Dear White Evangelicals: An Intervention Letter

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Dear white evangelicals,

Roy Moore? That seemed okay to you?

He's a more unpleasant and shriveled version of Donald Trump (how is that even possible btw?)—except he speaks the evangelical lingo with considerably more facility.

And the political dopes who are running interference for them? What're you thinking?

Look, I’m probably the last guy you want to hear from. I know I’m an imperfect messenger, having so publicly left the evangelical fold years ago, but somebody’s got to say something: Please stop.

I’m not sure how else to say it. Just. please. stop.

You can’t date these guys. You can’t. They're only going to leave you with a hangover and an overnight case full of bitter recrimination. I know it’s difficult to hear from me, a guy who walked out on you all those years ago. And I’m not going to insult you by saying that it wasn’t you; it was me. Clearly, I had some problems (I know I can be a jerk); but just to start out on an honest footing, a lot of it was you.

But I’m not writing to rehash our old quarrels. You see, the thing is, as infuriating as you are to me, I still love you—not in the can-we-get-back-together-and-share-housekeys-again sense—but in the sense of the nostalgic fondness old lovers sometimes share for simpler times. It may not seem like it, but I still care about what happens to you.

And I’ll be honest, I don’t want to see you headed down the aisle with these halfwits. You deserve so much better than them. For all our differences, I still believe that you and I share a common love. That we choose to express it differently doesn’t mean we don’t still have some important history together. That’s why I feel like I have to say something before you find yourself at the altar with a partner who doesn’t really want you, but only wants something from you.

Oh sure, they say they love you. They say they care about all the same things you care about. But I know you—or at least I thought I did. The you I remember had a set of convictions that animated your passions, convictions that not only don't they share, but convictions, the largest portion of which, I suspect they couldn’t even name. Love, compassion, integrity, refraining from sexually abusing or harassing women . . . seem totally foreign to those who are using you.

You’ve been jilted in the past—like systematically dumped by others who made big promises they never had any intention of delivering on. And the culture has made you feel like hidebound yokels who still believe in the Great Pumpkin. You're tired of being sneered at by pointy-headed snobs. I get it.

I get the feelings of betrayal and vulnerability you carry around with you.  I understand the seething resentment at being treated like dolts. But you have weaponized your grievance. You've made it into a cudgel with which to punish those people who've shamed you.

And I just can't square that with the memories of you I have.

You've felt yourselves losing cultural influence for some time now. Once, an influential socio-political force, white evangelicals have fallen on hard times of late. Same sex marriage is legal. Planned Parenthood hasn’t been destroyed. The general population is more concerned with income inequality, systemic racism, regressive taxation, sexual misconduct, and the plight of 11 million undocumented workers than with the fact that people are saying “Happy holidays!” on the lawns of city halls unadorned by Ten Commandments exhibits. (Oh, don’t look at me like that; I’ve seen your Facebook pages.)

And the understandable reaction when you’ve been the cultural homecoming king and queen forever—but then start finding yourself repeatedly stuck at the “wrong” lunch table—is to feel like dark forces are conspiring against you. These dark forces get filed under the heading, “political correctness,” which is really just that state of affairs in which it’s no longer safe to disparage people you feel are undeserving of your respect.

And that’s a tough pill to swallow. So, when somebody comes along and seems genetically engineered to say the kinds of things you might like to say about the changing shape of the cultural landscape, your ears perk up. But even more than the things you agree with, how can you not love people with the stones to say things that aren’t safe anymore, to say things that give you hope that your time at the cool kids’ table doesn’t have to be over?

That’s what I think it is. That’s what attracts white evangelicals to Donald Trump, and Roy Moore, and the rest of the shameless hypocrites who make them possible: The dream of relevance.

How about this: Would you agree to leave them if everybody promised not to make fun of you anymore?

Some of us have been talking—yes, the old gang. We still care about you. So, this is an intervention. Enough is enough. We can’t bear the thought of seeing you debase yourself, selling your soul to these scam artists.

What would your parents say if they knew you were running around with people who play footsie with the KKK and the Kremlin?

How would you even begin to explain to them the reflexive lying? They raised you to value the truth, not to treat it as a fungible commodity that can endlessly shaped or ignored by those who don't have any reverence for it.

How will you hold your head up down at bridge club when the little old ladies ask about your new love interest, and you have to admit that they can be charming . . . at least when they're not defrauding the unwitting and the vulnerable—pretty much little old ladies?

What are you going to tell your children about them stealing money from nine million children who need health insurance—so they and their friends can buy an extra Lexus?

How are you going to look the rest of the family in the eye at Thanksgiving and tell them that, sure they call many of your sisters and brothers “rapists” and “murderers” and “pigs” and “terrorists,” and they treat women like toys and baby repositories, but then so does drunk uncle Leo from Schenectady—so it's all pretty much the same thing?

You’re headed down a road that’s going to break your heart. But that’s not even the worst of it; the road you’re headed down looks like it's liable to break the world—at least the one we’ve known. You’re the one who always used to talk about “universal absolutes”; the only absolute these shape-shifters recognize is the one that allows them to do absolutely as they please, for whatever reason amuses them at the moment.

Do you really want to hook up with a love interest who doesn’t know how to say "sorry," who thinks asking for forgiveness is for suckers? That doesn’t sound like your true love, the brown Middle Eastern refugee you’ve always claimed to be so attached to.

If I remember correctly, that guy was always about humility and sacrifice. These jackasses believe that getting rich is a sacrifice.

That guy spent his time on the wrong side of the tracks, hanging out with the loan sharks and hookers. Your new flame has made money assiduously avoiding the “riffraff” at best, and actively sticking it to them at worst.

That guy used to talk about turning the other cheek, about loving your enemies and blessing those who curse you. These chuckleheads have a personal creed that revolves around revenge for even the most passing of slights.

Seriously, if you told these guys to take up a cross, they'd probably think you meant for them to gold plate it.

So please, for Christ’s sake, just stop. There are a lot of people counting on you to wake up and remember who you are.

I’ll always love you, but I also want to respect you.

Love,

Derek