“If you don’t like this country, then leave.” This is the tired, time-worn refrain sung lately by supporters of this President.

Love it or Leave it. Funny, I don’t remember them singing that song the eight years Barack Obama was at our helm. Guess they added it to their playlist in 2016. I’m sorry to disappoint them, but I’m not happy with America and I’m not leaving.

I’m staying because my son and daughter see the world as beautiful, and they see people as good and the future as hopeful—and I’ll be damned if I have to move them thousands of miles away to give them that reality. They deserve the America they believe exists.

I’m staying to show the country that Christianity is not what they’ve been told it is by the Religious Right. It is not this Bible Belt bastardization, with a bloodthirsty, gun-toting, “Don’t tread on me” white, Republican Jesus looking to purify the country and drive out the gays and the blacks and the illegals and the Muslims.

I’m staying to stand up to the hallway bullies and the church door vandals and the drive-by cat-callers and the social media terrorists, to let them know that they don’t have the run of the house just because they have a kindred spirit in the White House.

I’m staying because this place has been the setting of my story, and because that story is not going to be held hostage while I watch from a safe distance and pray someone does something to keep it all from hitting the fan. I’m sticking around to be part of the answer to that prayer.

I’m staying to be a builder of the country I dream of living in, the one whose glory I have seen; the one that has always been made better by good, normally quiet people who decided to be both good and loud in the face of a really powerful ugliness that seemed to be winning.

I’m staying to craft a Church in the image of Jesus, one where all people will find hospitality and compassion and decency; one that allows them all to participate fully, regardless of the color of their skin or the object of their affections or the bathroom they wish to use—or any other qualifier.

I’m staying so that I can use whatever privilege and platform and success I have, to be the perennial thorn in the side of those who’d make life hell for the marginalized communities I love so dearly; to take some of the blows and the bruises and venom they might otherwise take. I stay to be a defiant gap stander.

I’m staying to be the direct and loving response to the snarling pulpit bullies who wield God like a hammer; those who thump their Bibles and pound their podiums and spit their sermons and peddle their fear—all in the name of a Jesus they bear no resemblance to. I’m hanging around to hold their feet to the fire every single day they take Christ in vain.

I’m staying in Donald Trump’s America because it isn’t Donald Trump’s America.

It is not the Republican’s America. It is not the Evangelical Right’s America. It is our America. It is we the people. It is those of us who hold tightly those self-evident truths about the value of all its citizens. It is the technicolor choir of our shared humanity.
It is white and black, straight and gay, indigenous and immigrant, cisgender and Transgender, the faithful and the faithless. We are all co-owners of this place, and no man can drive us from that which we belongs to us and that we belong to.

And most of all I’m staying because it is my America. Because I love this place and what it stands for, and because I’ve done my time and worked my butt off and made my mark and paid my taxes and earned my scars and nurtured the ground I raise my kids on. And I’m not about to let anyone scare me or push me or scream me out of here.

I’m staying because diversity is worth fighting for, because going backwards for us is not an option, because the fight is redemptive when it is on behalf of those who are vulnerable and left voiceless, because my LGBTQ friends shouldn’t have to engage in old, brutal battles that they’d already fought and won.

I’m staying because women shouldn’t relinquish a fraction of the income and autonomy and opportunity they’ve suffered so greatly to acquire. I’m staying because people of color shouldn’t have to give back anything they’ve gained through decades of sweat and blood and sacrifice.

I’m staying because girls growing-up today don’t deserve to get stuck back into some grainy, black and white, Father Knows Best prison of the antiquated, sexist expectations of insecure men wanting everything to be back the way it used to. It will never be the way it used to be, thank God.

And yes, I fully believe it’s all going to get worse before it gets better, but I’m staying so that hopefully the worse isn’t quite as bad and the better comes a little bit sooner. I am going to be that light which resists the darkness. I have never been intimidated by another human being no matter how big a bully he or she is, and so I am not intimidated by Donald Trump.

I’m staying so that he understands every single day what this country is made of. We are not all sycophants, soul-selling evangelists, and perpetually-bowed yes men. We’re not all gullible rubes who can be duped into hating strangers. We’re not all suggestible fools who can be sold toxic snake oil to fix our ills. We’re not all dead-hearted litigators looking to silence dissension and suppress truth. We are not all tricked by the bluster and the tough guy talk that masquerade as confident competence. We know a terrified fraud when we see one—and we don’t run from them.

And so even though I’m not looking forward to the next season of our country’s life for many reasons, I wouldn’t miss it for the world. This is a beautiful nation when at its best, and I won’t let someone claim to be making it great again by tearing it apart. I’m here for the duration, and yes we are indeed stronger together. So, no I won’t say America, Love It Or Leave It.

I will forever and steadfastly declare with my words and my life, America: Love It And Change It.

John Pavlovitz

The original version of this Op Ed was published on johnpavlovitz.com

John Pavlovitz launched an online ministry to help connect people who want community, encouragement, and to grow spiritually. Individuals who want to support his work can sponsor his mission on Patreon, and help the very real pastoral missionary expand its impact in the world.