I often times think on my two grandfathers, Jimmy and Red.
Jimmy was a WWII vet, a son of great privilege who went to war and came home a different man. Instead of following his father into Detroit’s corridors of power he became a milkman. He suffered greatly after the war and could never forgive FDR for sending him and combined with other reasons was a lifelong Republican. He was not a religious man and hearing God-Damn Democrats, and God-Damn Fords, was normal. I really did not know him that well. He was not the best with kids and he died when i was 17.
Red, was a Kentucky Hillbilly. He was a timber man, and occasionally a Coal Miner (always reluctantly). He moved up to Detroit along the “Hillbilly Highway” with throngs of southerners, seeking a better life in the industrial Midwest. His dad was a lay preacher in the Holy Roller movements that swept through the hollers and could be strict. His boys, my grandfather included, were wild. Red was a pool-hustler and a hard drinker. The year before I was born, he sobered up when he found Jesus. The man I knew was a gentle giant. Growing up in Coal Country he was formed in the union environment forged by Mother Jones, and working the factories of Detroit solidified him as a life long union man and Democrat. He died last year, and I miss him.
Red and Jimmy were friends. They used to drink together at the Mel bar and as typical 1950’s dads it took them a while to figure out that their kids were even dating. They disagreed on politics but maintained their friendships.
The world they created is the world I grew up in. There was always a back and forth between the two parties, and one side was always on the side of less power, and holidays might have ribbing between folks concerning politics. They were different wings of the same bird. Neither of my grandfathers were blatant racist, white supremacists. They were also not committed to the cause of racial justice either. At times they could say rather embarrassing things and at times they surprised me with their grace. When my then 87 year old Southern, Baptist Grandfather came out in favor of marriage equality my heart swelled with surprised joy. When he commented on the “Craftiness” of a college football coach on account of him being Chinese I felt embarrassed.
If you are like me, perhaps you see your grandparents in a similar light. Neither card carrying members of the KKK, nor champions of equality and justice.
How are my grandchildren going to see me? I think about this as our nation enters again into the crucible. This crucible may be shocking or alarming to you if you, like me are white and middle class. I have learned these past two weeks of the “shockless-ness” of my friends of color, of my LGBTQ+ friends, of my Muslim friends. Their life has been forged in a crucible, this is just another stage of it.
The election of Donald Trump to the presidency came as a surprise to me. I thought I had watched him time and time again shoot himself in the foot only to see his recover. I now realize I am part of one of the many silos we live in.
Today, I woke up, went to yoga, and came back to see that my attempt to clarify things on my facebook wall only had served to confuse people. One person from my hometown was even calling for my to be defrocked (fancy way of saying that I am no longer fit to be a pastor). I had posted this picture.
It was my silly attempt to clarify what is worrying me so much. It apparently was clear as mud.
I do not see conservatism as evil, or bad, or inherently racist. I see it as a healthy counterbalance to liberalism. But when I champion conservative thought, I think about my Granddads debating. I love Eisenhower style conservatism. The following view points, though I might not hold them personally, make total sense to me:
- A smaller federal government which gives more power to the states.
- More local control of educational systems.
- A strong military to defend our nation against threats.
- Lower taxes that give freedom to individuals to direct their incomes where they choose.
- The right to bear arms, which is enshrined in our Bill of Rights.
Like I said, I may not agree with these points (and more) but I can see their intellectual validity, their merits, and why people hold on to these ideals. I have many close friends, and relatives who are conservative, and I like debating them and I see them as wonderful people.
What I see on the ascendency in this country, today is quite different. I am seeing very frightening things, and from a theological perspective very evil things unfolding. At the same time I am hearing calls for unity and togetherness.
Insofar as you want to continue the old argument between the ideals of classic American Conservatism, I will join you in unity, often times from an opposing viewpoint, and often times not (I have some moderate and conservative positions that I hold)
I will resist all calls for unity that come at the expense of the most vulnerable in our society.
I will not be united with you if you tolerate what is being currently tolerated and promoted by the President Elect:
I will not be united with you if you seek to roll back the strides made for the dignity and equality of the LGBTQ+ community. I will actively resist.
I will not be united with you if you seek register Muslims, and denigrate them in their constitutionally guaranteed right to the free practice of their faith. I will actively resist, and I will register as a Muslim.
I will not be united with you if you seek to sweep the Alt-Right, the KKK and their ilk under the rug, fail to denounce their white supremacy, as your lack of action normalizes their presence in our Country. I will actively resist
I will not be united as a man like Steve Bannon ascends higher into the corridors of power. I will actively resist.
I will not be united with you as our planet’s future our children’s future is sold like lentil porridge swapping the birthright of this amazing earth for the short term profits of the few. I will actively resist.
If you voted for Trump, I do not think you are a bad person, or stupid or any of the other things you might see liberals saying about you right now. I will not join that chorus. However it is incumbent upon you to de-legitimize the forces of evil, the white supremacists and the fascists who have been emboldened in the past 2 weeks.
I am a pastor and part of that role is prophetic. If my calls concerning the Alt-Right, and their likes makes you uncomfortable, then I encourage you to recall the prophet Jeremiah, specifically chapter 6:
They have treated the wound of my people carelessly,
saying, “Peace, peace,”
when there is no peace.
I will not say unity as my fellow human is stripped of dignity. I will not say peace when Native Americans continue to be abused at Standing Rock and through the general system of oppression they live under continues. I will not join you in as my Muslim sister’s right to wear a headscarf in public gives way to threats. I am not united with you until a black life matters as much to society as my white life does.
This is not about liberal vs conservative. This is not the debate of my granddads. This is not normal. This is not right. I call upon everyone to resist anything that gets in the way of neighbor love.
What will your grandkids have to say about you?