Sometimes an idea for writing comes to me out of a conviction of sin. Months ago, at the beginning of primary season, I didn't know anyone who supported Trump. My first reaction to his presidential bid was bewildered amusement, then as he gained in the poles, fear. I thought, "Who are these Trump voters?" I realized that there was huge demographic of Americans who I am profoundly out of touch with. I began hearing stats in the early primaries about how Trump voters were more likely to be poor, have less formal education, and attend church rarely. I realized I don't know Trump supporters because I surround myself with (mostly) urban, educated people. Poorer whites were a demographic off my radar and, the more I thought about it, I realized that it was a demographic overlooked by a lot of urban evangelicals and mainline churches. So I called a pastor friend and we talked this over. By the time I got off the phone an hour later, I knew I had to write on this topic. To me, it wasn't about Trump anymore; it was about the way that our own urban biases and (sometimes) city snobbery can impede our ministry as a church. I have read more articles/books, interviewed more folks, and wrote more drafts for this piece than anything I've ever published (besides my book...although I didn't do interviews for my book so that was unique to this piece.) I learned a lot. Anyway, read it here: I Overlooked the Rural Poor...Then Trump Came Along. It is published in this month's CT print magazine as The America I Forgot.
Then, check out Tony and Jen Holmes Curran's church's site: here! And watch their video (above). I interviewed Jen as I was researching this piece and got to know her a bit. She is wise, passionate, and loves her church family! If you resonate with my piece, one response would be to donate to their church! They are doing vital and beautiful work! You can donate here.
Another response would be to talk to leaders in your denomination about the need for a network/support system for rural pastors and churches. In my interview, the # 1 thing I found among all rural pastors was a sense of loneliness. Alongside of needed efforts to reach urban areas, we need denominations intentionally connecting, supporting, and nurturing rural pastors and churches.
Lastly, one of the pastors I interviewed and another lay person I interviewed called rural poverty "silent poverty" and "invisible poverty" (which sadly had to be cut due to word count). Compared to urban poverty, the rural poor are more geographically spread out-- a struggling family may live down a gravel road that no one ever drives down in a house that no one ever passes. Consequently, it can be hard to see rural poverty and it is therefore easy to overlook. Let us begin to pray, think, and dream about how we can holistically care for these communities. Even us urban Christians.
This election can serve as a wake up call to call us back to the "least of these" we have too long ignored.