Where do secular liberals and religious conservatives stand shoulder to shoulder?
In refugee resettlement.
It turns out that a literal reading of the Bible dovetails neatly with what some see is as a liberal cause. But refugee resettlement is not blue or red. It's a unifying cause, as documented in The Stranger Among You: How the Faith-Based Refugee Resettlement Movement is Shattering Our Red and Blue Silos.
The book covers a national movement in the Bible Belt and other red states that sees evangelicals and other religious conservatives taking the words of the Bible literally and treating the foreigner as their neighbor, and that neighbor as their brother or sister. These are people seeking to live the words of the Bible in Matthew, John, and Leviticus by helping the very refugees the Trump administration seeks to keep out of the country.
And in doing so they are reaching out to the community beyond their church doors.
The result: Trump voters and Clinton voters, pro-lifers and pro-choicers, the religious and the secular are leaving their political comfort zones to work in solidarity to support refugees here in the U.S.
It's a grassroots movement flying beneath the radar of professional prognosticators and armchair political junkies.
Pundits both professional and amateurs look at the big numbers-80 percent of white evangelicals voted for Trump (they always vote Republican)-and miss the story behind them. And that is the fact that not everyone who is Republican or religious is in lockstep with all of the national party's positions. And that includes not just do-gooders laboring in the trenches but elected leaders like Republican governors.
In an era in which this nation seems increasingly polarized, barricading themselves in political bunkers on the left and the right, there are some chinks in the walls so many of us seem to be hiding behind.
In fact there's turmoil within the ranks of religious conservatives. Many are deeply disturbed by the fact that Donald Trump has become their nominal leader. Pastors supporting Trump garner the headlines. What many miss are the full-page ads repeatedly taken out in national media like The New York Times in which evangelical and other conservative religious leaders protest the Trump administration's stance on refugees. Groups like the National Association of Evangelicals have testified in Congress in favor of admitting more refugees. And, at home, social-justice minded evangelicals work to help the very people the Trump administration seeks to ban.
Going to church, it turns out, has a moderating effect. Conservatives who go to church frequently are far more open to "the other," that is, those "outside the camp," the very people Jesus reached out to help.
The New York Times has reported that evangelicals are questioning the ties between evangelicalism and Republican politics. It said many young evangelicals "struggle with an administration they see as hostile to immigrants, Muslims, L.G.B.T.Q. people, and the poor. They feel it reflects a loss of humanity, which conflicts with their spiritual call."
And a September 2018 study by the Democracy Fund Voter Study Group, a collaborative group of analysts and scholars from across the political spectrum, found that Trump voters who go to church frequently were less enthusiastic about travel bans on Muslims immigrating to the U.S. and had more favorable feelings toward Muslims overall.
So check your stereotypes at the door and start reading!
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About the Author
A native of a purple-to-red corner of Wisconsin, she now lives in New York City, gateway for generations of immigrants and refugees. Among them: her great-great grandparents, who fled starvation and persecution in Ireland. Ann Rice and John Rice were married in St. Brigid's Church on Tompkins Square Park in New York City's East Village in 1853, and then followed the railroad to Wisconsin.
Rice is an enthusiastic traveler, runner, skier, bookworm, java junkie and Green Bay Packer fan. Above all, she is an American who has learned that to be a citizen of this great country is both a gift and a responsibility.
This is her first book.