Op-Ed

Love thy neighbor? Reconciling church with hate mail from strangers.

Teri Carter
Teri Carter

On March 10, the anniversary of my mother’s death, I did what she would have done. I went to church; I wore her favorite necklace; I took her prayer book with me; and I got there half an hour early so I could sit in the silence and remember her.

I opened her prayer book to one of her bookmarks. “I call to mind the people,” it read, “who I saw today, and thought of today, and will meet tomorrow. I surrender them to You. Please bless each one, and gladden each one, and heal each one.”

When I was 15, my mother remarried and we moved to her new husband’s farm, which means we also changed churches, and though my mother cleaned the church twice a week, organized hymnals and prayer books, and often cooked for funerals, she remained—for her entire 20 years there—shunned. She was not one of them. An outsider. And maybe, worst of all in that community, open with her opinions.

I think about my mother when I open email from strangers or scan the comments section.

I hate to disappoint you, I think while reading, but I am not “a government transplant to push the liberal agenda,” I am not “speaking false prophesies against truth,” I don’t need to “keep my legs together,” and I am certainly not what seems to be a favorite of late, “trash.”

Yes, I am pro-choice. The operative word here being “choice.” I am not, as some seem to imagine, out knocking on the doors of newly pregnant women to talk them into an abortion.

I believe that women and men are equal and should, therefore, have equal control over their bodies and their lives. As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg said so eloquently in her 1993 confirmation hearing, “It is essential to woman’s equality with man that she be the decision-maker…. If you impose restraints that impede her choice, you are disadvantaging her because of her sex.”

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke to Georgetown University Law Center students about her life, career and the Roe vs. Wade case as part of the Dean's Lecture to the Graduating Class series in February 2015.

No, liberals are not killing babies after they are born. This may be one of the most irresponsible, repugnant lies ever spread by a political party. Liberals are mothers, too. We are not encouraging the killing of newborns. This is absurd. And if this is one of the battles you are fighting, you are fighting something that does not exist.

There are 435 people in the House of Representatives, and I do not, for the life of me, understand the obsession with freshman congresswoman AOC.

I recently received the message, “Ma’am, are you a socialist?!” No, I am not a socialist. I don’t even know any socialists.

Wells Fargo CEO Tim Sloan testified that big banks will deteriorate if they're broken up.

Democrats, like Republicans, favor border control. That said, it is legal to seek asylum, and it is cruel to take children from their parents with no plan for returning them.

Immigrants are not pouring over our southern border to murder us, no matter what the president says, and I am not, as one emailer wrote, waiting for “one of those immigrants you love so much to rape and murder you in your home.”

And last, no, I don’t want to take your guns. Though I certainly rethink this position when I receive hateful comments that close with, “I want my gun to protect me from people like you.”

It is not, however, the emails nor comments themselves that are curious. What saddens me is that, when I look up the social media profiles of people who make such comments, their banners and news feeds are often littered with Bible verses.

This, I do not understand.

Sitting in church on March 10, my mother’s prayer book in my hands, I recalled the powerlessness of being 15 years old and the speeches my mother’s new husband used to give at our breakfast table. One Sunday it went like this (which I wrote in my diary at the time): He went on and on about all of the neighbors he’d just seen at church, how all of the politicians and n****** and Mexicans should be lined up and shot down with machine guns, and how those [unprintable expletive] gays with AIDS got what they deserved. “Put ‘em on an island somewhere,” he said, “and set it on fire.”

I am no longer 15. I open my mother’s prayer book and read from Matthew 22: Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself.

Teri Carter is a writer in Lawrenceburg.

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