by Rabbi Nancy Kasten
The energy was palpable as the crowd gathered to hear Valarie Kaur at Temple Emanu-El a week ago Thursday. Jews, Christians, Muslims, Sikhs, Hindus, Buddhists, atheists and agnostics came for the event. People of varying gender identities, of all ages and stages in life, from the East, West, North and South intermingled. Doctors, lawyers, teachers, students, clergy, business people, activists, organizers and artists—all were there. To be in the room was to experience a sense of awe and gratitude. Awe for the power of love to attract this mixed multitude. And gratitude for those who came willing to learn and grow, to change and be changed by a vision of revolutionary love.
It was like an old-fashioned tent revival, held for those seeking healing, peace and forgiveness. But the goal was not to erase diversity, or denounce all but a single path to salvation. In fact, it was the opposite. We were invited to “imagine the world we will birth when we see no stranger,” and to cultivate habits of wonder, curiosity and humility to achieve that end. To face our fears bravely. To listen to our opponents. To fight against dehumanization in ourselves and in our concentric circles of influence.
Revolutionary love is the love of inclusion, integration, and interdependence. The faith of one is strengthened by the faith of another, not threatened by it. I am saved from despair by seeing the Divine in you, and in that seeing, the Eternal Spirit within me glows more brightly.
The call to Revolutionary Love is urgent at this moment, because it is on the ballot for the midterm elections in November. It is running against Christian Nationalism, and at the moment it seems to be losing. Whatever else it did or did not achieve, the Trump Administration enacted what Dr. Robert Jeffress, Pastor of First Baptist Church in Dallas, called, “the most pro-life, pro-religious liberty, pro-Israel, pro-conservative judiciary in the history of the United States.” What Jeffress means by religious liberty so conflates nationality with religious identity that the only true Americans are Christians, and the only real Christians are Christians who agree with his beliefs about Christianity. This definition of religious freedom is not what brought people like my grandparents to this country. It is not the kind of religious freedom that will make our country strong or whole. And it is the antithesis of Revolutionary Love.
Here in Texas it will be harder to vote in November than in recent election cycles. In 2021 our state government passed laws which confuse voters and endanger election officials. Our Secretary of State is ordering investigations of county elections operations, seeding suspicions that discourage would-be voters. To cast a vote and have it count will take more effort and may require more time. But if Texans who believe in the promise of Revolutionary Love do not vote in November, we cede our power to Christian Nationalists, who will be even more emboldened to perpetrate hatred that foments violence in the name of Christ.
Americans who support or tolerate Christian Nationalism confuse faithfulness with fanaticism, becoming soldiers in a battle to transform democracy into theocracy. Standing against Christian Nationalism is not tantamount to opposing Christians or Christianity. Instead, it is an act of Revolutionary Love, consonant with Christianity and found at the heart of every major religion. It is a non-violent way to fight for all of God’s creation.
Christian Nationalism functions as a bouncer, rejecting from that table those who don’t meet their litmus test of faith, or gender, or sex, or color, or national origin. Revolutionary Love, on the other hand, holds a place for everyone at the American table of abundance. You have a place at this table, and we will help you fight to keep it.