The Sunday after the 2016 election, I went to church as I usually do. While there, I commiserated with other members of my congregation. We shared our fears and our disappointment openly with one another. We offered comfort and solace to one another as we sorted through our feelings about the election of Donald J. Trump.
Sharing the political opinions of my church isn’t something I’ve been able to do for nearly 20 years, so it was a bit strange to me.
There has been a lot of talk following this election about voters, particularly liberal voters, living in bubbles. The shock of the outcome was proof that liberal elites were out of touch with everyday folks in favor of strong borders, pro-life SCOTUS appointments, and “telling it like it is.”
That I went to church following the election and was able to talk to others who were saddened and frightened by the results points to just how out of touch I am. It proves that I only want to surround myself with like-minded individuals, creating an echo chamber of liberalism. It proves that I live in a bubble.
The truth is, I’ve spent the better part of 20 years in churches where I was far outside of that bubble. Most of my adult life has been spent in conservative evangelical churches. I’ve lived in West Virginia (a state where every single county went red in this election) for 18 years, and most of my real life relationships during that time have been with people who hold much more conservative views that me.
I’ve listened to sermons about how homosexuality is a sin. I’ve sat in Bible studies that have talked about how wives should be submissive to their husbands. I’ve read derisive comments from pastors about things like evolution and climate change. I’ve come to my car after a church service countless times to find flyers from the Right to Life movement stuck under my windshield. I’ve heard ministers of the gospel dismiss institutional racism with a breezy statement like, "we don't have a skin issue, we have a sin issue."
I have never once had an evangelical pastor share why some Christians believe that there is nothing sinful with a gay or lesbian couple marrying or invite a transgender person share why bathroom bills hurt them. I have never attended a Bible study that discussed ways for women to plant a church. I have never heard a scientist be given the floor to talk about how we can be better stewards of the earth. I have never heard a sermon on how things like school lunch programs and health care might fall under the umbrella of pro-life. I have never heard a sermon on the sin of racism and how it is kept alive by the Church.
Opposing views are mentioned only to be labeled as sinful or divisive. They are never offered as another way to read Scripture, or more, as ideas that should be considered for change. There may be different speakers on the stage, but they speak with one voice and it is the only one the congregation should hear.
At the last evangelical church I attended, I was asked not to return as long as I remained supportive of my transgender son and daughter. During our final conversation, the pastor asked me, “Why do you want to attend church where you disagree with people?”
That, my friends, is the construction of a bubble.
When the leader of a church can’t fathom why someone who believes differently might want to fellowship with Christians who hold opposing views, you have cut yourself off from a portion of the Body.
I can hear the naysayers now.
“That’s not my experience!”
“We’d never kick someone out for having a different opinion!”
“Lots of people disagree at my church and we all get along fine!”
But I know that there’s an evangelical bubble, because 81% of evangelicals abandoned their principles to vote for a man who had none. The fruits of the spirit were altogether missing in the Republican candidate, but because the messages of nationalism and populism have been ingrained in the message of the gospel, that lack didn’t matter and as a bloc, evangelicals voted for a leader who was the antithesis of all that they taught me a leader should be. They have isolated themselves from opposing thought for so long, that a voice praising the accumulation of wealth, mocking the disabled, dismissing sexual abuse, and disrespecting the sacrament of communion seemed reasonable.
So yes, I’m in a bubble. But know that I’m there because you refused to allow me into yours.