“We’re moving you to values, prosperity, and safety.”
That’s the tagline of Conservative Move, a real-estate company helping thousands relocate to red states. Founder Paul Chabot summarizes the experience of moving his family from California to Texas:
It’s like leaving a really bad relationship. When you get out . . . and you move to say Texas, Florida, the Dakotas, Wyoming, you look back and say . . . “Why did I tolerate that abuse for so long? Why was I in that relationship? Life is so much better.” There really are greener pastures.
Chabot’s “get out of Dodge” rhetoric isn’t unique. For a decade, a massive conservative migration has been crescendoing. Known as “Leftugees,” millions are flocking to red states in pursuit of lower taxes, safer streets, higher district ratings, schools that don’t teach transgenderism or critical race theory, and more recently, states without mask mandates and vaccine passports. In 2020, the fastest growing states were Tennessee, Texas, Florida, Ohio, and Arizona, while California lost 98,000 people and forfeited a congressional seat for the first time ever.
Political polarity in the U.S. is expressing itself geographically—people want to live where they feel their values are affirmed. As a California resident, I’ve watched neighbors move away in droves. Many are Christians who see their move as providential—they feel God wants them to relocate to places more friendly to their beliefs.
As Americans, we certainly have the freedom to move at will. But as Christians, there is much to consider before making any move.
Utopians Or Exiles?
The first consideration is: how comfortable and “at home” should Christians be in this world?
Scripture says we’re exiles in society, not homebodies (Heb. 11:13; 1 Pet. 2:11). Jesus declared his sheep misfits on this earth (John 15:18–25). Discipleship with Christ means dissonance with the world. We’re countercultural, not conformists (Rom. 12:2).
Discipleship with Christ means dissonance with the world. We’re countercultural, not conformists.
But it’s hard to take our God-given misfit status seriously when countless Christians are hitting eject on their lives in challenging areas. Many Instagram posts that gush about lower taxes and just-like-me neighbors implicitly say to those left behind: “Don’t stick it out; get out!” Even for allegedly moral reasons, escapism ignores God’s call to scatter to the ends of the earth in order to love the lost and lose our lives (Matt. 16:25; 28:18–20). How tragic that, in order to stay faithfully planted in difficult areas, weary saints have to tune out not just the world’s appeals, but also the songs of God’s people.
Bruised in Babylon
Christian exiles don’t glorify suffering as a badge of honor, but they do expect it as par for the course (1 Pet. 5:10; 2 Tim. 3:12). Babylon has a pervasive agenda, bent on blaspheming Christ’s name. Environment does affect our kids. Sometimes freedoms are unjustly squelched. Think of the teacher mandated by the state to push harmful sexual ethics on kids, or families crushed by a high cost of living and taxes, even though they live frugally. Is there a time to move on? Certainly.
But let’s be cautiously aware that Americans vehemently avoid awkwardness, pain, and discomfort. Escape pods offer quick relief, but simply because multitudes of people with “our values” are hopping on board doesn’t mean it’s spiritually beneficial. Those who move are tempted to overlook biases and shortcomings of their new home, since they want to believe things are “so much better than where we came from.” New zip codes don’t guarantee clean hearts. Even greener pastures have brown spots.
Underneath the decisions we make are the questions we ask. It’s easy to assume a question is valid because everyone’s asking it, including other believers. But a cursory glance at the reigning repertoire reveals our need for better questions (stated in parentheses).
- Why should I stay somewhere that disrespects my beliefs? (Better: What might God want to accomplish in and through me by staying or moving?)
- How can I make life easier or safer? (Better: How can I show the courage of a disciple of Christ, and his sovereignty over circumstances?)
- Why would I let my kids grow up here? (Better: What intentional adjustments can I make in the way I disciple my kids? What other Christian parents will link arms with me in this effort?)
- Where will state policy reflect my theology? (Better: With the gifts God has given me, how can I reflect him in this tough environment with truth and grace?)
- Where will I feel at home politically and culturally? (Better: How would moving away affect my lost friends, family, and neighbors here? Am I trying to create a pseudo-heaven, or do I trust God’s promise of heaven enough to make sacrifices now?)
Good questions help us answer the why behind our wanderlust. For one person, obedience might mean staying put. For another it could be moving away. Serious believers will not pack their bags because it’s trendy in their tribe. Instead they’ll ask uncomfortable questions that screen their motives.
We need examples of Christians who faithfully stay and go. The stories that captivate us are the stories we end up living, so here are a few that inspire me to submit my geography to God.
Throughout his life, John Perkins has made several decisions to move to difficult areas, including Mississippi, where he was brutally beaten for leading peaceful protests. He reflects on his move to a rough neighborhood in California:
I understand relocation is a hard thing to do. It was hard for me to move my family into the crime-ridden neighborhood of northwest Pasadena, but I knew it was where God wanted us to be. . . . Sometimes he directs you and me to take a few giant steps in the direction of self-sacrifice so that other folks will see his love in and through us.
Charles Spurgeon muses on the benefits of following Jesus in turbulent contexts:
It is not at all a bad thing for us to be put where there is opposition, because we shall not be stopped by it, but shall by that very process be made to shine all the brighter as lights in the world. . . . If you and I are put in difficult positions, where we seem to be unable to shine to the glory of God, we must ask the Lord specially to constitute us so that we can better reflect his brightness.
Also, read the powerful TGC article about Christians serving Minneapolis amid the rioting and violence sparked by George Floyd’s murder. As one pastor in the city put it: “There are hard days, believe me. But overall, the word I’d use to describe ministry here is a privilege.”
God sees every act of faithfulness, rewards obedience, and guarantees justice. Do we actually trust God to deliver those promises, or do we scan Zillow looking for our own promised land? An address is more than some numbers and letters, or a pin on a map. Sometimes it’s a statement about who we believe God is.