I am white, straight, not a Muslim, not an immigrant, therefore not likely to be personally threatened by a Trump presidency. So why am I afraid?
They’re dying off. Among the living, some lean on walkers, others are stooped over. White men, all of them, veterans of a sort. Not necessarily ones who wore a uniform or fought in a distant land, but veterans of a struggle here at home. Since moving to North Carolina, I’ve had the honor to meet a few of them.
Pastors of white southern churches during the 1960s and 70s, they were among the few white Christian ministers who had the courage to stand against Jim Crow laws and the region’s resistance to racial integration. They invited black preachers to speak at their pulpits. They welcomed black members into their congregations. They preached sermons against racism. As a result they lost their jobs. Their lives were threatened. The lives of their families were threatened.
Meanwhile other white ministers placed peace and security over confronting the evil of racism. They sought justification in scripture.
A friend recently shared memories of that period. Her father, Morris Warren, was a minister in the Presbyterian Church (US). A son of the South, he had ancestors who fought for the Confederacy. Yet during the 1960s he found that as a man of conscience, he had to take a stand against white racism.
He served as pastor of a large congregation in Macon, GA. A local task force began to interview white citizens as to “whether or not every effort should be made to prevent integrated schools.” Understanding himself as a peacemaker, Rev. Warren wrote a letter to the editor of the Macon newspaper. He simply said integration was bound to come and would not bring calamity. Yet two church elders took offense and threatened to withhold money for the congregation’s financial campaign.
For several years he kept finding himself at odds with his church and community. The Macon congregation he served split over racial issues and Rev. Warren lost his job. Yet he never saw himself as courageous and downplayed threats against him.
To my knowledge he never got beat up or had his house fire-bombed. This might cause some to consider his stance not all that remarkable. But I’m inspired by him and other ministers who 1) recognized the evil and 2) risked jobs and reputations.
Today I fear what may be required of me during a Trump presidency. As a woman of my generation, I was taught to keep peace. Don’t upset your father, don’t irritate the neighbors. In school, strive for an A in deportment. In church I was taught, “If it is possible on your part, live at peace with everyone.”
Under a Trump presidency the time may come when the rights of sisters and brothers of color, of the Muslim faith, those who are immigrants or gay will be threatened. I ask myself, will I recognize the evil even though I’m not directly affected by it? I know it has a way of sneaking in and appearing normal. What risks will I be willing to take? My reputation? My safety? My life?
(An excellent book and movie along this theme is Blood Done Sign My Name by Timothy B. Tyson. Tyson’s father was the pastor of an all-white Methodist church in North Carolina.)
One of the men of whom you speak, I came to know in the early 70s, when I worked with the West Virginia Mountain Project. He had lost his pulpit in Virginia, and a hardship it was, with a wife and 5 children. When I knew him, he was a minister of social justice, dealing with all the communities served by the Project, living in a rough home, off a dirt road, above the railroad tracks. A thoughtful and brave man, and so was his wife. They had made their stand, paid the price, and yet found within their own courage the way of life, and I guess the proof is in the pudding: his children all went on to prestigious schools and have made fine careers for themselves. He and his wife are now both gone.
Thank you for your article … it was very hard for these heroes of the faith, as they saw how easily the church has accommodated itself to racism, and what a price they paid for speaking out.
What will the future hold? I think for mainline ministers, it’ll be a challenge, for sure. For evangelical pastors, who have come out of the woods and now affirm marriage equality and all the related issues that coalesce around justice, it will be brutal and deadly. Evangelical churches are quick to behead their ministers anyway, and a challenge to their deepest beliefs will enrage them all the more, and it’s always the minister’s fault, of course.
I suspect a lot of these men had networks for strength, and that’ll be the key should the Trump Presidency deliver on its madness. Will it be particularly hard for women? I guess we both know the answer to that.
What I know for sure is that it would be failure of our faith to “think only happy thoughts” in light of the Trump victory. He’s not my president, not even close. And those who are gathering around him, a ship of fools, dangerous to the Republic for which we stand.
Thank you for an excellent reflection.
Thanks for adding to the discussion. Many of us need to work together to remind each other of past heroism and what may be required of us in the future.
I’d like to tap a bigger audience for your response, but I’m still unfamiliar with social media ways of doing that. Do you know how?
Thanks Nancy … I just friend-requested you on FB … you can post my reply in a separate blog and then post to twitter and/or FB … if I catch your intent???
I can also post my reply on FB with a note that it’s on your blog … my fb posts automatically go to Twitter …
I can also post to a FB group that I founded, “Happy to be a Presbyterian” which has nearly 6000 members.
BTW, if you’re a Presbyterian, request membership in Happy …
I’m reading an Alan Furst spy novel, “The Spies of Warsaw,” 1937/38 … with the constant note that many loved Hitler, and the few who didn’t … many fled early on, others stayed to offer whatever resistance they could; many couldn’t leave because of family and work … they all saw what would come of it, even as most closed their eyes and “spoke through a flower” … wishing for the best.
Glad to help with this Social Media stuff … I’m no expert, but I manage.
And thanks for your blog.
Yes, please post your reply on FB and I’ll share it.
Nancy, you ask such an important question. If we stand together, we can question each other and find courage to move forward together.
Verna, I hope you’ll be participating in the Women’s March. For now it seems the only way to stand with like-minded people.