I recently read this article in which the author claims that the real reason Trump won the election was not because of Democrats didn't understand the working class, but rather because people don't understand the devoutly religious. Now, I am not downplaying this person's experiences, but it is rather small-minded and anecdotal. He makes the same mistake that I used to make in assuming that all conservative Christians are the same. Particularly those in rural America.
I have had the pleasure (this is somewhat sarcastic) of marrying into a rural southern conservative family. Southern Baptists seem to be the flavor of choice in their area of nowhere, but there are also a number of other denominations and affiliations around. My father-in-law has a Master's degree in divinity and is very learned, something I have a tendency to forget because they spend so much time talking about their health and four-wheeling. To them, I am an outsider. Northern, fairly liberal (they have no idea how liberal), and a city girl. Yet, I have never felt like any of my in-laws have treated me with disdain or hostility. Sure, some of them are entrenched in their beliefs, but I have found that this image of openly hostile villagers with pitchforks is not reality either. While some conservative Christians have a distrust of education, my rural in-laws hold it in high regard. They are especially proud of those who went off and got educated and then returned to work in the rural hospitals as a doctor or to run a factory as a manager with a business degree. The article mentions people with disdain for education, but I have not seen that at all, which again tells me that this man's experience with rural people is limited to a small group. I don't doubt his experiences, only that I don't think you can apply his experiences across the board to millions of people of varying religious beliefs.
At this point, I want to also mention another group of rural people I know who live in Washington state. Like my in-laws they too are extremely conservative and many are farmers, but they aren't religious at all. My friend was raised in the center of Washington state in an area that is so pro-Trump that her brother cut her off when he found out she was voting for "that bitch Hillary". By cut off, I mean absolutely. He even had a "party" at his home to trash talk his sister and convince other's to unfriend her on Facebook and in real life. No great loss, she says. But these people aren't religious at all. The nearest church is 20 minutes down the road and unlike in the Bible belt, the churches are few and far between. Her parents haven't been to church in years. Her brother is agnostic. This seems to be common for that area. So to say that the issue is religion and not mis-understanding the plight of rural people is a misnomer.
And as for the color/racism/prejudice issue. I was raised in an EXTEMELY conservative evangelical home. I was raised in churches where divorce was considered a sin and could get you kicked out of the church. And at no point was I ever taught that white people were better than other people. Ever. We were certainly taught that our religion was the only true way to God and in that respect we were better than other religions. I was also told that the Muslim religion was awful and those people weren't to be trusted, but again it was about religion not ethnicity. Our church welcomed converts of all nationalities, colors, and creed. My parents are definitely Islamaphobic (a term that I don't like, but works for this purpose), but they aren't racist. No one I grew up with was racist. It wasn't preached from the pulpit and I never attended a church that was a sea of only white people. The few people I knew who were racist seemed to be that way because they were taught it by their parents, not their church. Saying that because someone is racist because they are super religious is just wrong.
Perhaps the reason why these people won't listen to outsiders, as the article's author states, is because the truly prejudiced people are the "coastal elites". It's hard to listen to someone who thinks they know everything and paints you with a broad brush. My husband is from the rural south and his biggest pet peeve, one that visibly upsets him, is when people make fun of southerners and assume they are stupid. That doesn't reflect him, his family, or the people who grew up with. Are there stupid people? Sure. But there are idiots everywhere. Would I listen to a guy who marches in and says, "You hicks don't know anything. Because you're not educated, you must be stupid, and your religion makes you even stupider. Now heed me, for I am educated and will inform you of the error of your ways." I would give a solid middle finger to that douche nozzle. The author asks, "How do you make climate change personal to someone who believes only God can alter the weather?" Well, first of all, you don't tell them there is no God or that they are stupid for believing that. My husband used to not believe in global warming/climate change. Up until two years ago he was highly skeptical. Then we watched an episode of The Cosmos, readily available on Netflix, where they addressed this. The information was presented in a way that didn't push against his God-beliefs nor did it make him feel like an idiot for not believing sooner. He then began to do some of his own research and is now a huge advocate for reducing our carbon footprint. I'm happy he came to this conclusion, but I know his mind wouldn't have been changed by a liberal judgmental asshole over Thanksgiving dinner.
Or as one commenter stated, "I grew up rural and now live in a major metro area. I have bachelor's and master's degrees, and I have never seen any amount of ignorance in my rural hometown to rival that of this author. Sure there are ignorant and willfully ignorant people most places, but to say they predominate in "rural America" is just dripping arrogance condescension from someone who themselves didn't want to look past their tiny little experience. It is NOTHING like my experience of smal town southern America, a place and life I long to return to when I reach retirement age. The author should get the board out of his eye before writing lengthy articles about motes in others."
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.