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?