From red to blue

From red to blue
November 11
14:40 2020

Being a first-time voter is an exciting experience for many. That process gets complicated when you start to disagree with the party you have grown up with your entire life. For Cassidy Willard, that was exactly her circumstances headed into this presidential election season.

Willard is a Wake Forest student from Mt. Airy who grew up in a Republican household. The main reason for her Republican allegiance was due to her being an evangelical Christian and her pro-life stance.

She says before President Trump was elected, many evangelicals focused on his anti-abortion and Christian rhetoric, while pushing aside some of his negative speech.

“Going into it, I think a lot of evangelical Christians were really happy to have someone that was anti-abortion and I think we often overlooked a lot of things because of that and because of his rhetoric around Christianity,” said Willard. “I think at first people were pretty happy and then he started using rhetoric that was very divisive and very hurtful and harmful to a lot of communities.

“So that’s what really did it for me was his targeting of immigrants and refugees, especially children. I feel like to be pro life is to be pro all life and not just unborn babies, so that was a big factor for me.”

Her change in her political stance is a difficult conversation to have with the older members of her family, Willard said.

“I have a few brothers and sisters that are around my age and I think it’s a very generational thing, because we are all evangelical Christians, but we all are feeling the same way,” she said. “We all were part of this shift of young evangelicals away from Donald Trump.

“It is a much harder topic with my parents, especially my grandparents. It’s not something I would just bring up at the Thanksgiving table, because they think if you’re voting for Joe Biden, it’s a sin and you’re doing the wrong thing. But not even just it’s the wrong decision, it says something about who you are and so it makes it a really hard topic to talk about, especially with the older generations in my family.”

Initially, Willard liked the strong Christian values that Trump presented, because she had never seen a candidate be so outspoken with those beliefs in her lifetime.

“At the time, it seemed like he had very Christian values and we hadn’t really had someone that was that outspokenly Christian, not necessarily in actions,” she said about the president. “I think a lot of people fell into that.”

Being that she is from a small town, Willard had the opportunity to meet likeminded individuals and have first-time life experiences on the campus of Wake Forest.

“I wasn’t exposed to refugees the way I have been at college, even though it is an hour away,” she said. “That was the first time I have ever interacted with a refugee, was when I got to college working with World Relief, so I feel like the personal and hands-on experience really changes you and a lot of people will attest to that.

“I think when we talk about issues like race during class, I find a lot of us that are from small towns saying we didn’t know, but now we do and now that we know better, we have to do better. I think that is something that happens in college, when you are exposed to the elements of the world that you’re not in a small town. You have a choice to make; you can say let’s do better, or be defensive about it. I think, especially among the evangelical Christian community, a lot of us are leaning towards the Democratic side and just equal rights and human rights.”

Willard says there are things about the Democratic party that she would like to see change as well. She referenced an article she read by Tim Keller that stated evangelicals have a hard time fitting into either the Democratic or Republican party.

“I think there are definitely things on the Democratic side that I don’t agree with, such as abortion,” she said about her views. “I think it’s very hard for me, because I am so pro-life, especially for unborn babies. It was very hard for me to vote for Joe Biden  just because of that issue, but then I had to weigh that with the migrant children or the refugees that are trying to come in the United States that are facing religious persecution.  

“There’s definitely things on both sides that I don’t agree with, but it seemed like this time it was more not just a vote on the issues, but a vote on how you want the commander-in-chief to lead and the words you want him to say and I think that’s what it really came down to for me.”

Willard says she has lost some friends because of her political stand, but is grateful to have surrounded herself with individuals whose beliefs are close to her own.

“When I go home to Mt. Airy, I do have those situations that people ask why would I do that?  They don’t understand and I don’t know if it’s something you can explain, you just have to tell your story and they’re either going to listen or they’re not, because it’s not something you can convince someone of,” she said.

Over the last few years, the term “evangelical Christian” has taken on different interpretations based on who you ask. For Willard, she feels the term has become somewhat divisive, but remains an evangelical because of her faith.

“Since the 2016 election, it’s been equated with something it’s not now, unnecessarily, and it’s used as a label for a lot of people which I don’t know they would actually fit how I would define evangelical Christians,” she said about how some define evangelical Christians.

“I would challenge someone to really not use evangelical Christian as a term to define Trump supporters, which is what I think it has become, but to really look into the history and background of what an evangelical Christian is and what they believe and to not use it as a political term, because it’s a religious term,” Willard continued.

Willard says, regardless of the winner, she is hopeful that the refugee and immigrant community can “find peace” and find some sense of safety in America. She is also hopeful American people can come together after the election as well.

“I hope we come together, but regardless of who wins, I am very weary and anxious that we are not going to be able to come together,” she said. 

“My biggest hope is that, regardless who is president, we remember that Christ is key and that we are all brothers and sisters, and we should love each other and get there together.”

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Timothy Ramsey

Timothy Ramsey

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