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."
I've complained before about how the foster care and adoption system is chock full of Christians. last week I attended an adoption conference, which was on the whole, well-organized and informative. It was also full of personal testimonials about how God had changed their lives, brought them children, and saved them. Did I mention this conference was paid for and organized by a county CPS in my state? Now, I am not going to contact anyone about it. Statistically speaking, the vast majority of people at that conference were religious and probably didn't see anything wrong with it. My husband was critical of it, but mostly because he doesn't like people preaching at him at events that are supposed to be non-religious. "If I want a sermon, I'll go to church or google one," was his response. I'm sure there are some more militant atheists who would have reported this, but I'm just not that kind of person.
The proliferation of Christians in the adoption community and their views towards missionary adopting is concerning though. My sister-in-law used the old, "if every other church in my state adopted, there would be no more orphans in my state" line. She also added, "And then they would all be in Christian families." When I responsed with a casual, "I think any family would do", she gave me some side eye and emphasized, "Christian families." Okay. The kid who is about to move into our home identifies as Jewish. His bio mom converted to Kaballism when he was a kid and so he tells people that he is Jewish and doesn't eat pork or shellfish. This is the extent of his religion though. He doesn't even understand the difference between a church and a temple. He doesn't pray or attend services. He doesn't practice any of the traditions. But we are not going to tell him he is wrong nor will we be dragging him to church in order to convert him. My sister-in-law along with many Christian adoptive parents would not do the same. Any child that comes into my SIL's home would be expected to attend church with them. They would begin indoctrination as quickly as possible and were pray hard for that child's soul. In that vein, I don't think nor would I want my child to believe what I believe just because I hammered it into them. I don't want my kid to be an atheist or agnostic or Christian or Jewish because that is what I am. I would want them to come to those beliefs honestly and analytically. If those analytics lead you to Judaism, then so be it.
All that said, it would be really nice to go to an adoption event and not be surrounded by Christians who can't help but preach about their religion at every turn. It's not very helpful when you are trying to learn about the psychological development issues prominent in kids with Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.
One of the first jobs I had as an adult was working in a bookstore. Books are the love of my life and although retail sucks all, being around books at least made it worth it. Of course, as is common in bookstores, there is a different kind of employee that works at them. Many of my co-workers were in college or had degrees. Most were just working in something they love until they got the job they really wanted. It wasn't uncommon to have bosses with an MFA or working on a PhD. It made for an intellectually stimulating environment. This was a bit of a problem though, because at that age I was still thoroughly indoctrinated into Christianity and my analytical skills were almost nonexistent. It meant that when a co-worker complained about religion, I couldn't separate my own personal feelings from the situation and always felt like I was being attacked. I used to tell people that I was the only Christian working there, which was ridiculous because I worked with people who held a wide variety of beliefs. It wasn't all in my head though.
One thing my co-workers did that did made my workplace feel uncomfortable at times was the assumption that I thought and believed like they did. They would sit around the break room table trash talking a particular group of people and just assumed that everyone at that table was in agreement with them. As if working in a bookstore somehow made all our values, morals, politics, and religion in sync. It was infuriating. This has always seemed strange to me, because when I meet new people I never assume they would agree with me on anything. That is something that we discover if a friendship begins to form. I also don't take silence as agreement either. Just because someone is not challenging you on a particular idea does not mean they agree with you. In fact, my experience has been that it is just the opposite. Silence usually signals disapproval. I'll come back to this point shortly. For example: At the time I was fairly homophobic. I believed firmly that homosexuality was a sin, curable, and those who engaged in it were too sinful to even understand the concept of love. My co-workers would sit around discussing something like marriage rights and although I remained quite for fear of confrontation, under no circumstances did I agree with them. Secretly, I would pray for them and wonder how they could be so blind to "the truth".
When I was twenty-three I decided to go back to school and moved to Boston, attending one of the most liberal colleges in the country. (currently sits at #22) Now, I didn't care at all about the school's political leanings, which is why it came as a bit of a surprise when one of my professors went on a George W. Bush diatribe for a half-hour during class. I hadn't voted for Bush because I was still in my 'Third Party only' phase, but all I could think of while he winged on and on was how this man obviously just assumed that every person in that room agreed with him. I finally spoke up and asked when we were going to talk about stuff for class and he got the hint and moved on. Afterward, I told him that it wasn't about agreeing or disagreeing with him and his viewpoints, it's just that I am paying a lot of money for this class and it is a waste of that money to rag on the POTUS. Unless it has to do with the lesson, it just seemed a frivolous waste of time and money. It was also in Boston that I began to meet Christians who weren't all Evangelical right-wing young earth creationists. I met and AIDS researcher who believed in evolution AND was a Christian. Or the PhD philosophy professor who taught an apologetics course at my church and readily admitted that no one can be 100% certain there is a God. My mother thought it was the school that made more liberal in my ideology, but it was actually the church. I was finally meeting Christians who seemed to understand that in order to love your neighbor, you had to do more than assume they were demon-possessed and pray, you had to actually help them.
Of course, as time went on and my faith began to erode, I entered in a moral gray area. In this place, I was surrounded by people who assumed I believed like they did because otherwise why would you be here? It never occurred to any of them that even if I was still a Christian, there were things that we wouldn't agree on like gay marriage or sex before marriage. I did begin to speak up, sharing my feelings about bad Christian movies, homosexuality, and mission work. And it was like talking to the air. I began to resent them for their stupidity. Their blind adherence to a faith that they obviously didn't understand. A faith that most of them only believed in because they were taught to. I became disgusted by the people who had clearly not read their entire Bible. I chastised them for it, actually. Now, remember, I was still a believer at this point, I was just tired of the willful ignorance.
Right now at my current workplace, politics are the main topic of conversation and most of my co-workers are yet again assuming that everyone agrees with them. There's no possible way that anyone would support Trump right? Yet, I know, from experience, that there are. I have co-workers who I am pretty sure voted for Trump either because they always vote Republican, they are a one-issue voter, or for some reason they like the guy. Remember what I said earlier: Silence usually signals disapproval. In fact, I think that is how we got to the place we are now. I hear Trump supporters talk often about PC culture and how they feel like they have been silenced. And in a way they have. They know that by openly talking about certain subjects like marriage equality they could be labeled as homophobic. Even if they are, this has become socially unacceptable and so they keep their mouths shut. I know this because this used to be me.
Now, that is not to say that their feelings are reality. In reality, the reason homophobic talk is frowned upon is not because they are being silenced for the beliefs but because we as a society have moved to a point where it is socially unacceptable to tell someone they are going to hell for who they love. And more and more evidence is pointing to homosexuality as being genetic and the natural world tells us it is normal as well. The normalization isn't because people are sinful cretins, almost the opposite, it is because we are learning how to be nicer. At least we were. Trump's hate speech has certainly made the silent feel like they have a voice again...and what a racist, bigoted, prejudiced voice it is too.
As always, I am right in the middle on my feelings about stuff. I refuse to be a doomsday conspiracy theorist about the next four years (unlike many of my co-workers), yet I also do not think the next four years is going to be good for anyone. I look to countries like Zimbabwe and see historical precedent for how quickly things can change in a country and not for the better. And I see four more years where I will have to remain silent, because speaking up seems pointless. I'm naturally cynical, yet I try to live the life of an optimist.
And here is a secret for my secret blog that only my husband and I know...we have been actively looking at moving to a foreign country. I am not kidding. I am not a patriot. I love this place that I call home, but traveling the world has shown me that there are a lot of good places out there and yeah, some of them are better in some respects. If this country starts going to the crapper, I'm leaving. My husband is high enough up in his global company, and with a specialized enough skill set, that he would be able to transfer easily. We have a list of countries we both agree on and have both begun to research them. We're looking at schooling, university, crime stats, social issues, cost of living, laws, and ease of intriculation. I already ruled out Ireland, because abortion is illegal, it's still super religious, and our black adopted son would have a hard time there. UK too due to the whole Brexit bullshit and their hostility to foreigners, particularly those that aren't white. Countries still on the list: Finland, New Zealand, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Austria, Canada, and Singapore. This may never happen mind you. But I'm not afraid to leave either. I'll move on to greener pastures because I've only got this one life to live and I sure as hell am not sticking around if my country decides that it is better to be dicks in order to keep their archaic beliefs than it is to be good.
This is a personal, but secret, blog archiving my deconversion from a Christian to a non-believer.