A couple of years ago, a well-known white supremacist moved to North Dakota. He bought an abandoned, run down house a few miles from the Canadian border, and much to the dismay of the town’s small population, moved in.
I happened to visit that town a few weeks ago, and of course, drove past his house.
It was disgusting.
In addition to being in obvious disrepair, the house now has offensive anti-Semitic phrases painted in black, bold lettering on the siding, a white nationalist flag waving in the wind. My husband and I shook our heads and drove a little faster, not wanting the four kids in our backseat to start asking questions that have ugly answers.
Another white supremacist has been in the headlines lately—but this one doesn’t fit the typical profile of what you probably imagine when you conjure up a white supremacist. She’s a mother of six, a self-described follower of Christ and the Mormon Church, and an extremely active member of the alt-right, white nationalist movement operating under the guise of standing for traditional values.
Stop right there.
Think back, for a minute, to that man I mentioned at the beginning. That town he’s living in? It’s FULL of people who support traditional values. You’re either Catholic or Lutheran (with a few Methodists sprinkled in for variety). Hard-working, decent people live there working the land, raising their families, improving their community. They show kindness to perfect strangers, and they’re the sort of folks who are quick to invite you to the church basement for ham sandwiches and cold salads if you happen to be in town.
But these people who generally describe themselves as being conservative? They’re horrified to be lumped in with the likes of white nationalists who pervert a perfectly valid and widely held worldview.
I know, because I’m one of them.
It’s almost scary to say aloud these days: “I’m a conservative.” But I, like millions of others, am. I believe marriage should be between a man and a woman. I’m pro-life. I’d like to see the federal government be less involved in our lives.
In no way, shape, or form, do I support racism or white supremacy. I don’t hate immigrants. I’m not interested in running lesbians out of town on rails. I know what I believe, and I’m respectful of those who disagree with me. Full stop.
That mom blogger and her nearly 30,000 Twitter followers turns my stomach. That spray painted hate speech makes my heart hurt. They don’t represent me, and they don’t represent the millions of other conservatives who are becoming increasingly afraid to talk about their beliefs—for fear of being equated to people like them.
It’s possible to hold traditional values without being a bigoted, homophobic monster. It’s possible to have beliefs without persecuting others. It’s possible to love someone who holds a different view than mine, or lives his life differently than I do.
It’s called being a decent human being.
One night, when my oldest daughter was a kindergartener, she was in the bathtub happily splashing away. Then, completely out of nowhere, she chirped, “There’s a boy in my class who has two moms, did you know that? Wouldn’t it be fun to have two moms?”
My heart stopped. I wasn’t prepared for this conversation yet. I wasn’t sure how to approach something so delicate, how to explain to her that we believe God intended marriage to be between a mommy and a daddy. But we don’t get advance warnings for these teachable moments.
I remember taking a deep breath, looking into her big, expectant eyes, and telling her that you know, some people live differently than we do, and they might not believe the things we do about what the Bible teaches. It’s like how we don’t say “Oh my God,” in our house, but some other people do.
Her brow furrowed, and I could see her mind working, teetering on the edge of a judgment that could define this issue, or at the very least lay the groundwork for her beliefs.
I told her then what I’ll tell all of my children whenever this kind of conversation comes: “Just because we see things differently, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be friends. We can love everyone—we should love everyone—and we can be different from each other.”
She brightened. Yes. This was a thing her five-year-old mind understood. I think it’s a lesson the world needs to be reminded of.
We can hold different views from one another. We do hold different views from one another. And guess what? WHO CARES.
Radicals like that alt-right blogger or the white supremacist don’t believe that—and that’s what makes them monsters.