My News Feed As a Sign of Changing Times

I currently have 1,008 Facebook friends. Approximately 90% of them are Southern Evangelical Christians from my hometown and/or my college. I have always been able to rely on my Facebook friends to provide a slice of conservatives’ opinions about the current news cycle. In the past, I have usually disagreed with most of them most of the time.

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Image credit: pixabay.com

Take the 2008 election, for instance. My Facebook friends were figuratively frothing at the mouth when Obama was elected. I saw lots of posts about “Praying for this country in these dark days” and “Remember, our first allegiance is to God’s kingdom, not rulers on this earth,” and the like. There was some birtherism, too–“Everyone knows Obama isn’t a legitimate president,” “Show me the birth certificate” etc. I’ve written before about how I came to vote for Obama in 2008. As I appeared to be in the vast minority at the time, I was afraid to publicly disagree and start an argument, so I stayed silent.

The passing of healthcare reform in 2010 was more of the same. “Great to know that now our healthcare system will go down the toilet like Canada’s” and “This will ruin my doctor husband’s career” etc. But I was a little bolder this time. I remember I posted this funny graphic and then got some pushback about it. I didn’t want to get into an argument, so I took it down.

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Still funny. (Image credit: Pinterest.com)

So I have normally been able to count on most of my Facebook friends to make political comments that I don’t agree with, sometimes gently and sometimes in a more inflammatory way. Election years have always been particularly bad, and that’s with me deleting the most obnoxious posters, including the mom of a close childhood friend, because I just couldn’t take it anymore.

But I have noticed a change over the last six months that I believe is reflective of how many conservatives’ viewpoints may slowly be shifting, just a bit. First of all, a very small number of my Facebook friends openly support Donald Trump–I’ve seen maybe two pro-Trump posts. This is reflective of the views of prominent Evangelical leaders like Russell Moore, who has been very openly never-Trump. I don’t agree with Moore on many political issues, but I respect his integrity, disavowal of bigotry and nativism, and adherence to biblical values in the face of opposition from many other Evangelical leaders who are falling in line behind Trump. Most of my Facebook friends seem, like Moore, to fall into the “choice between two bad options” camp when it comes to this election: anti-Trump and anti-Hillary. I can respect that.

That brings us to the events of the past week. I have been so, so surprised to see the reactions on Facebook. What I expected was what I have seen every time before: all the reasons why Alton Sterling and Philando Castile deserved it, all the reasons why the killing of the cops in Dallas was much worse than the other shootings of the week, all the reasons why #BlackLivesMatter is wrong and #AllLivesMatter is right. And there has been some of that.

But overwhelmingly, I am finally seeing my conservative, white Facebook friends acknowledge the reality of systemic racism in American society, particularly American policing. They are posting about how #AllLivesMatter is hurtful and hateful to a community in pain. People who I disagree with politically on almost every issue are acknowledging that the shootings of Sterling and Castile were unjust, and that the Black Lives Matter movement is not to blame for the shooting in Dallas, either.

This seems to reflect something real that has happened in America this week. White conservatives are, just maybe, getting it. This is reflected in comments from unexpected sources, such as conservative leader Newt Gingrich, among others, who made this statement:

“It took me a long time, and a number of people talking to me through the years to get a sense of this. If you are a normal, white American, the truth is you don’t understand being black in America and you instinctively under-estimate the level of discrimination and the level of additional risk.” (source: Slate.com)

Back on Facebook, I have also noticed many more people refusing to stay silent. Rather than just ignoring an ignorant post on their newsfeed, or quietly deleting someone, many of my white Facebook friends are speaking up and becoming allies to the black community in very powerful ways. This is something I am trying to do, too. I’m ashamed I stayed quiet for so long, and I’m trying to fix that. This week when I have seen ignorance and hate, I have said something. Have I done this perfectly? No. But I am done with being quiet, even if it would be more comfortable to be so. I don’t like debates. I don’t like arguments. I don’t want to be seen as a Facebook troll who is looking for attention. All I know is that this issue is too important for silence. Black Lives Matter.

Story of a Voter: On Being an Evangelical Who Doesn’t Vote Republican

According to the Pew Research Center, I shouldn’t vote the way that I do. Statistics from a large study conducted last year confirm what seems like common knowledge–white, evangelical Protestants like me overwhelmingly vote Republican.

The stats:

  • White Evangelical Protestants (all ages):
    • 68% Republican/22% Democratic
  • White Evangelical Protestant Millenials (under 34):
    • 70% Republican/19% Democratic

As you may have gathered, I don’t vote Republican, and barring some drastic change to the modern Republican party, I don’t see myself doing so for the foreseeable future. This puts me in the significant minority for the combined factors of my race, religion and age. So what? Here’s the thing that makes me a little bit interesting: I am not a registered Democrat. I’m an independent who once voted for the GOP.

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*By the way, it’s not common practice for me to talk about my political views. I have always believed in the old adage that it’s rude to talk about politics in mixed company (including virtually), and I think most of the people who post a lot about politics online are looking for a fight and/or attention. I’ve also worried ever since college that other Christians would think badly of me for my views (see more below). But I’m not 20 years old anymore, and I can’t be scared out of sharing my opinion because someone else may not agree.*

So consider this a coming-out party of sorts. What changed with me? Here’s the story.

I voted for the first time in the 2008 presidential primary in Tennessee, when I was 20 years old and a sophomore in college. This is before I really followed politics closely, but I checked out all of the candidates and chose someone who I thought had integrity and who had similar moral values to mine. I voted for Mike Huckabee.

During this election season, I was in college at a small, conservative, Southern Baptist university. It was a given in this environment that if you were a good person and Christian, you would of course vote Republican, and I think this is partly why I did the first time.

As that year progressed and the nominees for both parties were chosen, I started to really investigate what both candidates believed. I found things that I agreed with on both sides, but I became increasingly troubled by the Republican party’s platform. Did I really agree that taxes should be lowered for millionaires? Did I agree that it should be easier for all Americans to access and own guns? Did I agree that the government had little to no responsibility to provide for the poor? No, no and no.

And I found Barack Obama very inspiring. His positive message of hope and change spoke to me, and I believed that he would really change things for the better. I also wanted a chance to help elect the first black president. Still, John McCain is a fairly moderate Republican, and if Sarah Palin hadn’t been his nominee for VP, I just might have voted for him. But if there’s one thing I absolutely cannot stand, it’s anti-intellectualism, which to me she epitomizes.

So I voted for Obama in the general election. I felt so excited and empowered to vote my conscience, at least until my friend/roommate/sorority sister told me that she was mad at me, and that I should keep this information to myself unless I wanted everyone else to judge me, too. She also mentioned that almost everyone she knew would react badly to a black man being president, so there was no way Obama could win and I had thrown away my vote. True story: I came back to our apartment that day with a water bottle with an “Obama ’08” sticker that had been handed to me at the polls. I put it in our shared fridge. Later I found the Obama sticker ripped off of it and in several pieces in the trash can. Nice, right?

I’ve voted Democratic ever since. I don’t agree with all parts of their platform, but it most closely mirrors my values at this point. Each election year, I truly give all candidates a chance, and I could conceivably vote for a moderate Republican (a rare beast these days). But the post-Obama Republican party has so far had nothing to offer me. I find the elitist, xenophobic, racist, obstructionist strains of the GOP that have emerged over the past eight years morally repugnant, and totally incompatible with my faith in Jesus and my understanding of his teachings.

As a moderate, young, white, educated, evangelical Protestant in a battleground state, I see myself as something of a test case for what is wrong with the modern Republican party, and why their electorate is shrinking every year. Republicans want people like me to vote for them. Unless the party undergoes a dramatic change, that will continue to happen less and less.