do the right thing and act on those qualms
August 26, 2017 9:34 AM   Subscribe

Last week, in the wake of the dissolution of President Trump's Business Council over his public statements about Charlottesville (previously), many noted that his Evangelical Council said nothing. Ex-evangelical support blogger Chris Stroop called on Twitter to call white evangelical leaders to account with a call to #EmptyThePews of religious leaders who cannot demonstrate enough moral fiber to denounce white supremacy. The hashtag quickly filled with stories of spiritual abuse. Leaving these churches, Stroop acknowledges, is very difficult for many people. But he hopes that this public discussion will help more people to find the courage to leave toxic churches, whether or not they continue to maintain a Christian faith.

Note that the general potus45 thread exists for general Trump discussion, and that the Charlottesville thread is also still active.
posted by sciatrix (42 comments total) 55 users marked this as a favorite
 
I can be pretty dismissive of faith and Evangelicals most of all, but here's to the ones who are better than their churches and, you know, actually Christian in their actions.
posted by Artw at 9:48 AM on August 26, 2017 [21 favorites]


the President's Evangelical Advisory Board. WTF.

Stonkle, you could do worse than read these posts, tagged "court evangelicals," from historian/professor John Fea. He's been following them for a while and seems disgusted with most of them.
posted by MonkeyToes at 10:06 AM on August 26, 2017 [15 favorites]


here's to the ones who are better than their churches and, you know, actually Christian in their actions.

Progressive communities don't have a monopoly on good people within their ranks. It's just harder for good people who know something is wrong to stand up when they think they're alone in a crowd. A crowd, worse yet, made up of their beloved friends and families.

So initiatives like this? That say "Hey, I have stood with you" or "I am waiting to hold you and support you if you follow your morals" or "I accept you for who you are, and I know where you come from, and I expect better"? These are incredibly, incredibly important.

They say: no, you are not alone in that crowd. They say: no, you don't have to abandon everything you know to do the right thing. They say: yes, come and stand with me, and I will bring you home, whatever that means to you; and together we will face down the world and bring true good into it.
posted by sciatrix at 10:14 AM on August 26, 2017 [49 favorites]


I've been thinking that one of the biggest barriers to mounting an effective resistance movement is the lack of strong communities in most left-of-center lives, and that this seems directly related to the deterioration and polarization of, well, churches.

For a lot of these people, standing up for what's right will mean losing their community. That's really hard. I wish we had places for them to go, not just for these evangelicals, but for the rest of the left, too. The older I get the more I feel the absence of community. I think it's something we need. I just don't know how to build one.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:24 AM on August 26, 2017 [44 favorites]


Actually, I think it's worse than that: I think I don't know how to be part of a real life community, in some pretty important ways, and I think this is something that is pretty common in my peer group. We never really learned. And part of that is because the communities we were exposed to were kind of shitty: they always excluded or oppressed people on the basis of who they were, as opposed to what they did (queers, women, POC), and so a lot of us rejected them.

But it feels like, as a result, there's a whole set of skills much of my generation never learned. And that's coming back to bite us in the ass now.
posted by schadenfrau at 10:27 AM on August 26, 2017 [43 favorites]


Leaving these churches, Stroop acknowledges, is very difficult for many people.

Evangelical Presbyterian congregation that I'd been raised in since birth. Early 20s, I was teaching a sunday school class, playing piano for the youth choir and the young adult choir, was singing in the weekly church choir, was leading a junior high fellowship, was a member of the bell choir, was participating in several different fellowship groups, had preached from the pulpit on Sunday twice (lay preachers basically unheard of in this denomination)...

I went in and asked if there was a place for me in the congregation if I came out as gay. The pastor told me no. It was the last time I walked into that church until my parents' 50th wedding anniversary reception decades later.

Leaving a church is not difficult. What is difficult is having a context for one's life after you leave, that is the difficult part.

I didn't even leave. I was kicked out.

Fuck that pastor. My parents have told me since then that the congregation would have welcomed having me continue to do what I was doing. But "the leadership" told me a thing when I asked him, and I adjusted my life based on his word.

I have complicated feelings about this that aren't fully processed even nearly 30 years later.
posted by hippybear at 10:36 AM on August 26, 2017 [110 favorites]


As a progressive Christian, I appreciate him saying this:

I want to reiterate that if you’re fed up with Evangelicalism but still too invested in Christianity to leave it for atheism, agnosticism, or some other form of being a none, you can leave your church or denomination for one that doesn’t enable, or overtly support, white nationalism, misogyny, and anti-LGBTQ bigotry. You can abandon Christofascism without abandoning Christianity.

And I would add a gentle reminder to white people that black churches have been on the front lines of the struggle as long as there have been black churches, and it's incredibly important to never forget the true diversity of Christianity or the important role it has played in the what political progress we have seen in the US.
posted by hydropsyche at 10:36 AM on August 26, 2017 [62 favorites]


Having written this before the preceding comments were posted, I'm repeating some of what's already been said -- but keep in mind that there's a (diminished) tradition of progressive evangelicalism. Having known a few such folk, I'm always a bit uncomfortable with the assumption that evangelicalism is exclusively a subset of hard-right cultural conservatism. Also, there are a whole lot of black and hispanic conservative evangelicals who are unequivocally opposed to Trump.

That said, it's obviously true that, politically and culturally, the white conservatives overwhelmingly dominate.

As much as I'd like to agree with sciatrix's optimistic view, I can't. I think a couple of things need to be kept in mind.

First, the overwhelming majority of white, self-described evangelicals identify as such primarily as an assertion of social identity that is all about white supremacy and the patriarchy. It's not about faith for them. So it's no surprise that these folk support Trump despite that he's basically the most impious, ungodly, morally depraved political leader imaginable.

Second, there are a minority of white, conservative evangelicals for whom it's truly not about social identity but about faith and living their beliefs. I personally know that this group has been stunned and dismayed by their community's embrace of Trump. If you insist, I'll agree that this reflects some naivete -- but I kind of think that's part of this particular personality.

Nevertheless, the problem with appealing to these folk is that they're most likely to be so wedded to their community that, for them, it will be matter of being a (probably not very effective and muted) dissenter from within rather than leaving. Very often, the sincere, principled believers work alongside the hypocritical opportunists to form the leadership and backbone of the church, not recognizing the others for what they are... so they'll believe they are empowered to help bring the flock back to what's right.

Who is left who might leave their church? It will be those who were already only loosely affiliated or disillusioned before Trump. They'll be the ones who would have dropped away, anyway.

That only leaves the very few people with a profound commitment to their faith along with an unusually strong sense of personal independence. It's just not going to amount to very many people.

I've spent much of my life, certainly my childhood, as an unbeliever surrounded by Christian conservatives, mostly fundamentalists and evangelicals. I've known a few people with a profound and powerful faith who strive to be better people because of it. Between they and their few counterparts on the left, they represent to me the best that religious life can be. But, sadly, in my long observation, they are a very small minority among their communities. For the majority, it's a kind of tribalism and this is exactly the instinct that Trump appeals to.

The American Christian right has undeniably revealed their true nature in their support of Trump and, well, that's just the sorry reality of the situation. There will never be an appeal to them to repudiate Trumpism that works. Tragically, Trump embodies their true values, not their professed values.

I guess most of this is obvious, but it's my lived experience. It sort of breaks my heart.
posted by Ivan Fyodorovich at 11:32 AM on August 26, 2017 [37 favorites]


Also, there are a whole lot of black and hispanic conservative evangelicals who are unequivocally opposed to Trump.

Are they unequivocally opposed to all the other terrible shit evangelicals have been foisting or trying to foist on the rest of us for decades? The homophobia, the misogyny, opposition to abortion rights, the attacks on anyone with different or non-mainstream beliefs or ways of life?

I mean, "#EmptyThePews" and opposing Trump is great and all, but "Gays are deviant filth who must be suppressed and punished, women must know their divinely-ordained place and if they get an abortion they're monsters, all of society needs to, by law, be made to follow our beliefs or be punished for not doing so, but white supremacy? Oh my, a bridge too far. We need to take a stand against this evil!" is fairly ridiculous.

These people have been a cancer on society for decades, working as hard as they can to make it worse for everyone but them, but we're supposed to cheer when they take the most basic steps towards human decency?
posted by Sangermaine at 11:57 AM on August 26, 2017 [12 favorites]


Well yeah. What would be the point of condemning them for taking basic steps towards human decency? Aren't you more likely to keep doing something if you're praised for doing it?
posted by Spathe Cadet at 12:13 PM on August 26, 2017 [9 favorites]


If you actually read the #EmptythePews tweets, you observe an awful lot of people who are talking about their own queer experiences within the church and how it personally hurt them. In addition to that, the three tweets picked out as particularly powerful by the hashtag creator (third link) include one women speaking about how her church community handled her sexual assault as well as two cases of discussing racism in the church.

Where on earth did you get the idea that people are cheering, Sangermaine? It's a hashtag about reasons that people who used to fill those pews left. As such, the discussion is pretty damn critical from a very in-group-educated perspective.
posted by sciatrix at 12:15 PM on August 26, 2017 [16 favorites]




I'd love to know how many actually leave. The Southern Baptists have been in a panic for years now over the impossibility of keeping twentysomethings in the church (~60% loss of young members), and in the rapidly falling rate of baptisms. As has been said, there's probably not many left to leave. While there was no hashtag campaign, there was an sizeable exodus in the previous decade over the conservative church's unquestioned support of Bush, and all the atrocities Bush brought to the table.

In my own personal history, I learned of the court evangelicals fairly early in life. I can still remember at age 9, mum ranting about how our pastor was giving full-throated support to Reagan over Carter. "He's supporting an actor over a Sunday School teacher?!?" And as I started paying attention to the news, my church and denomination leadership continued this support, complained incessantly about important issues like scantily clad women on television, and completely ignored rising nuclear war fears and the American-fueled cruelty in Central America. So much suffering in the world and all they could think about was sex, abortion, and eventually homosexuality. All the while mixing up Ceasar with God until they were one and the same. I left at 18 and never looked back.

One blog to follow, if you're interested in how conservative churches often end up eating their own, is The Wartburg Watch. Many conservative churches aren't content fighting the culture wars and supporting Trump. They also are increasingly abusive towards their own membership via "church discipline" and other cultlike tactics. The blog is a little inside baseball, but is an interesting viewpoint of conservative believers who are horrified at what many churches have become.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 12:34 PM on August 26, 2017 [34 favorites]


I wish I had a nickel for every time in the early aughts I heard some variation on, "Well, I don't agree with everything President Bush does, but I know he's a God-fearing Christian, so it must be all for the best."
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:50 PM on August 26, 2017 [8 favorites]


In other words, the Republicans have been pandering to the religious right all my life and it's worked beautifully for them.
posted by The Underpants Monster at 12:51 PM on August 26, 2017 [8 favorites]


I would not worry about deconverting someone attending a hate church. They live in a mental castle/prison. They also hardly know each other because they are all fronting their faith, rarely revealing their personality (which may lead to doubts about them), and often doing good only for their own sake. Their relationship to each other as true believers is by way of the leadership, which is a feature of cults, not communities. They experience the torments of intellectual fear and emotional relief, so genes are likely involved. I would instead focus on the low-believing fringe who are somewhat resistant to the control cycle of guilt, insecurity, and self-righteousness. They lack extremism genes and have no religious pride, but instead experience it all as post-trauma, in need of recovery (in order to avoid addiction and other guilt-based extremes as a substitute). Although they are often in a slacking cultural agreement with the hardcore, they are less paranoid, less racist, less gun crazy, and do not preach. They display casual forms of belief without the staunch literalism. They resist fetishizing money for lack of it (an evangelical theme) and thus aren't prone to conservativism just because they are cash poor. Their go along attitude is probably due to simple survival among the zombies. They are claimed by the hardcore because they aren't politically threatening, nor do they openly disagree with the doctrine, as they only lack commitment and make the staunch ones look better. A very crucial difference between the two sets is that the churchgoers do not believe they can be misled at church, and that they are immune from evil in a state of adherence. In other words, there is no point in wasting time in telling the true believers they are wrong and secretly proving them righteous, but there is a point in telling the wayward and half-guilted that they aren't the brainwashed ones making a mistake or being lazy, and they need to vote to lose the leftover guilt and insecurity. The takeaway is that next time a boorish creep runs for president, don't ignore his evangelical ties in the campaign, or else a lot of people won't know who not to vote for.
posted by Brian B. at 1:09 PM on August 26, 2017


I was raised LCMS Lutheran, which is one of the most hateful, self-important branches of protestantism there is. Seriously, they kicked out a pastor who lost a member in Sandy Hook because he went to an interfaith gathering, which is like apostasy to them. I looked to see what their response to Charlottesville was and it's to...create a website. Super. It also reminds you up front that the only reason there are multiple races and cultures is because of original sin.
posted by fluttering hellfire at 1:38 PM on August 26, 2017 [4 favorites]


I wonder if some people fear that the only thing keeping them in their current belief system is being preached at weekly. That if they left, their belief system would shift in unknown and scary (but definitely bad) ways. The effect is probably strongest on congregations enduring sermons from hateful people who are using the pulpit as a platform to spread their bigotry. Churches as mini-cults, where the congregation has become convinced they'd be nothing without their pastor. I don't recall anything in the Bible about adherence to physical institutions above common sense/decency. Sounds dangerously close to the idols readers are warned against erecting.

The message I'd like to get to believers in the 21st century is to take a chance! Believe in your own internal ability to navigate through life using the morals you choose. Consider the possibility that your church leaders have overblown the dangers that await those who choose not to attend, in an effort to maintain attendance levels. Even if your belief system does shift upon leaving, maybe it will be for the better.

BTW Evangelical Council? What happened to the separation of Church and State?
posted by mantecol at 2:10 PM on August 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure the Evangelical Council is not an official part of the government.
posted by hippybear at 2:13 PM on August 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


People leave their churches all the time. I don't go seeking them out, but I know more than a few people who have left their denomination, their religion, or religion as a whole, and the one common thing among those who grew up in evangelical or otherwise really devout families and communities is that it's hard.* Some of them seem to have one big revelatory NO moment, but most seem to crawl their way out slowly. It's not just a matter of renouncing their beliefs. They often have to leave their entire community behind in the process, as the more cultlike religions tend to practice shunning, either implicitly or explicitly.

And even once they extricate themselves, and once they find other friends and support systems and communities, many of them aren't really prepared for life outside their religious communities. Particularly for women, who are often raised incredibly sheltered and naive, it is very very hard to adapt. In big ways and lots of little ones too. They often don't get pop culture references, they don't recognize deceptive behaviors or know how to best react, and the idea of standing up for themselves is pretty much foreign to them. They were not raised to be self sufficient, and they were not raised to question authority--or even just perceived authority, e.g., men. Even when they intellectually understand that they can and should.

People really do need help and support leaving evangelical churches. That grip is tighter than I think most of us realize.

* I, on the other hand, was raised agnostic (very very early life lapsed Catholic, but early enough to be the same deal) and am shockingly ignorant about religious terminology, so I may be categorizing things incorrectly and using the wrong words.
posted by ernielundquist at 2:14 PM on August 26, 2017 [10 favorites]


I basically practiced shunning when I left my church. I figured out I was gay at age 20, I left my church after being told there was no place for me here (literally the pastor's words when I talked to him - "there is no place for you here"), and then I didn't answer phone calls or accept visits from anyone from that church for a long while unless they were my parents. My parents, who also didn't try to convince me to come back.

I basically lost my entire life when I walked away because of the depth of my involvement with my church. I was lucky enough to have another context to step into because I was starting my short stint with the local community theater with my then-boyfriend and so I was spending a lot of time and energy on something else. But if I didn't have that happening, I would have been left utterly adrift and I don't know if I would have been strong enough to continue. I'd already attempted suicide when I was a teenager because of my suspicious I was gay. If I hadn't had something else to step into after I came out, I probably would have continued to try to kill myself until I succeeded.

I truly consider myself to be one of the lucky ones. Many others aren't, and they aren't with us anymore. Those numbers grow every day. Not to mention those who have their lives taken against their will.

I don't have anyplace to put these thoughts that are productive for the current generation of young people, but I think about it a lot.
posted by hippybear at 2:28 PM on August 26, 2017 [42 favorites]


I think for those wrapped up in hate and fear, the conservative church acts as a sort of salve, telling them that God approves of their hate and it's correct and well-directed. This involves ignoring pretty much everything Jesus ever said, but then who really reads the Bible for themselves? Easier to listen to someone else's interpretations that make it fit with your existing fears/hatreds.

It's also a way to be inoculated against the outside; "Satan is clever! He can look like an angel of light!" and so people coming at you with evidence/logic/appeals to basic decency can be written off as deceivers.

And when that fails, the fear of Hell is used to keep you from asking uncomfortable questions; you are even taught to doubt your own thoughts, because your mind is sinful and Satan is trying to manipulate you.

My problem being raised that way is that I did read the actual Bible, as well as a lot of other things that spoke to the basic principles Jesus espoused, and many of them did not fit in with what my church was doing. For a while I tried to reconcile them, but I couldn't, so I left. But even then I had a fear in the back of my mind that I would go to hell. I finally had to take the Huck Finn route; if being a good person means I'm going to hell, fine. I'll go. God is clearly a terrible person if that's what happens to me, so who cares.

It took me a long time to get there, though. But church was such a miserable, fearful place that in the end I had to leave.

For other people I do think it's about assuming your church is about love, is there for you, until one day you need it because of a divorce or a miscarriage or your child comes out, and turns out they don't really care about you at all. Compassion evaporates. And it's shocking and devastating.
posted by emjaybee at 2:53 PM on August 26, 2017 [28 favorites]


But church was such a miserable, fearful place that in the end I had to leave.

QFMFT
posted by hippybear at 2:56 PM on August 26, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the Evangelical Council is not an official part of the government.

Neither is Fox and Freinds, it's pretty blurred these days.
posted by Artw at 5:07 PM on August 26, 2017 [7 favorites]


I'm pretty sure the Evangelical Council is not an official part of the government.
Meanwhile these evangelical dominionists are part of the cabinet.
Attorney General Jeff Sessions
Secretary of the Interior Ryan Zinke
Secretary of Health & Human Services Dr. Tom Price
Secretary of Housing & Urban Development Dr. Ben Carson
Secretary of Transportation Elaine Chao
Secretary of Energy Rick Perry
Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos
Director of the EPA Scott Pruitt
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley
Senior Counselor for Economic Initiatives Dina Powell
Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats
posted by adamvasco at 5:33 PM on August 26, 2017 [23 favorites]




adamvasco, didn't you leave out a certain vice president?
posted by lhauser at 7:13 PM on August 26, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm pretty sure the Evangelical Council is not an official part of the government.

Neither are 45's kids. And yet, here we are.
posted by bile and syntax at 7:13 PM on August 26, 2017 [11 favorites]


A pastor friend who often posts about how to get people to come to church, posted this today about why to get them to come. It seemed apropos.

“Choosing Church,” Marilyn McEntyre, Comment, 01 September 2017

P.S. I poked around the website for Comment a little because I was curious about it. It's published by a think-tank named Cardus that focuses on what they call social architecture which seems even more apropos.
posted by ob1quixote at 10:04 PM on August 26, 2017 [5 favorites]


Duh !
Idiot that I am yes the really scary VP Mike Pence and I also ommitted the Minister of Agriculture Sonny Perdue.
I wish #EmptyThePews all the luck in the world but I don't hold out much hope of it making much indent in the ingrained belief systems.
It was only six years ago that we had a discussion here as to whether dominionism actually existed for fucks sake.
One of the first comments included this gem "Dominionism" is one of those ghost stories liberals tell each other when they want a good scare.
Now overall I consider Mefites a pretty intelligent and discerning bunch of people so when we have this type of abject denial here what do you think it is in the wider population who pretty much live in their theme park bubbles, spoon fed by trash tabloids and TV.
posted by adamvasco at 5:42 AM on August 27, 2017 [6 favorites]


Particularly for women, who are often raised incredibly sheltered and naive, it is very very hard to adapt. In big ways and lots of little ones too. They often don't get pop culture references, they don't recognize deceptive behaviors or know how to best react, and the idea of standing up for themselves is pretty much foreign to them. They were not raised to be self sufficient, and they were not raised to question authority--or even just perceived authority, e.g., men. Even when they intellectually understand that they can and should.

People really do need help and support leaving evangelical churches. That grip is tighter than I think most of us realize.


Quoted for truth. Also, paradoxically, others assuming that as someone who had left my entire abusive evangelical family, I would somehow automatically be clued in to atheist/agnostic thinking and if I wasn't, I was a traitor or a double agent secretly hoping to convert them. I mean, while I did have a few awesome friends who treated me simply as a human being, I also had quite a few people who would start screaming at me (yes) about not having actually left our church because I didn't know something or other. Which was pretty unhelpful coming from a church where I'd been treated as a traitor secretly hoping to spread evil. I know a few people who left the church too, then went back because "the outside world" was telling them the same things as their church, with the difference that at least in their church, there were people they'd known since childhood.

Deceptive behaviors have been the hardest for me to learn, definitely. It's an odd thing to say, but working with a group of jokesters in my first job was really helpful there. They genuinely liked me, and were constantly fooling me because it was so damned easy to do. Always nice stuff, but once in a while our director would pull a really big one on me that was work-related and then just sit there and stare at me as I tried to answer his leading questions, slowly realizing I'd been had and effed up as a result. (He was one of my best directors. His whole point was to get me to question his authority.) It was honestly the best thing that could have happened, because it taught me so much – that relationships aren't about being perfect or always being right; you can make mistakes, people will notice them and tell you, and you'll still be treated like a human being. Plus that great French expression: qui aime bien, taquine bien ("when you like someone, you tease them").

Moving to a different country was a pretty good choice overall, in large part because the preconceptions and societal touchstones that caused a lot of pain in the US don't really exist elsewhere. The rest of the world has a hard time comprehending our evangelicals. As a result, I'm treated with a different set of preconceptions, to be sure, but at least they're not so pronounced.
posted by fraula at 6:37 AM on August 27, 2017 [17 favorites]


So... actual full blown cults in a lot of cases?
posted by Artw at 6:51 AM on August 27, 2017 [2 favorites]


I can be pretty dismissive of faith and Evangelicals most of all, but here's to the ones who are better than their churches and, you know, actually Christian in their actions.

if you're interested in how conservative churches often end up eating their own, is The Wartburg Watch. ...The blog is a little inside baseball, but is an interesting viewpoint of conservative believers who are horrified at what many churches have become.

Comments from the TWW blogger on their post on "15 words that can save a relationship:"

Sure, there are relationships worth ending. God divorced national Israel. In Part III we will show that when appropriate boundaries are established, the consequences for the other person “crossing” those boundaries (e.g. abuse, adultery, abandonment), is separation in relationship. However, the separation (and resulting consequences) is best for the abuser, the adulterer and the one who abandons. What we are attempting to help people see is that constantly pointing to other people as “the cause or source of my pain or healing” will only perpetuate a dependence on that other person. When Jesus becomes your Source and your Healer, you can end a relationship for the good of the abusive, adulterous person who has already abandoned the relationship. In other words, a person who habitually violates established personal boundaries (as Israel did with God) has no room to complain when a divorce occurs.


Oh wow, this is *much* better than less politely phrased anti-semitism. I'm so impressed.
posted by snuffleupagus at 6:54 AM on August 27, 2017 [5 favorites]


One of the first comments included this gem "Dominionism" is one of those ghost stories liberals tell each other when they want a good scare.

I think the Dominionists are included, but it's ... broader, a struggle for an existing supremacy is going on. The practical meaning of the First Amendment has been basically: "This is a Protestant realm, but the gov't shall not favor any particular Protestant sects or denominations, and there'll be varying degrees of tolerance for non-Protestants."

And that worked for roughly a couple centuries - Protestantism remained fractious, but with splits chaotic and bounded such that most Protestants could find a vaguely Protestant government at least acceptable.

But now, and here in the topic of the post, there is a vast and polarizing schism. There is no vague middle ground compromise generic Protestant-derived position acceptable to both evangelical/fundamentalist/traditional Protestantism and to Progressivism. It makes me afraid some Troubles if not worse are coming...
posted by save alive nothing that breatheth at 7:23 AM on August 27, 2017


I left the Evangelical Lutheran sect I was raised in 30 years ago, and, while the precipitating event was admittedly kind of stupid, the pressures between my moral and ethical sense and the church's teachings were too strong for me to remain. I've never regretted the decision, and the few times I've attended a service have mostly reinforced that determination. Earlier this year, I was looking at Lutheran sects' responses to Luther's antisemitism, seeing how they addressed that particular shameful knot, and discovered that the official word from my former church was mealy-mouthed apologia. So, ugh.
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:30 AM on August 27, 2017 [3 favorites]


Oh wow, this is *much* better than less politely phrased anti-semitism. I'm so impressed.

They're making Old Testament references to Israel doing something wrong in the eyes of God (idolotry, fornication, wearing pantsuits of mixed fabric), God passing judgement or turning his back on them, bad things happen, and ultimately the Israelites get right with God and good things happen. Or they don't get things right, and the Assyrians or Babylonians show up and ruin everything.

It was recurring cycle in the Old Testament histories. That's what the blogger is referring to, and it's a common reference in American Protestant churches. The blogger is making this reference because it's something most of their readers will understand immediately, and using a bit of shorthand because of the familiarity of the audience.

I don't think it's anti-Semetic. They're not saying modern Jews or modern Israel have been divorced by God, or Jews should be treated badly by God, or we should treat Jews badly in the name of God. They're referencing a particular set of Biblical events and using it as a metaphor for why leaving abusers is a good thing. I'll admit it's a weird & twisted metaphor, but one used because many of their audience might otherwise feel locked into a bad marriage due to Jesus strongly condemning divorce or locked into a bad church for many different reasons.

At any rate, I didn't link to them for their theological discussions. Most secular people (myself included) will find that part pointless. I linked to them because of their coverage of church abuses from the viewpoint of a conservative believer.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 9:53 AM on August 27, 2017 [4 favorites]


Fred Clark has been on point as usual. In the August 21st post, "What does it mean to say racism is a sin?", he talks about how quick evangelicals are to embrace their sinner status, except when they are talking about racism.
“You’re a sinner too!” “Yes, yes, I am. We all are.” And this cheerfully unoffended agreement can even endure if the shared accusation is made more specific.

“You’re a liar, too!” “Yes, we have all missed the mark of perfect honesty.”

“And you’re an adulterer, too!” “Yes, yes, we’ve all entertained lust in our hearts.”

But this comes crashing to a halt when we arrive at “racism is sin.” Somehow it’s perfectly fine and wholly agreeable to insist that we’re all sinners, but we get angrily indignant and defensive if anyone suggests that we’re all racists. This particular sin seems to be regarded differently than most other sins. It seems to be the one sin we are incapable of confessing, the one sin we refuse to allow ourselves to be accused of.

That’s … interesting. Evangelist-prosecutors wouldn’t allow anyone to speak this way of any other sin. They would never accept such an indignant claim of total innocence from any would-be convert who asserted that they had never lied or stolen or envied or lusted. But this sin, somehow, is different.

It’s astonishing, if you think about it. People who are perfectly willing to admit that they are wretched sinful sinners deserving to suffer an eternity of conscious torment in Hell due to their wicked sinfulness will turn on a dime and proclaim their absolute innocence when it comes to one particular sin.
posted by spamandkimchi at 1:04 PM on August 27, 2017 [26 favorites]


(#YouMightHaveGrownUpEvangelicalIf is fucking gold. Some real deep cuts there.)
posted by jcreigh 5 ¼ hours ago [3 favorites −]


Yeah, I found myself nodding and laughing a lot more than I thought I would. I remember not being able to tell the other kids at church or parochial school that we celebrated Halloween. We figured nobody would see our decorations, because they were all locked in their houses that night with all the lights off. ;)
posted by The Underpants Monster at 2:54 PM on August 27, 2017


I don't think it's anti-Semetic. They're not saying modern Jews or modern Israel have been divorced by God, or Jews should be treated badly by God, or we should treat Jews badly in the name of God. They're referencing a particular set of Biblical events and using it as a metaphor for why leaving abusers is a good thing.

Wouldn't that also tie into the idea of dispensationalist theology; i.e., the Jews were God's chosen people but forfeited it because they killed Christ/became effete chess-playing Commies/___, and the Americans (but not of course, you know, those Americans) inherited it now?
posted by acb at 4:07 PM on August 27, 2017


It does tie into that idea. However, in many (most?) of the evangelical / fundamentalist churches, that idea is somewhat heretical.

In my denomination, this was the settled doctrine of how the US & Jews & Israel all fit together: God never revoked the covenant with the Jews. They are still his chosen people. The US might be high up in the eyes of God, based on how he's blessed the nation, but Israel and the Jews will always be first. And woe unto him who makes the Jews suffer or stands against Israel.

At least as far as Southern Baptists go (the one I'm most familiar with), this is ironclad doctrine. Some preachers would bring up the "blood on our heads and on our children" as a reason for Jewish persecution in the centuries between us and Jesus. But even those pastors still thought the covenant applied and that the persecution fit into the same Old Testament cycle of punishing Israel and then redeeming Israel.

And, importantly, while God allowed the persecution and pogroms to happen, God did not approve. The people who commited the anti-Jewish atrocities were considered hell-bound criminals of the worst sort. It was always pointed out that any nation which persecuted the Jews ended up facing horrible punishments and decline. As long as the United States supported Israel and was free of anti-Semitism, we'd continue to be great. I even saw some pastors state the United States was created and blessed with power and wealth because we would become a home to millions of Jews, defeat the Nazis, and eventually support Israel.

Some would even skirt the line with dispensationalist theology by stating we were receiving the blessings promised the Jews, but, again, it was only because we provided a welcoming environment for Jews to live freely (and because we were a "Christian nation"). Americans were never a replacement for the Jews, but might receive their gifts at times. Because we're awesome.

Anyways, that was the prevailing theology for Baptists about Israel, Jews, and the United States. And furthermore, Baptists were the first to admit their interpretations of End Times prophesies didn't contain a single reference to anything resembling the United States. Therefore, where God ranked the US was always a little in doubt. Is he going to keep America great thanks to our support of Israel? Or is he going to burn us down because women wear bikinis on television? My church could never make up their mind on that score.
posted by Teegeeack AV Club Secretary at 7:11 PM on August 27, 2017 [2 favorites]



I've been thinking that one of the biggest barriers to mounting an effective resistance movement is the lack of strong communities in most left-of-center lives, and that this seems directly related to the deterioration and polarization of, well, churches.

For a lot of these people, standing up for what's right will mean losing their community. That's really hard. I wish we had places for them to go, not just for these evangelicals, but for the rest of the left, too. The older I get the more I feel the absence of community. I think it's something we need. I just don't know how to build one.


I think there's a lot of truth to this. I've seen a lot of answers, and they work to varying degrees, but the answer I have seen work the best is regular potlucks, typically weekly. Most commonly, I've seen it done with variations on neighbors.
posted by aniola at 8:22 PM on August 27, 2017 [1 favorite]


The granddaughter of one of my father's best friends had great talent as a dancer; Juilliard accepted her for their summer dance intensive when she was in high school. Unfortunately she fell in with an angel-faced tweaker who charmed her into using and dealing. They were caught, he was sentenced, while in jail he was lovebombed by the pastor who was shot after hosting a ted Cruz rally. When AF was released they attended the pastor's faith based "rehab", were baptized and married. She got pregnant, he relapsed, repented,knocked her up again and went back to using. She filed for divorce, he tried to whiteknight a fellow addict from the church, broke up with her and became involved with a second addict who had also relapsed. In the last few months he went back to jail, then was released to a medical rehab and it looks like he might get back together with the granddaughter . I was very disturbed by the church's statement of faith and don't predict a good outcome.
posted by brujita at 10:17 PM on August 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


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