Monday, August 14, 2017
To My Fellow Americans (Part 4)
Dear Eighty-One Percent,
I've seen a lot of sympathy offered for those who were hurt in Charlottesville this weekend. Social media is full of calls for "loving thoughts" and prayer for #Charlottesville. Regular folks and celebrities alike are tweeting their condemnation of the violence, with hashtags like #BeKind and #Resist. It's definitely "trending."
There are also a lot of folks who are doing even more than engaging on social media. People of all skin tones and backgrounds are peacefully protesting across the country. Charities are providing the opportunity to help with the legal and medical needs of the victims. Wealthy folk are putting their money where their mouths are, tangible support to match their tweets.
Remember the "Occupy Wall Street" protests? Folks also engaged in a variety of ways around that cause. "The One Percent" became synonymous with privilege and being out-of-touch. In the same way that the "1%" of Americans is made up of privileged folks, so too is the "81%" of Evangelicals who voted for Donald Trump. A privilege which, though not based solely in financial wealth, still affords the 81% the ability to ignore the reality behind Charlottesville. To rest in their privilege and stay out-of-touch. So many people are asking, "How can we help?" Will those of you who voted for President Trump actually listen to the answer?
During the election, Christian people of color and minority status said: "We are afraid. This man encourages xenophobia and exceptionalism. His violent message will lead to violent actions." Many of those who would later vote for Trump--the 81%--responded: "No, you're reading into it. Don't be so paranoid. Your fears are unfounded and unreasonable."
As the election progressed, Christian people of color and minority status pleaded: "We are afraid. This man is backed by hateful people in the alt-right, anti-semitic movement. His words and behavior toward the most vulnerable are predatory, disdainful, and dangerous. If he is president, many of us--our children and families--will suffer." Yet Christian folks replied: "Abortion is too big of an issue to let go of! Our next president will choose at least one Supreme Court Justice! The 'least of these' talked about by Jesus were the unborn, and that's it. Your fears are distracting us from the real battle for life."
When the electoral college turned fiction into fact, Christian people of color and minority status cried out: "We are afraid! How could this happen? How could 81% of our brothers and sisters in the church care so little for our well-being that they were willing to ignore the threat of Trump? How could they look the other way regarding his misogyny, racism, and lies? Where do we go when we feel unsafe in our own churches?" And the 81% lashed out: "Our hands were tied. We had an impossible choice. Hillary is evil, and we have to protect babies. It hurts us that you say you feel unsafe. Your well-being isn't threatened by Trump's presidency! Please stop being so divisive."
When President-Elect Trump named alt-right, white supremacists to his cabinet and other important positions, Christian people of color and minority status wept and raged. When Trump took oaths to defend and protect our country, yet policies against the vulnerable began to take shape, sometimes Christian people of color and minority status ran out of things to say. Because fears were being realized, and the damage was already done. If these traumatized brothers and sisters did speak up, far too many of the 81% didn't want to hear it: "Don't say you told us so. This is different than what you predicted. There's not proof these things are related. It's not our business--that's what we have elected officials for. You're still being so paranoid. Hasn't the election divided us enough already? Could we please stop talking about all this and get back to gospel issues?"
And now Charlottesville has happened. Now an act of terror upon American soil by radical dissidents has occurred, and Trump supporters are surprised, horrified, and want to help. Now the blood of the vulnerable has been shed--yet again--and Christian people of color and minority status will raise weary heads yet again, to ask: "We are afraid--will you hear us? Please don't make excuses. Just listen. Please don't vote for President Trump in four years. Please don't assume that we're paranoid and unreasonable. Please start writing and calling your elected officials (of all affiliations) to tell them that not only is this violence unacceptable, so is the rhetoric and permissiveness which has spawned it. Please, brothers and sisters, don't turn a blind eye and rest in your privilege. We don't need you to beat yourselves up for voting for Trump. We need you to listen to the Holy Spirit, repent, and get busy grieving, protesting, and figuring out what God would have you do differently."
So, dear siblings in the 81%, will you listen? Will you lament with us? Will you cling to grace more than a political party? Will you move forward in repentance and in hope at what God is doing amidst the chaos? Will you stop making excuses for the current administration, stop berating those who are afraid, and enter the messy world of vulnerable people where there are no easy answers? I hope so.
Afraid yet clinging to Jesus,
A wounded sister.