Charlotte’s Open Letter to her Republican Neighbors

To the Association of Lamar County Republicans

On February 12, 2019, your president, Robert Black, published an op-ed in The Paris News. This isn’t the first time he has said some outrageous things in your name; so many twisted statements in fact, I scarcely know where to begin.

Mr. Black’s screed against “the left” is classic fear mongering. Those of us who lean left are not enemies; we are your neighbors. We sing in choirs with you and pray together in church. We deliver Meals on Wheels with you and work together on local boards and committees. We pledge alliance to the flag with you and work together to make Paris beautiful.

You know us; we are friends. Please do not let your president get away with demonizing your fellow citizens in this way.

There is deep irony in Mr. Black’s call to “incite unity” when his approach is so disrespectful and divisive. He is not asking for unity; he expects lockstep uniformity.

Are you okay with this? Do Lamar County Republicans really believe America can only be great when we all toe the same line and mouth the same political talking points? Surely you remember America’s rich history of diversity, collaboration and compromise.

It is unity WITHIN our diversity that makes America both great and good.

And are you okay with the way Mr. Black imagines that the Republican Party = God’s will on earth? Surely you see the way this twisted belief damages your party and your reputation, but most of all this conflation does damage to the witness of faith.

The Creator of All nations and peoples and languages is not the possession of the United States of America and especially not a prop for the Republican Party.

The One True God transcends our politics and ignores our boundaries. The One True God calls us to justice and compassion and humility. It is God Who creates our infinite diversity and it is God Who creates the unity of Spirit that brings us together.

I think Mr. Black’s God is too small. And I think Mr. Black’s box is too small.

I won’t be attending the “Incite Uniformity” event the Association of Lamar County Republicans is hosting.

But I will invite Mr. Black to sit down over a cup of coffee and get to know a fellow Christian and fellow American who leans left. If he truly seeks unity, then respectful conversation and honest listening with an open heart is where that must begin.

See Robert Black’s guest editorial here:

14 thoughts on “Charlotte’s Open Letter to her Republican Neighbors

  1. It amazes me that today’s Republicans don’t understand how far they have strayed from the Republican Party of Eisenhower, Dole, McCain, George H.W. Bush, Billy Graham and even Reagan. The party has been co-opted by the religious right to an extent that would surprise even Jerry Falwell. The current Republican leadership has effectively managed to focus its followers on the importance of eliminating abortion, demonizing immigrants and making fundamentalist Christianity the national religion while in the background it has been serving the interests of billionaires and corporate America. Congressional Republicans passed a tax cut that did very little for lower and middle class America while providing huge tax cuts for the wealthy and corporate America. They have gutted the CFPB which in the few years it functioned under Obama saved average Americans billions of dollars by limiting predatory lending, credit card abuse and other financial frauds. Trump’s ill advised trade wars have raised the cost of imported goods, bankrupted thousands of farmers, increased the offshoring of American jobs and increased the cost of American made cars, just to name a few effects. Under Trump our national debt has increased by $2 trillion, and we will continue to run trillion dollar annual deficits because of those tax cuts.

    The oligarchs behind the curtain has distracted average Americans with political drama while they increase their power and control of our economy. Sadly there are also Democrats in Congress who are complicit in this trend, but billionaires behind the Republican Party are the primary drivers. Eisenhower, Dole and the other good Republicans who supported main street America are surely terribly disappointed and embarrassed.

  2. I was directed here by the summary, cover article on Egberto Willis’ website and wanted to chime in as an atheist who lives in the *big city* of Dallas.

    Don’t worry, I’m not going to eschew the stereotypical dismissives of a big city atheist because, to be honest, I feel like I have personal connection with the true core message I felt while reading the blog post and subsequent comments.

    I spent 3 of my high school years in a small town. Hawkins, Texas to be exact. Before that, Denison. I connect with and understand the feeling of community that Charlotte so perfectly illustrates. It’s a feeling that does well to keep us interconnected when so much of our nation has become disconnected and distant from each other. It’s a feeling that kept me connected to my friends and family while I served in Iraq, twice.

    For a world with so much technology and social platforms intended to bring us even closer together, we are beginning to lose our physical communities to the ones we identify with online. We are at risk of losing our sense of belonging in our local circles to the intoxicating feeling of emotionally supported echo chambers.

    What’s worse, is that these online communities have their own “town gossip” that seems to know all the drama and can’t help but share it. Except, in these online communities, the town gossip is someone paid to be there, sowing discord, manipulating relatable topics into divisive rhetoric, and generally taking small differences and making them out to be the line in the sand for everyone.

    These online, town gossips are enemies to our communities, and to our nation. They have been hired by both domestic efforts to shape public conversations on any given topic, AND foreign actors to further divide our country.

    There have been verifiable studies that show the connection between Russian accounts and bots that are manipulating the American discourse on all of the main sources of division in our society. (Here’s a recent one on vaccines, just so everyone understands that expert research exists, not opinion pieces: )

    I know that saying ‘Russia’ is a trigger for all kinds of tangential conversations and disagreements, but I’m doing my best to stay out the left v right debate and, instead, focus on keeping your community positively connected to each other.

    At this point, it doesn’t matter what the online community thinks about anything. What matters is those coffee conversations among people in YOUR community. What matters is having a conversation with a person, that you can reach out and physically touch, so that the community feels its own presence. Your community needs you to have discussions, in person. Rallies are the echo chamber. Conversation, sometimes with the help of google and fact-checking, is the only thing that will maintain the bond between you and your community.

    1. Thank you Daniel for reminding us of the importance of community. Obviously I agree and I’m grateful for your comment. Dallas is still our second home and our adult children all live there so we are back and forth fairly often. We also know Hawkins (my husband’s family is in Gilmer). So I enjoyed recognizing our geographical connections as well as our connection through the “core message” of community. Thanks for the conversation! Peace …

  3. I read your op-ed in the Paris News “Divisive words do not incite unity,” in which you essentially called out ALL Republicans asking them if they were OK with what you perceived as a call for lock-step unity and your assumption that Mr. Black equates the Republican Party with God’s will on earth.

    Your comments about The Creator of all nations, peoples and languages not being the possession of the U.S., that The One True God calls us to justice, compassion and humility, and that He creates the unity of spirit that brings diverse peoples and ideologies together were quickly tarnished by your hypocritical comments that Mr. Black’s God is too small. Is his God not also your God? Your emphatic statement that you would not be attending the Incite Unity event was dismissive of Mr. Black and the Association of Lamar County Republicans efforts to create a forum intended to bring people of diverse ages, races, religious creeds, national origins, political persuasions and socio-economic backgrounds together.

    After reading your attacks of Mr. Black and Republicans, I visited your blog just to see how much of a left-wing radical you might be. I must admit, I found most of your comments encouraging with respect to tolerance and listening to others and trying to understand their points of view. However, I was quickly disappointed when I read the following:

    “Many conservatives are frustrated and confused by the takeover of their political party and their religion. Many do not approve of DT or the Evangelical leaders that merge right wing politics with christianity, causing both to become toxic. If we progressives will be patient and gentle and kind, practicing what we preach about tolerance, then some of those folks may well be able to walk through the open door.” On what basis do you declare “many” are “frustrated and confused”, “many do not approve” or that their politics and Christianity has become toxic?

    That statement made me wonder if “many” progressives are frustrated and confused by the takeover of their political party and the dismissal of their religious beliefs as irrelevant to political discourse. Are there “many” who do not approve of Pelosi, Schumer, Harris, Warren, Cuomo, AOC, and others trying to totally extricate Christianity from their left-wing politics?
    Have their politics not become toxic when they begin the debate by calling opponents racist, Islamaphobic, misogynistic, homophobic and deplorable, or when they publicly harass those with opposing views? Has their Christianity not deteriorated when they willingly accept the termination of one distinct, separate human life simply for the convenience of another?

    If conservatives will just be patient and stay true to The Truth of the word of God, as revealed to us by Jesus Christ, perhaps some of those folks may join us in a Reagan like resurgence of conservative politics guided by our Judeo-Christian beliefs and roots.

    We all perceive things based on our personal backgrounds and experiences. I perceived your blog comment, that you don’t have time to have a conversation with what you perceive as, rabid hate-filled people, suggest, you have given up on these people and prejudged that they are incapable of moving closer to the center. If not that, then you truly don’t want to understand why their opinions are so far different from your own.

    I’m sure that Mr. Black, as well as myself, would be more than happy to join you for coffee and a truly civil discourse anytime.

    Chris Dux, Chairman
    Lamar County Republican Party

    1. Mr. Dux’s comments strike me as arrogant and condescending, dismissive of those who disagree with Republican positions. I avoid those who refuse to consider that my views are just as legitimate as theirs, even though the views are opposite from one another. I don’t feel there can be any unity in this country at this time.

    2. Hi Chris. Thanks for reading my op-ed and thanks for commenting. As I stated: “you know us.” You and I count mail-in ballots together and have a congenial relationship. You may not have known some of the things I believe, but you do know me and I certainly am not any sort of enemy. So thanks for reaching out directly. Here are my responses to your challenges.

      1. No, Chris, I am not calling out all Republicans; the letter was addressed to the Association of Lamar County Republicans. I truly want to understand if my local Republican friends agree with Mr. Black’s statements and tone. I guess now I know that you do.

      2. As you wisely observe: “We all perceive things based on our personal backgrounds and experiences.” My own personal experience includes a journey from Christian fundamentalism and Republican conservatism to liberal Christianity that sparked an embrace of progressive politics. I read J.B. Phillips book, Your God is Too Small, back in the 60’s and recognized that, in fact, my God was too small. Of course you and I believe there is One True God but our particular understanding of who God is and what God wills is heavily influenced by our “personal backgrounds and experiences.” It is beyond human capacity to comprehend the Creator of All but it is our human journey to constantly challenge our own small-mindedness and to grow.

      I said I think Mr. Black’s “God is too small” based on the way he appears to “equate the Republican Party with God’s will on earth.” I see this attitude quite often within some of my conservative conversation partners and it is a tragic error that has damaged the Christian witness in America. Your own statement that conservatives need to “stay true to The Truth of the word of God, as revealed to us by Jesus Christ…” suggests a similar attitude. God’s will on earth does not align with the Republican platform.

      As a liberal Christian, I too am completely committed to stay true to the truth of the word of God as revealed in Jesus Christ. Jesus never said a word about abortion or gay marriage but had plenty to say about greed, self-righteousness and mistreatment of “the least among us.” I keep working on practicing my faith and sharpening my beliefs. All of us Christians are guilty of some “hypocrisy” and would do well to hold our faith with greater humility.

      3. I actually said I would not be attending the “Incite UNIFORMITY” event because that is exactly what Mr. Black is describing. I am not dismissive of Mr. Black himself; I invited him to coffee and conversation.

      4. I would say your using the word “attack” suggests some defensiveness on your part. A bold critique of statements and ideas does not equate to the attack of a person.

      5. You say: “I must admit, I found most of your comments encouraging with respect to tolerance and listening to others and trying to understand their points of view.”

      I appreciate you saying so and I’m glad you were pleasantly surprised. So I’m not a completely hopeless “left-wing radical” in your eyes?

      6. You ask: “On what basis do I declare many [conservatives] are frustrated and confused.” I answer: on the basis of my extensive reading and engagement across the spectrum of internet news and commentary. Michael Gerson, David Frum, George Will, Steve Schmidt, Max Boot and Jennifer Rubin, to name just a few, have engaged in strong critique of the president and the leadership of this present Republican Party.

      And I make this statement based of some of my personal relationships. You and I both know some Lamar County Republicans who have backed away from the official party because of this president and some of his policies. I can name several and so can you.

      7. Chris, are you really going to claim that the Democrats you list above are trying to “extricate Christianity” ?! Really ?! How about the brilliant First Amendment that both guarantees our personal rights to practice religion as we see fit and at the same time limits governmental establishment of any religion? Do you not see that some of us actually try to respect the principle of church/state separation that is enshrined in our Constitution?

      And the people you name, several are devout people of faith. Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez are practicing Roman Catholics; Elizabeth Warren has been deeply shaped growing up in the United Methodist Church; Charles Schumer is Jewish (the “Judeo” part of your noted “Judeo-Christian beliefs and roots.”)

      Remember your American history, Chris. People from all kinds of faith and no faith have always worked together for the good of our nation. And remember that Christians from “the left” have long been on the front lines fighting for abolition, civil rights, voting rights, fair wages and child labor laws while many Christians from “the right” were insisting Christians shouldn’t be involved in politics at all.

      8. You really are going to suggest that it is only “the left” who are contributing to toxic politics?! How about “both sides, all sides, all of us are guilty” ! I call out my fellow liberals when they disrespect people because of a difference in politics and I expect you to call out your fellow conservatives (like Mr. Black) who misrepresent, vilify and disrespect our God-given differences.

      9. Some people (right, left and center) have their minds so made up and closed that honest conversation is impossible. So yes, I will not waste my time and energy with people who don’t want dialogue. But the very fact that I responded to Lamar County Republicans about what Mr. Black represents shows that I do want to talk. (Not to mention, I invited him to coffee.)

      I have family members and dear friends who are conservatives and I know quite well how and why people have opinions that are different from my own. Much of my effort as a local pastor and my continued efforts as a blogger have been to try to break down barriers and build bridges across all sorts of differences. Much of my current work is intended to address the hysteria and hyperbole that characterize much of our public discourse (coming from all sides) and to advocate for authentic unity; a unity that respects our diverse experiences, perspectives and beliefs.

      Will you join me? If you and Mr. Black and local Republicans truly do want to “incite unity” instead of lockstep uniformity, then here is a chance to demonstrate that commitment. Where shall we meet for coffee?

  4. Thank you, Charlotte, for so eloquently voicing views that I do completely agree with. I disagree with the perversion of religion to advance a political ideology, especially when doing so demonizes fellow Christians who also are doing their best to follow the teachings of Christ.

    1. We need to keep calling out the perversions in a way that helps our fellow Christians see more clearly. And at the same time, seeing our own blind spots. Thanks for reading and thanks for the conversation.

  5. I strongly disagree. No longer will I excuse those who demonize and dehumanize immigrants, LGBTQ, POC, or people in poverty simply because they are nice people whom I have respected in the past. No longer will I excuse those who GLORIFY DT as if he is some sort of savior sent from God. I will not respect those who use and repeat lies to support their behavior, words, and actions. We are NOT on the same page. We do NOT want the same things (especially for “others”). I do not mistreat people but I will NEVER look at them the same way again. I will not stick my head in the sand.

    1. To each her own, Ellen. But please do not presume that I (or anyone else) has our head in the sand just because we use different approaches.

      1. Ms. Charlotte Vaughan Coyle, a post from your blog came across my FB feed and I thank whatever higher being is out there than it id. I felt so alone and thank heaven that I found someone else who shares my thoughts and feelings. May your words reach far and near, serve as seeds of harmony and healing, I just subscribed to your blog.

        1. Thank you Patricia! And thank heaven indeed that we are not alone! Glad to connect with you. Peace.

  6. I too live and work with Republicans in many of the efforts we make as a community to have a peaceful and loving relationship with our neighbors. Many are school chums and Girl Scout friends and former soldiers who served in the same war as my first husband. Our lives are intertwined. Some disagree with my stand as strongly as I disagree with theirs. The years have led us down different paths and subjected us to varied experience. Yet, I know these people are wanting solutions to our Nations problems. The goals are the same. Some go toward the solution from the right. Some of us go from the left. But we are headed to the same altar of faith. And I will not demonize them. Nor will I let others divide me from relationships that are blessed or scarred with the same happy or tragic vicissitudes of life. I loved them then. I love them now. And I will listen to what they say and agree or disagree respectfully. My friends. My community. But I will stand to preserve CHOICE of my thoughts with every fiber of my being. As I expect them to stand for their choice. Your essay was something that needed to be said. We take care of our own. Regardless of race or gender. Politics be damned.

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