Childhood Values: Then and Now
I grew up in a Southern Baptist home in Charlotte, NC. We were the kind of family who was at church several times a week. We played in our church’s sports leagues, attended their summer camps, went door-to-door trying to “save” the masses, and performed in church plays. I have little memory of political discussions in my house or at church, other than that one time in high school when Elizabeth Dole came to visit our church. I do, however, remember a general sentiment of disgust towards gay men (I honestly didn’t know being a Lesbian, or bi, or queer, or… was possible until Ellen came out publicly) and a disapproval of abortion, but neither issue was a regular or heated topic of conversation. The issues of premarital sex and white women dating black men were much more present brands of hatred.
In middle school, I attended my church’s private Christian school, but at some point it became very clear that I was outgrowing that school (for a variety of reasons that I would argue were there from the start, but that’s beside the point). When I switched over to attend public high school, I remember my mom making it very clear to me that I would be held to a different, stricter standard than my peers. Through messages like this, I understood my family to be Conservative/Right Wing/Republican. Plus, it was “common knowledge” that white people were Republicans and black people were Democrats.
Imagine my surprise when, in college, my great grandmother (our family’s highly respected and revered matriarch) passed away, and I found her Voter Registration Card, which had her political party listed as “Democrat”. I asked my grandma about this, and she replied, bewildered, “Yes darling. What did you expect?!” That was a key moment in my life. I felt free to be a Democrat. In fact, I felt a new, budding sense of duty to carry on my Nana’s values. And for the first time, I felt a sense of affirmation of my own political beliefs that were quickly falling more and more to the left.
I’ve spent my entire adult life going back and forth on my belief in God, and I still struggle to find my place within my family’s deeply religious roots. Despite my overall doubt in the kind of God that many Christians pledge allegiance to and my mistrust of religion as an institution, I have always appreciated the morals and values my family worked hard to instill in me.
Fast forward to November 2016.
When Donald Trump was elected, members of my family celebrated, proudly saying “God heard our prayers”, as if those of us who didn’t vote for him were not praying people, as if this man is a representation of godliness, as if he embodies Christian or Biblical values. How simple it seemed for them to look past his long history and pattern of transgressions and create their own narrative for the kind of person he will be in the coming years. My heart broke in one thousand distinct ways upon learning of their commitment to Trump, their belief in the kind of hatred, fear, and separation he proudly preaches. And it continues to ache with each passing day.
In just about every Christian home you walk into, you won’t have to look too hard before finding a framed piece of art with the Bible verse, “As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” I’m reminded of that piece as I begin to build the kind of life and home that feels morally sound in my eyes and based on my lived experiences, many of which are drastically different than the ones my family’s elders have endured. But when I begin thinking about the values I hold near and dear to my heart, every one of them is rooted in something I learned through the church. My heartache swells again. I sit, wondering with intense confusion and a gut-wrenching disappointment at how God-fearing people, like the ones in my family, could actively choose a person like Trump as their leader. It’s clear to me that their decisions are based in fear, rather than in love. And perhaps that’s where our differences begin.
I often feel as though I was planted from the same pack of seeds as my parents, but that I grew into a flower with a wildly different color blossom. Lucky for me, I love wildflowers.