Since March, we’ve all adjusted to a new normal. Some of it has been wonderful. Being stuck at home with my family has been the sweetest blessing. We were already home together a lot, but Covid keeping us on lockdown pushed us to embrace together. I’m glad for any excuse to spend more time with my precious child when kids grow up too fast.
But the lockdowns have also had a very dark side for many, even aside from financial concerns. Moving all of our social lives online has devastated my personal friendship community. Something happens when we don’t look into each other’s eyes, smile together, laugh, pray. When all we see are words on a computer screen, it’s far too easy to forget the heart of the person on the other side belongs to someone created in the image of God, for whom Christ died, just like me.
This week has been particularly heartbreaking for me. I’ve found that people I know and liked in real life, and who I consider friends, have decided I’m deplorable. They don’t understand how I could believe, think, vote . . . (fill in the blank). And when we try to have a discussion, the chasm-like division between us is insurmountable.
It’s like we’re living in two different worlds.
Something happened Saturday that has me just flabbergasted. I saw that there was a march or rally in DC in support of President Trump. I watched a live feed without any commentary. People were singing “I’m proud to be an American” and waving flags and laughing. There was some chanting, but everything seemed upbeat and happy. Most of the participants looked like my parents at a Fourth of July parade.
A mainstream news channel’s coverage of the event was absolute fear-mongering. While I’m sure there were unsavory elements in the crowd, the journalists painted the event with as evil a brush as possible. Essentially, “Look at all these racists, (never mind that the crowd was mixed ethnically) and who knows if they are armed or will turn violent.” They made it sound like the four horsemen of the apocalypse were coming for everyone of color.
These are the same journalists who have stood in front of burning cars and looting and called protests mostly peaceful. What makes things even worse is that the rally did end with violence, but mostly from the rally disrupters trying to silence anyone supporting Trump. Children and families were attacked. Old men were beaten. I am heartbroken over the state of our relationships with each other as human beings.
This is why we are more divided in America than in any other period in my lifetime. The media is spinning stories to outrage us, to get our clicks and attention because that is literally what pays their bills. They are motivated by money to spin us all into ‘righteous indignation’ to line their own pockets. And they are blatantly misleading America to do so. If we don’t realize every piece of media we consume is dripping with agenda, we don’t recognize how much propaganda we’ve adopted as truth.
I know people who believe I am racist because I voted for and supported Trump. Because they believe the media spin on what he has done and who he is. Regardless of what you believe, you need to trust me that the media is telling you what they want you to think, not necessarily the truth. Several times in the course of the past week I watched live events and press conferences, only to see the press deliberately mischaracterize them beyond all recognition.
First, I don’t believe Trump actually is racist. I think it is a useful characterization, carefully crafted to stimulate a knee-jerk reaction in the populace. He has said and done some things I would not have done, but I don’t know that his actual policies or positions were motivated by race, even if some appeared that way.
My sensitive heart hates that he does things that make all conservatives appear insensitive to the plights of all people because that could not be further from the truth for every conservative I know. I literally do not know a single racist conservative personally.
Secondly, I wonder if my former friends, the ones who’ve walked away across the political divide, know I supported Obama for President in 2008 and 2012? When I began to see that his words and policies didn’t align with each other, or what I believe is best for our country, I supported Ben Carson for President; I messaged his page to encourage him to run, and I donated to his campaign. When Carson dropped out, I tolerated Trump because he was better than Hillary in 2016. And I voted for Trump because of his conservative platform and commitment to constitutional originalism in 2020.
But I still hate a lot of things he does. His behavior is like a petulant child far too often, but overall his policies have been excellent in many ways for our country and have done a lot to help raise people of all kinds out of poverty and to bring back industry and ingenuity to America.
If you’ve stuck with me this long, thank you. My point is that the media is deliberately telling us to focus on racism and anger everywhere. If there is none, they manufacture some. The same exact story is spun to enrage the reader as much as possible. I try to read every news story from left, right and center as often as possible, which has really opened my eyes.
My whole life I never really thought about race. I wasn’t color blind, but I never gave it much thought. I was raised to see and believe not only was everyone equal, but we are all different shades of God’s beautiful creation. I knew people were racist but I never understood it. I still don’t. My daughter and I have cried tears together while studying slavery in America’s past. She is writing a report on the Underground Railroad and was incredulous that anything this vile could have happened here.
But the media has driven this narrative of racism so hard that I’ve thought more about race in the past year than if you put the rest of my life together. Now in some ways that is a good thing. I’ve learned there is evil in men’s hearts that I’ve not noticed. I’ve walked in safety where others felt fear and it’s good to be aware of experiences that shape who we are and how we understand the world.
But mostly, it has served to divide people and make us fearful of each other. We see us versus them in ways that I couldn’t even fathom a year or two ago. And the ugliness of tribalism is breaking God’s heart because we are all His creation, in His image.
Especially as Christians, there is no division among those who follow Jesus. We are one. And we need to realize there is an agenda to divide us. If we must divide from people it should be only due to sin in order to restore and reconcile, not race or politics.
Please, stop judging each other based on the news or even a social media presence. Remember the person behind the screen and give her a call. Sit down for a socially distant coffee. Pray for her.
I am more than my newsfeed, and I’ll bet you are too.
Written by Jennifer DeFrates
This is an updated edition of a post originally published on Heaven Not Harvard