (Just take a look at some of the hateful comments I got on my last post if you doubt this.)

At this level, we don’t have a religious requirement for office. We shouldn’t. But I am a Christian, and my faith matters to me. So why wouldn’t I cast my vote for someone who shares something that’s so foundational to my life?
PHOTO:   ALEX BOERNER FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

PHOTO: ALEX BOERNER FOR THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

She isn’t perfect.

I’m not tricking myself into thinking she’s the best candidate we could have. If I could pick my ideal candidate, it wouldn’t be her. But I do think she’s the best candidate in this race.

I am aware of third party candidates, but I would only consider them if I found both major candidates to be unsupportable. I don’t. I support Hillary.

Beyond that, in my state of North Carolina, only Johnson is on the ballot while write-in votes for Stein will be the only ones counted as no other candidate filed as a write-in candidate. (Sorry, McMullin/Castle/etc. supporters in NC, you can write him in, but per state law, votes for him or any other write-in except Stein will be grouped as miscellaneous.) I won’t support Johnson because I take issue with his isolationist foreign policy, with how much needed programs would have to be cut to slash spending as much as he proposes, and with almost every facet of his education plans, particular how they would impact the most vulnerable students. I won’t support Stein for a variety of reasons, but I’ll share just one: her primary political experience comes from running for office (and almost always losing) rather than serving in those roles.

In this post and my previous one about my pro-life reasons for supporting Hillary, I’m not trying to change anyone’s mind. I don’t think you have to vote for Hillary if you’re pro-life or a Christian or a real American or any such nonsense. I’m simply offering my own explanation for how I’ve landed where I have. If it’s helpful or starts some needed conversations, great! If not, enough other people are writing about this election that I’m sure you can find someone else saying something you like better.

At this level, all of our votes matter. So why wouldn’t we openly discuss why we’re voting for someone and not just why we’re voting against someone else? As for me, I’m with Hillary. I trust you to vote as you see fit.

"You aren't pro-life anymore, are you?" they ask.

Back in the earliest days of my blogging, I wrote that abortion was the single most important position for me in voting decisions. It seems I’m not the only one. According to Gallup polling, 21% of voters say that a candidate must share their view on abortion to get their vote (and it goes up to 23% if you’re pro-life). Another 46% say that abortion is one of many important factors in making their voting choices.

If this issue matters to you, you’re not alone.

I don’t want to argue who is or isn’t pro-life in this post. I’ve previously blogged about my position there. Instead, I want to dig deeper into the issue at hand. What are we talking about when we discuss abortion in politics?

I mean, really, can we pause to talk about the issue? I mean, without yelling and formulating responses before we even listen? I’ve put my thoughts out there in some less conventional ways lately, and the backlash has been ugly. I’m not talking about dialogue and debate. That’s healthy. I’m talking about name-calling and insults and attacks.

The debates and dialogue? They’ve pushed me to research more deeply and think more critically. The insults and attacks? They’ve helped me discern where boundaries are needed when people have revealed the limits of their grace with me.

Both have had their benefits. But can we all agree, as we move forward, that debates and dialogue are preferable? We don’t all have to agree, but we can disagree without being disagreeable. I know we can. I’m sure of it.

Now, onward…

Who is getting abortions?

Generally speaking, low-income women are. In 2014, 75% of those getting abortions fit in that category (with 49% below the poverty level and 26% below 200% of the poverty line). This is why I strongly advocate for supports for those in economic distress. If abortion is a symptom of poverty, then we ought to target the cause, right? That makes sense to me.

While reducing teenage pregnancy rates is necessary for a variety of reasons, that demographic makes up fewer abortions than I would have guessed prior to digging into the numbers. Only 12% of those getting abortions in 2014 were teens, with only 4% being teens under age 18. Obviously, we shouldn’t abandon our efforts to continue these decreases, but 96% of those getting abortions are adults, with 88% age 20 or older.

I could continue to break down the trends for you, but here’s a helpful fact sheet for that. My purpose here isn’t to rehash all the current figures when those are readily available elsewhere.  

Are abortion rates dropping? Why or why not?

Abortion rates are decreasing, and that’s something to celebrate. No one thinks abortion is ideal, even if they don’t share my view that life is created at conception and should be protected from the womb to the tomb. When abortion becomes less common, we can call that good together, even if we disagree on political approaches, right?

In 1991, the rate of abortion was 26.3 per 1000 women, but by 2011 that had dropped to 16.9. And the ratio of abortions per live births is dropping too, from 27.3 abortions per 100 live births in 1991 to 21.2 abortions per 100 live births in 2011. By every measure, abortions are becoming rarer, as well as safer for the mother.

Are stricter laws behind the change? No. This decrease is happening both in states that have enacted stricter laws and those who haven’t.

Charmaine Yoest, president of Americans United for Life and a woman who I highly respect (having met her in DC this past January when we both spoke at the Evangelicals for Life conference), suggested that this is due to changing attitudes about life and abortion. I do think that’s part of it. More Americans called themselves pro-life in the past few years than ever before since Roe v Wade.

But that trend has shifted, with last year’s Gallup poll showing that for the first time in seven years, more Americans identify as pro-choice than pro-life. (That said, we’re still falling within the historical trends for both views.) Yet abortion rates are still dropping. So I don’t think an attitudinal shift fits as the primary force behind this good news.  

Returning to the issue of state laws, Yoest’s organization has been a driving force behind abortion restrictions, yet the only states with increases – Michigan and Louisiana – restricted abortion and yet saw their rates rise. In fact, 5 of the 6 states with the largest recent decreases in abortion rates were blue states in which few abortion restrictions exist and pro-life sentiment is lower than the rest of the country.

So what are these states doing differently?

Simple: They’re providing comprehensive sex education shown to decrease unexpected pregnancy rates, they’re offering supports to those in need so that raising a child (or another child) is more feasible economically, and they’re ensuring access to birth control which can prevent unplanned pregnancies. (In fact, all states are under the Affordable Care Act. Research shows that universal health care coverage leads to lower abortion rates, and increased access to birth control – especially more effective longer lasting kinds - lowers abortion rates). I consider these to be pro-life policies, as they both affirm born lives and reduce abortions of unborn lives.

(Side note: I’m not opposed to abstinence, as some accuse when I’m talking about contraception rates. My husband and I both received comprehensive sex education – including but not limited to abstinence – in our youth, which we found helpful. We both chose not to have sex prior to our honeymoon, based on our religious convictions, believing that the Bible teaches that sex is intended within the boundaries of a committed marriage. Those beliefs haven’t changed. But I don’t see how keeping kids ignorant by limiting their sex education to abstinence makes sense. Research supports that, showing that comprehensive sex education is more effective in reducing teenage pregnancies, abortions, and STIs than abstinence education alone. The data is overwhelming, so I can’t link it all. You can start by reading this and this and this and this and this and this.)

In other words, these states aren’t focusing on the where and how of abortion. They’re targeting the why. And they’re changing that, through economic, educational, medical, and social means. (Thankfully, this can continue to happen no matter who is elected president, though I don’t see much hope in the Supreme Court making a significant change here. Even if Roe were overturned, the issue would revert to the states. The most effective pro-life government actions, like the Prevention First Act, aim to reduce abortions by preventing unplanned pregnancies. Again, it’s changing the why that brings change, not attacking the where, when, or how.)

What about birth rates?

As I mentioned above, some anti-abortion advocates are arguing that abortion rates are dropping because more women are pro-life. But if more women were choosing life, then birth rates would be rising. They aren’t. In fact, they’re dropping, starting in 2008 as our country hit hard economic times.

The drop in birth rates is a contributing factor to the reduction in abortions, of course. If fewer women are getting pregnant, fewer will seek abortions. That’s basic math. But abortion rates are falling more than birth rates, so something else is going on.

(For example, from peaks in 1991 and 1988 respectively to 2010, teenage birth rates dropped 44% while teenage abortion rates dropped 66%. We expect to see those drop in unison, though the greater drop in abortion is greater than birth rates, so other factors seem to be at play here. Research shows that sexual activity among teens didn’t decrease in these time periods, though, so that’s not it.)

Birth control is a considerable factor here, along with other methods of family planning (and, for teens, a delayed start of sexual activity compared to the past). Some anti-abortion advocates argue that birth control isn’t as effective as abstinence. That’s true. But 68% of women at risk of pregnancy use birth control consistently. Those women only account for 5% of all unexpected pregnancies. Meanwhile, 18% of women of childbearing age use birth control inconsistently. They make up 41% of unplanned pregnancies. Finally, 14% of women use no birth control or take long gaps in use. The most unintended pregnancies – 54% - are to those women. In other words, if education, supports, and access were improved for the small subgroups of women who aren’t using any birth control and who use it inconsistently, then we could reduce the vast majority of unintended pregnancies.

I often hear my pro-life friends argue that abstinence is better than birth control because birth control can fail, even among those who use it perfectly. But when we only teach and promote abstinence, what happens when that fails? More unplanned pregnancies are the end result there than when birth control fails. In that 14% of women who take no birth control, leading to 54% of unplanned pregnancies, some of them were following a path of abstinence. So it would be just as logical, then, to argue that the failure rate of abstinence is concerning too.

Giving kids only one tool for avoiding pregnancy doesn’t mean they’ll use it; it just means their toolbox will only include one possible strategy.

Giving kids knowledge about ways to protect themselves against STIs and unwanted pregnancies doesn’t make them promiscuous; it makes them better educated. How is that a bad thing?

But don’t pro-choice folks want abortion up to 40 weeks of pregnancy?

Well, first, the pro-choice group isn’t monolithic, much like the pro-life group isn’t. I can’t honestly say that all pro-choice advocates oppose this, just like I can’t honestly say that all pro-life advocates oppose charging mothers with a crime if they get an abortion. Outliers in both camps hold extreme positions. That’s true of any issue. (And I’ve written and spoken out about those extreme anti-life folks who even suggest that post-birth abortion is a good choice.)

But this question is based in propaganda instead of reality. It’s easy to say anyone who voted against bans on partial birth or late term abortions is a monster who wants to kill babies. It’s harder to dig into the issue further, to discover that most of those votes were cast out of a concern for maternal or fetal health, as such bans lacked provisions for those abortions to be an option in cases in which the mother’s health is in jeopardy or the unborn baby is diagnosed with a serious fetal abnormality.

(And? I don’t really understand why we’re discussing partial birth abortions. They’re illegal. They were banned in 2003, with the Supreme Court upholding that in 2007.)

The reality is that 2/3 of abortions are before the gestational age of 8 weeks, according to the CDC. More than 90% are before 13 weeks. Only 1.3% of abortions are after 21 weeks, most occurring before 24 weeks. In 1997 – before the partial birth abortion ban – 0.08% of abortions were after 24 weeks; with changes in laws, I expect it would be lower now, though figures are hard to find. In other words, we’re talking about 1,000 deaths a year in this manner. Is that a tragedy worth discussing? Yes. But in the scheme of the more than 1 million abortions each year, why are our debates focusing on this sliver of cases, particularly when they’re more likely to involve significant fetal diagnoses incompatible with life, babies who aren’t expected to live no matter what?

Wait, I thought you advocated against abortions due to disability?

I do. My husband and I were never in that position (and we won’t be, as we opted for the permanent birth control method of a vasectomy for him a few years back), but we talked about what we would do. We both feel strongly that we’d carry a baby to term, even if he or she had a condition incompatible with life. I was moved by Angie Smith’s powerful book I Will Carry You about their family’s experience with that decision. But? As strongly as I believe that any viable pregnancy – including those in which a disability is present – should be carried to full term, I believe that there is no single right answer when an unborn baby receives a diagnosis that is fatal.

To me, it’s similar to when a family decides to pull the plug on life-sustaining machines for a loved one relying on them. Some families choose to make that decision right away. Some families hold out for a while. Each has their own unique reasons. The difference here is that the womb is the life-sustaining vessel for the baby who is expected to die before birth or very shortly thereafter.

Do some miracles happen in which a child lives much longer than expected? Certainly. Can every single day and moment be precious then? Definitely (and the story of Eliot, my friends Matt and Ginny’s son, proves that). Do some miracles happen in which a person is unplugged from life-giving machines and then is able to live without those helps? Sure. Do most families who choose to keep their loved one plugged in longer say that the extra time was valuable to them? Yes.

But these are painful and personal decisions. Just because I would make one choice doesn’t mean I think it’s the only acceptable option. Stories like this and this and this and more demonstrate the agony of these decisions. It’s not easy peasy like some make it all sound.

But I do know and love some precious children who were declared to have conditions incompatible with life but who didn’t die. Their parents chose to continue the pregnancy. They were born. And they are delightful children! Yes, they live with disabilities, but that isn’t a measure of their worth, is it? That isn’t a measure of whether or not they deserve life, is it? Can you look at this joyful child of mine and say that her chair or diagnosis of cerebral palsy means her value is diminished?

We chose her name carefully. Zoe means life. Amanda means worthy of love. We knew the world might try to tell her lies about who she is, so we wanted even her own name to declare that she is a life worthy of love, no matter what anyone else says.

And I know there are people who argue that her quality of life isn’t enough. They look at her wheelchair and shake their heads. The last neurologist to review her records prior to our adoption said, “This child will be horribly devastating.” But they are wrong. Zoe Amanda is more than enough, she rocks her wheelchairs, and no one has ever thought of her as horribly devastating since those awful words were spoken.

We need to change how we think and talk about people with disabilities. But we don’t change these perceptions through law. No, hearts are changed in other ways.

Consider, for example, the rates of abortion for unborn babies with prenatal diagnoses of Down syndrome or other disabilities. I’ve written about this in depth previously. It’s not okay with me that unborn babies diagnosed with Down syndrome are nearly twice as likely to be aborted as those without such a diagnosis. In the most recent comprehensive research review on the topic, the author wrote, “Evidence also suggests that termination rates have decreased in recent years, which may reflect progress in medical management for individuals with Down syndrome and advances in educational, social, and financial support for their families.” He elaborated in an interview with The Atlantic,

Families have significantly more educational, social, and financial support than they had in the past. For example, from a social standpoint, women of childbearing age are from perhaps the first generation who grew up in an era where individuals with Down syndrome were in their schools or daycare centers — perhaps not the mainstream integration that we see today, but still a level of exposure that was very different than in generations prior. They grew up watching kids with Down syndrome on Sesame Street.

In other words, it isn’t laws or court rulings that are decreasing abortion rates for children with prenatally diagnosed disabilities. It’s policies and programs available – from medical care to education to social supports and more – that affirm their lives after they are born. When we show that there are places in our country in which people with disabilities are welcome and loved, expectant parents feel more confident in choosing life instead of abortion when faced with a diagnosis for their unborn child.

So what does this all mean politically?

Under Democrat administrations, abortion rates have dropped. And the myth that a Republican president will end abortion or overturn Roe v Wade? Well, it’s been 45 years. In that time, we’ve seen 9 Republican House majorities, 10 Senate majorities, and 5 terms of Republican president. And? None have been successful in ending abortion. We’re insisting on doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. That’s insanity, not wisdom.

The reality is that 1 in 5 pregnancies ended in abortion in 2011. That’s tragic. I’m not okay with that. But I want us to have real conversations about this instead of clinging to sound bites or repeating failed methods. Politically, I don’t think either side has it right.

(And Christians? Of those abortions, 17% are to women who identify as mainline Protestants, 13% to evangelical Protestants, and 24% to Catholics. As we’re railing against the world, more unborn babies are dying in our wombs than in those outside our faith.)

In other words, I’m not writing this to tell you which way to vote. I’m not writing this to champion a party or candidate. I’m not writing this to point to any side as having it right. I’m writing this to encourage us all to dig deeper and talk about the substance of the issue instead of the sound bites.

So are you pro-life or not?

I’ve written about how I reject most labels. I still do. But pro-life is one that I will always claim. I am pro-life. Or, more accurately, I am pro-lives.

I believe the life in the womb is valuable. I believe the life of the infant is valuable. I believe the lives of refugees is valuable. I believe the hundreds of lives lost in Haiti and dozens lost in the US in the recent hurricane are valuable. I believe the lives of people of color are valuable. (And I believe Black Lives Matter.) I believe the lives of immigrants are valuable. I believe the lives of people are valuable, regardless of their abilities or disabilities. I believe the lives of pregnant women are valuable. I believe the lives of our LGBTQ+ friends valuable. I believe the lives of Muslims are valuable.

I believe our value rests in our shared humanity, not what we do and who we love and where we live and who we worship and what our abilities are. If that makes me radical, so be it.

And I believe the life of Donald Trump and the life of Hillary Clinton are valuable – not because of what they’ve done but because God created each of them with intent – which is why I will criticize their words or positions when warranted but will never engage in hateful rhetoric or name calling against either. Doing so would devalue their lives. Doing so would make it clear that I am only situationally pro-life.

No, I’m pro-life. Period. Full stop.

I would like to be able to vote for someone who believes in the value of all lives from the womb to the tomb, and both major party candidates fail to meet that standard. I am grieved by the lives lost to abortion, and I disagree with those who dismiss those as less than anyone else’s life. I am grieved by the stance that says abortion has to be our primary issue in voting, though, because it treats born lives as less valuable than those in the womb.

(Side note: on that last point, I am particularly pained by these attitudes from evangelicals. I can’t fathom how we expect those who don’t believe in Christ to hear from us that God loves them as we vote against their care and rights, upholding the lives of the unborn as being more worthy of our attention and advocacy and votes than they are. My heart hurts when we rally for kids like Zoe to be born but then don’t rally for their care and education and dignity as fellow image bearers of God. This shows a hole in the gospel we’re presenting.)

I think parts of the Republican platform affirm life and other parts deny it. I think parts of the Democrat platform affirm life and other parts deny it. My pro-life stance is a major reason why I’m unaffiliated with either party.

I’ve shared previously who I’m voting for and why, but that’s not what this post is about. This post is about showing how much more complex the issue of abortion is than either party would have us believe. Pro-life and pro-choice, anti-abortion and pro-abortion, and any other labels you’d like to use all exist on a spectrum. No political party has the market cornered on life.

So what am I? I’m #prolives.

I am #prolives. I won’t exalt one group of lives over another. At times, I will have to make hard choices when I vote, because I rarely see a holistically #prolives candidate on my ballot.

Please, as you vote and advocate and use your voice in all the beautiful ways you can, remember that we’re all in this together.

The lives of those who agree with you? They’re sacred. The lives of those who disagree with you? They’re sacred. The lives of those who share your passion? They’re sacred. The lives of those who are apathetic to what you value? They’re sacred. The lives yet to born? They’re sacred. The lives already born? They’re sacred.

My life? It’s sacred.

Your life? It’s sacred.

Let us treat one another as sacred beings, acting in a #prolives way of living and loving.  

Why the outrage now? And what can we do next?

By now, you’ve heard Trump’s latest scandal. His words led me to make the image below and post it – along with my personal story of sexual assault – on Facebook. And then I took a Xanax, because his words plus my own PTSD created a physiological anxiety that couldn’t be quelled without pharmaceutical help.

That post been shared thousands of times now, and I’ve had to ban nearly 100 people from my author page for horribly disrespectful comments, most in defense of Trump. Let me repeat that: After I shared a painfully vulnerable history, a variety of Trump supporters chose to argue against my experience and, in a couple dozen of those comments, personally insult me.

I’m not shocked, though I wish I were. But I am confused, not by the comments but by the newly found outrage about Trump’s most recently released misogyny. Where was this before now?

Trump has said other terrible things about women, both in recent news breaks and older stories. In fact, a rape case against Trump – with a 13 year old victim – goes to court in December. So why the new outrage now? Why are the numbers rising of Republicans and Christians denouncing him?

I’m thankful for the Christians who had already said no way to Trump. I signed this statement. I said no to him from the beginning. I stand by that. I still do. (And I think it’s noteworthy that the signatories on that statement are more diverse on many counts, including gender and race, than those often seen in evangelical leadership, but I’ll get to more on that in a moment.)

This week Beth Moore spoke out. I thanked her. Russell Moore continued to speak out. I thanked him again, having done so in person previously. Others are joining them, while some – like Franklin Graham and James Dobson and Eric Metaxas – have sunk in their heels. (I’ll gladly update this post if any of those back down; Metaxas has deleted his initial tweet dismissing the latest scandalous words from the candidate he’s endorsed, so I'm hopeful.)

And then Wayne Grudem, who endorsed Trump as the moral choice for president, took back those words. He admitted,

Some may criticize me for not discovering this material earlier, and I think they are right. I did not take the time to investigate earlier allegations in detail, and I now wish I had done so. If I had read or heard some of these materials earlier, I would not have written as positively as I did about Donald Trump.

I am thankful Grudem has withdrawn his support. I’m even more thankful that he admitted he should have done more research before his prior endorsement. He could have retreated from his previous stance with less humility than that.

But? Many sound responses to Grudem’s piece existed well before this week. (The seven I’m linking here are just a few.) Grudem had the opportunity to right his wrong. And he didn’t. Not until now. Why? I’m glad we’re finally collectively saying, “That’s enough,” but why wait so long, after evangelical support for Trump has already tarnished our reputation?

Why is this our breaking point?

Here’s the main difference I see: now the people targeted by Trump's words have my fair skin. These Christian leaders look like me or my husband. In other words, they’re white. They keep talking about their wives or sisters or daughters, who are also white. Now that white women are being debased with his verbal abuse, we relate. We care. We empathize.

In other words, this time we consider the victims of his hate speech and his sexual assaults to be our neighbors, because they look like us. (And, yes, sexual assaults. That is, after all, what his words described.)

Those who he’s previously insulted and verbally defiled – Mexicans and other Latinos. People of color. Those with disabilities. Muslims. Refugees. – don’t look like us or our daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers. And so? Because we’ve defined them as the other, we don’t relate. We don’t care, not in such a personal way. We don’t empathize. We simply change the channel or say, “but abortion…” as if these other lives don’t matter to us too.

In other words, those other times we didn’t consider the victims of his hate speech and his verbal assaults to be our neighbors, because they aren’t like us.

“Who is my neighbor?” a lawyer asked Christ in an exchange recorded in Luke 10.

Jesus didn’t answer that his neighbor is his mother or wife or daughter or sister. No, Jesus offers a story of an injured man on the side of the road, a brutalized victim belonging to a group considered to be different and other and less than and dirty. The priest wouldn’t touch him because doing so would have made him unclean and would have required a return to the temple to cleanse himself. He couldn’t be bothered. Likewise, the Levite passed by.

Then the Samaritan showed up – surprising the audience listening to Jesus (as Samaritans were generally despised by Jews and vice versa) – and became the unlikely hero. He showed compassion, backed it up with action and money, and set a model for us all. And Jesus said to the lawyer, “Go and do likewise.”

I’m glad we’re finally noticing Trump’s hateful words. But I wish we had cared enough for those who aren’t white women to notice it before. I wish we hadn’t disavowed black people, those with disabilities, Muslims, refugees, and so many more as our neighbors by withholding our outrage until now.

In other words, I wish we had all acted a little more like the Good Samaritan and a lot more like Christ.

Take heart, though. There’s still time. We have failed to love God with our whole hearts and love our neighbors as ourselves, but let this be the moment when the Spirit convicts us to confess and repent from our sins.

Let today be the day that we all start listening to the pain of our neighbors.

(All of them, and not just the ones who look like me.)

Let today be the day when we pledge our allegiance to the kingdom of God rather than to any political party.

Let today be the day we heed Christ’s words.

Let today be the day we go and do likewise.

Amen.    

 

"So what are you now? You've changed."

I’m a liberal. I’m a conservative. I’m pro-life. I’m pro-choice. I’m pro-abortion. I’m anti-woman. I’m anti-baby. I’m anti-adoption. I’m pro-adoption. I'm too secular. I’m evangelical. I’m damned to hell. I’m leading others astray. I’m progressive. I’m not progressive enough.

It’s amazing what my more controversial blog posts have led folks to say, huh?

If they aren’t outright labeling me, people are asking questions. Am I still a conservative Christian? Am I still evangelical? Am I a secular humanist now? Am I a Democrat? Am I a Republican? Am I still pro-life if I’m voting for Hillary? Am I still a Christian at all, if I hold the stances I’ve made public lately?

I find the conversation and questions to be a bit curious. For starters, very few people have asked these questions of me before now. Previously, it was just fine as long as I kept my mouth shut. I’m not sure if assumptions were made about my beliefs or if a don’t ask don’t tell sort of policy was in place.

I’m done with silence, though. And I’m done with letting people assume a false reality about me. I’m using my voice faithfully and honestly and vulnerably, even when it might get me in trouble. (As I recall, some religious folks weren't too keen on Jesus after all. So the cries to metaphorically crucify me for speaking truth and justice and love as I try to be more like him? I'm not intimidated by those.)

I will answer any questions that you have, but I won’t answer questions about labels. If you ask me “am I evangelical?” I will probably ask you what you mean by that. I would say that I absolutely am, in that I believe that we are called as Christians to evangelize, to share the gospel with a world that needs good news, and to represent Jesus in a way that makes others want to know him. I believe we all need the light and hope and healing God offers as we often chase after things he never intended for us.

But if you mean evangelical as in the way that I vote or the way that I treat a certain demographic or the rules I adhere to concerning who is and isn’t welcome in this Christian club of ours, then I don’t think that I am an evangelical after all. (I’m not alone in shrugging off this title. I recently signed this evangelical statement against Trump’s campaign. Even Russell Moore recently wrote about how this election cycle has him hesitant to self-describe as an evangelical.)

So am I an evangelical? I say yes. You might say no. And that’s why I’m going to ask for clarification the next time someone asks me where I set up camp.

Please, don’t think I’m being snarky here. I understand that theology and stances matter, especially coming from someone who might be inviting me to speak at their conference or partner with their organization on a writing project. I get that you might need to check some things with me. I am more than happy to offer answers toward that end. But I don't think labels serve us well or offer the clarity we want.

The second reason this discussion is curious to me is that none of my recent stances or posts are anything new. I haven’t voiced them, but I have believed them long before going public. Nothing is new here, except for my decision to be vocal on less than safe topics.

So if you felt like I was acceptable or well-reasoned or worth reading before, well, then that’s still me. Nothing has changed there. If you thought I was a woman of God, seeking his wisdom through a regular rhythm of scripture reading, prayer, and worship, none of that is different. (If anything, I'm spending more meaningful time in those practices now.) If you felt like I was adept at expressing why the inclusion of people with disabilities and mental illness in the church isn’t just a social issue but is one that is tied to the very essence of what we believe about Christ and whether or not we treat his words like they are really true, I’m still that person. 

I get that I have outed myself as not aligning myself with some people’s versions of what Christianity is, of how Christians should vote, of who Christians should love, of what Christians should say about race, and of how Christians should treat the LGBTQ+ community, but I believed all those things before. Reading between the lines of my posts, you’ll see that. If you look into my friends, you’ll see that. If you ask my neighbors, you’d know that.

I haven’t hidden my beliefs completely, but I held them quietly. I did it out of fear, out of privilege, out of a desire to not rock the boat for the church I used to attend and the ministry for which I used to work, out of the intent to speak to the broadest groups of Christians with a message of inclusion for people with disabilities… but I’m done being quiet. I’m done standing by when I see people justify, invoking Christ’s name, stances that I oppose because of my Christian faith. I’m done being a white Christian who, in the words of Jim Wallis, embraces being white more than being Christian. I’m done shrinking to make others more comfortable and to avoid controversy. I’m done saying this doesn’t affect me, because as a member of humanity, it does.

I can handle disagreements. I can take questions. I’m even okay with criticism.

But this is me, and it’s always been me. So, please, don’t try to back me into a neat box or tidy category. I don’t think it works when we try to do that to God, shaping him in our image instead of seeing everyone as crafted in his. And I don’t think setting up divisions and persisting in who’s-in-and-who’s-out thinking serves Christ or his church well.

Since my first political post went semi-viral around the same time that we switched from a Southern Baptist church to a United Methodist one, the backlash from all sides has been a little overwhelming. My conservative friends (and strangers) have said that I'm not one of them anymore, while my progressive friends are ready to welcome me in open arms to their side. Meanwhile, I'm not comfortable with either, nor am I convinced that we do the church any good by dividing ourselves into such dichotomous camps. Some real fallout has occurred in relationships and opportunities, but I don't regret anything I've written or said.

This is me. Someone recently suggested that I was trying to be the next Jen Hatmaker or Rachel Held Evans, but that’s not true or fair (though I have been moved by the words of both of those fabulous women). I’m simply trying to be the most honest and authentic Shannon Dingle as I can be as I follow the one true God who has transformed and continues to transform my heart to be more like his.

I love Jesus, and I love people. That’s enough labeling for me.