An Open Letter to My White, Conservative, Evangelical Mom

Photo by John-Mark Smith / pexels.com

By Shannon Casey

Dear Mom,

Since I am a millennial, you probably weren’t surprised when I jumped on the #NeverTrump bandwagon. However, I know you also worried when that bandwagon carried me away from you and your beliefs. Nevertheless, I maintain that you and dad raised me well. You helped shape my character in innumerable positive ways, and I am grateful for all that you taught me.

In divisive times such as these, my pastor’s wise words ring in my ear: “It’s more important to love than it is to be right.” I love you mom, but I confess that it’s been hard figuring out how to live into that truth. Thanks to Kathryn Schulz’s 2011 TED Talk “On Being Wrong,” I know the reason it’s more important to love than it is to be right is because I could be wrong. I am willing to admit that. Nevertheless, with a nod to Dorothy Allison, I want to address, in no particular order, “Two or Three [or Sixteen] Things I Know For Sure.”

Mom:

1. I know you do not support the objectification of women. Yet Trump has made numerous derogatory comments about women, consistently reinforcing the belief that the only thing that matters about a woman is her appearance.

2. I know you value gender equality and are in favor of closing the gender pay gap. Yet Trump has repeatedly revealed himself to be a chauvinist, admitting that he values a home-cooked dinner more than the fulfillment that his wife finds in her career.

3. I know you do not endorse sexual assault. Yet the video of Trump’s lewd remarks indicates his disturbing sense of entitlement toward women, and  complete disregard for their consent. Furthermore, he believes that because of his fame and power, he is above the law.

4. I know you do not condone adultery. Yet unashamedly, Trump admitted his thwarted attempt to sleep with a married woman.

5. I know you do not desire to support racism.  Yet now, our first black president has to pass the baton to a man endorsed by the KKK.

6. I know you would never tolerate it if I made fun of someone with a disability. Yet Trump appeared to openly mock a reporter, Serge Kovaleski, who has a congenital condition called arthrogryposis.

7. I know you value the biblical mandate to care for creation and be good stewards of the earth. Yet Trump maintains that global warming is a hoax created by the Chinese for economic gain.

8. I know you vaccinated me because it was not only in my best interest, but also promoted the health of the community. Yet Trump perpetuates the dangerous myth that vaccines cause Autism.

9. I know both the virtue of forgiveness and the practice of taking communion are sacred aspects of your faith. Yet Trump denies ever feeling the need to ask for God’s forgiveness. In his words, “When I go to church and when I drink my little wine and have my little cracker, I guess that is a form of forgiveness.”

10. I know you taught me not to lie. Yet Trump incredulously and repeatedly claimed that President Obama does not have a legitimate American birth certificate.

11. I know you taught me that it is better to give than to receive. Yet Trump equates wealth with success, and glorifies greed as a virtue rather than condemning it as a vice.

12. I know you appreciate and respect those who serve in the military. Yet Trump said that John McCain, who engaged in twenty-three missions over Vietnam before being captured, was disqualified from being a war hero because he was a prisoner of war.

13. I know you taught me the serious and inherent danger of stereotypes. Yet Trump sweepingly referred to Mexican immigrants as drug dealers, criminals, rapists, and “people that have lots of problems.”

14. I know you taught me the value of hospitality, of welcoming the stranger, of caring for widows and orphans. Yet Trump views these vulnerable people as a threat, and vowed to “suspend” the Syrian refugee program.

15. I know you raised me in a diverse, multicultural environment so I would not develop xenophobic attitudes. Yet with Trump’s plan to ban all Muslims from traveling to the United States, he perpetuates Islamophobia.

16. I know you value the importance of relationships between family members, especially those involving children. Yet Trump is proposing a mass deportation of undocumented immigrants, a process that would wreak havoc on millions of families in the United States.

That was more than two or three things, but it certainly wasn’t an exhaustive list. I know that this letter is unlikely to persuade you that you misplaced your endorsement, but that’s okay. This letter is mostly for me. With this letter, I express my great dismay. With this letter, I bear witness to my deep disappointment and sense of betrayal. With this letter, I lament alongside the LGBTQ+ community, people of color, immigrants, women, people with disabilities, and refugees.

According to the exit polls, 81% of white evangelical Christians voted for Trump. Kathryn Schulz explains that when we disagree with people, we make “a series of unfortunate assumptions.” First, we think that those we disagree with are simply ignorant. Then, when the information we so generously share with them does not convince them to see things our way, we assume that they are just idiots. Ultimately, when we realize that some of those who disagree with us “are actually pretty smart,” we figure they must be evil. So, back to the 81% of white evangelical Christians who voted for Trump. Are they ignorant? Are they idiots? Are they evil?

Mom, the fact that I cannot put you into any of those categories tells me that those are the wrong questions to be asking. Instead, what I must ask is, “Can I forgive? Can I let go of my bitterness? Together, can we learn to outdo one another in love?” For many Americans, president-elect Donald Trump embodies bigotry, sexism, racism, ableism, misogyny, xenophobia, Islamophobia, hatred, and fear. Yet I remain convinced that someway, somehow, love wins.

For many Americans, president-elect Donald Trump embodies bigotry, sexism, racism, ableism, misogyny, xenophobia, Islamophobia, hatred, and fear. Yet I remain convinced that someway, somehow, love wins.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. proclaimed, “Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” But Mom, please know that my daily decision to choose the path of love is not a concession to your wish that “we all just get along.” As Nadia Bolz-Weber explains, “Do not mistake my refusal to be swallowed by fear and despair as acquiescence. It is defiance.” Will you join me now in demonstrating both love and resistance?

Shannon Casey is an intermittent traveler, writer, photographer, and musician. She is also pursuing a master’s degree in Physician Assistant Studies at the University of St. Francis in Albuquerque, NM.

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2 Responses

  1. Vivian Shults says:

    An Open reply from your White, Conservative, Evangelical Mom

    Dear Shannon,

    Yes, you are a millennial, and I am not. Perhaps that is why you did not consider how hurtful it is for me to find that you have publicly posted such a scathing criticism of what you assume to be my views regarding Donald Trump. I will refrain from entering into a public discussion, except to say that you have prejudged my feelings about Donald Trump. I did not vote for Trump in the California primary. Also, I did not vote for him in the U. S. presidential election. I did vote in both elections, but my voting decisions are a private matter.
    Love always,
    Mom

  2. Sonya selivanoff says:

    thank you so much for this. I just spent several hours over lunch today with my conservative Christian family, some members of whom referred to the “blueing problem”. I hadn’t quite realized I was actually a problem! my husband did not attend, and calls himself done with them. my mother just wants us all to get along…..struggling to find the path of both love and truth that Jesus would take. your message says so many of the things I want to share–thank you again

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