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An Open Letter to Sasha and Malia Obama

Dear Sasha and Malia,
 

Your dad’s been working hard for the American people, and as one of the 46 million Americans who lacked health insurance, I’m thankful. As a graduate student who uses the student loan program, I’m thankful. As someone unemployed, I’m thankful.

 

But mostly, I’m thankful because I’m a Christian, and your father is doing some very good things in the midst of some very painful opposition and hatred. For example, I’m glad that, thanks to the work of your father and members of Congress, more than 95 percent of children in this country will now have health care coverage. I’m thankful that people will no longer be discriminated against for having pre-existing conditions, too.

 

Does that mean that I agree with your dad about everything? Probably not. If you’re like most kids, I doubt you do, too. But what should we do when we disagree?

 

I have a feeling you know the answer to that better than a lot of adults in this country.

 

When people disagree, they could still be civil and treat each other with respect, right? That’s what we learn on the first day of kindergarten, if nowhere else, right? It’s what we expect in our classrooms and our homes. We should strive for that in our politics, too.

 

I’m sorry, Malia and Sasha, that for my sake, and the sakes of those who voted for your father, and the sakes of those who didn’t vote for him as well, that you have to grow up in the midst of tea parties that include violence and bigotry instead of stuffed animals and pretend cakes.

 

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I’m sorry, Sasha and Malia, that more for the sake of hatred than justice, you have to deal with churches like Faithful Word Baptist Church in Tempe, Ariz., where Steven Anderson has preached against your dad and called on God for his death. I’m sorry also for similar things that have happened with Wiley Drake at First Southern Baptist Church of Buena Park, Calif.

 

But, dear Malia and Sasha, I want you to know some things. I’m not ashamed of my Christ – of my Jesus who honored women and children, who healed the sick, who fed 5,000 or more hungry people at a time, who cried to Peter to stop violence even against those unfairly arresting him. I’m not ashamed of my Jesus at all.

 

However, I am often ashamed these days to be a Christian. It makes me sad when I open my Facebook account and see more than 1 million people praying for your father’s death. Most of them probably just think it’s a joke and haven’t stopped to think about what that really means – for you, for your mama, for the Bidens and for the American people no matter what political affiliation they are.

 

I’m sorry that a lot of people claiming to be Christians are feeding into such hatred – that they’re callous, fearful, at times ignorant, and mostly uncivil. I wonder how they would feel if they were in your shoes? If it were their dad being the object of such hatred? I wonder how they would feel if their sons and daughters had to worry about such things?

 

Sasha and Malia, I’m sorry on behalf of the American people for the way these people are acting. It’s not just unpatriotic – it’s also not living up to what it means to be fully human. Mostly, young citizens, I’m sorry on the behalf of Jesus because it is anything but Christ-like.

 

May the Jesus who loves children heal our nation, remove our hatred and show us a better way forward, even in the midst of disagreements. That’s the true Jesus, not this idol of hatred, violence and even lies too many Americans are serving and allowing to pose in his place.

 

Malia and Sasha, this Jesus has always loved children, and he loves you and your family, as much as anyone for whom he died. Don’t let those claiming to be his followers, but not acting a bit like him, convince you otherwise. He’s the God of love, not hate.

 

He’s also the God that hears you and the other children in this nation, too, so let’s pray that the grown-ups get their emotions straightened out and start acting like loving caregivers and good citizens again, OK? It’d be a big help to the country and to Jesus.

 

Laura M. Rector is a doctoral student in Christian ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary.