My Response to Huffington Post Contributor Wanting to Talk with a White, Christian Supporter of Trump

I'm willing to keep the dialogue going.

By Michael Brown Published on February 15, 2017

This article is written in response to Susan M. Shaw’s February 11 article in the Huffington Post, “Dear White, Christian Trump Supporters: We Need To Talk.” (Shaw is Professor of Women, Gender, & Sexuality Studies at Oregon State University.)

Dear Prof. Shaw,

Thanks so much for opening the door to dialogue in such a candid and gracious way, and thanks for admitting that you’re having a hard time relating to many conservative American Christians today.

You say, “I don’t think I know how to understand you at all,” and, “We need to talk, and I don’t know how to talk to you anymore.”

I hope I can help bridge that gap, clear up some areas of confusion for you and, at the least, help you to understand why many compassionate, God-honoring and neighbor-loving Christians voted for Trump.

But allow me to say this first: I am a registered Independent, not Republican, and I opposed Mr. Trump during the primaries before ultimately voting for him as our president. Now that he is our president, I do support him, and I believe that he has the potential to do much good for our nation, despite his many evident flaws.

With that, let’s get to the heart of your issues.

Your Views Changed Because of Your Experiences. So Did Mine.

Speaking of your upbringing, being raised by a Southern Baptist father who did not go to college, you wrote, “My white, conservative Christian upbringing had told me that was the American Dream ― to work hard and succeed. I did, and I feel you’re holding it against me now that I no longer share your views.”

Actually, it wouldn’t dawn on me to hold it against you for not sharing my views. My father was the senior lawyer serving in the New York Supreme Court, and he was extremely liberal politically and socially. And all my studies, through my Ph.D. in Semitic languages at New York University, were in secular schools, so I never once studied under a professor who shared my spiritual or biblical beliefs.

I recognize that over the course of years people’s views do change, for better or for worse, and one reason I write articles and books and do radio and TV shows is to seek to be a positive influence on others. If I can I help you to see your views need adjustment at some point, great. If not, I respect your right to differ with me and to seek to influence me.

You say, “Along the way, a lot of us developed progressive ideas, not out of our privilege, but out of our own experiences of discrimination, struggle and oppression.”

Can you understand that many conservative American Christians came to opposite conclusions out of our own experiences, and that our convictions are as far from bigotry and hatred as the east is from the west?

Again, I respect that, but can you understand that many of us — meaning, the conservative American Christians whom you address — came to opposite conclusions out of our own experiences of caring for the poor and hurting and rejected, out of our own experiences of raising families and building relationships, out of our own learning and study and encounter with God, and that our convictions are as far from bigotry and hatred as the east is from the west? And do you understand that many of us used to be “liberal and progressive,” but we have concluded that these ideas are not in the best interest of society? (Take for example the welfare system. We see that as doing far more societal harm than good, as conservative intellectuals like Thomas Sowell have explained.)

Ideas Should be Rigorously Debated on Campuses — But They’re Not Anymore

I also must take issue with the way you describe the university environment as one in which ideas are rigorously debated and subjected to peer review. To one extent, that is true. To another extent, it is quite misleading, since today’s secular universities skew hard left in many ways, and it is well-documented that conservative views are often suppressed on campuses.

I assume you’re familiar with books like Alan Bloom’s classic The Closing of the American Mind, or Roger Kimball’s important work Tenured Radicals: How Politics Has Corrupted Our Higher Education. Or perhaps you’ve read So Many Christians, So Few Lions: Is There Christianophobia in the United States? by professors George Yancey and David A. Williamson (they answer the question of the subtitle in the affirmative).

Often, the secular academy serves as a liberal echo chamber rather than as a true proving ground for different ideas. While I recognize that there are many fine scholars at the so-called elite schools in our nation, I would encourage you to make efforts to interact with conservative scholars at top Christian universities and seminaries. My guess is that it would be a fruitful learning experience for all involved.

Concerns, Lies, And Why Many of Us Voted Trump

But now we get to the real issues for you. You simply cannot understand how conservative Christians who prize morality and family life and biblical values could vote for Donald Trump, better known in the past as a playboy businessman than as a serious political candidate.

In short, that’s one reason many of us did not back him at first. We had real concerns about his character, and character does matter to us. Over time, however, we voted for him because: 1) we were convinced that a Hillary Clinton presidency could be disastrous for America; 2) we saw that he was surrounding himself with fine Christian leaders, people of character and conviction who were speaking into his life and who had his ear; 3) we felt that God could use someone who was entirely politically incorrect, having lost our faith in the political establishment (on both sides of the aisle) long ago; and 4) we looked at him as a Cyrus-type figure (referring to an idol-worshiping, non-Israelite king whom God raised up to help the Jewish people 2,500 years ago; see Isaiah 45).

You wonder aloud how we could vote for him if we prize truth, and you view him as a serial liar — perhaps as a man out of touch with reality — pointing to his claims about the size of the crowd at his inauguration.

Frankly, many of us wish he would have never brought up the issue of the crowd size (really, who cares?), but we see other issues as being much more important, and so we keep advocating those issues while encouraging him to step higher and act more presidentially.

What troubles me is that you seem to feel that the right has a monopoly on bias and mendacity and the left on dispassionate truth-seeking. Far from it. Can you not see the faults on both sides?

But there is another side to this story. Senator Obama campaigned as a Christian who believed that marriage was the union of one man and woman (something “sacred”), yet he was previously on record as affirming same-sex “marriage,” and it was David Axelrod who stated plainly that Obama lied to his conservative voters (specifically, his fellow black voters) to get their trust, thereby misleading the nation. In your eyes, which is worse, pushing a false narrative about the size of the inaugural crowd or deceiving your voters about a foundationally important moral issue?

And what of Hillary Clinton? How many lies did she tell about Benghazi? How many lies about her emails? Where do we start?

Again, I’m not minimizing lies that Trump may have told. I’m simply putting them in a larger context of political chicanery, and if you condemn one, you condemn the other.

You write,

You say you want progressives to listen to you. Then prioritize truth. This election was filled with “fake news,” shared widely on Facebook, and this administration already has begun to create a language of “alternative facts” to misinform and mislead. If you want to talk, offer evidence, real evidence based on verifiable data and reliable sources, not wishful imaginings or fabricated Breitbart stories.

With all respect, Prof. Shaw, I see at least as much “fake news” on the left as on the right, and a glance at the daily headlines at the Huffington Post tells me that the publication for which you write is at least as biased as, if not more biased than, Breitbart. And how much “fake news” has been reported by CNN, MSNBC, The Washington Post, and The New York Times in recent months?

What troubles me is that you seem to feel that the right has a monopoly on bias and mendacity and the left on dispassionate truth-seeking. Far from it. Can you not see the faults on both sides?

What We Mean by “Get Over It” (We’ve Been There Too)

I personally believe I could stand up publicly and make a powerful presentation of your worldview and core convictions before explaining why I differ with you. Could you do the same for me? If not, then please keep reading and let me help you.

You write, “Help me understand how you align your Christian perspective with [Trump’s] racism, misogyny, homophobia, Islamophobia, and antisemitism.”

Frankly, there are things he said that have disturbed us and there are other things we believe are false charges (to mention one in particular, President Trump is not an antisemite). Perhaps you’re listening to some fake news here?

In any event, we see him as far from perfect and in need of much growth, but we also see him moving in the right direction and taking a stand for many things that are important to us socially and politically and even morally.

You explain that you have a hard time simply “getting over” the fact that Trump is our president, noting that this election is a matter of life and death, writing:

Perhaps you can tell me to get over it because you do not have to worry that Trump will appoint a Supreme Court justice that could play a role in invalidating your marriage. If Congress passes and Trump signs the First Amendment Defense Act, you probably won’t have to worry that a bakery, restaurant, or hotel might legally deny you service. You don’t have to worry about being stranded at an airport and refused admission to the U.S. because of the country you’re from or the religion you practice. You don’t have to worry about having your family divided across the world with a simple signature on an executive order.

Truly, this paragraph startles me.

How do you think we felt when Barack Obama was elected — which means that he was our president (and my president) for the last eight years? How do you think we felt when he appointed Supreme Court justices who helped to fundamentally redefine marriage, an absolute horror to us for many reasons? How do you think we felt about the prospect of Hillary Clinton deepening America’s ties with Planned Parenthood, in our view, the number one slaughterer of babies in the womb?

How do you think we felt when friends of ours lost their jobs or were put out of schools or suffered serious professional recriminations because they were forced to violate their religious beliefs?

And since you mention bakeries, restaurants, and hotels — none of which, by the way, have refused to serve a gay person simply because he or she was gay — how do you think we felt when friends of ours lost their jobs or were put out of schools or suffered serious professional recriminations because they were forced to violate their religious beliefs, bullied by LGBT activists and their allies? Are you not aware that this is a two-way street?

And how do you think we felt when President Obama and the Department of Justice launched an aggressive campaign designed to punish all states that took issue with, say, a 16-year-old boy who identifies as a girl playing on the girls’ basketball team and sharing their locker room and showers? Twenty-three states took the administration to court over this, yet Barack Obama remained our president throughout, just as Donald Trump is now your president.

That’s what we mean by “get over” it. We didn’t riot in the streets after Obama was elected and reelected, nor did we plan to riot and demonstrate if Hillary was elected.

Let’s Be Honest About Conservative Christians, Progressive Christians and the Founders

You ask how we could use a “pagan” (my word) like Trump over “a woman who is a Christian, a lifelong Methodist and who, from the heart, quotes the Bible and John Wesley,” yet you then write, “I’m afraid that what you want is a nation that conforms to your interpretation of the Bible.”

Well, doesn’t Hillary want that? Don’t “progressive Christians” want that? Don’t gay clergy want that? (As for Hillary’s Christian views, that’s what galls us all the more. Some of her beliefs are in direct contradiction with the teachings of the Bible, let alone those of Wesley. To us, this is a matter of religious hypocrisy and of Bible-twisting, neither of which are light matters.)

In reality, in this democratic republic in which we live, we all do our best to see our values prevail, and we do so by persuasion and by voting and by influencing and by educating. We believe God’s ways, as understood by traditional Jewish and Christian morality, are wonderful and in the best interest of any country. Liberal Christians and Jews differ with us, as do many agnostics and atheists.

So be it. May the best position win! That’s what we advocate.

That being said, I do believe you mischaracterize the intent of our founding fathers, writing, “You say you want a Christian nation, but our founders were clear that was never their goal. In fact, the Constitution goes to great lengths to protect the government from religion and religion from government.”

The founders presupposed that Christian beliefs and values would lie at the foundation of the nation, with John Adams famously stating that “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people.”

I agree that our founders were not trying to establish a Christian nation, but they assumed that Christian mores would lie at the foundation of the nation.  John Adams famously said, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people,” and, “It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” Do you actually believe that our founders could have countenanced the day when a Christian who could not in conscience participate in the “marriage” of two men would be punished — rather than the two men being punished?

In any case, we strongly advocate our beliefs, and oddly enough, we find President Trump to be a recent champion of our religious liberties. You ask: “Can’t we agree that all people should be free to practice their religion or practice no religion and should be safe from coercion based on religion? Can’t we agree that we share values of love, kindness, respect, and community and then try to live those with each other?” Yes, of course we can!

Thinking Through the Tough Immigration Issue

As for the knotty question of immigration, you ask, “Do you really think a Christian, especially a biblical literalist, can want a wall built?” And, you note, “The Bible is clear about how we are to treat foreigners among us — no matter how they got here.”

First, many of us who voted for Trump are actively involved in helping the needy and poor worldwide, and my own family was part of a church that sponsored Vietnamese refugees during the Boat People crisis in the 70s and early 80s, welcoming these dear people into our homes for years at a time. So, we are hardly a monolithic, xenophobic, group of angry populists.

We simply recognize that there’s a problem with those illegal aliens who drain and damage our society. (In the words of President Obama in 2015, “What we should be doing is setting up a smart legal immigration system that doesn’t separate families but does focus on making sure that people who are dangerous, people who are gangbangers or criminals, that we’re deporting them as quickly as possible.”) We also recognize that radical Islam presents a serious security issue for America (and the world), and therefore we need to improve our vetting.

As for a Christian building a wall, do Christians lock their doors at night? That’s what this is about, although plenty of Christians do take issue with the president’s proposed immigration policies, and that is a healthy debate we must have.

As for the Bible’s teaching on how we treat foreigners, remember that the same Old Testament to which you allude called for the killing of hostile foreigners (the Canaanites and others), so I would encourage you to give that subject further reflection so you might gain a more holistic view of the subject.

We Won’t Compromise on Our Conviction That a Child is Not a Choice

Finally, regarding your call for us to work together to reduce abortions, you state, “We can lower abortion rates together but not by denying women choices over their own bodies. We can be effective together by listening to the data and working together to ensure all women have access to contraception, education, and social and economic resources. Are you willing to have that conversation?”

Do you think the words, “It’s a child, not a choice” are just some catchy slogan to us?

Prof. Shaw, we cannot work together unless you begin by at least understanding our viewpoint: A woman does not have the choice over someone else’s life — namely, the little baby living in her womb. Or do you think the words, “It’s a child, not a choice” are just some catchy slogan to us? In our view, we are witnessing a black genocide (among other things), with staggeringly high rates of abortion among blacks in particular and among the poor in general, and we’re not looking for some kind of middle ground here.

We are all for education and social and economic resources to help lower these rates, but not if it means partnering with those who believe that the child in the womb is merely an appendage of the mother’s body, just a clump of cells or a mass of tissue. Would you at least reflect on these truths?

An Invitation to Keep Talking

You close your article with a series of questions, and, to answer, I assure you that we’re more interested in doing good than winning, that we’re open to building coalitions where lives can truly be changed for the better, open to real science and factual evidence as it pertains to choices we make, and 100 percent committed to “live the love of God we claim.”

Are you committed to the same? And do you really want to dialogue? Let’s start with our two articles here, and hopefully, you’ll back up your call for interaction by joining me on my radio show to talk — not fight.


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