A Letter to My Conservative Friends and Family: A Few Concerns

A Letter to My Conservative Friends and Family: A Few Concerns

Hay una nota en español por abajo.

To my conservative Friends and Family,

So I grew up in a conservative household, both politically and theologically, in a conservative part of Canada. It was good – I have no significant complaints. And while I would say that I’m probably not as conservative as I once was, I definitely still lean that direction. In fact, when I’m back in Canada (and not living in Mexico), I still live in very conservative country and feel fairly at home there. I bring this up because when it comes to addressing all of you, I feel like I do so from the position of an insider – one who is conservative by heritage and still by association.

With that in mind, to all my conservative friends and family, I have to say that I have some pretty big concerns about what I regularly see and experience as I interact with many in this ideological camp. My concerns fall into two main categories:

  1. The crippling mistrust of the liberal media, science and government; and,
  2. The deep fear that I see many conservatives living in

If I had to guess, I would suspect that most of my family and friends would not be thrilled about this characterization. They may agree that they mistrust the media (with good reason, they argue), but that word “crippling” feels pretty strong. And I suspect most would disagree with the characterization of themselves as fearful – even strongly proclaiming that they don’t fear anything man can throw at them, and that it is the left who lives in fear! But that’s not what I see and hear, so allow me to explain.

Crippling mistrust

There is no doubt that there is ample reason to distrust the liberal media, science and governments. Those of us who grew up conservative have for years felt that popular media (movies, music, TV) was leading a stampede against “traditional” (Christian) values through the promotion of sexual liberty of all sorts, the pursuit of pleasure, the belittling of the family and the devaluing of traditional morals in general. The primary news networks all skew left (or did, for a long time), and the presentation of stories in the mainline media very much promotes certain agendas. Because most of our scientific information comes through the media, it is commonly spun to favour certain narratives. Of course scientific corporations, regardless of the media, make their own problems, as there are countless stories of corruption, unethical practices to make profit, skipping or skirting regulations, etc. There’s a reason many people don’t trust “Big Pharma”. And with the Liberal/NDP party (Canada) and the Democrats (USA) pushing many of the same “progressive” values and ideas as the mainstream media (the two seem to work in tandem), it is no wonder that conservatives mistrust the governments as well.

But there is a reason that I have used the particular phrase “crippling mistrust”. You see, although there are many reasons to be skeptical of the liberal media and government, as well as science, many seem to have thrown out the baby with the bathwater, as it were. The good and the relevant is thrown out along with the things that are incorrect or misleading. It is as if many conservatives have taken the Biblical doctrine of the sinfulness of man, looked at the liberal media/government/scientific community, and applied that label entirely to them, stating that “You are the sinful part of humanity, and everything you do and say is evil and corrupt”. What I hear from many conservatives is the idea that “all evil resides there (the liberals)”, and thus anything and everything stated by any liberal source is of no value. We have taken healthy mistrust and skepticism and turned it into a crippling mistrust.

The reality (and hear me out on this!) is that there is a lot in the liberal ideology that is good and important. There is an empathy there that often feels absent in conservative policy (although not necessarily in individuals). There is a deep concern for injustice and a desire to see change in society to address these issues. And make no mistake – there are no lack of issues. There are legitimate climate and environmental concerns. Racism does exist. There are deep economic problems within capitalism that need to be addressed. For all our concern about “big government”, there is a need for regulation and guidance – it’s true that governments are a bureaucratic mess and seek too much control, but leaving businesses and society to their own devices is just as prone to abuse and problems. In short, while skepticism is valuable and pushback on liberal ideas/government/media is important, we need liberals. They view the world differently and bring a perspective that we as conservatives need. We have forgotten the Biblical doctrine that these, too, are made in God’s image, and reflect Him in many ways – whether they acknowledge Him or not!

Hand in hand with this crippling mistrust of all things liberal is a dangerous faith in all things conservative. And yes, it is dangerous. Conservatives, the same as liberals, are both made in the image of God and corrupted by sin. Both conservative governments and conservative media (including the science promoted by conservative and independent sites) are guilty of just as much sin as liberal sources. There is the same ignoring of inconvenient facts, the same tendency to slant things ideologically, the same fear-mongering, the same dismissiveness and arrogance, the same proclivity to greed and corruption. Just because a government, scientist or media source lines up with our ideology doesn’t mean that we turn off our skepticism and blindly accept everything that they have to say, or excuse or ignore their failings. The world needs the conservative voice as much as it needs the liberal voice – but it needs an honest conservative voice, not a blindly ideological one. And to my friends and family, I would say that we have failed far too often to be discerning and skeptical of our own motives, ideas and representatives.

Deep Fear

I spoke of a deep fear that I can see in the conservative camp and it is this – the fear that our society is “falling apart”, and that we are the only ones who can save it, as well as a fear of believing or trusting anything that the liberal camp says. For a people who often claim to trust in God, it’s amazing how often the conversation isn’t about God and trusting in him, but rather about our rights and freedoms, about the destruction of our society, about the need to “get back” to the golden days – except that it wasn’t anywhere near as “golden” as we make it out to be. Not for us, and certainly not for everyone. 

It is natural to feel fear, especially when we feel like things are chaotic and not going the way we want them to or in the direction we think is best. But society won’t be “saved” by choosing one group of corrupt people over another group of corrupt people. Societies, countries, and empires all ebb and flow. Some last a long time, some a little. Most have their moments of glory and their strengths, but all end up corrupted and failing, whether sooner or later. Not only is it bound to happen, it will happen through conservatives as well as through liberals. So as Christians (as most of my friends and family are), we participate in our society and strive to be salt and light in whatever way we can, but we certainly don’t put our faith or all our energy into one political party, or one ideology. We live in what some refer to as the “radical middle” – acknowledging both good and bad from both sides, and trusting that whether society thrives or falls apart, whether we have complete rights and freedoms or none, that there is One overseeing all, who will be with us through all. Our antidote to fear is not the policies of conservative groups or rejection of liberal groups, but rather trust in and obedience to Jesus.

Covid, for example

The last two years of Covid have really served to highlight, I believe, the crippling mistrust and the fear of which I speak. Here’s what I have seen over the past two years:

The general Liberal response to Covid – “Covid is coming for us, it will do untold damage to our world, hospitals will be overrun, the government must intervene in every way possible, vaccines will save us or at least vastly protect us, we must completely eradicate Covid, we all need to pull together to protect ourselves and others, we need to trust the scientific consensus.”

The general conservative response to Covid – “It’s not really that bad, it’s just a bad flu, the death rates and infection rates are overstated, governments need to stay out of it and let people deal with it as they see fit, don’t infringe on our rights and freedoms, mandates are evil, vaccines are at best somewhat helpful but are untested and dangerous, people are living in fear of the virus but we don’t fear it, and we need to believe those who oppose the scientific consensus (the little guys bucking the consensus).”

Obviously there are a range of ideas within each group, but that’s what I have personally heard from many people as well as read constantly in the news (liberal and conservative).

Now here’s what I have personally observed:

  • I have known a large number of people who have been sick, with quite a number sick for an extended period of time, including time in the hospital (or time when they maybe should have been in the hospital)
  • most have recovered and most cases were mild
  • I personally know two people who have died from Covid (i.e. they were not sick and in no danger of death until they developed Covid, then they passed away due to Covid)
  • All accounts seem to indicate that in a variety of places, the medical system (even with restrictions, vaccines, etc.) was very overwhelmed, with all sorts of non-essential medical cancellations and worrisomely full ICUs. This includes at least one wave in my home provinces of Saskatchewan (where I was born and raised) and Alberta (where I have raised my family). Speaking to a few nurses in these situations gave me a perspective that it was not just “media overreaction”.
  • I have only seen or heard personally of two significant reactions to the vaccine (in comparison to the two deaths, various hospitalizations and significant illnesses due to Covid). One was a lady in the pharmacy who showed up with blood clots shortly after she got the vaccine (I overheard the conversation with the pharmacist, who seemed unconcerned as she helped), and one who had physical reactions for about a week that were significant and unpleasant, but far from life-threatening. Obviously I believe there are more out there, but as my own experience shows, they pale in comparison to the number of people affected by Covid.
  • Since the vaccine has been rolled out, I have only heard of severe cases of Covid among my contacts who have not had the vaccine. Others who have been vaccinated have had Covid (including in my own family), but I don’t know a single person with the vaccine who has had any severe sickness, while I know a variety who have refused to be vaccinated who have been severely sick. (Fortunately, none have died, but I have known at least one who was hospitalized and others who perhaps should have been.)

In short, my own observations and lived experience lines up much more closely with the liberal view and response than the conservative response. That’s not to say that liberal sources and reactions have been all correct. We could discuss for hours cases of overreaction, poor rollout of support services, ignoring data or putting conflicting/nonsensical restrictions in place, mask and vaccine mandates, etc. But despite various points of disagreement, my observation remains – the liberal perspective captures reality better than that conservative perspective, which heightens my belief that the conservative mistrust of all things liberal has led to reporting and decisions that seem to be based more on a reaction against liberals rather than an actual analysis of the situation. Mistrust has crippled our response. Rather than agreeing with some of the basic trends and concerns and working to correct over-the-top or inaccurate responses, conservatives seem to have been focused on rejecting everything liberals say or try to do, to our own detriment. Our faith has been misplaced.

This speaks to the issue of fear, as well. The fear of believing anything that liberals say has hampered our ability to assess things accurately. Instead of assessing each issue and conceding where “they” might be right (or disagreeing when wrong), we have reacted against everything, pushing a counter-narrative that opposes virtually everything, even when it flies in the face of observable evidence. 

I also believe that this fear can be seen in our response to the vaccine. Why is it, when people are sick all around us and there is a very discernible and clear danger of sickness and even death (although significantly lower the younger and healthier one is), that many conservatives claim that they “are not afraid of the virus – it’s just a minor sickness” and downplay all the dangers, but when it comes to the vaccine, which has extremely low and rarely dangerous side-effects (yes, they exist, but are much more rare than the complications caused by Covid) and quite clearly observable benefits, conservatives suddenly become fearful of what it “might do” someday, and that it hasn’t been fully tested, and that there are reactions that the news isn’t reporting. Why do we as conservatives downplay the clearly documented reality and danger of the virus, but fear the vaccine so much? It seems like both these reactions have little to do with the actual facts and evidence, and a whole lot to do with the fact that it is the liberal media and government who are promoting these narratives. Fear has led us to reject the real danger (the virus) and to fear the much-lesser danger (the vaccine). Does this really make any sense? For me, it was a very simple analysis – the danger of getting significantly sick personally was way higher with Covid than it was with the vaccine. And the benefit to society was way better with the vaccine as well. For me, it was a very simple numbers game, and I am very confused why so many are so fearful of the vaccine. My only solution is what I mentioned – fear of trusting anything liberal.


My point here is not to push you to get the vaccine (obviously, I think the benefits far outweigh the potential negatives), nor is my point even anything to do with Covid specifically. That is nothing more than a handy example of my main points:

  • a blanket mistrust of all things liberal actually cripples us, both personally and societally. While I may disagree with many liberal ideas, they are people created in God’s image who have significant ideas that we need to hear and consider.
  • related to that, conservatives are just as corrupted by sin as liberals – it just shows up in different issues. We need to be just as skeptical of conservative bias, ideas and reporting as we do of liberal bias, ideas and reporting.
  • while we might claim we don’t fear, there is a ton of fear in the conservative camp. Fear of all things liberal, fear of the collapse of our society, fear of change, fear of the vaccine…

The questions that I have for my conservative friends and family are quite simply this: Are you willing to acknowledge that you have been crippled by mistrust, and to step back from crippling skepticism to healthy skepticism (and even recognition of the good in liberal views)? And are you willing to confront the fear that exists so deeply within your (our) beliefs?

As a fellow conservative, let’s change our perspective.

With deep love, but also deep concern,


Por los que leen en español – este artículo tiene más que ver con la situación política en Canadá y los Estados Unidos. No sé si es una reflexión de la situación en países Iberoamericanos, por eso no lo va a traducir. Un resumen rápido: Crecí en una familia y región con una perspectiva muy conservador, y que los que pertenecen a este grupo (conservadores) han rechazado casi cualquier perspectiva “liberal”. El punto de este post es argumentar que no es saludable rechazar por completo los liberales (ya que ellos también son creados en la imagen de Dios) y confiar completamente en fuentes conservadores (ya que ellos también son pecadores que cometen muchos errores). Hablé de las diferentes perspectivas de Covid para mostrar que la perspectiva de los liberales alinea mejor con la realidad vivida que lo que están diciendo muchas fuentes conservadores, que a menudo argumentan que Covid no es un problema tan grave y que la vacuna, de hecho, es peor que Covid. El punto no es empujarlos a vacunarse (aunque creo que sería algo bueno), sino mostrar que el rechazo de cualquier perspectiva liberal no es saludable, y de hecho nos causa a rechazar ideas y perspectivas de valor junto con las cosas que es bueno rechazar. Por fin, argumenté que aunque muchos conservadores confiesan confiar en Dios, muchos de ellos viven en temor – temor de los liberales, temor de la vacuna, temor de la posibilidad de que la sociedad vaya a colapsar, etc. Los que supuestamente confían en el Señor no lo muestran por sus temores.

How to Cope with a Covid Christmas

How to Cope with a Covid Christmas

A los que leen este post en español: Perdón por no tener una versión en español. Este post surge de una situación particular en Canadá (en algunas partes), donde nos han puesto restricciones debido a un aumento de casos de Covid y no podemos tener reuniones de familias para celebrar la navidad. A lo mejor puedo traducirlo dentro de la semana, pero quise publicar este post por mis amigos en Canadá que están tratando de manejar esta nueva situación y la tristeza que muchos están experimentando por no poder ver a su familia durante las vacaciones.

So, Christmas just got cancelled. How are you doing? Many are struggling with a variety of emotions as the government of Alberta (and various others) have brought in regulations that essentially ban all social gatherings during Christmas, leaving families to celebrate with only their own nuclear family or (in the case of singles) one or two others. This is a hard blow, and seems to rip all of the joy out of Christmas for many, which is totally understandable. So I (Chris) would like to share a little bit from our story, and the stuff that we have learned about celebrating Christmas when everything you look forward to is gone. You see, what many people don’t realize is that this is actually a common experience for those of us who are missionaries. So if we can, we’d like to help.

For us (okay, let’s be honest, for me), the Christmas of 2014 (pictured above) was really tough. We had just left Canada in August, and were preparing for our first Christmas overseas. I love Christmas, and pretty much everything about it – the lights, the Christmas baking, the dark and cold (the only time of the year I’m okay with it!), the Christmas specials (some more than others), and especially the time with family and friends. I’m not “crazy Christmas guy”, but I definitely like it. Now here we are in Costa Rica. The days are all the same length all year long. There were Christmas lights up, but without the snow and cold, it felt…fake, almost. It’s not, of course (they love Christmas), but it felt wrong. My wife did some baking, but it was hard to find some of the ingredients. We wanted turkey, but they were hard to find and prohibitively expensive. We ended up with two roast chickens, just to make sure we had leftovers. We listened to music, but like the lights, it felt out of place. We had no TV, and really bad internet, so Christmas movies and TV specials were almost not a reality. The entire environment for Christmas was wrong.

But most spectacularly (and most relevant to our present reality), we had no family or friends to share it with. We had some friends at our language school, but most of them had family or friends visiting, so we ended up celebrating Christmas all by ourselves. And for me, it was incredibly difficult. There are still good memories – the boys loved the toys that we got them, and when we took them to the park in the morning, it was like a ghost town, which was really bizarre and amusing. In Costa Rica, they celebrate in a huge way on Christmas Eve, and we had a two story house that looked towards a major centre, so we got a spectacular, hour long fireworks display (I think the kids slept through that one because we didn’t realize it was coming. They caught the New Year’s show, which was even more spectacular – including people lighting lanterns and releasing them into the sky. Which looks cool until the lantern crashes on the cables outside your house and you get to watch the neighbours scramble to get it unstuck and the fire put out before it burns your house down. But I digress…) So there were good and fun memories. But everything was tinged with sadness and disappointment.

I wish I could say that I handled that Christmas well, but I didn’t. I was sad. For the sake of my kids (and my wife), I tried not to mope around all day, but it was tough. All I could think about was what it should be, what I was missing, who wasn’t there, and how…lonely… it all felt. Since that time, we’ve had much better Christmases. At times, we have had family and friends around, but part of it is just learning how to cope with Christmas being different. 

As we approach this Christmas, with some of those same elements in play (particularly the inability to gather with family), I want to offer some ideas that will perhaps help you (and continue to help me) cope with Christmas in an appropriate way, rather than getting swallowed by sadness or anger.

  1. Acknowledge the sadness. It’s not good or healthy to pretend. If you’re sad (or angry!), be honest about it. I’m not advocating that we hide it or pretend. It’s likely that, like me, this emotion will colour many of your experiences this Christmas. So let’s at least acknowledge the elephant in the room. The goal is not to deny or completely get rid of these feelings, but to be honest enough about them that we can look past them rather than getting stuck in them.
  2. It’s all about perspective. A key to coping with that sadness or anger is to do the deliberate work of gaining a proper perspective. For some reason we like to wallow in self-pity or indignation. It somehow seems to be human nature, but it’s not healthy. I offer the following ideas to help us get a good (or better) perspective:
    1. Thankfulness – In the midst of our difficulties, we still have so much to be thankful for, which we often lose sight of. Compared to previous generations, we live in the comfort and even luxury of Kings and Queens, or even gods and goddesses! And yet, we are so used to it that we don’t even notice how good we have it. Even when we are separated from family, the vast majority of us still have technology that allows us to connect, even better than in 2014 when we were at least able to do a (patchy) video call from Costa Rica with our families. Take some time to lift your eyes up and look not just at everything that is missing, but everything that you have. Living overseas, I have learned to be thankful for what I do have when we are so far from familiar traditions and family, rather than focusing only on what I don’t have.
    2. New traditions – Living overseas, we have had to adapt and develop new Christmas traditions. Some have involved new foods – which we absolutely love. Some have involved new habits – we often take a small family trip of some sort over Christmas. Sometimes it involves accepting that all the Christmas stuff (lights and music) are still nice, even if the setting (warm and sunny!) is not right. Sometimes it just requires that we accept that Christmas is going to look a lot smaller and simpler than it does when we do it in Canada. And so we have been able to make it fun and special despite the restrictions.
      So how can we do that this year? The day I heard about Alberta’s restrictions, I sent my brothers a message that simply said, “Christmas in March?” Perhaps we can plan a get together at a different time (totally out of season) that will replace Christmas. I’ve already been thinking about games like jackboxtv, which allows you to play games with people over the internet. Maybe I can still get game time with my brothers and family after all! Maybe we can arrange a special activity with the kids (kind of like an Easter egg hunt, but tailored to Christmas). I don’t know. The challenge is to say, how can we make this special and meaningful, not just sad and angry.
    3. Serve – I’m not even sure what to say about this one, except that perhaps there are some people out there who need help even more than you do. Maybe, rather than focusing on our loss, we can turn our focus to others who have greater needs. People who have been laid off. People overseas who have no capacity for Christmas (groups like Compassion Canada or World Vision often allow you to purchase gifts for people overseas). Maybe part of our sadness comes from thinking only about ourselves, and that can be turned to thinking about others.
  3. Bring God into it. This almost seems like I shouldn’t need to say it, since the entire origin of Christmas is the birth of Jesus (let’s not get into technical arguments about the date and where different traditions came from, etc. Not the point.) The point is that Christmas has changed to primarily be a focus about family (love it), love (totally agree), and giving gifts (love the concept, despite concerns about the extreme commercialism and materialism that sometimes dominates). None of those things by themselves are bad. But Christmas was and should be primarily about celebrating the birth of Jesus, and let’s be honest, he gets pushed completely to the background. So maybe we can recapture some of that. How? Just some ideas:
    1. Most of us have a nativity scene somewhere. Maybe we make it more central. Or actually talk about it. Take seven days and talk or think about about the different people and what they would have been experiencing and what it meant – Joseph, Mary, Jesus, the shepherds, the wise men, the innkeeper and even the angels.
    2. Set up a music playlist that only has songs about Jesus and his birth, and reflect on what it means. Use that playlist regularly and in some dedicated moments to turn your attention to Jesus, rather than to just the other factors.
    3. Reflect on why Jesus came. In Luke 2:11, the angels refer to him as the Saviour. In Matt. 1:21, Gabriel makes it quite clear to Joseph that Jesus has come to save people from their sins. It’s about sins and salvation, not merely family, love and gifts. Those are all related, but not central.
      Perhaps this will help: What will make heaven and the afterlife different than earth? There could be many answers, but I think the biggest one is the lack of sin. Think about it – if we die, and continue to be as self-focused and sinful as we are now, heaven will be exactly the same as earth: Miserable!! (I don’t know – maybe you’re better than me, but I would certainly make it less than heavenly in my present condition.) If you’ve ever seen the Pixar movie Coco (about the Day of the Dead in Mexico), I think that its view of the afterlife is one of the most interesting aspects of the movie. And what do we find? In spite of the movie’s attempt to focus on family and love, the view of the afterlife is depressing. People are exactly the same as they are before death – there is loneliness, despair, jealousy, pride, betrayal and so on. This is not what God offers us, and the only way that is possible is if our sin is dealt with. So Jesus came, both to forgive our sin (because we all know doing wrong should be punished in some way), and also to give us his Holy Spirit to allow us to live without sin, a process that begins slowly now, but will be fulfilled at our death. So Christmas is about our forgiveness, life and restoration, not about so much of what we’ve made it (as good as those things may be).
    4. Read the Christmas stories (Matthew 1-2, and Luke 1-2). Multiple times. Or watch some movies about it, although it’s good to have a solid basis in the story as written so that we can identify both creative license and potentially outright errors. (But not with an eye to complain about the movie, just to keep us centred on what the Bible actually says and doesn’t say.)
    5. Share Jesus with others. Invite others, both in and outside of your family, to read the Christmas stories with you, or watch the movies with you, or think about the songs with you. And have some real conversations about what it actually means.

So, there you have it. From one who has felt the blistering sting of a lonely Christmas that wasn’t at all what it should be, a few ideas to help us refocus and make Christmas good. I’ll be honest – I’m sad that I won’t see my family the way I was hoping to. I’m sad that the Christmas feast won’t be shared. But I’m also kind of excited, because I know, both from experience and from anticipation, that it can still be good. And that’s what I really want. A good, special Christmas that not only will I remember, but that will be meaningful for the coming year and perhaps far into the future.

God bless, and Merry Christmas.