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.