Tomorrow marks exactly 1 year since Donald Trump was sworn into the office of the President of the United States of America. I remember the day well because I was waiting at Panera Bread for a meeting and saw the speech with no sound on the TV that was mounted on the wall. I read the transcript while I was sitting there (my friend was late) and felt my heart constrict, my stomach sink, my shoulders tighten as reality set in. Pretty much all the things I value were under attack. How could this be? How could a reality TV star be the president of our country? How could all the power be tipped this direction?
The onslaught to so much of what I value began quickly after that. Muslim travel bans, stripped protections for immigrants, the hope to systematically dismantle health care, and on and on and on and on.
And on and on and on and on.
12 whole months, 52 weeks, 365 days of on and on and on and on.
Today I wanted to acknowledge the toll the past year has taken on so many I know.
The constant violent tweets, the flip-flopping of positions, the undermining of the credibility of the free-press, the entanglement with evangelical Christianity that so many of us came from, the “omg-are-they-reallly-going-to-go-after-that, too? moments” add up to too many to count.
At a meeting at the Colorado Legislature last year I remember what one of my favorite Colorado House representatives—Joe Salazar, a civil rights lawyer and person of faith who is running for Attorney General—said when asked “when he would stop advocating so hard against this administration’s policies?” He replied, “I’ll tell you when I’ll stop. I’ll stop when this administration stops terrorizing and brutalizing its citizens!”
I still get chills when I think of that line.
It’s been a rough year, my friends.
Our bodies and souls and faith and minds have been tested.
Yet, in the same breath, despite the brutality, a lot of good has emerged in the past 52 weeks.
We are stronger than ever before when it comes to organizing and advocating against these policies.
Letters and calls have changed the tide of horrid decisions.
People are engaging in conversations about justice and healing that they never would have before.
Church services might be emptier but the feet of people’s faith are pounding the pavement in new ways.
Interfaith cooperation is on the rise.
Civic involvement has increased exponentially.
Walls are breaking down on issues of equality, albeit slowly.
Folks who have never used their voices before are speaking loud and clear and risking loss of relationship.
Therapists are making more money than ever (had to throw that in, ha ha).
We have grown.
It’s so important to remember and celebrate that.
Sometimes I think this presidency has brought out the worst in me, which can be true, depending on the moment. But I also think it’s brought out some of the best, too.
I’m more passionate than ever about the work we do at The Refuge, in Denver, and the wider world to collaborate on behalf of justice for the marginalized and oppressed.
I’m more committed as a pastor dedicated to Jesus and the belief that the upside down Kingdom he spoke of over and over again is worth working for.
I’m more convinced than ever that this rising up is a good thing. We needed to be called out of complacency. We needed to begin to wake up to the realities of racism and xenophobia. We needed to pull sexism out of the closet. We needed to be rattled enough to start doing something about this deep, core brokenness in our systems.
I’m more willing than ever to say what I believe and stand by it, not trying to people-please and hide behind niceness.
I’m more thankful than ever for my friends and fellow persisters who fan these flames into fire and offer me grace when I stumble and bumble along the way.
Yes, we’re surviving this travesty of a presidency.
And there is no question, it feels like 5 years not one!
But as we come upon this anniversary, my hope and heart for all of us who are struggling is to remember that those who have gone before us have sacrificed far more than we have on behalf of change.
And many others will keep advocating long after we are gone.
The grooves of inequality and unhealthy power and the horrid entanglement with “church” will not easily be shifted; we’ll be fighting for it forever.
Yet, I truly believe in the possibility of healing and change over time.
I believe that “the kingdom of heaven” is possible here, and now, in all kinds of wonderful ways.
I believe that people of faith have a unique calling that is stirring us to action.
I believe that in the end we won’t just have survived this presidency; in the end, we will be formed, transformed by it in ways that are beautiful and good and will matter for years to come.
Meanwhile, a year out, it’s okay to still be hanging on by a thread.
It’s okay to recognize the toll it’s taken.
It’s okay to say, “Damn, it’s been rough.”
It’s okay to honor that we’re tired.
But I hope we can also celebrate our persistence and resistance today—that we have, indeed, survived this first year of a really rough presidency.
Please know I am grateful to be alongside so many other passionate people who deeply care.
It helps me more than you know.
Love from Colorado today, Kathy