This post is directed to those of my friends and readers who are committed to basic human decency, who oppose White Supremacy and refused to vote for it, who abhor rape culture and patriarchy, and who are, like me, wondering where we go from here.
[If you voted for the White Supremacist candidate, well, take some time, read some non-white, non-GOP perspectives, and listen to people outside your bubble. I changed, you can too.]
This includes a number of different people I know and love. Those who grew up Evangelical like me, who either protest voted or voted (D) for the first time in our lives. People for whom our faith compels us to seek the good of our neighbors, particularly the least of these. People who take Jesus Christ seriously when he says our eternal destiny depends on how we treat the least of these. Non-religious people who have been gracious not to gloat now that they have been proven right about the moral bankruptcy of American “Christianity™.” People of all beliefs who have watched with horror as hatred enveloped our nation - and triumphed for now.
As the people who rejected hate, and who remain determined to protect the vulnerable against those who would do them harm, it is time that we come together, and do what we need to do.
So, we learned a lot of things this week. Let me list a few:
- We learned that racism and hate remain the driving force for a significant plurality of white Americans. I for one can no longer pretend that racism isn’t a defining reality in this nation. It is indeed our national sin. This was a “whitelash,” as Van Jones so memorably put it. It is a reaction against 8 years of a n-----r in the White House, and in a changing nation: one that is browner, more feminist, and less culturally homogenous.
- In 2016, a narcissistic sociopath can run on an expressly White Supremacist platform, brag about assaulting women, and still win. And his racial views will be the reason he won.
- My religious tribe was the single most solid demographic in voting for White Supremacy. Whether it was out of actual racism or a willingness to look the other way, it is clear that for the most part (80%), we cannot count on them to protect the vulnerable or stand up against hate. They won’t. They just proved it.
- Basically, hate won this battle, a significant portion of our nation wishes to go back to the injustices of the past, and we have some real work to do to make the future better, not worse.
So here are a few things that have come to my mind through a mostly sleepless night.
First, we need to remember that at least half of this nation chose to reject White Nationalism. That part should be comforting. There are also a lot of decent people - I know many of them - who have taken a stand against hate, even when it has meant blowback from family, friends, and church. We may have lost a battle, but we have a solid shot at winning this in the long run.
This election will have real, negative consequences for many people. As an educated white man, I realize that I probably will not suffer many of them, if any. I am not the target. Rather, the bullying and hate directed at my non-white friends and their children isn’t going to go away. As whites committed to opposing hate and White Supremacy, we need to assure our fellow Americans who happen to have darker skin that we have their backs. That we will stand up to bullies. That we will call out racism when we see it - even if it is our own family members and friends. That means we will seek to be allies even when our white fragility is threatened. That we will listen rather than dismiss.
Many of my non-white friends have expressed fear. We need to recognize that this is a reasonable, predictable, human reaction when someone who has stirred up hate comes to power. This fear is going to be particularly devastating among children. We should not dismiss this fear. But we can help calm it by showing solidarity. We have a responsibility to all children, not just our own. As Christ put it, it would be better to have a millstone around our neck as we sink into the sea than to cause these little ones to stumble. For those of us Evangelicals, we have a responsibility to do what we can to undo the damage our tribe has done. An African American friend pointed out - correctly - that the red baseball cap is the new Klan hood. He’s right. And we need to keep that in mind.
For those of us from Evangelicalism, we need to realize that at best, our tribe will look the other way when harm is done to vulnerable people. At worst, they will cheer. Cheer as 11 million are ethnically cleansed from our nation. Cheer as unarmed “thugs” are gunned down. Cheer as refugees from Muslim countries are denied access to our nation and harassed for their religious beliefs. Cheer as 20 million lose their health insurance. (This is the one I think is pretty much guaranteed to happen. Remember 2013? The GOP will absolutely go through with this one.) Cheer as denial of employment, housing, and health care to LGBTQ people and single mothers is celebrated as “religious freedom.” (This one is probably happening as well.) We cannot count on our fellow Evangelicals to do the right thing. They won’t. They will absolutely look the other way as people are harmed. At best. More realistically, 80% support policies that harm others.
For those of us committed to compassion to the poor, hurting, and downtrodden, we now realize we are going to have to do it in the face of stiff opposition from American "Christianity™."
Likewise, it has become obvious, to quote conservative writer Max Boot, that the GOP has now become “the party of conspiracy-mongering, authoritarianism, and white power.” I left the GOP in 2013 because of this. When I was a kid, it was entirely possible to be a compassionate Republican. George H. W. Bush could express his concern that we not stigmatize undocumented children, and express horror that the officers who beat Rodney King half to death were acquitted. The GOP is no longer that party, and I think the decent people are going to have to leave. Where that will lead me, I don’t yet know. I’m still basically center-right, so the Democrats don’t exactly match my views. They are closer to my beliefs about civil rights and basic human decency than the GOP, though. And don’t say “Libertarians.” Their platform calls for the repeal of Civil Rights laws. So, every bit as racist in practice as the GOP. I’ll think about this one.
For what it’s worth, both Evangelicalism and the GOP are showing signs of demographic weakness. The young folks are tired of their bullshit and toxic politics. (And even a few of us middle aged ones are too.) I believe this election is going to accelerate the exit process as young people continue to reject the injustices of the past, and seek to build a future that includes women and people of color in their vision for America and Christianity.
Because of this, we will need to cultivate relationships with those who will be our allies in protecting the vulnerable, helping the poor, the sick, immigrants, refugees, and the incarcerated. We will need to invest less in our bigoted acquaintances and family members and more in our friends of color, our LGBTQ friends, our liberal friends, our atheist friends. At least the ones who share our passion for human decency. To quote Christ again, it’s about whether we obey his command to love our neighbor, not our creed. That’s why He said “Surely, the prostitutes and tax collectors are entering the Kingdom of God ahead of you.” Radical stuff. Which is why it isn’t a popular topic in Evangelicalism right now.
In addition, as my wife helpfully pointed out, there are a number of people who right now are where she and I were about 10 years ago: still believing the GOP isn’t a locus of racism, believing the best about our fellow Christians. Some of these people will eventually take the same journey we did, and the more we can help them take that step, the better. We are not going to hate those still mired in error. We’re just going to bring as many along with us as we can, and do our best to ensure the rest are not able to prevent us from making a better world.
To that end, I intend to continue to write and do my best to persuade others. As part of that, however, I am going to have to shoot straight about some things. I don’t think we have the luxury any longer of ignoring racism. We are going to have to push back against it, even when it is Uncle Leroy talking smack about Black Lives Matter. This isn’t the time to make nice to people who have sided with evil. Be polite, yes. But don’t back down. The reason that White Supremacy has bubbled to the surface again is that bigots have been emboldened by a belief that they will suffer no consequences for spreading hate. After all, if White Nationalism gets you the White House, why not? We need to make people understand that bigotry - and silence in the face of bigotry - will be called what it is.
I know this is going to cause some uncomfortable moments. Particularly at family gatherings. But I have realized this election that silence is not okay. Silence in the face of evil is supporting that evil.
So, stand with and protect the vulnerable, and fight oppression and hate where we find it.
Whether we do this as a result of our compassionate humanism, or out of a desire to follow Christ’s command to love our neighbor, (this view has been dubbed “Christian Humanism,” and traces a line from Justin Martyr in the 2nd Century through Bonhoeffer in the 20th) we will share these goals and this vision. Regardless of our creed.
One of the best men of the 20th Century was Fred Rogers. He always said whenever there is tragedy, look for the helpers. The ordinary men and women who selflessly step in when evil is done. We need to be those people. There’s going to be hate out there. There’s going to be hardship. And we have our work cut out for us.
Please read my Comment Policy before commenting.
Since this post is directed toward a particular group, I will not be accepting comments from anyone who appears to have voted for the White Nationalist candidate. If you want to know my feelings, you can read this post.
Also, if you say, “but abortion,” I swear I will scream. As part of my commitment to speak the uncomfortable truth, I intend to write a series on the anti-abortion movement, its genesis in segregation, and its present use as a way to get otherwise decent people to support evil. (Also, I will delete your comment.)
I particularly welcome comments from people who wish to join me in building a better world, where hate and racism are not acceptable. Share your stories of what you are doing to further that goal.