What It’s Like to be a White, Conservative, Christian Woman on Facebook These Days

FEELING A LITTLE RIDICULOUS 

On Friday, January 20, I shared a photo of me and two friends at the spa. The overnight was a birthday gift to my friend from her husband and we were ridiculously spoiled. Seriously. While I was receiving my Swedish massage, and, in particular, when the massage therapist wrapped my feet in warm towels, I kept repeating over and over in my mind, this is so good, it’s ridiculous. And trust me when I say, visions of starving children, women marching on Washington and homeless people huddled around fires paraded through my mind more than once.

Before posting the photo of us, my friends and I joked about the caption and landed on this: “Some women march on Washington. We march to the spa. #merica”

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-6-48-34-pm

It was ironic. And silly. And yes, ridiculous. But that was the point.

At first glance, some may have just seen three privileged white women. And I suppose we are. But that’s not the whole story. Is it ever?

A BRIEF HISTORY

In rural Connecticut 1973, I was born the daughter of white teenagers. One set of grandparents were Polish immigrants, coal miners and tobacco farmers. The other set farmers and blue collar workers. My parents divorced when I was two and my dad left us. My mother remarried and they had a son, but when I was six, my stepfather became ill. To support our family, my mom worked a full-time insurance job and waitressed at night. We moved 21 times before I was twelve, the same year my stepfather died, at which point my mother bought a house. Even though we moved a lot, I attended the same school district in Simsbury, Connecticut for 12 years. Then, in the midst of a rebellious adolescence, I became a follower of Jesus Christ.

When I was 18, I met a white man at a local, beach volleyball pit (sand, no beach). He had lived his entire life in Simsbury, had just graduated junior college and was painting houses for a living. His parents were married as were his grandparents; they were financial professionals, doctors and nurses. We had our first daughter together when I was 19 and he was 23. We married that same year and had a second daughter seven years later. Over the years, my husband has worked his way up through the aerospace division of a local company and I have focused primarily on being a mom while working as a nursery school director, bookkeeper and now, a church Communications Director. We own a 1500 square foot cape and I drive a used car, enabling us to pay for private high school, college tuition and travel more than we once did. (Though my husband’s frequent flyer points come in handy!) We are also active in our church and community and do what we can with our time and money to make the world a better place. Could we do more? Definitely.

ABOUT MY PRIVILEGE AND WHO I AM TODAY

Do you recognize privilege in that story? I do. I’m white in a country that has a history of oppressing people of other races and ethnicities. I had a parent who provided for me and grandparents who helped when they could. I had the opportunity to attend one of the nation’s top public school systems. I married a white man who had two parents, grew up in the same education system and whose parents paid for him to go to college. Our families continue to live nearby and have always been supportive.

I am grateful for all the opportunities that I have had, especially because most of those are not privileges I chose. I did not choose my skin color, my parents, my school system or my husband’s background.

Yet there are other, less glamorous things I didn’t choose, as well. I know what it’s like to grow up poor in a wealthy town. To have a fourth-grade teacher tell my best friend, in front of the class, that I am “no good” and not to hang around me, simply because I live in the wrong part of town with an unconventional family. To be home with a sick parent and baby brother while the other parent works nights. To share a two-bedroom apartment with my mom, brother and grandparents. To juggle school and an afterschool job with whatever extracurriculars I can manage. To be made fun of for being a stupid, clumsy “Polack”.

My friends from the photo have similar stories. They were not rich and their lives were not easy. But, yes; they, like me, were born with some privileges. They, like me, do not know what it is to grow up oppressed. But they, like me, do not take that for granted. They are kind, compassionate, loving women who are committed to their families, work harder than half the people I know and give of their time, talents and money to make the world a better place.

Perhaps the greatest irony is that these two women and I are a united voice for the equality of women in the Christian church and culture. We are also, in various ways, actively engaged in ministries such as racial reconciliation, investing in under-resourced communities, the fight against human trafficking in Connecticut and bettering the lives of those in Greater Hartford and around the world.

AFRAID

How I hate to think that my post of the three of us offended and perhaps even hurt people we care about. I generally avoid political discourse on social media for that very reason – because I have friends, colleagues, family and acquaintances on far ends of the political spectrum and I love them all. I never want our political differences to come between us. Ever.

But, if I’m being totally honest, as a Christian woman who leans conservative but also does not fit in the classic conservative box, I feel marginalized when it comes to having a voice that is respected in the current atmosphere, especially on social media. I am not suggesting that my plight is the same as that of a black woman or a gay teenager or a Muslim immigrant. I simply want you to know that I do feel a bit bullied into silence; and most of that pressure comes from other women. I am truly afraid to say what I believe for fear of being misunderstood, judged, lashed out against and so on. But most of all, I am afraid of losing my friends.

In this era of click-bait headlines, soundbites and comedy show newsgathering, who has time to hear my story of how I was adamantly pro-choice until I experienced the physical, emotional and spiritual ravages of abortion firsthand? Who wants to sit down over a cup of tea and hear me tell of my first and limited childhood experiences with people of another race, and how that unknowingly shaped my relationships with black people for decades thereafter? Who wants to hear me explain why I believe that individuals, churches and other shared-value organizations can better meet people’s needs than the government ever will? That I would love to be able to give more of my time and income to building relationships with people and investing in their lives?

Can you be curious or interested or respectful, without shutting me out or scrolling away?

HEARING IS SOMETHING WE DO

The question is the same for me as it is for you. Are we willing to hear one another? Biblically, the word “hear” is often used as an active verb that results in the hearer doing something in response to what he or she heard. On a good day, we may listen to the words we say, but how often do we really hear?

Actually, have you ever noticed that the word “hear” is literally part of the word “heart”? To truly know you, to know your very heart, I must do more than listen, I must hear.

So if we were to try to hear one another today, to know one another’s hearts, what would be the “doing” part? I’m no expert, but after all this blah blah-ing I thought I’d offer up a suggestion that begins and ends with love.

  1. Love: Love is a choice and a verb. So, first, choose to love the person despite your differences, by being kind, compassionate, truthful, respectful, and gracious.
  2. Let Go: Set aside prejudice, judgment and all defensive weapons. (I’m thinking figurative weapons but setting down literal weapons is probably a good idea, too.)
  3. Listen: Pay attention to what the person is truly saying, not what you think they are saying.
  4. Look: Try to see things from their perspective. Ask yourself, what does life or this issue look like to them? How does this differ from my experience?
  5. Learn: Seek and embrace new insights and understanding from their knowledge and experience. There is always something to learn.
  6. Love: Continue to actively love the person regardless of your differences. Then consider (and ask God) how what you learned can help you better love those around you.

Wouldn’t it be great if we were able to hear what’s truly on the hearts of those women who didn’t feel represented at the march? What about those who felt so compelled to go that they gave up time, energy and money to travel across the country to march in the freezing cold? Imagine if we made an effort to understand the neighbor who voted for Trump, or the sister who voted for Clinton or the co-worker who voted for a third-party candidate.

Or this lady, who voted for Ron Swanson.

screen-shot-2017-01-23-at-6-50-25-pm

BEGIN AND END WITH LOVE

I know I’m beginning to sound a bit like a Beatles song or a Coke commercial, so I will wrap up with this: in my experience, I have found that most of us, at our core, want the same things.  We love our families, our friends and neighbors and we want them to experience all the best that life offers. We love our country and this world. We are seeking what is good and right and best for our future and the future of those who come after us. We may not always agree on how to get there, but our hearts all long for the same things – truth, goodness, beauty and love.

This very universe we inhabit began with love and someday, will end with love. And all the acts of truth, goodness and beauty that have colored in this vast, dark, mysterious expanse of time and space, will live on like gems refined in the fire of a thousand suns. So let us run after these things together. Truth. Goodness. Beauty. And may we always begin and end with love. ~NP

What do you think? What did I miss? Do you have anything to add? Or changes you can recommend? Because I am here and I want to hear you.

© Nichole Q Perreault

 

 

 

Advertisements

22 thoughts on “What It’s Like to be a White, Conservative, Christian Woman on Facebook These Days

  1. YuP … right where i’m at. I took a risk and made a statement on FB today. And, i’m sure it cost me “friends.” I, too, wish we could all hear each other without feeling threatened. Thank you for taking the time … and, the risk. ❤

    • Thanks Julie! I am praying that we all use this season as an opportunity to grow in our ability to hear one another without judgment. It may not be easy but nothing worthwhile is.

  2. I love reading your blogs. It’s funny how you grew up literally one town over and our experiences with diversity are completely different. I guess it depends on what side of the Avon mountain we grow up on. I would love to sit down one day and share more. See ya at church 🙂
    – Christina

  3. Nichole,
    I actually read one of your posts within and hour of you posting!! It truly is a miracle.

    Like you, I have felt a lot of the same things in regards to FB these days. Not wanting to
    be misunderstood, hurt or offend. Like you I am a conservative white Christian woman who grew up in Simsbury for the majority of my life. While I now know that I was privileged for many of the same reasons you stated, I really just felt like any other kid. I was friends with all the kids who lived at the ABC house (A Better Chance) and the kids that were part of Project Concern (kids who attended school in Simsbury and lived in Hartford) as well as the kids who just lived in town.
    So for me, unity/diversity were part of my life. I don’t remember really noticing or caring about the skin color of my friends, they were just my friends. The foundation was friendship, school and love.

    The sermon that was shared last week at church about Sanctity of Life, really hit the point, we need to be purposeful about accepting and loving each other as we are in all our differences. I agree with your points of Let Go, Listen, Look, Learn and Love. What I have found as I have embraced these principles, is that there were some prejudices that I inherited, that I became aware of as a result of growing up white in Simsbury. It has only been in the last 12 years that I have been convicted of my wrong thinking. Some of it I didn’t even know was wrong thinking until God showed me the truth about myself.

    I am so thankful that I now have some really great friends who are not white. I love what I have learned from them. These friends I love have opened my eyes to the truths that there is still racial inequality. It breaks my heart, BUT because I see it I can try to change it, I can pray for change, I can be a voice as I become more enlightened to the things that they experience. My hope and prayer is that as we all continue to talk about it, we will embrace the reality, that underneath our skin color, party affiliations, whatever, God made us the same inside. We all get hurt and bleed the same color, so let us love one another and seek to be like Jesus.

    Love you my friend, thanks for sharing your heart –

    • It is a miracle! Nancy, this is beautiful. So honest and humble. Thank you so much for sharing. You are a great friend and I am so grateful that God made us neighbors too!

  4. Nichole – you so beautifully expressed much of what is on my mind. And I feel exactly what you feel: that as a conservative, Christian woman who is very happy to be such, I am marginalized, looked down upon, and dismissed by many women. Thanks for sharing so honestly and openly. I’m blessed to know you.

  5. Nichole, your writing is beautiful and such a gift to all of us. I so love reading your blog, and I always appreciate you sharing your thoughts so openly with all of us. This is a great reminder that we need to open our hearts and be respectful, as we all have thoughts to bring to the table, even if we don’t agree with them. I am going to keep your list of reminders, that begins and ends with love, as my own reminder. I am so blessed that you are my neighbor and dear friend!

  6. Your friend Beth, also my good friend, shared your article earlier today. Thank you for such a thoughtful piece. For starters, I’m not angry you marched to the spa, I’m just jealous. 😉 Good for you! Sounds like you are a hard working mom who badly needed the getaway, and that is something we all need.

    A voice like yours IS needed. MANY more than you realize DO want to hear your story. One of the turning points in my work in politics years ago was a conversation I had with a former pro-choice abortion advocate. Prior to the night I was forced (by God, I think..we were at a party where the only two people to show up were us!!) to talk to her face to face with no interruptions for a couple of hours, I saw the abortion issue as pretty cut and dry: the murder of babies vs. saving the babies. And at its core, that is what it is…but behind that “issue” are real women with real lives and real hurts, and behind her previously VERY passionate fight for choice was a heart that was broken over having had not one, but many abortions. We talked for a long time, we cried, and she shared her heart. For the first time, I saw that “issue” through a different lens. So, let me encourage you: share your stories. You never know who God will place in your path that needs to hear it, regardless of which “side” they are on.

    The only point I seem to see a tad differently is that my skin color — white (American Indian/caucasian mix) — is not privilege. That is how God made me. The fact that I was born in America? For that I know I’m privileged, and beyond blessed. But each individual, whether she is white or black or brown or yellow, is privileged because that is how God made her.

    It would serve us all well to drop our guard, and as you point out, hear the heart of others. Thank you for that reminder. I believe it’s completely okay to get angry when God is being mocked, or when the unborn are so carelessly tossed aside like trash, but behind those very awful things are – in this case – women who are desperately hurting. While they certainly do not and will never speak for me, I certainly can learn to have compassion and figure out a way to reach them/come alongside them, and without a doubt, pray for them.

    May God richly bless you. Don’t ever stop sharing your heart!

    • Hi Tami. Thank you for your response and for all that you shared. I appreciate your comments on privilege. I actually think I could have worded that better. Being white is not a privilege in and of itself. However, I do believe that in America, white people have been spared much of the oppression and barriers that minorities face. That is the “privilege” to which I was referring. Regarding the issue of abortion, I have been blessed to share my story with many women at speaking engagements and one-on-one. You can hardly imagine the relief a woman experiences when she realizes she is not alone and that there is mercy at the cross. I am so glad you took the time to talk with a woman with whom you disagreed so strongly. I’m sure that your compassion and consideration ministered to her far more than any well-worded argument ever could have. Thanks again, Tami. It’s been a pleasure to chat with you.

  7. **I should correct my comment on privilege above by saying that, in my opinion, my own skin color is not a UNIQUE privilege. We are all privileged that the creator of the universe made only one of us…uniquely you…regardless of your nationality or pigment. That was my only point. 😉

  8. Nichole, that was an amazing post. I recently started a blog here on wordpress and I have been looking for other good blogs to follow and keep up with. Your blog is definitely one of those! I am a christian woman who holds conservative values as well, but I just want to love others like Christ does just like you stated. Love covers a multitude of sins! 🙂 God Bless!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s