A few weeks ago, I had a most distressing conversation with a conservative, evangelical friend of many decades. It started with a facebook post, in which she shared erroneous information about a Covid-19 “cure”, then it devolved into the place where all partisan facebook conversations go: friendship hell. In this conversation, I let her know her information was incorrect, then she claimed her views were being censored in the biased media, to which I encouraged looking at the facts, and she responded the “facts” are a conspiracy to move the leftist party forward.
So there were were. Standing at odds between perception and facts. At this juncture, I did what any reasonable person would do: I informed her the gaslighter-in-chief was a master at manipulating perception and very poor at garnering facts. And she basically said, “how do you know that?” (Insert my blinking eyes and blank stare here.) This is an awful place to be: somewhere between emotion and reason, with a friendship hanging in the balance. It is not that I didn’t have answers to these questions; it’s that I knew precisely in which direction this toilet water was going to swirl. I know you know exactly how this feels, because we have all been there.
Around this time, my comrade in blog-land, Mike McInally, shared an article with me. It helped settled a few frenzied puzzle pieces flying around in my head. You know, the mental quandaries like, “How the hell does saying something to a country make it true?” And, “Why on earth do people believe it just because he says it?” I wish this wasn’t the reality we are fighting, but here we are. You can find the August 2020, New York Times article Mike shared with me here: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/09/us/evangelicals-trump-christianity.html?action=click&module=Top%20Stories&pgtype=Homepage It is well worth the read.
In the article, Elizabeth Dias beautifully captures the essence of White evangelical America and all the fears around maintaining the status quo (which really is about maintaining emotional safety). She tapped into the fears conservative folks have around a fraying society. The fears of losing the conservative Christian voice in the dialogue. To address these fears, Dias cites the President’s 2016 speech, in which he overtly promised, “Christianity will have power…you’re going to have somebody representing you very, very well.” He was essentially assuaging the fears that liberals are taking over this God-fearing country with their evil ways, and he was basically saying, “I’m gonna protect you from all that and give you back your power.” (Side note: just last week, the President said he moved the U.S. embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem “for the evangelicals”, which was a distinctly different message from his 2017 speech, in which he purported it was “in pursuit of peace”. Clever move, Mister.)
And so, here we are, in a national version of an abusive relationship, and we don’t wanna leave the bastard. After all, he will change. He has apologized. He is “doing better”. He cites a Scripture or holds a Bible every now and then to keep us appeased. The emotional intelligence radars of his followers don’t seem to be catching on to the ruse, and those of us on the outside are screaming, “WAKE UP! He’s abusing us! Look at the bruises and cuts and broken bones. How many of us does he have to kill before we break up with him?” It feels like we are shouting into the wind.
Yesterday, during our virtual church service break-out session, I asked the question of other parishioners, “How do you deal with the anger at the ‘empire’ we are attempting uncloak and take down?” We shared some good ideas together and it gave me a moment of reprieve from the intense rage I feel toward a government that is deceiving my Christian (read: human) siblings, keeping them entrapped in a toxic relationship. But the deep sadness is still there. A new president can offer policy changes that save lives and stop excluding people from their citizenship in the world, but it won’t change the problem I’m highlighting here: White evangelicals will still see it as brainwashing and censorship. Their Jesus will still hold vigil at the border wall, not tend to the children in cages. Their Jesus will still keep transgender people standing outside the pearly gates. Their Jesus will still keep his knee on a the necks of black bodies.
I don’t have answers. I would love to hear what you all are thinking. I would love to hear what my co-blogger, Mike, is thinking. Mostly, I want to know what keeps you going, what keeps you engaged, when a collective perception is misaligned with basic human dignity. How do you keep your hope? What do you do to rise up against this mammoth problem and make space for shards of truth? Please use the comment section below to share your thoughts. I’m sending love and peace to you today.