A few weeks ago I wrote a post entitled, “How I became a Right-Wing Evangelical.” If you haven’t had a chance to read that post first, I’d recommend reading that before reading this one. This post picks up roughly where that one left off. I had been part of a politically oriented intense young adult prayer group that meant a huge amount to me. But it was mostly something I could only be involved with during the summer before I had to go back to a job during the school year. I spent the entire year counting every moment until I could rejoin the group the following summer.
The group posted their website leading into the following summer and it read, “Come for a weekend! Come for a month! Come for a summer! Come for a year!” or something to that effect. I was eager to spend whatever time I could even though I had to work a bit that summer and could only spend a small amount of time there. In May, I called up to make arrangements to stay with the group for a little bit and was told that everyone had to fill out a new application even if they had been part of the group before.
The application was strange. It asked very little about me; the application was mostly about my family. It wanted to know the spiritual inclinations of each and every member of my immediate AND EXTENDED family. It wanted to know what my relationship was like to each member of my family. Even though I had moved out of my parents house almost a decade earlier, and lived 1800 miles away from my family for years, it was clear that my family was a huge concern. Most of my family that claimed any faith at all had drug problems, the members of my family who were doing the best with their lives and were drug free were atheists and agnostics. There had been a lot of abuse and domestic violence in my childhood. I answered all of the questions candidly, wondering what this was all about.
When I finally joined up with the group, one of the leaders approached me and told me they had discerned that I shouldn’t be on their team that summer. I asked what I did wrong, and I was told I had done nothing wrong; that it was “just discernment” and there was no other real explanation, which in charismatic-speak meant that they were saying God Himself was telling someone on leadership that I didn’t belong. It stung. I didn’t know what was going on.
I had friends in the group, I even had a romantic interest in the group. I had done my best to not rock the boat in any way and to be a model citizen there. I didn’t understand why God would exclude me from a group that was full of such clearly anointed people in the midst of such an important thing for the hour. In fact the group had said, “Whatever you think your calling is, it needs to be put aside because THIS (ending abortion) is the call of the hour. Lay down your calling for this.” And I was willing! And after all that, I was told God didn’t want me on the team.
I asked a leader I thought I had a relationship with why I was being asked to go. He said he didn’t know but would find out. A year later after asking several times, I was finally given an actual answer: “Heather, you come from a rough background, and we’re just not equipped with pastoral resources to help people from your type of background. That’s why we prefer people from abusive families spend a year at a ministry training school first.”
No one up to that point had told me to go to a ministry training school for a year first. It was inordinately frustrating because Jesus had in many ways raised me since I had been miraculously found by Him and gotten saved at age 11, and I had been washed, delivered, made my own life, gotten counseling, gone through college, successfully worked in my profession, and lived on my own away from my family from a long time earlier, but none of that mattered. I was being judged for who my family was. What it came down to was that I did not have the right “pedigree” to be part of an intense ministry group. This seemed so antithetical to the Christianity I knew that celebrated the worst sinners from the worst backgrounds being saved by Jesus, and I knew so many churches run by ex-addicts and many formerly abused people. But it was assumed somehow I needed extra ministry training because of who my family was.
One other thing happened there though that stood out. The last night I was with the group before I had to leave, we were in downtown DC going out to eat together. Someone started talking to a homeless girl about our age there and invited her to come eat with us. Her name was also Heather and she ended up spending hours with all of us, noticeably starting to feel some sense of friendship in our midst.
At the end of the evening, we all piled into the ministry van and she asked us, “I lost track of time and my homeless shelter is closing its doors in a few minutes. It’s just a few blocks down the street, could you drop me off there so I don’t miss my chance to get in?” The van driver told her that she wasn’t allowed in the van, and that he couldn’t take her a few blocks to her shelter because she wasn’t signed up for our weekend conference. She stood there, suddenly aware she was not part of us after all, and said, “Why are you judging me? I’m no different than you.” And the van driver politely told her he couldn’t help her and shut the door. I wrestled with the fact that I had no idea how to get back to my car without this van ride back to the group facility, and yet I wanted to jump out in solidarity with Heather in that moment. In the end there was some truth that in many ways Heather and I were very much one in the same, she was just more visibly wronged. (I could still kick myself for not getting off that bus though.)
Perhaps all of it would have hurt less if I had thought something about the group was out of step with God, but aside from how I had been cast aside because of my family, and how they treated this homeless girl, for a long time I was still a wholehearted believer in everything they stood for. So I joined up with other associated prayer groups that were praying and worshipping in front abortion clinics instead. I still went and joined in on events the group held that were open to anyone, like pro-life prayer times on the Supreme Court steps. Back home, I found a similar type of intense young adult prayer group in my own town and I started hanging out with those folks. This set the stage for the Lord to start to really challenge my ideas of what He wanted in politics.
God starts to challenge my ideas
In the new group, I started having the time of my life, getting to spend days and weeks in almost non-stop worship and prayer. It was a blast. I would leave our community prayer room at times only to go to my job, or go home to sleep (and sometimes I slept in the back of the prayer room.) All other waking moments I was in there, making music to the Lord and praying with others. For me, the longer I spent in non-stop prayer, the more tuned-in I would become to the voice of the Holy Spirit within me. The dynamics of hearing God is the subject for quite a few other blog posts but suffice it to say, after a while in that environment I was probably in the most clear and loud prophetic awareness that I had ever experienced.
Our group had a connection to a business coaching ministry that had its offices upstairs from our prayer room. I was still very new to the group and didn’t know all the ins and outs real well, when one of the people from the business coaching ministry came down into the prayer room where I and another gal were praying together. He asked us if we would pray for his client: the man, he told us, was running for some local political office and he was a Christian. He explained that the challenger was a wicked man who was not a Christian, and who needed to leave office so righteousness could prevail in our town. I never heard of either of the political figures in that town’s election, nor knew about any political issues they would be representing.
I barely was paying attention to what he was saying because I was in a “zone” at that moment of just connecting with God, and I was suddenly brought into the conversation as the Holy Spirit started sounding alarms in my Spirit. I could barely process what was being said by this man because inwardly I was being brought from peace and union with the Lord to a place of sudden grieving and alarm, coming not from my own emotions but from my awareness of this prayer request resonating off the Lord’s presence. I got a fix on what the Lord was saying and felt constrained as I managed to stammer out the only thing I could utter, “God says he doesn’t want him to win.”
The young brother was incredulous. “What? He doesn’t want who to win?”
“The guy. The one you want me to pray for. He’s not supposed to win.” (I hadn’t even gotten a fix on the dude’s name, so the best I could come up with was “the one you want me to pray for.”)
“But he’s a Christian, and the other guy is wicked. Maybe you should pray about it.”
“I’m trying but the Lord doesn’t want him to win.”
It didn’t make any sense. It certainly didn’t make sense to the guy I was talking to. It didn’t make any sense to me either but at the moment I wasn’t worried about making sense as much as I was worried about the horrible disquieted burning sensation coming from the Lord’s presence to me on the topic. I suddenly realized in a moment I had likely just made myself a pariah to this new group I was in, that I might even be accused of making a “negative confession” and blocking the outcome they believed should happen about something they felt was God’s will. In general, I didn’t often speak “in the name of the Lord” no matter what I felt He might be saying. But I literally felt I had almost no choice but to say what I said, the burning of the Spirit was so unpleasantly intense and I was in a moment of the fear of the Lord.
I was concerned I might get kicked out but the man just looked confused and walked away. A few weeks later, his client lost the election. I felt relieved on some level that at least they couldn’t say I had missed it, but I still didn’t understand what had just happened. I had been taught that we, the interceding believers, chose in prayer who should win elections. It was strange for me to discover in a moment that God had some sort of contrary opinion about that. And worse yet, to discover God wasn’t voting for the Republican guy. (I later discovered that the young man and his whole team had been ‘prophesying’ to the candidate that God was on his side and wanted him to win, so it made sense to me why I was being uncharacteristically compelled to speak in the name of the Lord to him a strong word since in my understanding the Lord seemed to actually feel otherwise.)
If that was intense though, it didn’t compare to what came next. One day I was watching television and this young upstart senator named Barack Obama was sharing his view on abortion and his bid for becoming a candidate for president in the primaries. As he spoke I could feel power and authority on the man to persuade, and I was horrified and immediately prayed, “Dear God, please do not let this man win.”
Immediately I felt the Lord speak back to me in my spirit, “What if I have chosen him?”
I was stunned. And I knew in a moment that the Lord wasn’t making some idle hypothetical proposition for me to consider. All I could reply was, “Why would you choose him?” I hoped I had misunderstood. I watched as the months went by and Barack Obama seized the Democratic nomination.
Meanwhile, the leaders of that group that had kicked me out came and visited a nearby church. They shared that God had spoken all these words about Senator Brownbeck being like that little boy in the Bible who had two fishes but those fishes would be enough to feed a whole crowd, and that Brownbeck would have enough votes to win. Then, as Brownbeck dropped out, the prophetic words people were sharing changed to Huckabee. And then Huckabee was out of the race and everyone changed to supporting McCain.
But early on, I told friends from my prayer group and shared on Facebook, that I believed that Obama was going to win. People were aghast. People unfriended me, believing that I was a dreaded Obama supporter. I wasn’t at all an Obama supporter – I was horrified. When voting day came I had a huge quandary on my hands – I knew God had chosen Obama, but did that mean I should vote for him? I couldn’t vote for him, he was evil. Yet God was voting for him. What was I supposed to do, vote against God? In the end I decided God had his own reasons, but that I still shouldn’t vote for what I considered an evil man. I punted and didn’t vote for either of them.
However, in the days and weeks afterward, I watched Obama. I started to appreciate he had some really great leadership qualities. And that he was even a Christian, albeit, “the wrong kind of Christian.” I listened as other Christians condemned him and called him a muslim. That bothered me – as a teacher, and as an America, I believed that part of the dream of religious freedom and equality in our country meant that every little muslim child in my classroom should be told they could become president one day, and instead every muslim American child was hearing, “You can’t be a president in this country if you are a muslim.”
As I watched people pray sanctimonious prayers for Obama to repent and get saved, more and more it started to bounce off me as extremely self-righteous posturing and it felt wrong. At any rate, I started to understand that God didn’t just support Republicans and Christians to win elections. I am still ethically pro-life to this day, but after watching Ireland change their laws about abortion, I started to question whether or not ending abortion at all costs was the right way to uphold a pro-life ethic.
So there you have it. I’m sure this will offend people and bother both liberal and conservative sensibilities. I don’t share my experiences with God to shape your political ideas with my own subjective experiences, but rather just so you can understand my own journey and how I could say I believe I followed Jesus out of right-wing politics. Today I am a registered Democrat, and I still love and worship God and His Son Jesus. And I do think I can say that I landed here BECAUSE I believed I was following Jesus, not because I am some sort of lukewarm apathetic sheeple. (And for the record, I don’t believe that Jesus is a Democrat either, but rather that it is important for everyone to be free to vote their own conscience the best as they can before the Lord!)