One of my angry liberal friends recently asked me whether, morally speaking, it was acceptable to maintain friendships with Trump supporters who, by their silence and inaction, are condoning all the awful things Trump has said and done. If my friend had read the New Testament, I think, he would have had his answer, morally, but there are many other precincts of life where remaining tolerant of Trump and his people is not so clear.
I live in a rural corner of a very wealthy county in the South. Here, Trump support comes in equal parts from what the press describes as “disenfranchised and angry white people” and upscale Tea Party Republicans. There are few moderates in this area, and even fewer liberals.
I have several dear friends living here who are Trump supporters. They are kind and considerate people, generous and affectionate, and they have been very good and helpful to me during my troubled times. I would not have to ask them twice if there were something I needed. They are intelligent, thoughtful, law-abiding people. They have college degrees, they work hard, and have done very well for themselves materially. They are not fools.
And yet they disagree with me about many of today’s inflammatory concerns, including gay rights and gay marriage, reducing gun violence, immigration policy, tax policy, and governmental assistance to the poor, including basic health care. Much of what they believe is based on their historical culture and religion. Most of them believe in the Bible absolutely. They tend to believe, for example, that the Muslim world as a whole– not just ISIS– is waging a holy war to destroy Christianity, and can be opposed only with overwhelming responsive violence. They have become fearful of terrorism and crime, even in our little town, and many of them carry firearms every day.
They are generally aware of how I feel about these matters– to the extent that they are concerned at all– and for reasons far deeper than mere courtesy, they do not talk about social and political issues except in indirect generalities. And I don’t either. We respect each other absolutely, and we all know we will not change each others’ minds by argument. We know that those fruitless arguments– particularly those rooted in religious faith– erode respect for each other and invariably damage human friendships and trust. All of us know that, despite all that rages in the larger world around us, not much of it is an imminent threat to the way we live with each other every day.
Woe betide us, if the time should come when our differences require us to choose sides against each other. I cannot imagine how difficult that choice would be and, for that very reason, I do not feel that it is likely to happen. Perhaps our webs of friendship would sustain us, but let us never forget what Proverbs tells us:
“Woe to him that troubleth his own house, for he shall inherit the whirlwind.”.
So my answer to my angry liberal friend’s question is a resounding “yes.” I cannot see how the hysteria of the moment, which has grown particularly acute in these fraught times, should be allowed to break up relationships of love and respect between friends whose importance goes far beyond politics.
What it boils down to, I think, is Love. Loving your neighbor, as Christ put it, is not a matter of your neighbor’s political or social beliefs, but of a human commitment to the inherent value of each of us that transcends the trials of our passing lives.