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Hi and welcome back! I hope you had a very merry holiday yesterday! Lately, we’ve been talking about Christian lies. Those are the huge body of half-truths, deceptions, rationalizations, self-delusions, convenient omissions, and outright fabrications that Christians tell others and themselves to make their sales pitches sound nicer and to help them overcome the many troubling aspects of their religion. Today’s entry on the list involves who Christians think could benefit from purchasing their product–and what unpleasant behaviors sprout from this lie. Come with me to meet the Christians who think literally everybody needs what they have to sell!

the muscat desert of oman at sunset
(Giorgio Parravicini.)

(Previous Christian Lies: We’re in RevivalWe Welcome EveryoneBeing Christian Is Awesome; Gosh We’re Soooo Different; Christianity Is Unique Among Religions.)

The Party Line.

Muslims need Jesus. Buddhists need Jesus. Atheists need Jesus. Pagans need Jesus. Agnostics need Jesus. Gay people need Jesus. Straight people need Jesus. Rich people need Jesus. Poor people need Jesus. Hurting people need Jesus. Happy people need Jesus. Christians need Jesus. Everybody needs Jesus.

— a pastor in a culture-war denomination (source)

By now, Christians consider axiomatic the notion that literally everyone on the planet needs their product. That means everyone. Everyone, without exception, not only benefits from their product but needs it as an imperative for life itself.

In their minds, non-Christians just don’t understand what a necessity we lack! We don’t comprehend what a loss we suffer!

But don’t worry! TRUE CHRISTIANS™ stand at the ready in various divinely-mandated mission roles to clarify that loss for us! Ain’t we the luckiest lil duckies ever?

This isn’t simply an evangelical idea. It pervades Christianity. I’ve personally encountered even the most ethereal, liberal Christians talking like this. The only difference centers around exactly what the exact benefit is for each of them.

(See endnote for an explanation of what I mean by “the product.”)

Slight Variations in the Party Line.

Some Christians (like the ones responsible for this awful site) think we’d benefit by buying their product because then we’d start following their behavioral rules and something something omg community. Cuz obviously, the Christian god totally set up Christianity because he’s such a good parent for his little children. I wish I’d saved the link I saw years ago where a prominent progressive Christian pastor and blogger insisted on this very point. However, he’s not the only one talking like that.

You might have run into these paternalistic busybody sorts yourself: See, see, premarital sex isn’t criminal, just really emotionally harmful. So Jesus asks his followers not to indulge in it for their own protection, see. He just phrases it as a “don’t do this” rule without explaining that reasoning because shut up, that’s why.

Others think the supernatural stuff matters more–and by this I mean the aid they think their god offers his followers that is otherwise inaccessible. A long time ago, I reviewed a book by a Christian who made this point one of his central apologetics pushes. It was kind of an Argument from Consequences Missing Out on the Cosmic ATM, if you will, like a slightly more benevolent Pascal’s WagerYou don’t wanna miss out on this god’s help, do you? Of course not! 

(See endnote, cuz actually um I would.)

Still others (like this guy and also this sickening grandmaster of all fearmongers) just go for broke on the threat of Hell: people need their product to avoid getting set on fire forever after they die. Obviously these will be the ones who believe in Hell to begin with; quite a few Christians don’t.

And many Christians combine a mix-and-match of these reasons and others to come up with a rationale for why everybody, literally everybody, would do well to purchase their product.

Another Fine Cognitive Bias.

Choice-supportive bias may help explain some of what’s happening here.

That’s a cognitive bias that causes many people to drill down on the wisdom of their purchasing decisions–as well as inflating the problems with the other options they could have purchased but didn’t.

Here’s one of wackiest parts of this cognitive bias: Just the act of purchasing that option starts to lay down a foundation of error with how we process and store the memory of buying it. Every time we think about that decision–and about the other options we could have gone with but didn’t–we’re potentially mangling our memory of the act even worse. We’ll even invent false memories to go with the purchase!

And another really wacky part of it: Even if the choice was made for us, people can fall into this sort of thinking. We encounter this truth all the time in everyday life. See, for example, the people who got hit as children by their parents and think they turned out just fine.

One more, for the folks keeping track of all the projection we encounter in ChristiansOften, someone falling into this bias will take a positive aspect of the rejected product and misattribute it to the purchased product–or transplant one of their own product’s negative aspects onto the other product(s).

This bias is a real doozy!

I’ve heard a lot of Christians testify that they didn’t think they needed salvation, ya know, like typical heathens, but oh wow, they totally really did. Now, they’re soooo glad they joined up! I’m betting choice-supportive bias explains a lot of that sentiment.

There’s more to Christians’ behavior than this bias, of course. Way more. But it seems like a good place to start. Many of us insisted loudly and often that our decision to join our respective Christian groups was a totally awesome decision.

Moreover, many of us thought we believed it with all our hearts.

Also: Another “Excuse” Shot Down in Flames.

I also encounter Christian leaders using this notion of universal necessity to shame followers who aren’t doing enough selling. (There are a whole lot of those!)

Evangelism is an aggressive expression of power dynamics at its core. The lines of power always run downward from evangelists to their marks. In effect, the evangelist makes a demand for the mark to change to conform to the evangelist’s preferences.

So naturally, the targets of evangelism often react poorly to these sales pitches.

Christians ain’t dumb. They know this truth, deep down. They aren’t willing to destroy their social capital on people they know will react poorly to sales attempts.

So naturally, they don’t wanna trot out their piss-poor sales pitches on people without knowing a pitch would be welcome right then.

But if their Dear Leaders teach that that everyone super-duper-really-mega-NEEDS their product, that rips that excuse right out from under the sheep. See, their friends might seem perfectly happy without their product, but in reality they suffer. They suffer! In that light, their Dear Leaders tell them, it’d be a cruel and horrible person who didn’t push Christianity at them nonstop.

The end result of this prodding, however, is that Christians still don’t sell too hard at people who’d take such attempts really poorly–and consequently cost them that precious social capital.

Instead, they go on the lookout even more for anyone expressing a moment of weakness.

The reason I think this is that I have literally never seen a Christian try to hard-sell to someone who’d seriously destroy their social capital. You never, ever see one of these salespeople hard-sell their boss or the judge deciding their criminal case. Instead, they zero in on random disabled people on public transit, prisoners doing hard time, kids under their temporary or permanent control, retail serfs, or any workers or employees they manage.

Another Fine Christian Plan (That Implodes On Impact With Reality).

So now we’re at the magic moment when Christians finally try to tell other people that despite their lifelong impressions to the contrary, they totally DO need this product in their lives.

The resulting conflagration of outrage and ego-stung illusion dismantlement is both hugely entertaining and fractally cringeworthy all at once.

See, one of two things could happen.

Either the Christian salesperson will just blunder into the conversation by assuming (in the “making an ass of ‘U’ and ‘me'” sense) that the target totally needs the product despite giving no signs whatsoever to that effect, or the Christian will first try to maneuver the target into a headspace where making such a disastrous decision begins to kinda-sorta make sense.

Reactions range from “STOP TELLING ME HOW I FEEL AND WHAT I’VE EXPERIENCED IN LIFE, YOU STUPIDHEAD” to “Wait, you’re kidding, right? Your friend totally loves me, but if I don’t worship him and give him a lot of money every week then he’ll set me on fire forever after I die?”

To borrow the immortal words of Cobra Bubbles, in case they were wondering–this does not ever go well.

cobra bubbles: in case you're wondering this did not go well
Lilo and Stitch. And indeed, it really had not.

Shared Headspaces.

And there’s a reason for the inability of these salespeople to make converts from outside their bubble. Such folks just don’t buy into the necessity of a divine being’s help to rescue them from his own petulant rage so they can go to the super-nice conceptualization of this one religion’s afterlife rather than to its super-nasty one.

As we see in this post by the lovely missionary gal who gave us our favorite “Rice Christians” illustration:

Buddhism and the East had painted such a vastly different framework than the one I was used to that I was at a loss as to how to even begin to communicate the gospel effectively. . . And while over time, I became comfortable with [cooking the local foodstuffs], I saw very little movement of my local friends towards [Christian] faith.

Sooner or later, this missionary learned that her peers’ reports of huge successes were either exaggerated or derived from totally not understanding the customs of her host country. (But if they offered tons of resources to converts, that sure helped–at least, till the resource flow stopped!)

Christians must work themselves to the bone to get their targets into the same headspace before they finally fear exactly the same boogeymen and empty threats.

And I learned this lesson myself in dramatic fashion.

When Biff and I Collided With Pagans.

See, pagans were just invincible to my sales pitches–and to Biff’s too, as if I needed to elaborate on that point! They just had no framework for appreciating the kind of threats that’d so demolished us Christians (me, Biff, all of us).

So I always felt ridiculous even discussing Christianity with pagans. It felt exactly like being a child and describing a favorite cartoon’s plot to senior citizens who’d never seen that cartoon in their lives. Worse, it was like then insisting that they get hyped about the cartoon. It wasn’t gonna happen. Ever. They lacked every single cultural underpinning necessary to un-barren their fields over it.

We had all learned to play a lot of lawyer-like semantic games to sell our faith, like comparing the completely contradictory tales in the Gospels about the Crucifixion and Resurrection to “The Blind Men and the Elephant.” These reindeer games had no impact at all on pagans. None. If we couldn’t pony up objective evidence for our claims, we might as well not bother bringing any of it up at all. They would not be purchasing our product, and everything we did to push them in that direction only backfired.

Pulling Back to Good.

It takes a particular kind of jerkweed to look someone in the face, hear their living truth from their own mouth, and continue to insist that person is lying while continuing to look them in the face. If I was that kind of obnoxious Christian (and I probably was early on), it didn’t last long. I remember many times bowing out of a soulwinning attempt when it became obvious that I’d be scoring no sales that day.

(In fact, I did not ever score any sales at all. But you get the idea, I hope.)

After that point, I restricted my salesmanship with that person to what later became known as lifestyle evangelism. I’d make no more overt sales pitches. Instead, I’d continue to be kind to that person, present a good witness to them, and be available for questions should any come up. If the best I could do was just not hinder the person my god had really designated as that person’s successful closer, then that’d have to be okay.

And these days, that’s just not good enough for Christian leaders. They need sales, they need a whole lot of ’em, and they need them RIGHT NOW.

I foresee, as a result, a lot more completely and laughably backfired evangelism attempts if Christians allow themselves to be pushed into that corner–and a lot more completely and laughably backfired control-freak attempts from their leaders if they don’t.

Either one’s going to make for interesting sidelines viewing.

And we’ll be here for it.

NEXT UP: Quick detour. This whole Mark Galli thing is blowing uuuuuuup very nicely. I want to go look at it for a bit. Won’t you join me? 🙂


Products and Sales Talk: Incidentally, when I talk about Christians’ “product,” I’m referring to what they actually seek to sell to their soulwinning prospects: membership in their particular flavor of Christianity/their particular Christian group. Belief itself is not a choice, but joining a group and participating in its activities definitely is. If these salespeople only manage to persuade someone that their god actually exists, then their job is nowhere near done. They must LAND the prospect on the line by inducting them into their flavor/group. If the prospect runs off to another group, or flat refuses to join up, then the sales attempt fails. At that point, the salespeople must comfort themselves with having “planted a seed.” (Back to the post!)

Actually, Yes: If this god were real and doing anything for anybody, he’d still be downright evil. All those monkey’s-paw stories about wishes going hideously wrong sound like exactly what Yahweh would do in those cases. (Back to the post!)

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ROLL TO DISBELIEVE "Captain Cassidy" is Cassidy McGillicuddy, a Gen Xer and ex-Pentecostal. (The title is metaphorical.) She writes about the intersection of psychology, belief, popular culture, science,...