A Letter to my dear friends in Midland, Texas
I think that Midland, Texas is one of the most amazing places on earth to live and while the scenery may not be beautiful, after living there for almost 30 years and raising my children there, I know that the people who live there have beautiful hearts that desire to help their fellow man. My life today and the journey I have walked these past 15 years working to protect international religious freedoms and other basic human rights began in Midland and flourished because of the beautiful brothers and sister in Christ who listened and responded with enthusiastic support when I encouraged the Midland Ministerial Alliance (MMA) to pray about utilizing the unique opportunity our community had to be seen and heard around the world when Midland’s favorite son, George W. Bush was in the White house. The MMA was eagerly sought out by a variety of non-profit advocacy groups, think tanks, U.S. government elected officials and the media because we “knew” the President and hoped to help advance the keen interest that President Bush had in promoting democracy and basic human rights. The opportunities and influence that the MMA had exceeded our expectations and we did not take this lightly but rather, wanted to make our time and efforts count in ways that would positively impact our work for good.
We became engaged with the U.S.State Department, Congressional leaders and Foreign government offices not only in advocating for international religious freedom and helping persecuted Christians, but also in combatting human trafficking and engaging in peace initiatives between North and South Sudan. When the MMA had no funds for staff to do this work, it decided to appoint me as their volunteer Advisor/ Spokesperson which took me to WDC often. I thought once President Bush was no longer in Oval Office, I would be done with this unexpected opportunity and go back to being a stay-at-home-mom. But in a similar manner without any prior personal agenda (or clue to how my life was going to change) some miraculous doors opened. I was invited to sit on some strategic organization’s advisory boards and completed a graduate degree from Oxford University in International Law. I was also asked to serve as an Executive Advisor for the World Evangelical Alliance (WEA) and represent 129 of WEA’s national country alliances at the United Nations which I have done now for the past several years. I travelled to many countries to listen and learn from evangelical churches who are part of the WEA alliances constituency that comprises over 600 million evangelicals worldwide. It has been a humbling journey and a steep learning curve with the most important lesson being that I have learned how different the vast majority of evangelicals are around the world from their U.S. evangelical brothers and sisters.
It would take me days to elaborate on this last statement and I hope to be able to communicate more in the months ahead but in a short elevator speech, this is a summary:
Evangelicals that I interact with in over 129 countries are very perplexed and growing in their disillusionment concerning the U.S. political scene, particularly with what they see as Republican Party candidates increasing a form of nationalism that does not embrace the values and practices of a “Christian Nation” which American evangelicals hyper focus on. They see and hear comments from the GOP candidates and supporters concerning our Constitution (which I agree is an amazing exeperience that has advanced democracy and rule of law) but let’s keep in mind that the Constitution is not a sacred document and it does not and will not ever supercede the Torah and New Testament Scripture that I believe the GOP candidate is advocating.
What I am referring to is how U. S Evangelicals and the direction that the GOP is going on issues such as immigration, protecting the wealthy at the expense of our nations poor, being advocates for repealing health care and social services without having anything to fill in the gaps this will create, being selective in pro-life stances that exclude capital punishment, much needed gun-control reform, and obstruct nuclear disarmament which is the biggest existential threat to the sanctity of life. And last but not least, a growing tendency to place our faith in our nation’s military might and justifying our nation’s expenditures in this area with a fear of seeming unpatriotic if we take an honest assessment of expenditures and policies that have and are obviously failing to achieve the objectives that are critical to the our own nation’s well- being and also our neighbors around the world.
I realize that all I have said is not black and white but my experiences and many travels these past 15 years, while seeking no personal agenda or financial gain, have convinced me that contrary to what most of what my loved and respected friends in Midland believe politically is very misguided.
When I married 35 years ago and moved to West Texas as the bride of petroleum engineer, I had not given politics much thought but remember being shocked and very disappointed when in college political science class, I read transcripts of Richard Nixon’s time in office and the Watergate fallout that demonstrated a mindset and actions that as a follower of Christ, frankly offended me. But I thought I needed to treat Nixon as one bad apple and give being a Republican a chance since everyone around me thought that being a Republican was almost the equivalent of being a “Christian” because of the abortion issue (and today I would add the LGBT and gay marriage issues). As I worked as a school teacher and had minority students who couldn’t speak English that made my job more frustrating, I found myself feeling a bit more comfortable in my identity as a Republican because after all these Mexican students were not here legally! Even though they were children who had no control over where their parents had been born and the challenges they faced that motivated them to take huge risks to relocate and take difficult jobs Americans did not want to do ( many times in terrible working conditions without any legal protections and safety factors.)
I distinctly remember going to a an event for Kent Hance because I wanted someone to get elected who would take care of the illegal immigrants and prioritize America and “Christian Values” first and foremost. It didn’t take me long as I started a year long “reading through the Bible" Study to see how many times the Old and New Testament mentions the priority that God gives to “welcoming the stranger” and Christ’s command to love our neighbor as ourselves. It also didn’t take me long to ask myself how I would want a White Anglo-Saxon Protestant college educated, never have missed a meal young woman named Deborah Fikes who was teaching school in Midland, Texas to treat me if I was a poor 11 year old Mexican girl or boy whose parents had endured a difficult journey of hunger and thirst over hundreds of miles just to get to Midland, Texas and find work so they could meet the basic needs of food, water and shelter for them and their children. This was the beginning for me of where I am today politically and why I cannot sit back and not question what has become of the Republican Party.
I cannot in good conscience remain silent in the current political climate that we are in here in America. I agree emphatically with many of you reading this that our country needs a change of direction but from my own unique experiences these past 15 years that have taken me outside a narrow silo view of the world, I can confirm that if the only news outlet you listen to is is narrowly focused and you don’t check out elsewhere, you are not getting the full picture and you are not living in the reality of the real world outside your small limited viewed circle. President Reagan who is so loved and respected by Republicans is famous for saying that America should “trust but verify” when dealing with those who have opposing views but I think if he were alive today, he would admonish those who are still voting for Republicans to reverse that advice and begin verifying what and who they are trusting.
While I am doubting in this 2016 election campaign if die-hard Republicans love their political party more than they love their country, I firmly believe that the United States of America is still the great beacon, city on a hill, that I believe is uniquely blessed by God in so many ways. No matter what your personal religious convictions may be, we need to remember that our blessed nation of America is not contingent on how the Supreme Court has ruled on Roe vs. Wade or on gay marriage. I believe that these issues have been used in exploitive ways by the GOP and their operatives to divert those of us who say we are followers of Christ’s to lose sight of our real calling on this earth which is to take care of our neighbors, be instruments of peace who seek to follow the example that Christ set for us. I see very little humility and sacrificial love in the current GOP platform and this is why I can vote for a Democratic candidate who represents my values much more these days. I realize that many evangelicals consider single issues like abortion and traditional marriage to be non-negotiable and I respect your decisions and actions you take but you have not been in my prayer closet with me for the past 15 years as I have prayed about these same issues. You have also not been with me on my journeys as I have seen how the rest of the evangelical world outside the USA has not been divided and diverted in the Kingdom work by these single “morality issues”.
You have also not done the extensive research that I have done that confirms that abortion rates go down in countries where reproductive health is prioritized and abortion is legal. Here in the United States, abortion rates consistently go down during Democratic administrations and are their lowest now, along with unwanted pregnancies. Abortion rates are just as high among evangelical Christians here in America and electing a Republican President, and both houses of Congress as was done during President George W. Bush’s time in office changed nothing with Roe v. Wade. From a voter demographic projection and from a legal and congressional perspective, I do not believe that Roe v. Wade will ever be overturned. Even if Mr. Trump was elected in November and appointed a majority of unquestionable pro-life Supreme Court Justices, they could not get out of the Senate Judiciary Committee and then go to a full Senate vote and be confirmed. If American evangelicals were really thinking strategically, they should consider electing pro-life Democrats to the Senate who would be one of the few ways that they could stand a chance to make abortion illegal again in this country. And after abortion was illegal, what would be done about much higher maternal deaths from illegal abortions? This is the challenge in countries that still have abortion illegal, with some Latin American countries have much higher rates of maternal deaths from “bedroom abortions”. I am personally pro-life and would hope that I would never choose an abortion even if it were a case of rape, incest or health of the baby or myself but I also believe that God allows people to make choices even if your interpretation of the Bible leads you to believe that those choices are murder or immoral. I believe so much more can be done to help women not be faced with an unwanted pregnancy or choosing to get an abortion and the Democratic party will do more to see these kinds of results. As for the Hyde Amendment, I am researching this complex situation and I hope to weigh in more on this in the future.
Friends, the world is in crisis mode more than you can possibly imagine. I say this as someone who was a stay at home mom 15 years ago and found herself in high level briefings in U.S. and International venues as I represented the 129 Evangelical Alliances that comprise the World Evangelical Alliance. From my experience and observations that have not been funded by anyone other then my generous husband, I can honestly say that you do not want to elect someone to the presidency who does not have a comprehensive and holistic approach to the grave problems our world and our nation is facing and the grave issues are not Roe vs. Wade, gay marriage or Obamacare. My prayer is that American evangelicals will have a revival after this election and will take back their territory that focuses on Christ’s Kingdom and does not seek political avenues to do what the Church alone can and should be doing. This is what I am sharing with my friends in Midland, Texas when they are asking, “What had happened to Deborah Fikes?”