Straight, White, Christian, Married, Suburban Mom
Hell hath no fury like a suburban mom scorned
On April 19, Michigan state Senator Mallory McMorrow publicly called her colleague, Senator Lana Theis, to account. Theis had written an inflammatory fundraising email saying that McMorrow was “grooming and sexualizing children.” And McMorrow was having none of it. She stood up in the Michigan state house and spoke truth to Theis (who wouldn’t even look at McMorrow and sat facing away from her during the speech) about how as a “straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom” she opposes the bigotry and scapegoating being ginned up by the GOP.
The entire speech (an address that John Stoehr at the Editorial Board referred to as a sermon — I highly recommend Stoehr’s interview with McMorrow) is reproduced in full below. But these two sentences capture the spirit of her remarks:
I want every child in this state to feel seen, heard and supported, not marginalized and targeted because they are not straight, white and Christian. We cannot let hateful people tell you otherwise to scapegoat and deflect from the fact that they are not doing anything to fix the real issues that impact people’s lives.
I know more than a little about straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms. For eighteen years, one of those moms raised me. And, for the last twenty-four years, I’ve been a straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom. Indeed, more than 2/3 of my life has been spent in the company of straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms. Despite the specificity of “straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom,” the moniker obscures a lot of diversity — like what kind of Christian and where the suburb is. Hang around the suburbs and you’ll find moms aren’t of the same mind about social issues or politics or even the best local grocery store.
There is one thing, however, that the vast majority of straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms agree upon: being “hateful” is bad. Trust me. No straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom wants to be seen as hateful, wants anyone to be hateful toward her children, or wants her offspring to be known as hateful. The world has changed enormously over the decades of my straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom-hood, but one thing has not. Straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms still cling to a shared virtue: Be nice.
Senator McMorrow’s remarks are pointed and thoughtfully Christian. And, to my mind, they are theologically and politically convincing, a worthy model for other leaders to imitate. But their real power might be in their undertow — she called Senator Theis mean. It is mean to lie about people; it is mean when you don’t treat others as you want to be treated; it is mean to insult someone’s faith. Mean. Hateful really. McMorrow basically called Theis a playground bully, one of the least nice characters in the world of straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms.
I live in northern Virginia, in the suburbs of Washington, D.C. In my neighborhood, a majority of straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms are Democrats. But we also know that just a little further outside the Beltway, straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms are swing voters — and candidates and political movements can be made or broken by our sisters.
We had an election for governor last fall. Glenn Youngkin brought up things that worry those sway-prone white, Christian, suburban moms — like library books and sex and teachers trained by those liberals at the University of Virginia. Youngkin made Democrats look mean. They’d keep your kids in masks and force them to read books that were upsetting. Mean Democrats want your children to feel bad about things like slavery and racism. They hate you and your safe suburbs and your history. Basically, Youngkin said all the same things that Lana Theis and others like her are saying, but he did it nicely. He didn’t outright call anyone a pedophile or groomer or bigot or fake president. He implied it all — he dogwhistled all the same policies that are now being passed in Republican-controlled legislatures — as he smiled, prayed, and shot hoops. All while wearing a dad-vest as a kind of armor of nice.
When I wrote an essay calling Youngkin a “wolf in fleece clothing,” a surprising number of straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms criticized me on Facebook for not being nice to him. They didn’t address the implicit racism, the anti-LGBTQ scapegoating, or his subtle threats to teachers and eduction. They said I wasn’t being fair because he was a nice man and should be given a chance. In effect, he convinced them that Democrats were bullying them and their children (Democrats weren’t nice) and they saw his niceness as his platform. He wasn’t a culture warrior. Because he was too nice. He’s the guy you know from church. Like the Bible study leader. The BBQ dad at the parish picnic.
And because he’s nice to white, Christian, suburban moms, he’ll be nice to everybody.
It worked. For just a moment last November. It wasn’t a huge win, but he won.
Republicans believe that Youngkin’s victory is a template to winning this coming November on a national level. Get white, Christian, suburban moms worked up over all sorts of culture war issues — mostly regarding race, sexuality, and schools — and convince them that Democrats are a threat to their safety, their values, and their faith. Scare straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms to the polls.
But they’ve forgotten the part about nice. Because what they are proposing isn’t nice.
As Senator McMorrow so ably pointed out, it is inherently hateful “to target and marginalize already marginalized people” and to “deny people their very right to exist.” It isn’t Christian to treat others in such ways.
Glenn Youngkin seemed so nice. Until he set up a snitch line to tattle on teachers. Until he outlawed teaching on race. Until he bullied a teenager online. Until he started governing Virginia like the far-right governors of Texas and Florida. He may have won on nice, but when he actually started doing stuff he became unpopular faster than anyone who has held the office. As soon as he began executing the agenda, people realized the policies weren’t nice at all.
You can’t hide not nice for long. Even if you start with an aw-shucks mild-mannered affability, the vest eventually comes off. The meanness and bullying always shows up.
My mom taught me that.
Straight, white, Christian, married, suburban moms who see through the charade need to call it for what it is. Because what’s going on isn’t nice at all.
Instead of a poem today, read Senator Mallory McMorrow’s April 19 remarks. I found them inspirational!
Thank you, Mr. President.
I didn’t expect to wake up yesterday to the news that the senator from the 22nd district [state Senator Lana Theis] had overnight accused me by name of grooming and sexualizing children in an email fundraising for herself. So I sat on it for a while wondering why me.
Then I realized [it’s] because I am the biggest threat to your [Theis’s] hollow hateful scheme, because you can’t claim that you are targeting marginalized kids in the name of quote parental rights if another parent is standing up to say no.
So then what?
Then you dehumanize and marginalize me. You say that I’m one of them. You say, “She’s a groomer. She supports pedophilia. She wants children to believe that they were responsible for slavery. And to feel bad about themselves because they’re white.”
Well, here’s a little bit of background about who I really am.
Growing up, my family was very active in our church. I sang in the choir. My mom taught CCD. One day our priest called a meeting with my mom and told her that she was not living up to the church’s expectations and that she was disappointing.
My mom asked why. Among other reasons, she was told it was because she was divorced. And because the priest didn’t see her at Mass every Sunday. So where was my mom on Sundays?
She was at the soup kitchen with me.
My mom taught me at a very young age that Christianity and faith was about being part of a community, about recognizing our privilege and blessings and doing what we can to be of service to others, especially people who are marginalized, targeted and who had less often unfairly.
I learned this service was far more important than performative nonsense like being seen in the same pew every Sunday, or writing “Christian” in your Twitter bio, and using that as a shield to target and marginalize already marginalized people.
I also stand on the shoulders of people like Father Ted Hesburgh, the longtime president of the University of Notre Dame, who was active in the civil rights movement, who recognized his power and privilege as a white man, a faith leader and the head of an influential and well-respected institution, and who saw black people in this country being targeted and discriminated against and beaten and [Hesburgh] reached out to lock arms with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. when he was alive when he was unpopular. And marching alongside them to say, “We’ve got you,” to offer protection and service and allyship to try to right the wrongs and fix injustice in the world.
So who am I?
I am a straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom, who knows that the very notion that learning about slavery or redlining or systemic racism somehow means that children are being taught to feel bad or hate themselves because they are white is absolute nonsense.
No child alive today is responsible for slavery.
No one in this room is responsible for slavery.
But each and every single one of us bears responsibility for writing the next chapter of history. Each and every single one of us decides what happens next and how we respond to history and the world around us.
We are not responsible for the past.
We also cannot change the past.
We can’t pretend that it didn’t happen or deny people their very right to exist.
I am a straight, white, Christian, married, suburban mom. I want my daughters to know that she is loved, supported and seen for whoever she comes. I want her to be curious, empathetic, and kind.
People who are different are not the reason that our roads are in bad shape after decades of disinvestment or that health care costs are too high or the teachers are leaving the profession.
I want every child in this state to feel seen, heard and supported, not marginalized and targeted because they are not straight, white and Christian.
We cannot let hateful people tell you otherwise to scapegoat and deflect from the fact that they are not doing anything to fix the real issues that impact people’s lives.
And I know that hate will only win if people like me stand by and let it happen.
So I want to be very clear right now. Call me whatever you want.
I hope you brought in a few dollars. I hope it made you sleep good last night.
I know who I am. I know what faith and service means and what it calls for in this moment.
We will not let hate win.
* * * * *
You can watch Senator McMorrow’s speech here.
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Join me, Brian McLaren, Anthea Butler, and Kaitlin Curtice at Southern Lights on Memorial Day weekend for a multi-day gathering of progressive Christianity goodness! We’ve still got a few slots at the beach in St Simons Island, Georgia — or you can attend via livestream at home! (The recordings will be available for three months following the event to all registrants.) CLICK HERE for info and registration.