If you had asked me yesterday morning who Taran Killam is, I’d have told you I have no idea. Evidently he was on Saturday Night Live, which I haven’t watched in about 2 decades – it’s still on? He was fired a couple of months ago from that show. I was introduced to him yesterday by an insightful post-election tweet he shared with America.
As you might expect, a few rural folks responded. Actually, I was surprised at the reasonable nature of most of those tweets – they weren’t insults for the most part (there were a few), but challenges to his prejudice and hatred for middle America. As a pastor of a church that is filled with farmers, I responded to his tweet inviting him to come and meet with some of my farmers. He responded to the furor with this sincere apology.
Sorry, sorry, sorry. Certainly a flippant comment made in jest. Allow me to be sincerely clear. Vote 4 Trump = I think you’re stupid.
It’s not all of flyover country that is stupid, just those that voted for Trump. Any reader of this blog knows that I did not vote for Trump and encouraged others not to do so. But Taran’s hateful tweets, his prejudice, his arrogant, superior mindset that dismissed half of America as stupid – these are all symbolic of a bigger problem we have in this land.
1. We are divided.
The sinful flesh naturally divides. It’s a problem in Baptist life, as some among us consistently seek division over unity. It’s a national problem. Look at the map above. The coasts are blue, along with new age hotspots of New Mexico and Colorado, along with Illinois (and in Illinois, it’s mainly Chicagoland) and Minnesota. The rest of the country is red. If you’ve ever seen one of those county-by-county maps, it’s even more stunning. We are divided between cities and rural (stupid) areas. And we are most certainly still divided racially. I cringe when I read friends of mine trying to discount the reality of the racial problem in America, or (seriously?) blame it on black people and their behavior. There is a division between the world view of the majority race and minorities.
2. We caricature.
That’s what Taran did. I watched coverage (as long as my stomach held out) by MSNBC the other night. Chris and Lawrence and Rachel and the others evidenced no sense of balance or attempt to hear both sides. They played to stereotypes whether they had touch with reality or not. But conservatives do the same thing. Based on things I’ve read, I would think that Hillary Clinton was a woman who went from hospital to hospital with a scalpel and tongs looking for babies she could murder – then probably drank their blood. She is pro-death, no doubt. She even defended partial birth abortion, an act so depraved it’s hard to describe. But caricaturing her as a bloodthirsty baby-murderer was probably no more helpful that Killam’s summary judgment that all Trump voters were stupid. When I write things, I find people responding to what I say with caricatures of my views – it ticks me off. I’ve probably done it to others. We tend not to really listen to those who oppose our views, but we paint them in the worst possible light.
3. We paint with dark colors.
Having caricatured the “other side” we then paint them in worst possible light. Taran painted everyone in a rural setting as stupid. I was told 12 dozen times that by refusing to vote for Trump, I was actually championing Hillary and supporting abortion. I had to tell a man in my church on Sunday that, no, Beth Moore did not endorse Hillary. She simply said that Trump’s comments on women were unacceptable and the lying liars on the Right Wing internet sites wrote articles condemning her for endorsing Hillary.
Donald Trump is, in my mind, morally unacceptable. I’m going to honor him as president and pray for him, but his statements on race, on women, and in general were simply unacceptable. He fanned the flames of xenophobia and racism, he made misogynist statements and even bragged about sexually assaulting women – whether those who accused him were lying or not, we may never know for sure. But this morning, I listened to some of the sports talk shows, and the assumption many in the sports world were making is that everyone who voted for Trump endorsed his racially insensitive, anti-women statements and behaviors. I know that is not true. I do not agree with the people who voted for him (though, honestly, I’m glad Hillary will not be president – it’s a deep conflict) but I know that the blanket assumption is not true. Do I think they should have ignored Trump’s tendency to fan the flames of prejudice in America? No, I don’t. But the people I know who voted for Trump did so largely for one reason – whatever he was, he wasn’t Hillary Clinton.
We have to stop painting everyone with the broadest brush. I know people who voted for Clinton, but love Jesus and hate abortion. They thought she was a more moral choice than Donald Trump. They should not be villified as baby-killers. I know people who voted for Trump – a position I found morally unacceptable. But I know that the vast majority of them held their noses to that. They weren’t supporting the racist rhetoric or the misogynist, sexually immoral, predatory history of the man. They were calculating that it was less offensive than Hillary’s offenses and her views. I cannot endorse that choice but I must not condemn it either. And those of us who voted for indendents or third parties, we’ve been painted as “panty-waists” and cast as allies of the abortion industry. Few things motivate me like the issue of abortion, painting me with the dark colors of “ally of Hillary” was simply not true, right, or just.
We do it all the time. We paint all those who complain about racial injustice in America as “Black Lives Matter” (the organization) supporters. We paint all Muslims, especially all Muslim refugees and immigrants as terrorists. We paint undocumented immigrants as rapists, drug dealers, murderers (there was the most shameful political commencial run in Iowa on this – just awful). We alway caricature the other side and paint them in the worst possible light.
4. We play the victim.
Richard Sherman absolutely plastered a kicker on Sunday after going offsides. Should have been called for roughing or unnecessary roughness, or attempted murder, or something. No call. The kicker’s wife was pretty angry and made a tweet that was over the line. Raised on a farm, she spoke of wanting to castrate Sherman like they did out-of-control animals. She should have known that in this culture, when blacks have for 400 years been treated as sub-human by white America, a tweet like that wasn’t going to be received well. But then, Richard Sherman did what athletes always do – he played the victim. “I’m used to be mistreated because I’m a black man.” She made a stupid tweet and he trumped it with the race card. C’mon, man.
We do it in blogging all the time. I’ve written things and had people contact me angry at the personal insult I gave them – when that person wasn’t even on my radar when I made the comment. I meant something else different entirely. We have come to the point at which when someone expresses a dissenting opinion, it is viewed as a personal attack. Poor me. We deride the college “safe-space” PC crowd for their victimhood mentality, but we do the same thing. Someone stating an opinion opposite mine is not a personal attack. The tone, the wording – those are what constitute the attack. But we have to put on our big-boy and big-girl pants and accept the fact that we can have differing opinions, even strong ones, and still walk together.
- America is divided.
- Races are divided.
- The church is divided.
- Southern Baptists are divided.
Mostly, those divisions come because of how we act, how we respond, how we communicate, how easily we take offense. I’m in my 4th decade of ministry and I’ve given a lot of counsel. One thing I’ve noticed – there are a lot of reasons for broken relationships, but there is one common denominator. Bad communication is at the root of every marital issue. How that manifests can vary, but every couple that sits in my office has troubles talking out their problems. When there’s a fight in the church, there are communication problems. I’m amazed at the lack of ability on blogs populated by Christians, by Christian leaders, to carry on decent conversations.
We can do better.