Five years ago, I was a member of a Southern Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet, Tennessee, listening to the same sermons as my Old Hickory Representative Susan Lynn.
One Sunday, as our preacher dug deeper into Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, I was struck by the message of counter-cultural love.
We read that day that those who mourn are actually blessed, and so are those who are poor in spirit, and those who are merciful, and those who are meek—you know, the kind of folks who do not use their power to lord over another. We learned that those who work for peace would be blessed, and even those who hunger and thirst for justice.
I remember thinking that these seemed so counter to the flow of our everyday ideology and culture. Even further, our pastor reminded us that Christ taught that it was not enough for these things to remain in our hearts, rather they must become practice—everyday counter-cultural practice.
On went the sermon: we should not just love our neighbors, but our enemies too. We should pray for our persecutors, we should reconcile ourselves with others, and if someone asks for our shirts, we should give them our cloaks as well.
Though years have passed, my captivation with these scriptures led me to study them more deeply in divinity school.
I became compelled to learn more about this counter-cultural way of life, this blessed-are-the-meek-and-those-who-grieve-and-those-who-work-for-justice kind of living. I began to learn how interconnected we all are, and I learned that if a group of folks are marginalized because of how they identify, then all of us are affected. We are lesser when this happens—we are not our best selves.
Even though I find myself in different Baptist pews today, I think back to the time where I worshipped in the same community as Representative Lynn.
I wonder if my grief about her role in writing and sponsoring one of Tennessee’s harmful, anti-transgender bills is explained by our proximity then to one another. The bill, HB 2414, would require students in Tennessee’s public schools and universities to use bathrooms and locker rooms according to the sex “indicated on the student’s original birth certificate.”
The bill claims to protect all students, but I know this is not true, because it would actually put trans and gender non-conforming students at risk.
Rather than being treated like everyone else, trans students would be made to feel that who they are is wrong.
How could someone who worships the same loving God as me believe that anyone should be treated this way? This bill does not sound much like the teachings of Jesus that Representative Lynn and I learned together those years ago. I think that is why this hurts me so deeply.
I know that all students, not just cisgender students, are made in the image of God and deserve to be loved and protected in school. This bill sounds like fear, exclusion, and discrimination rather than love.
Representative Lynn, you may be my district representative from Old Hickory in name, but if you continue to sponsor a bill that harms people I love—then you do not represent me.
If you seek to pass a bill that allows our schools to harm children of God—then you do not represent me.
I believe we can do better, Representative Lynn, as a fellow Baptist, and as a fellow Tennessean.
I believe we can spend our time working to care for all God’s children in Tennessee in much more faithful ways than this.
Photo via flickr user evclpics