An Open Letter to Evangelicals Who Voted for Trump

Dear Evangelical Brothers and Sisters,

Your neighbors are grieving in the aftermath of the election.

… hold on, let me back up.

I am a post-Evangelical, a progressive Christian. Folks like me ventured away from the Evie camp for matters of conscience and theology. While we may have journeyed to the Left, we do not hold malice toward you. We are thankful for the foundation you gave us.

The grief that I and many progressives are experiencing right now is not rooted in some sense of party or generational entitlement.

It is rooted in the knowledge that people we love are scared.

In your circles, you may not be hearing why our grief cuts so deep. You may only be seeing vitriolic anti-Trump rallies, shaming campaigns, and plots to end the electoral college. Or you may be comforted by a flood of memes that say “Stay calm. God is in control.”

But these things are all overshadowing a sobering reality: many of our friends and family are utterly terrified for their personal safety in this moment.


Before I explain, I offer a confession

As a co-host of a progressive Christian podcast, I will be the first to admit that I am guilty of operating in an echochamber. Most progressive Christians I know bought into that echochamber. I glorified it and it became an idol; I ridiculed and demonized select neighbors who didn’t hold the same values as me. Those neighbors included you, Evangelicals. I ignored your concerns. I refused to work together. I and many others stopped talking with you, and now many of us are realizing how wrong that was. I reflect on this with great regret and I am sorry for my elitism and hypocrisy. In my refusal to try to understand you, I have contributed to our collective inability to reason together and find middle ground.

So let’s end the freeze-out and talk about this. I can offer some insight from my trenches.

Why are people on the Left grieving?
If you are inside the Evangelical algorithm, chances are high that your aren’t hearing about these kinds of things in your newsfeed:

  • In marginal communities, in these days after the election, dozens and dozens of reports are surfacing that minority people are being openly and often obscenely harassed. Swastikas are coming out into the open in our communities. Lynch ropes and militias are showing up on college campuses. These incidences make me recollect footage from Trump rallies, while many times being peaceful, also revealed crowds shouting obscene and unsettling things. This took place under the leadership of a man who both incited violence and refused to denounce supporters who hold hateful ideologies — such as leaders of the KKK. In this election, I witnessed the rise of a new subculture where reviling others because of their race, sexuality, or religion is increasingly celebrated.
  • LGBTQ crisis support hotlines are struggling to keep up with record numbers of calls. The fear is palpable from where I sit. Gay and queer people are being harassed actively. One of my friends, a gay married couple, had a note taped to their front door two days after the election that read, “Go away fags. God bless America.” This incident didn’t happen in the rural spaces of a red state. It happened in urban New England. It was one of many post-election expressions of hatred and violence toward LGBTQ people.
  • Mosques around the country are having to worry about heightening security; harassers are singling out and punishing peaceful Muslims, invoking the name of Trump. Neo-Nazi leaders, emboldened by the sense of a rise to power, are encouraging verbal abuse, saying they “want [Muslims and immigrants] to be afraid.”
  • People who have devoted their lives to studying and caring for the earth are afraid that new policy changes will speed up processes of devastation and waste, inflicting a greater amount of irreversible damage to the planet that gives us existence. This damage causes an increase in extreme weather patterns, creating unlivable conditions that are already resulting in mass migration, refugee crises, and global political instability.
  • Policing of peaceful citizens, especially people of color, is slated to rise. Black communities are now more afraid of law enforcement than ever, as stockmarket investments in private prisons are skyrocketing, and promises are being made to expand police forces which have a history of institutionalized racial profiling. Black communities, already disproportionately affected by the criminal justice system, are full of fear at what will become of their families and friends under the effects of heavier surveillance. This means that our black and brown neighbors increasingly feel unsafe doing basic human things, like walking down the street or driving, because of the possibility of being stopped and frisked — humiliated or even harmed — just for “looking suspicious.”

I ask my Evangelical brothers and sisters to hold this list with me.

Hold it, and feel its weight.

Now, if you would, hold with us the fact that the fringe — the supremacist, violent folks who are resurrecting symbols of terror, threatening peaceful communities — are widely claiming they have been mobilized and inspired by the Republican victory to act out in these ways.

Evangelicals, I say this in all humility: if you voted for Trump, these folks appear to be on your team, they appear to be your allies. They now represent you — to us and to the rest of the world. Policies that marginal communities have good reason to fear are policies you voted into office. This is the legacy of Evangelicalism that history will remember.

I understand that it was important for you to vote your conscience on issues highly crucial to your theology, like Roe v. Wade. I understand that you didn’t trust Clinton. But please know that incredible consequences have already come to bear. Not just for disembodied symbols and notions of civil rights. There are consequences for real people and their ability to live in peace without fear for their basic human safety.

I ask you, my brothers and sisters who voted for Trump, to consider an important question that you taught me years ago:

What would Jesus do?

Would Jesus protect marginal communities? Or tell them to ‘get over it’?

Would Jesus befriend these communities, try to understand where are coming from and treat them as neighbors — loving them as His very self? Or hand them the dismissive, cheap grace of “I’ll pray for you”?

Would Jesus publicly stand up to violent people, and call on churches and friends to do the same? Or would he wash his hands?

Would Jesus preach, demand, plead, and cry out for love to be restored in our land? Or would he be silent?

The world is looking to you for leadership.

Sincerely,

 

Melody Stanford “Mona” / Irenicast

 

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  • Richard Glodo

    Mona, tears flow as I read your letter. It seems to address all that is on my heart.I pray it softens one heart today.

  • Bryan Vanderpool

    Love this! The question “What would jesus do?” is often overlooked in the evangelical community. Most are delusional if they think they offer grace and compassion to their neighbors. I even find that most evangelicals honestly believe that their judgmental and condemning rhetoric is compassion… There is a disconnect that must be mended.

  • Thanks for writing this. I’m not sure what the response of Evangelicals who voted for Trump will be. Because honestly, it is far too easy to dismiss, defend, and deflect rather than take responsibility to examine one’s own role. Anyway, I am with you, hoping that the Church will stand for and with Jesus.

    • “it is far too easy to… deflect.”

      This^. Seriously. Political engagement in our current political atmosphere has made it so that we can vote without feeling any sort of responsibility for the people we directly put in office. On all sides.

  • John Salley

    Dear Mona,

    Thank you for reaching out to the “other side.” But you still are tarring us Christians with too big a brush. This was not an “Evangelical” phenomena regardless of how often your echo chamber commentators repeat it. This was a political conservative versus liberal vision for America phenomena. If my congregation is any indicator, then most Churches were as equally split as the nation. Having said that, you remark that these individual acts of racism and hatred — often widely broadcast by the media — are what now terrify you and are considered as representative of the conservative political future. But from the conservative side seeing these School walk-outs and city riots has caused equal fear and disgust on our part. HAving learned that a lot of the hooliganism surrounding the Trump campaign was actually a Clinton campaign tactic, we now wonder if liberals, having failed to win at the polls, are now trying to overturn the government of our nation by violence; So, realize that this post-election turmoil is a two-way street with extremists on both sides needing to be denounced and arrested for their acts of terrorism against our nation and its citizens. While we work on the racists, you corral the fascists. Agreed?

    • Cecilia

      John, I think you and so many Evangelicals are missing the point. We are grieving. We are scared. We don’t want to hear “we’re not all like that” or “it’s your fault, too”; we want some empathy. I am not a product of any echo chamber, and until this election, I considered myself a regular Evangelical with maybe a slightly left bent, but perhaps it is the color of my skin, because all of a sudden, I feel very “other” and betrayed by my fellow brothers and sisters. My husband is a social science teacher and works with very liberal non-believers who have questioned outloud how Christians could ever vote for Trump. What kind of Evangelical message is this sending to the world? This is very much an Evangelical phenomena, as it hurts those within the church and further alienates those outside. And it’s an Evangelical phenomena, because it is no secret that we proclaim the love of Christ, so we better start acting on it. The Evangelical church (and individual) NEEDS to step up right now and FIRST show some empathy before offering any blanket condolences and definitely before pointing any fingers.

  • Marilyn Goodpaster

    This article so says how I feel. My head is still whirling knowing that so many “Christians” voted for such an evil person. I have been saying for months now, “What would Jesus do?” I know he would show love for all.
    When will they learn that one cannot force one’s religion on others.

  • Anonymous

    I feel like no matter what I say, it will be misconstrued, so why bother–yet, I will bother.

    1. I consider myself an evangelical. I did NOT vote for Trump. I was one of the #NeverTrump campaign. And when I said “Never Trump,” I meant it.

    2. I am currently part of a team of evangelicals helping a Muslim Syrian refugee family (and their community of refugees) in my community. There is tremendous affection for each other on both sides.

    3. While I appreciate this article, one inconsistency I see is this: To say that the radical fringe of those who voted for Trump now “represent” (which is what this article said) all those who voted for Trump (of whom I am NOT one) is no different from saying that the liberals who are currently rioting over the election results “represent” all those who voted for Hillary, or that the “black lives matter” extremists represent the entire “black lives matter” movement. Even to say that all those who voted for Trump need to take responsibility for the actions of Trump extremists is no different from saying that all Muslims need to take responsibility for radical Islamic extremists. It doesn’t seem fair, or consistent.

    4. We do know, now, that some of the trouble seen at the Trump rallies were homeless and mentally ill people paid by democratic staff to impersonate Trump supporters and cause trouble. Some wonder if some of what we are seeing now isn’t more of the same kind of thing: People determined to stir up trouble for some ulterior motive. It just gets hard to know what is true, and after a while many people (not me, though) quit trying.

    5. Lastly, I am afraid too, because the level of unbridled anger and hate in this country has reached a fevered pitch on all sides. This is truly, truly concerning. Heartbreaking. Deserving of deep mourning. I, too, am mourning for all the things listed in this article and so much more.

    Thank you for the invitation to dialogue.

  • Greg

    Thank you Mona for your Honest heart felt letter. I’m an Evangelical, and it’s my theological position, not my political position. In fact, I’m confused by what Evangelical even means in a political context. But I’m one to whom you are writing since I sided with the candidate whom you are speaking against.
    ευαγγελιον, (pronounced: evangelion), simply means “the good news;” In King James English, “the gospel.” And the good news is that God is in control not us. Christ is so much more than just a good example for us to follow. Christ is God incarnate; the means God uses to reveal and achieve his purpose to save us from the things we are doing to destroy ourselves. We do those things because of our pride, anger, fear, regret, and so many other things that separate us from God’s loving purpose. The Bible uses a word that means “missing the mark.” The word is “sin.” But God promises to forgive and restore us from sin.
    It is a very uncomfortable time. Continuing down our current divisive path, will make it more uncomfortable.
    What would Jesus do? Jesus would be obedient to God whose purpose is love. That’s what he did in the gospel about him and it must have been an extraordinarily difficult thing to do. I imagine it was very difficult to be so silent in the face of the cross in order to demonstrate so clearly that victory over sin requires letting go of our effort and trusting God with our lives, instead of continuing to struggle in our own effort to overcome our sin. The problem is not who our leader is. The problem is that we think who our leader is matters so much. We don’t have issues that a leader can fix. We have sin that only a savior can heal. Paul’s advise to Timothy in 2 Timothy is useful.
    Thank you for your letter. I will continue to pray for everyone who is hurting, not in a “cheap grace” way, but in a “going to the thrown of grace Isaiah 6: 2-7” way.