As a pastor who serves people of differing political opinions, I often say that the Bible is an equal opportunity offender. There are verses that offend most Democrats and there are verses that offend most Republicans. God is neither a Democrat nor a Republican.
Although they might make me sad, frustrated and even angry, political differences about issues like bank deregulation or clean water or the defense budget or the next Supreme Court justice are not enough to make me want to break up with you as a friend or colleague or family member.
But – and I write this with trepidation – there is a vote coming up ten weeks from today and the results could physically threaten my family.
[NOTE: It always frustrates me when politicians speak up because it personally impacts their own families. Example: The senator who is quiet about protecting LGBTQ citizens until his son comes out as gay. And yet, here I am.]
I am white. And there are three brown people in my immediate family: two by marriage and one by unofficial adoption. And I fear for their safety in these politically divided days. It’s one thing when you vote for someone whose policies are against what I believe as an American Christian. It’s another thing when you vote for someone whose incendiary words could get my kids killed.
The heartbreaking part is that people who know and love my kids are the very people who are considering a vote for the one who’s put their lives at risk in a way they’ve never been at risk before in this country.
Isabel Wilkerson spells out what I’m talking about in her excellent book Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents:
- (Before the 2016 election) – A police commander in southern New Jersey talked about mowing down African-Americans and complained that the woman candidate, the Democrat, would ‘give in to all the minorities.’ That September, he beat a handcuffed black teenager who had been arrested for swimming in a pool without authorization. The commmander grabbed the teenager’s head and, witnesses said, rammed it ‘like a basketball’ into a metal doorjamb. As the election drew near, the commander told his officers that the reality television star ‘is the last hope for white people.’
- (After the 2016 election) – A man on a golf course in Georgia could feel freer to express himself. He was a son of the Confederacy, which had gone to war against the United States for the right to enslave other humans. The election was a victory for him and for the social order he had been born to. He said to those around him, ‘I remember a time when everybody knew their place. Time we got back to that.’
- (After Inauguration Day) – A white man in Kansas shot and killed an Indian engineer, telling the immigrant and his Indian co-worker to ‘get out of my country’ as he fired upon them.
- (In February 2017) – A clean-cut white army veteran caught a bus from Baltimore to New York on a mission to kill black people. He stalked a sixty-six year old black man in Times Square and stabbed him to death with a sword.
- (In May 2017) – On a packed commuter train in Portland, Oregon, a white man hurling racial and anti-Muslim epithets, attacked two teenaged girls, one of whom was wearing a hijab. ‘Get the ___ out,’ he ranted. ‘We need Americans here.’
- (In August 2017) – A white supremacist drove into a crowd of anti-hate protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, killing a young white woman, Heather Heyer, in a standoff over monuments to the Confederacy . . .
I could go on and on with more examples from Caste and from myriad news reports. And my brown kids could also share what has been said to them, yelled at them, and done to them over the past four years, but those stories are theirs to tell. It’s never been easy to live in their skin. But the past four years have been increasingly dangerous.
Maybe you don’t take me seriously. But I share this with humility and not a little fear:
A vote for one candidate on the ballot again this year is a vote against the safety of my own family.
Yes, I care about your families too. Yes, I care about my neighbors. But when it’s possible that my own kids are at risk of physical harm, my heart pounds like the mothers of brown and black children throughout our nation’s history. My fears are minimal compared to theirs. My worries shrink in comparison.
You might say that this candidate for President did not hold the sword or the knife or the gun that committed those crimes. You might say that his hands were not on the wheel of that car in Charlottesville. But the truth is that extremists have been given permission to dehumanize people because this candidate publically dehumanizes people. It’s on tape. He says dehumanizing things about God’s children out loud with a microphone on a regular basis.
You might say that all the haters I’ve mentioned are the exceptions, the bad apples, all mentally ill individuals. But they’ve been emboldened.
I would hope that we vote based on what’s healthy for our nation as a sovereign country and as a global leader. I would hope that any candidate who professes belief in Jesus Christ would look to Jesus to inform decision-making and personal behavior.
But if those hopes fall flat, maybe you will vote for the protection of my family and all families whose children are not white and for our daughters who are objectified. We can work out political differences together. But we can’t stop the hate until we vote against hate.
Thanks for listening. I’m kind of desperate.
Image of the White Supremacist who killed two men on a commuter train who were defending two young women. In one of the videos, he yells “f*** all you n*****s”