That was motto that liberal and progressive Christians took to the polls in the November U.S election. Armed with new knowledge of the what most marginalized people have known about this country forever, those with progressive political views on race, LGBTQ rights, religious inclusion, and feminism showed up to do what they thought was their part in defeating a presidential campaign built on hate speech and propaganda. “Love Trumps Hate” they said. “Hate cant win”, they said. And yet- it did.
Literally, in fact. Hate was a carefully packaged campaign that literally won the 2016 Presidential election. And, in a not so shocking analysis of exit polls, an overwhelming number of Trump voters were white evangelicals. Still, after over 150 days of chaos, his supporters are still white and Christian, by an overwhelming margin.
It’s time to get real here- sometimes hate wins.
One of the most frustrating parts of Christian work, particularly towards racial justice and queer inclusive theology, is the assumption, that, overwhelmingly, “traditional” white, heterosexual Christians want to do the work of inclusion and justice. That the problem is good intentions with no tools, and that if white, conservative, Christians had the knowledge and skills to be better- they would. Im not suggesting that there are no helpful white or heterosexual people on the side of justice for marginalized folks. My point is:
We have to face the fact that there is resistance- massive, organized, well-funded resistance to inclusive Christianity that is enlightening and liberating for all who choose to enter the faith. The Christian resistance to justice mobilized on the intentional basis of racism, homophobia, transphobia, xenophobia, classism, and many other prejudices masked as divine belief. We have to admit that there might be a lot less “allies” in the work of liberation as we want to believe. We have to face the fact that there is resistance to change. Facing this reality would make our work more strategic, genuine, and most importantly, center the marginalized people conservative Christians oppress with their beliefs and policies.
“Well, Jameelah we know this. Of course there are a number of people who just don’t agree with us.”
Right, but let’s go further. What happens if the reality of organized Christian resistance to liberation was the foundation of your efforts towards justice?
Your work might center marginalized peoples suffering and healing
We are socially conditioned to feel more sympathy for the privileged than we are for the oppressed. That social conditioning shows up most in Christian justice spaces, when it’s clear that the goal is to make sure the oppressor learns, rather than making sure the marginalized heal and are cared for. If you don’t face the fact that conservative Christian resistance is often voluntary and calculated, you might enter into social justice work thinking that your job is to change the mind of those who seek to oppress. That cannot be the full measure of your work.
Your work may include more strategic, organized plans for political action
Is anyone else tired of “dialogue” or ending a meeting with ‘let’s continue to have these conversations?” We might get past the talking phase if we faced the reality that our opposition doesn’t really want to hear us, or at least, that “discussions”, are, at their best, a political strategy that usually favors oppressive agendas. Tiptoeing around using words like “racism” for fear of “alienating well-meaning people” is as damaging as silence. Claiming that oppressive beliefs are just differences in theology and we should just “agree to disagree” ignores the fact that conservative theological beliefs dominate our current political structure. Facing the reality that there is organized resistance against change is the first step in creating organized political action that demands more than committees, and task forces.
You may work to unpack your own levels of privilege.
Another hard truth to face is that most of us exist in complexity. That we exist as both the oppressor and the oppressed. In the U.S, it is important to know that Christianity, in any form, is still the dominant religious narrative, and is a privileged social and political identity. Ask yourself “What areas of conservative Christian politics am I in no rush to address? Why? How can I work to be better? Do I want to be better? Understanding that oppressive, conservative Christianity is heavily resistant to change will force you to recognize the ways that even the most progressive Christians still benefit from religious privilege.
Im suggesting that we have internalized the Western, passive narrative of the gospel to mean that polite politics and moral suasion are the only means of political organizing and Christian practice. I get it. The passive, polite, strategic talking to your church friends, family, or Christian legislator is easier. It takes less risk, allowing you to keep most of your relationships, jobs, and ministry opportunities intact, while still making you feel like an activist. Know that a spiritual and political framework that does not face the intentional racism, homophobia, transphobia, patriarchy, and classism of the popular Christian faith, only serves those who benefit these systems of oppression.
Love, in a spiritual sense, will always trump hate. This is one of the tenets of my spirituality that keeps me going in the midst of grieving and injustice all around me. But in the world we live in at the moment? Sometimes hate wins. And it might keep winning if we keep failing to acknowledge its existence—and act accordingly.