Contributed article by Audrey Yu (Maria Audrey Lukito), International grad student at the University of Notre Dame
Don’t get me wrong, America. I love you. I first came to you at the age of 13, right after the 9/11 attack, to enter an early-entrance program. Although you were preparing to go to war at that time, I never experienced any kind of hostility or discrimination. I even had friends who eventually got deployed to Afghanistan. Although I was far away from my birth country and family, I never felt alone, for you made me feel at home. Where else in the world could a girl start college at the age of 13? I blossomed in knowledge and wisdom, under the guidance of my open-minded professors and the company of inquisitive, fun-loving friends. America was for me a land of freedom and endless opportunities. I graduated from the College of William and Mary in Virginia at the age of 16, with a Bachelor of Science in physics, Summa cum Laude and Phi Beta Kappa. Although I chose to go back home afterwards, the sweet memories of growing in your bosom never left my mind. Therefore, when the opportunity came for me to go back to school, I did not hesitate. I knew that I wanted to come back to you.
When I saw you again in 2018, however, you had changed beyond all recognition. Gone were the constructive Christian fellowships where people of all backgrounds were always welcome. I could no longer feel the greatness of your spirit. Instead of one America that was committed to uphold its ideals of equality, fairness and excellence, it was as if there were two “Americas”—two polarized camps, each with its own version of “America”, each demeaning and demonizing the other. The Ohio school I went to (I have since transferred to my current school, the University of Notre Dame in Indiana) was populated by people who firmly believed that only one party was pro-life. Students were encouraged to choose “pro-life” candidates. Those who supported the other party, or who had more nuanced views were always shamed into submission: “Do you not care for unborn babies? How are you different from Nazi’s who gassed people in internment camps?” I was shocked at this new face of yours, America. How had such deep rifts of division infected your schools and churches? For the first time ever, I did not feel welcome in your bosom, not even in those hallowed buildings where we are supposed to (commanded to, according to the Bible) love one another. Instead, I always felt unwanted, unwelcome and rejected. Puzzled at this (seemingly sudden) loss of your greatness, I started paying closer attention to what your President is saying and doing. He claims to be the most pro-life American president ever. He has even attended pro-life marches. Recently, he took pains to be photographed with a Bible in front of a church. Many conscientious voters, sincerely believing in his pro-life, pro-Christian claims, voted for him and supported him. But is Trump truly pro-life? What does being pro-life truly mean? Is the President even aware what life—especially in the Christian sense of the word—truly means?
We know that as human beings, we are co-creators of life. We have the capability to create new life. This is why Christian theologians throughout history have always stressed the importance of using our bodies responsibly and chastely, so as not to abuse this power in a destructive, rash or inappropriate manner. It is not just our sexual organs, however, that have the power to either create or destroy life. Our words and actions also have a similar power. In fact, through our words and actions, we are constantly presented with the opportunity to either affirm or reject life. How many young people, for example, have engaged in self-destructive behaviors or even taken their own lives due to the life-rejecting words of their family or peers? How many amongst us suffer from emotional issues due to the life-rejecting words and actions of those around us? Being human means being aware of this great power that we have at our fingertips: the power to either affirm or reject life at every moment of our lives. No one amongst us is ever completely pro-life or pro-death. We all move in between the two poles of the continuum, and as Christians we have the duty to constantly examine ourselves, so that our words, thoughts and actions are always life-affirming.
Does our current president understand what it means to be pro-life? Policies aside, he has used his words—which have a wide audience and an even wider impact—to attack and demean his fellow human beings. Love and decency have left the highest realms of politics, inspiring disgust, despair and hatred instead of hope and perseverance. People’s spirits are crushed; they do not know what to look forward to anymore. “A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones,” the writer of Proverbs once said (Prv 17:22). I believe that Trump is the most pro-death, life-rejecting President America has ever known. Not because he’s evil or inherently bad, but because he doesn’t understand what life truly means. All of us who are alive know that it takes more than food and shelter to sustain life; we also need an environment where our identities and ideals are validated, nurtured and affirmed. We need a country where people can agree to disagree, where the President is capable of acknowledging that in our imperfect world, some policies will necessarily cause grief to a few parties. We need a President who understands the sorrows of those who may be adversely impacted by those policies, and empathize with them. We do not need a pro-death President, who invalidates and dehumanizes wide swathes of human beings due to their background, race, nationality or immigration status.
We need a President who is able to say to immigrants seeking refuge in our shores something like, “We understand and acknowledge your plight, but our country at this moment may not have the capacity to help all of you. Rest assured, however, that we will work closely with your governments to minimize your suffering and ameliorate your future.” We need a President whose words will give hope, not regularly crush it. We need a President who is aware of his own limitations and failures and able to acknowledge them. Above all, we need a President who realizes that being the leader of the United States is a labor of love. It’s not about vanquishing political opponents or blaming others. It’s about managing a body filled with inherent flaws and drawing out its potential for greatness. It’s about bringing people together. In other words, it’s the art of loving a country, a people, and all the human beings contained within it. It’s the art of recognizing a nation’s spirit, and then kindling that same spirit in the hearts of his fellow citizens, so as to vanquish all divisiveness, fear and hatred. The art of loving is the art of being truly pro-life, and Trump clearly doesn’t have it.
To Christian voters I say, “Do not be afraid to vote for a party or candidate who claims to be pro-choice.” The Bible never depicts life as a piece of legislation, but rather as a seed, which starts out small but grows to be a shelter-providing tree (Mt 13:31-32). Christianity itself spread and expanded exponentially under the reigns of pagan Roman emperors. The Bible even called Cyrus, the pagan king of Persia who allowed the Jewish people to return home after the Babylonian exile, His “shepherd” and “anointed” (Is 44:28-45:1). Even Constantine, the first Christian emperor, did not convert overnight; rather, his conversion was a long journey that culminated in baptism near the end of his life. In choosing our leaders, we need to choose those whose words, actions and policies are most conducive to human life and flourishing. Under whose leadership will the lives of our fellow Americans most likely flourish with all their dignity, grace, and glory? Under whose leadership will the lives of those who live in our shores be most nurtured, like lush trees producing sweet-smelling fruits, whose fragrance will spread abroad? Whose leader most closely embodies the spirit of our great nation, whose beauty and promise has drawn many great minds and talents to our shores, and made America the great nation that she is today?
The Bible also warns us not to be fooled by appearances. It is “by their fruit that you will recognize them,” Jesus once said (Mt 7:16). Not everyone who claims to be pro-life is truly pro-life; not everyone who holds a Bible reveres the words contained within it. “Faith without deeds is useless” (Jas 2:20), as the Lord also once said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven (Mt 7:21).” Dear America, please vote wisely this November. I can barely recognize you anymore: your beauty is marred and tainted by all the divisions and hatred within you. I beg you to rise up once again, and be the great America that we all know and long for. Please don’t re-elect a bully who only knows how to demean and devalue human life, who is clearly unaware of the value of life, and who loves to crush the spirits of his hearers. Don’t re-elect someone who clearly does not understand your potential for greatness.
Please vote wisely, dear America. Your life and future depend on it. But more than that, please vote wisely, because I miss you. Be the beautiful and great America that we have once known and loved. Be the America that you once were, and that you can be again.
About the author:
Audrey Yu (Maria Audrey Lukito) is a Chinese Indonesian writer. She graduated Summa cum Laude, Phi Beta Kappa from the College of William and Mary in Virginia at the age of 16. She is currently an MTS (Master of Theological Studies) student at the University of Notre Dame. Her books have been archived by various institutions worldwide, including the Library of Congress, Harvard University Library, Yale University Library, Cornell University Library, the National Library of Australia and many others. She is also a contributor to HPR and Catholic Insight.