Ways Forward for Tennessee: Rachel Held Evans and S.E. Cupp

The leadership of the Tennessee Equality Project is always thinking about how the equality of LGBT people can move forward in our deeply RED state. 

Two recent pieces from papers on opposite coasts might offer some suggestive paths.

One is a Washington Post profile of Evangelical writer Rachel Held Evans of Dayton, Tennessee.  The other is an opinion piece in The Seattle Times by Republican commentator S.E. Cupp.

*I should note that the recommendation to read both pieces is not a full endorsement.  TEP doesn't endorse a particular religion and there are doubtless things Cupp has written and said with which we'd disagree.  But I do recommend you read both pieces.

Evans offers us a voice with national reach from one of the most socially conservative areas of Tennessee and from a point of view deeply immersed in Evangelicalism, the dominant religious paradigm in Tennessee.  The maps at this link, for example, show Tennessee to be over 50% Evangelical Protestant.  Understanding how Evans became an ally and how she talks about LGBT issues COULD be illuminating for the discussions we need to have in Tennessee.

Cupp, by contrast, is a familiar voice in national politics.  She makes a "numbers" and "manners" case for conservatives (the dominant political ideology in Tennessee) embracing those who support marriage equality.  Of course, our issues go beyond marriage equality (or Marriage PLUS, as we say at TEP).  But the case is relatable.  Cupp talks about a recent visit to Tennessee, noting:

A few weeks ago, I was in Tennessee speaking to a group of college students. After the lecture, one young woman came up to me and said: “I want to thank you. Last year, my younger brother came out. Your perspective on gay marriage showed me that I wasn’t any less conservative for accepting and supporting him. I want to be both, and you gave me that permission.”

We need more messengers in front of more audiences in Tennessee who can say these things from within Evangelical and conservative circles. 

Neither Evans nor Cupp offers nor would claim to offer a total blueprint for moving Tennessee forward.  But it would be foolish to ignore the clues they provide.



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