Ep. 16: 6 Days Later

Hello and welcome to Exvangelical. I’m your host, Blake Chastain.

No guest today. It’s just me.

Like many of you, I’m still processing the events of the election.

I was devastated.

I was upset.

I was angry.

In particular, I was angry with evangelicals.

81% of evangelicals voted for Donald Trump. A majority of whites voted for Trump. There is a significant overlap with those two demographics.

This is unacceptable.

Let me tell you a little bit more about me. I’ve never fully shared my story, and I’m not going to now either. But I will share some salient points.

I was born and raised in Indiana, before moving to Illinois in high school.

The most formative spiritual moments of my young life were in South Carolina at a black church.

Each summer, my parents would use their vacation time to take me and my sister to South Carolina, along with several other families from the church, to a small town outside of Charleston, SC where we would work with an organization called Rural Mission to help build and repair houses for people in need for a week.

I started going when I was 6 years old. I loved it. Each year we would go to the same town, and stay at the same church, and see the same people. The leader of the organization, a wonderful woman of God named Linda Gadson, became lifelong friends with many people from our church. We formed relationships. These people got to see me grow up.

Every year we’d leave on a Friday in a big caravan, a bunch of kids and adults piled in to an assortment of cars, with CB’s used to talk between us all. We’d all come up with silly CB call names. One year I was into bikes so I chose Pedaler, not like a drug peddler but a bike Pedaler. We’d arrive on Sunday just in time for church service, and it was electric. You could set a watch by the services at our traditional Methodist church; with these services, there was no knowing exactly when they’d end. There were hymnals but people didn’t really use them; they were too busy clapping. It was so fun — and funny — to watch my dad try to keep up with the syncopated clapping. He tried his best.

We were welcomed into that church. They hosted us, all these Northern white people. Our love for one another was a delightful reciprocating dance held on solid and steady ground.

But the events of November 8th showed us where the fault lines were. And a rift is happening. And white evangelicals bear so much of the blame.

Now I’m not naive. I know that racism existed before last Tuesday. I know that there was plenty of dissatisfaction with “Washington” whatever that means. But let’s not mince words: Donald Trump’s campaign fanned the flames of sexism, racism, and bigotry — and supporters of those causes have been emboldened in the days that have followed.

And I know that my position as a white, straight, Christian man in America is endowed with the utmost privilege. The consequences of these actions do not directly affect my body. But my nephew is black. 1/3 of the couples in my building are not straight. Others are immigrants. My neighborhood, Rogers Park, is one of the most economically and racially diverse neighborhoods in the city and the country. And I am connected by friendship to so many more people who today feel marginalized. But I will use my privilege and use my body and my voice to stand up for my fellow Americans, and I will put my body in front of theirs if need be. I am connected to all people, and so are you.

Here is what I have to say to evangelicals. Stop using that word in a religious context. It’s done. You killed it. It is now a political term. And it is now tainted by its support of a sexist, racist bully, and helped lead him all the way to the White House.

Remember, at the RNC, even he admitted he didn’t deserve your support. And he was right.

His life is thoroughly antiChristian.

This is a man who seeks to deport millions (Jesus was a refugee). A man who advocates torture (Jesus was tortured by Romans). A man who demeans and assaults women and sexualizes girls (Jesus uplifted women at every turn; it was women who first witnessed the Resurrection, in a time when women weren’t considered valid legal witnesses — not to mention Mary Magdalene, the woman at the well, the woman caught in adultery, and on and on.) A man who loves money and greed and power (Jesus sought to free the rich man from his love of money). And he is racist (as evidenced by his history of discriminating against people of color at his properties), and tacitly condones others’ racism by failing to speak against at his rallies for the past 18 months (The parable of the Good Samaritan is a story imbued with race — Samaritans were second class citizens in Jesus’ time because of their race, and yet it was the Samaritan that helped the man in need, undercutting the racial understanding of the day).

Not relative to his way of life and the life of Christ, but relative to his immoral way of life: he is also a thoroughly dishonest businessman and a faithless spouse.

I am not shocked that there was such vocal support of a Republican candidate by evangelical institutions. My alma mater, Indiana Wesleyan, has in fact enshrined both Ben Carson and Mike Pence into their so-called “Society of World Changers.” They are complicit in this tainted work now as well.

Evangelical politicians have loved power, control, and influence more than God for a long time. Its institutions ensure that, to the detriment of well-meaning individuals who attend their churches and go to their schools and work at their institutions. The evangelical political movement began in response to the integrative efforts of Brown v. The Board of Education and has its roots in racism as well. It has tried to hide this history in favor of its founding myth touting its role as an outspoken voting bloc relative to abortion above all, while still often condoning capital punishment and therefore failing to rise to the more auspicious ideal of the Catholic “Consistent Life Ethic,” mind you, but that’s not true. I’ll link to Randall Balmer’s excellent piece for more detail.

But now this love of power, control, and influence has aided a demagogue into the White House, and he has already begun to surround himself with “Washington insiders” so let’s not think he’s going to shake things up. But his pick for chief counsel in the white nationalist Steve Bannon is problematic and discouraging, and white evangelicals must respond.

Now, friends and family close to me have seen my angry, frustrated, aggrieve posts on Facebook. They want to control my reaction, want me to see more reasonably, etc. To give the benefit of the doubt. No.

White evangelicals must own up to what they have supported. They must sit in the discomfort. They must see what they have done. And they must repudiate the vile, racist, xenophobic, anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim rhetoric and not let it stand or become normalized. If they see racist acts, they must say this cannot stand.

In short, they must repent.

They may also not say a damn word to anyone and try to police how other people of color, queer people, women, or other marginalized people may feel as a result of this election. Just don’t. I don’t know how to “be a good ally” and I’m still figuring that out. What I’ve already said may not be perfect but I’m finding my way too.

Now a lot of this has been harsh. There’s no avoiding that. And in the coming days and years, we’re all going to have to have thick skin, and tender hearts. Because things can’t go unsaid anymore. The poison has reached the surface, and before it kills us we have to draw it out.

In closing, let me return to another story from South Carolina. These trips were full of traditions. We’d stay at the same hotels on the way down and the way back. Every year on Tuesday, we’d go to these Seafood Jamborees that the nonprofit would host, and stop at the same ice cream store, The Ye Old Fashioned Ice Cream Shoppe, spelled with two p’s and an e at the end. Every year on Friday, we’d go into Charleston and shop at what used to be slave markets for trinkets. I was a child and I didn’t know that sordid history. I’d even get these multi-flavored popcorns and play a game with a friend where I’d close my eyes and guess the flavor. And on the last Sunday, when we had stopped in Pigeon Forge, TN in the Smokey Mountains, we would had our final devotion poolside in the dewy, foggy morning. That pool was the weirdest place on earth; it was outside and it had some sort of deck with astroturf or green carpet or something and smelled vaguely of mildew and chlorine. But it was there that we’d sing the hymn “They Will Know We Are Christians By Our Love” before heading home. It was the perfect coda to those trips, where we served and were served by people very different from us.

That diversity, those encounters, meant the world to me — and they still do. But now, how will the world know white evangelicals, and white exvangelicals, ex-Christians, and anyone else, by our love? What will we do to show the world that we love them? That is my challenge and yours. Stand up to hate. Stand up to racism. Stand up to sexism. Embrace those different than you. Find a deeper call than the one you understand from evangelicalism, the one that hung on a cross and burst from a tomb in 1st century Israel. God help us.

If you have any ideas, share them on twitter with the hashtag #byourlove.

You can reach me on twitter @brchastain or follow the show on twitter @exvangelicalpod. Like the show on Facebook at Facebook.com/exvangelicalpod. Please consider supporting the show on Patreon.com/exvangelicalpod and rate and review the show on iTunes.

We’ll be back to regularly scheduled programming next week. God bless.

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