When this is a Plea for Compassionate Conservatism

I grew up in an evangelical church, and one of the biggest gifts it gave me was the gift of learning how to do my part. We had special offerings for the heifer project through Sunday school and VBS, spent youth group Saturdays painting homeless shelters for women and children. The church I grew up in taught me about sharing what I had, giving joyfully so that everyone would have enough, being lead by compassion to make the world right. Whether it was raking leaves for widows, or making blankets for foster kids, I learned early and often that I was the hands and feet of Jesus.

I never really understood the rolling of the eyes when my liberal college friends talked about compassionate conservatives. That wasn’t an oxymoron as far as I was concerned, that was the truth of the people who raised me. They were conservative, yes, but they were the most caring compassionate people I have ever met.

As I grew older, my views became more liberal. My story is the opposite of the crazy liberal in college, move more conservative in my thirties trope. But still I believed in the compassionate conservative. My relatives, the people in my church, my friends from high school all wanted the same things I did, good schools, good jobs for people, families able to take care of themselves, accessible health care, we just disagreed on the best ways to go about those things. They were conservative, these friends of mine, but only because they honestly believed that was the best way for all of America to flourish.

I was shocked when Trump won the election because I didn’t recognize any of my republican friends and relatives in the things that he said. I assumed they weren’t voting for him. I thought they were as horrified as I was. I grew up in the Ohio and Michigan area. I went to college in Indiana where I  met and married a Hoosier from a very small town. The people I am talking about, the ones who raised me, I know statistically many of them did vote for Trump, and I am struggling mightily to understand how that could be true.

81 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump. This statistic is cited often in my house, as we look astonished at the results of the election. I do not understand how the people who taught my Sunday school classes and told me to love my enemies would vote for a man who led chants of “lock her up” and “build a wall.”

I wrestle with the idea that very many of the people who taught me to be kind and good and loving voted for Trump, I am hoping that the same people who taught me how to be compassionate, will demand from this president a compassionate conservatism. I am hoping that the people who taught me to use my words to love others will call out the hateful speech of the men the President elect is surrounding himself with. I am praying that the silence I am hearing is just them rounding up the troops to demand a better way.

I still want to believe in compassionate conservatism. I still want to work with my conservative friends, but I need them to speak out against the very things they taught me to abhor.

Compassionate conservatism would speak out against Steve Bannon. If you don’t know who he is, who the alt right is, then go ahead and Google it. Or you could hear it from Kristen, who was harassed by the Breitbart crew in way that are horrendous and inhumane. The man said he was down with being Dark like Satan. Where are my compassionate conservatives calling this out?

Compassionate conservatism would have serious reservations about Jeff Sessions. They would be horrified at the idea of an attorney general joking about the KKK and using the N word. They would say that this is completely unacceptable.

Compassionate conservatism would love refugees, especially Syrian refugees. I spent so much of my youth being told to pray for the 10/40 window, to pray for God to make a way for the muslim stronghold to be introduced to Jesus. It is unfathomable to me that the same people who had me on my face crying out for the souls of the world, now want those souls to return home. This is the chance for us to show them who Jesus is, to let them experience the love and welcoming of Christ.

Compassionate conservatism makes room for other people’s fear, even if they do not agree that there is a need to be afraid. My dad called me after the election. He had heard from my sister that I was crying a lot. He just wanted to tell me it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. I told him I was afraid because Steve Bannon was being pegged as the chief strategist. I told him of sometimes getting emails that tell me that someone hopes my kids get raped. I told him of how much worse it is for other people. He didn’t laugh and tell me I was over reacting. He told me he loved me. He told me he was praying for me. He told me he would try to protect me.

Compassionate conservatism would be seriously concerned that people with disabilities are worried about the repealing of the Affordable Care Act. I know the act isn’t perfect. I know there is a lot wrong with it. I know it is against a lot of conservative ideals. But compassionate conservatism would want to make sure that the access to health care the ACA granted is maintained to everyone who needs it. Compassionate conservatism would want to make sure that everyone has access to health care. It would find a fiscally conservative way to do that.

Compassionate conservatism would be loudly against hate crimes and derogatory names. Compassionate conservatism would not answer my real fear that my LGBTQ friends, my kids teachers, my friends of color, are being harassed with a “you know Trump supporters are being yelled at too.” They would hear the fear, they would sit with people they do not agree with and hear them out. I know because I have seen them do it a hundred times over.

I learned about loving my enemy and praying for those who persecute me from the compassionate conservative community that raised me. I learned about speaking up for what is right and making sure that everyone in the room is being taken care of. I learned from my compassionately conservative tribe how to love and care for all, even when you disagree or don’t understand.

I am grateful for those lessons, lessons about turning the other cheek and being the hands and feet of Jesus. They have shaped my heart in ways I treasure. I am grateful that love and making things right was taught to me from the beginning.

But I am wondering where that voice is now? I have been calling my congress people to voice my concerns about hate and anger and the people who Trump is surrounding himself with. But I am aware that my voice may not hold much clout. I am a left-wing lady at a liberal seminary, who lives in the heart of a blue bubble in a red state. I don’t really identify as evangelical anymore.

With 81 percent of the Evangelical vote going to Trump, I believe that my old tribe is in a unique place to maybe make a difference. I am asking you to hold the line for compassionate conservatism. I am asking you to practice what I have always heard you preach.

10 thoughts on “When this is a Plea for Compassionate Conservatism

  1. I feel compelled to respond because your post speaks to the unease I have felt during the entire election process this year. I, in probably more typical fashion than yourself, have become more conservative as I have gotten older. I voted for Obama in 2008, and against him in 2012, when I cast my first-ever vote for a Republican candidate.

    I have never been a one-issue voter, but I am very passionate about religious freedom, and I was witness to threats to it in my community. I am tolerant of alternative lifestyles, including the LGBT community’s right to have life partners recognized by law. What I was very troubled by was that the Catholic Charities Agency in my community was forced to close up shop because of their mission-following policy to not allow children to be fostered by unmarried (heterosexual or gay) couples. As a tenet of faith, Catholics don’t recognize marriage as between two same-sex people. The Agency never experienced funding problems by refusing unmarried heterosexual couples as foster parents, but when my state passed laws allowing civil unions for gay couples, the state refused to fund the Agency, and thousands of foster children lost their homes.

    Around the same time, business owners I respected for their financial sacrifice in not being open for business on Sundays were needing to defend their right to provide health insurance to their employees that did not go against their moral principles.

    Race relations were, and continue to be, the worst they have been in my memory.

    And so I voted against Obama. As proud as I was to have a Black president in 2008, by 2012, I believed he had failed miserably.

    In this election season, I was deeply saddened by the choices listed on my ballot. Until almost the last moment, I hoped for some other, almost any other, Republican candidate to present him or herself as a viable candidate. I strongly considered avoiding the voting booth altogether, something I have never done even once since I’ve been old enough to vote.

    In the end, I voted for Trump.

    I did so because I am old enough to remember scandals that followed the Clintons well before Secretary Clinton held political office. Suicides committed by witnesses, accidents befalling others, talk of financial and other wrongdoing, and of course the more notorious sex scandals involving then-President Clinton. I believe that where there is all that smoke, there must be some fire. Emails and the like, Mrs. Clinton is not someone I trust.

    But finally, I voted for Trump because this president-elect is likely to influence our country for a generation with his choices for Supreme Court. Mrs. Clinton shows no interest in protecting the unborn or the second Amendment. I respect every Religion and every person’s right to practice. I desire the same courtesy, even if my priest refuses to marry a gay couple in our Catholic Church. I don’t believe Mrs. Clinton shares my respect, or my concern.

    My daughter attends a Catholic school where the students are being encouraged to “pray without ceasing” for our country’s leaders. I pray that President-elect Trump and those close to him will experience a miraculous conversion. I know God is capable of great things.

    I have the compassion you spoke of, Ms. Norman.

    In the end, I didn’t vote FOR Trump; I voted AGAINST Clinton.

    • Brenda, thank you for your well thought out comment. This really really helped me understand where you are coming from and that is no small gift to me. I am sharing in all of your prayers. This really helped me to see all the things we can agree on. Thank you.

      • That was my goal…thanks so much for your reply. I am deeply troubled by the future of our country, in no small part because of all the things you speak of in this and other posts.

  2. Abby, I can identify with some of the sentiments you expressed. I am a Christian first and, much farther down the list, a conservative leaning independent. However, when I looked at the other option in this election, I did not find any Christlikeness either. I found a corrupt liar who had an insatiable lust for power and wealth. Hillary’s support for abortion anytime, for any reason, at tax payer expense is a nonstarter for many Christians who recognize that man is the pinnacle of creation, made in the image of God, with such intrinsic value that God incarnate would die for our redemption. Just because 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump doesn’t mean they like him or condone his actions or words. I doubt that all those voting for Hillary support hiding from FOI requests, mishandling sensitive national security interests, using your position of power to enrich yourself and your friends, using a charitable organization to amass wealth and do little charity, treat secret service and White House hourly workers like subhumans, protect rapists (even if they are your spouse) and silence those raped, etc. Likewise It is unfair to project Trump’s faults onto those who voted for him or even to assume that they gave Trump’s flaws a pass.The Christian voter would do well to take the best ideals from both parties. However, this option simply is not available in our two party system. Remember too that this is politics and not the kingdom of God. Real hope is found in Christ not government. I would also invite you to do some more research on Jeff Seasions, and be wary of what left leaning media portray him as. He is not a racist. He fought the KKK and won important battles against them in Alabama.

    • I did do research on Jeff Sessions, but it sounds like we are reading different sources. I am genuinely interested in reading the sources you have. I am actually really interested in your views on abortion. I too am pro-life. What i have been very surprised to find in my adult years is that there are very many pro-choice people who also would like to see our abortion rates go to zero if at all possible. I have sincerely been wondering about your thoughts on if there is space to work together.

      I am sorry you feel like Trumps faults are being projected on you. I did not mean to say that and I certainly DO NOT AT ALL think that that is true. I think it would be awesome to take the best of both sides. It sounds like we have a lot in common.

  3. What strikes me about the comments above is that Abby wasn’t asking anyone to change their vote, or explain it. She was saying, ‘now that Trump’s in, can we all unite around protecting the vulnerable?’

    To reply with self-justification seems to have missed the point entirely. I would love to see some people reply with, ‘yes! I voted for Trump because of the abortion issue and so I’m also now phoning congress in support of ACA so incredibly sick people continue to get the essential medication they need / I’m phoning congress to express my concern that Stephen Bannon is being given a high position / that Trump already seems to be putting his own business interests higher than the good of the country, and is not keeping to good boundaries with his conflicts of interest (by having his kids running his business and involved in White House) / I’m phoning congress to beg them to allow our fair share of Syrian refugees’ etc. There’s such a massive opportunity here to do good- united as evangelicals, speaking up for the voiceless.

  4. HI Abby,
    I respect you and you’re family a great deal. I was a bit troubled at what you wrote on a variety of levels and was trying to come up with a compassionate way to respond……, but I see what a wonderful job some of your friends did in their reply so I will leave it at that.
    Happy New Year.

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