This Election is Making me Scared to Move to the South

As America’s been trying to figure out how to make its Big Decision of 2016, hubby and I have been trying to make our own big decision–whether to uproot ourselves from Boston, where we both went to school, to return to the place both our parents call home–Atlanta, Georgia. We’ve been trying to take into account everything from his job to my job to family planning to cost of living to community and church involvement.

These last two points are the ones being assaulted by this election.

Like many people, I’ve always thought of Georgia as a Republican stronghold, and was surprised to find out that it is becoming a battleground state. The drive to the left is mostly as a result of growing Hispanic and Asian populations in Atlanta as well as the city’s legendary Black community. What’s keeping the state from tipping fully purple is its membership in the Bible belt–i.e., its white evangelical protestant voters.

And this has always factored into my thoughts about whether to move. After being apart of multiethnic churches for the past eight years, I fully plan to look for a diverse body of worship if we move. And because white folks still make up a huge majority of Christians who have similar theological beliefs as we do, it seems inevitable that any church we might join would have a lot of white protestant evangelicals–probably even a majority.

But after watching this demographic, whom I have always considered a kind of eccentric extended family, defend Trump after he has assaulted minorities, women, and our democracy itself, I am really not sure if I still want to be related–or rather, to relate–anymore.

The thing is, white evangelicals in cities like Boston are very different–Woke–you might call them? I’ve found my white Christian friends up here to be really aware, really thoughtful about the nuances of traditionally evangelical hot-button issues like abortion and gay marriage and religious liberty.

Every time I see a white Christian friend from Ohio or Georgia post on facebook about how Hillary wants to rip babies out days before birth (not even close to true, nor does this even happen!) or take away all our guns (again, not going to happen) and therefore Trump is the one who should get the vote, my courage to move to Atlanta wavers.

And seeing this Atlanta Journal-Constitution poll, which found that 70% percent of white evangelicals in Atlanta support Trump, I am even more afraid.

How can I go to church on Sunday and try to worship beside a person who is determined to believe that a highly suspect pro-life promise is enough to cancel out everything that is wrong with this candidate? How can I share my life, my children, my home with people who are indifferent to all the ways he is an affront and a threat to so many of my identities–as a woman, as a person from the much-despised China, as a person who went to an Ivy League school?

In church we have been going through the book of Ephesians, which is a text that focuses heavily on church unity even across deep and difficult boundaries. I know that if we were to move to Atlanta, going to a black church or an Asian church or even a multiethnic church with very few white people are all options, considering how many Christians there are there.

It makes me deeply uncomfortable to just write off a huge section of the church and decide that I am too hurt by them on principle to engage. But I’m also deeply uncomfortable with the thought of engaging a group that I can’t help but feel should know better.

So I’m left holding a pile of tangle and tension, feeling the pull of our immediate family and struggling with the repulsion I feel at this extended family I’ve watched from afar. Nothing has tested my views on church unity so much; I can’t help but think of all my friends who have been extreme minorities in their churches, tried to tough it out, and ultimately left. I don’t envy that experience–Jesus should be enough, but what happens when he just isn’t?

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4 thoughts on “This Election is Making me Scared to Move to the South

  1. I think you might be unnecessarily worried about the wrong issues. You assume that Trump supporters are voting for him because “a highly suspect pro-life promise is enough to cancel out everything that is wrong with this candidate,” but really, as the article that you cited mentioned, almost 50% of them see it at voting against Clinton rather than for Trump. Also I think they see it as voting for the party, not for him. I know many conservatives who wish that someone, anyone, other than Trump had won the nomination, but since he’s the candidate, better him than Clinton.

    Just because some votes for Trump doesn’t mean they agree with his attitudes towards women – just like voting for Clinton doesn’t mean you approve of all her values, either. I’ve never felt personally threatened by all the dumb things Trump says on TV; I think most of his supporters don’t take his words literally but just like that he’s breaking all the rules about political correctness and everything else the liberal media has on its agenda.

    Regarding the abortion and gay marriage arguments, they’re just the same old statements that get rehashed in more extreme terms every election, and would have come up whoever the candidate. Yes, many Republicans aren’t taking into account the nuances of the arguments, but many Democrats aren’t either. It’s hard to just say of one side that “they should know better” when, depending on who you talk to, the other side is just as obstinately uncompromising. But I think the bigger issues driving this election and the reasons for Trump’s popularity are more about race and political correctness.

    I’m trying to keep this short, so if I have to pick a line from your post to talk about it’s that idea of expecting people “to know better.” Having lived in rural upstate New York and also having gotten to know many white working-class people who are now my relatives by marriage, I feel like demanding from afar that “they should know better” is as unreasonable as looking at poor inner-city neighborhoods from afar and saying “they should know better” than to join gangs and use drugs. White people get scared, too. They’re scared of how much more expensive college is getting (when many of them didn’t even go to college themselves), of how children from other races seem to be getting preferentially chosen when their own children are struggling just as much, of how everyone seems to be blaming them, of saying something the same way they’ve always said it growing up but now getting fired for it…people are scared of change. Especially when they are NOT from the privileged upper-middle-class that we grew up in, but have been fighting all their lives to not need Medicaid and food stamps. Can you at least see that perspective, too, and how their fear/anger is as justified as similar feelings from the minority communities? The only ones who have nothing to complain about are us suburbanites who were given cars at age 16, bought new dresses for every high school dance, and all grew up to becomes lawyers and engineers and pharmacists.

    • I totally agree with you about the need to take the concerns of the white working class seriously, and that the lack of upward mobility in the US right now is a huge problem. Only issue that I would note is that most trump supporters are not as working class as everyone seems to think. As mentioned here, http://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/2016/10/15/13286498/donald-trump-voters-race-economic-anxiety, trump supporters tend to make more than the average American– the traits most correlated with supporting him are racial resentment and value for authoritarianism. I don’t really feel betrayed by poor Christians who support him– it’s the Falwells and Dobsons and Grudems who disgust me. Financially they are fine, but even though HRC’s policies would probably result in fewer abortions and better upward mobility, they reveal themselves to be fundamentally more Republican than Christian by continuing to support Trump, even alternating between trying to vouch for him morally and when that backfires, claiming that leader morals are unimportant.

      • Yeah, the part about trying to defend Trump’s morals and then declaring that morals are unimportant drives me crazy too. And the general fact that everyone seems to think there’s a moral obligation to have a certain political affiliation. I guess I don’t know a lot of non-working-class-Trump-supporters, except maybe Chinese Church parents…and there’s an interesting question of whether they should know better that would make its own complicated post.

        The Vox piece is interesting, and it makes sense to me that the big issue in this election is all about race. And…I don’t have anything to add to that discussion that hasn’t already been said and said again. The only sense I can make of the resentment to minorities and such is that people are always resistant to change, and they can’t cope with the speed at which that change is happening. The Civil Rights act was only 52 years ago. 13+52 = 65, there are lots of people still alive today who experienced formal segregation and the attitudes that surrounded it, and unfortunately I don’t know that anyone’s going to be able to change their minds. Not defending that attitude, just this is why I don’t have the emotional energy to follow politics.

      • p.s. When you say HRC’s policies would result in fewer abortions, are you thinking that will be a result of better access to contraception and other socioeconomic support, or are you talking about more direct measures?

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