Where I grew up, one chose up sides early on. Either blue or red. Bird or Cat. One of the L’s–Louisville or Lexington. Rivalries demand loyalties. The choice to follow and cheer on, and perhaps even attend one of the institutions for higher learning, marked us in the state of Kentucky. Pick a team, for Pete’s sake, and pick well–the Kentucky Wildcats or the Louisville Cardinals. And never the twain shall meet. My family bled blue, so my blood type was decided. Plus, I had a crush on Kyle Macy as a grade school kid.
I also had a crush on a boy in my class. His family belonged to the other side. I started questioning my loyalties. I asked for a Louisville Cardinals shirt for Christmas. I was a full-on traitor. A lone wolf red-coat in a sea of blue-bleeding Wildcat fans.
I don’t think I owned another Cards shirt. When I began attending the University of Kentucky, of course, my loyalties were no longer in question. There were bigger fish to fry in all of the places where a side demanded to be chosen. Everywhere I turned during college, in new and overwhelming ways, I found myself trying to choose one side over the other.
The first election where my age allowed me to vote was in 1992. Bill Clinton vs. George H.W. Bush vs. Ross Perot. Another issue of red and blue. I don’t know what color Ross Perot stood for. My tribe at school and most of my family (all of whom knew the political ropes better than I) beckoned me, without protest, to the reds. No one said so directly, but I surmised that a red vote looked most like a Jesus vote.
After one Monday night prayer, a friend pulled me aside. I had just reminded all of those gathered to please pray for our country and the upcoming election, and I may have given a subtle endorsement of one candidate. “You know, there are some people who love and follow Jesus that will vote for a different candidate than who’s on your button there,” he nodded toward the lapel of my jacket. I stared at him in disbelief. A few weeks later, I stared in disbelief at the Electoral College map that my professor had posted outside her office door. The blues outnumbered the reds. I think about my friend’s words often during election seasons.
We live in a culture–the tangible one full of people we interact with face to face and the less tangible and maybe imagined one of social media–where rivalries demand loyalties. Choose, and choose wisely. If we are one thing, the implications dictate, we are most assuredly not the other. More so, if we are not one thing, we are diametrically opposed to the other, vehemently opposite.
The trouble in my own soul about this: I’ve never, even when I was in grade school and crushing on a boy from the other side, understood why one had to despise the Cardinals to cheer on the Wildcats. Never. Living far away from my home state, I love cheering on any team in the tri-state area, which means I cheer on the Hoosiers when they make it to the big dance in March. Scandalous, I know.
In the larger picture, outside of some concise choices–say, Jesus over Satan, life over death, Port William over 50 Shades, dark chocolate over milk chocolate, water over soft drinks, bluegrass over crabgrass, and maybe a few others I could find if I went looking–I don’t believe I have to choose up sides all of the blasted time. I can choose to live in tension. It hurts my head sometimes, but I prefer it.
I don’t have to choose a political party. I find myself in both, and even in the elusive third party that has yet to materialize.
I don’t have to choose a precise doctrinal camp, because I love and am fed by many streams in the Christian tradition. Baptist is in my blood. Wesley informs my heritage and that of my children. I read Jesuit priests and other monastic souls, and then I hang out with Oswald Chambers and Dr. Lloyd John Ogilvie. I respect and have learned from Beth Moore and Kathleen Norris, Elisabeth Elliot and Barbara Brown Taylor. The eclectic bundle of books on our shelves don’t seem to mind sharing space with each other. I’ll follow their lead.
I don’t have to choose to Black lives over Blue lives. To stand beside a human, any human, and hold a hand and extend mercy and see their humanity means their life matters to me.
I don’t have to choose sides in a divorce. I tried that. It was very painful.
I don’t have to choose whether someone is in the circle or not. I can let God do the work of redemption, and if God lets me, I can participate in it.
I can be Team Captain America and Team Iron Man. Many reasons exist to love them both.
Coffee and tea. Digital and film. Dogs and cats. Mountains and beach. Kentucky and Colorado.
And I don’t have to choose the Kentucky Wildcats over the Louisville Cardinals. For crying out loud, I can cheer for both teams. #kentuckyproud