This summer, Philadelphia beheld the majesty that was the Democratic National Convention. To be chosen as the city to host the DNC was an honorable designation, which meant constant traffic in our tiny cobbled streets, our favorite bars packed to capacity and once-public spaces hedged off, reserved for the political elite. If we loved anything about it, it had to be the flare of constant excitement, or at least the drove of donkeys speckling the sidewalks. That was definitely fun.
And while the other stuff may have been a headache, one can only imagine what Cleveland must have been like during the Republican National Convention.
Who can say which city got off easier, but from the looks of things on screen, the rest of the nation could easily determine stark differences between conventions. For example, Donald Trump’s Stalin-esque approach when narrating the happenings of the U.S. economy illustrated the kind of fear-mongering that has fueled his entire campaign. His constant pandering to the Alt-Right — a group of religious zealots who thrive on conspiracy theories, white nationalism and all-out rhetorical frenzy — gave platform to black prosperity gospel preacher Mark Burns. “All lives matter,” he notoriously claimed. Burns is possibly the only black person in America (besides Stacy Dash) to be unaware of the ramifications of that phrase.
Jerry Falwell, Jr. also took Trump’s stage. His last name carries the weight of bigots, racists and homophobes lashing out from the televangelist platform. He himself is no different, and at his presence we were dumbfounded.
How could a political convention announcing a front runner for the presidency of the United States have such a racist, xenophobic, homophobic slew of speakers? Surely the DNC would outshine the RNC in religious representation.
So we watched. A week later at the DNC, Methodist minister Bill Shilladys invited the nation to bow their heads. “Oh God of many names,” he prayed. “We know that you call us to work hard to bring people together. To build bridges of hope for the future, we reach out to our neighbors, no matter their race, creed, sexual orientation or color.” Superior to even the most benign speeches at the DNC, Shilladys still found himself in hot water for not praying to the one Christian God, but seeking to unite everyone under one common love and worship.
To be American means that we get a difference of opinions. That Shilladys has free speech also means that we have to allow the same liberties for Burns. Which leads us to wonder, if we as a nation can’t even tolerate an interfaith prayer because it somehow makes shallow what a few deem divine, does prayer belong at a political event at all?
When it comes to Christianity, the sympathizing voices that outstretch hands to all kinds of people like Shilladys’ interfaith message are constantly drowned out by messages like Falwell’s and Burns’. In fact, those messages that politicize the bodies of pregnant women, the time of death of prisoners and the sexual identity of queer people are ultimately trafficked by groups that identify more with the Alt-Right than with the conservative middle — aka the rest of us. I’d like to think that the sensible of us who identify somewhere along the spiritual spectrum are less likely to bludgeon others with our beliefs. In fact, most of us spiritual or religious folks are not willing to bludgeon others with our beliefs. Yet most of the books, podcasts and televised sermons out there are all put forward by the Alt-Right. For too long, we’ve given power to televised preachers like Mark Burns and Jerry Falwell. Why is that whom we allow to be our religious leaders?
In an effort to stifle the Alt-Right messages that are constantly seeping into our mainstream media, I’ve created an app that will allow all of us to access devotionals, meditations, podcasts and videos that are affirming of LGBT people. Politics do not belong in any worship space. A system that leaves room for the Alt-Right and conspiracy theorists to govern is not a system that serves a true America.
It’s time that we as a community stood together and created media that far outshines that of the Alt-Right entertainment religion. Support the Our Bible app Kickstarter, which will run through Oct. 1, by visiting https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/508347865/our-bible-app.
Join the movement so you too can worship, pray and meditate in peace.