ed stetzer moseying past disaster and rubble
Reading Time: 10 minutes (Joey Huang.)
Reading Time: 10 minutes

Hi and welcome back! Lately, I saw a post by Ed Stetzer that took my breath away with how absolutely disconnected it is from reality. But once you see it for yourself, you’ll understand my reaction. In his post, Ed Stetzer talks about it being ‘time for a new normal’ for evangelicals. He shares his deep hopes that his tribe will be able to capitalize on what he calls a ‘historic moment’ so they don’t miss ‘one of the greatest opportunities of our lifetime.’ And that’s just his opening salvo, y’all! Today, let me show you Ed Stetzer showing us exactly why evangelicals are in decline — and why they absolutely, positively deserve to be there.

Ed Stetzer Is An Unspeakable Mountebank.

Ed Stetzer titled his July 9, 2020 post “Time for a new normal.” He subtitled it thusly:

Returning to normal after such a historic moment would be nothing short of missing one of the greatest opportunities of our lifetime.

And right away, I stopped there. Yes. I stopped right there.

What exactly is the “historic moment” that’s gotten Ed Stetzer so worked up and hopeful?

The coronavirus pandemic.

That is what he’s calling “such a historic moment.”

It gets worse.

Moreover, Ed Stetzer thinks that the pandemic has created “one of the greatest opportunities of our lifetime” for evangelicals.

Oh my word.

People are literally dying. The virus is only getting worse and worse with time. But here’s Ed Stetzer sounding as giddy about the coronavirus death toll as a tween schoolgirl rushing to see One Direction at the mall.

Sure, people are dying everywhere, Ed Stetzer!

But wow! Just think of the sales potential here, y’all!

(Band name used intentionally. I’m sure that by now, tween girls think 1D are all old farts — and malls are all but dead. He and I can both remember Miller’s Outpost, but those days are long gone.)

Ed Stetzer Is A Shameless Opportunist.

It amazes me that evangelicals never understand exactly why it is that society as a whole has left them behind. They wring their widdle handsies over losing their cultural dominance and credibility. What oh what, they ask tearfully, will be the magic elixir that returns them to their onetime overlordship of the entire world?

And here’s Ed Stetzer riding in at a gallop to reveal, indirectly, what it’ll take — and why evangelicals won’t do it, all at the same time. Efficiency, thy name is Clueless Mediocre White Dude Grappling With His Own Loss of Relevance.

He begins his post by marveling at his fellow evangelicals who ask how “the church,” by which they mean the entire body of TRUE CHRISTIANS™ like themselves, can go on as it did before coronavirus kissed our world. Then he tut-tuts at them for their lack of TRUE CHRISTIAN™ Jesus-osity:

I’m more concerned the church will be the same again.

See, pandemics through the eons haven’t changed Christianity much — in his opinion.

Ed Stetzer’s Awful Opinions Are Built From Falsehoods.

No no, to Ed Stetzer, nothing changed in Christianity because, as he writes:

We built cathedrals and gathered in them. Then the Black Death came. After the Black Death, we gathered in cathedrals again. Don’t assume the church was unaware that gathering together accelerated the spread of sickness. They might not have known about flattening the curve, but they knew that gathering together exposed them to more illness.

Oh my head. Christians need to stop reaching for history and science to make their points.

Here’s some light reading on that topic:

And some reality talk:

Some medieval people might barely have sorta-understood ideas like contagion. Germ Theory was centuries in the future. There really wasn’t a way for anybody to isolate enough to notice the pattern he mentions (our modern notions of privacy and private spaces have evolved considerably since ancient times). Instead, people appealed to gods who they thought could totally protect them from sickness — and if they got sick, could totally cure them if they asked just right.

So no, Ed Stetzer, you are wrong. The constant wash of plagues across humanity have each left indelible impacts on their cultures’ religions and societies, and no, people did not universally understand that isolation was better than gathering together.

But literally all Ed Stetzer sees here is:

Hm, humans met in cathedrals before plagues, and then they did the same thing after plagues! Yes, this obviously means the plague didn’t change anything! Gosh, we just can’t let this tragedy happen again!

Ed Stetzer Should Be Ashamed Of Himself.

And that’s really what’s got his panties twisted in that post. He’s very upset over the idea of his tribe allowing a huge “opportunity” like a global goddamned pandemic escape them without capitalizing fully upon it.

Here are the three ways he wants to see his tribe capitalize on the pandemic.

“First, that God’s people would be deployed.”

Ed Stetzer thinks evangelicals are doing way more volunteering. Almost all of the activity he describes occurs within their church communities. Almost as an afterthought, he adds the following:

We’ve seen people making phone lists and calling one another, praying for one another, and then serving the poor and the marginalized in their community.

Don’t ask what this “serving” looks like. He never explains. Chances are good it’s not actual serving, but rather is evangelicals’ warping of it that largely serves themselves instead. I’ve seen no indications whatsoever that evangelicals have stepped up as he suggests. He provides no citations for this startling assertion, either.

And he super-duper-duper hopes that evangelicals will keep doing this thing that literally nobody’s seen or noted.

I really think he’s lying, just like he lied to his tribe during his creepy Easter letter. Remember that? He wrote this big ole letter in CNN, pretending to aim it straight at heathens to get us to be nicer to TRUE CHRISTIANS™ seeking to evangelize us during the holiday. Instead, he was talking to his own tribe. He was trying to encourage them to evangelize their neighbors harder during the holiday, but he did it by pretending to talk to us instead.

I think he’s telling evangelicals under his breath here to volunteer more often, DAMMIT. If they actually were, then he’d give us sources for it.

Ed Stetzer’s Moved Goalposts.

In his second hope for capitalization, Ed Stetzer hopes his tribe will stop seeing church services as the center of their church lives:

Second, that we would keep worship central but not at the center.

And excuse me, friends, for expressing myself in strong language when I say that is a direct contradiction of everything evangelical salespeople push. Their entire product consists of active membership in their own respective churches.

Oh but now, suddenly church services distract TRUE CHRISTIANS™ from their mission like having a queen on the board distracts a chess player from all the other wonderful lovely pieces at their command. That is seriously the metaphor he reaches for.

Christians are so well known for their self-denial, right?

If some other Jesus-flavored activity sounded good to TRUE CHRISTIANS™, they would already be doing it. They would not need King Ed Stetzer to exhort them to do it. We’re not talking about people who regularly deny themselves anything pleasurable or fun.

Instead, TRUE CHRISTIANS™ value church services above all other expressions of their Jesus-osity. Nowhere else do they get the perfect storm of virtue signaling, moral superiority over others, back-patting, sunshine-blown-up-skirts, and doing-nothing-while-feeling-like-it’s-actually-lots (which will be my next Argonian character’s name).

It’s like doing work, but in a way that doesn’t require that they lift a finger. It’s like self-improvement, just without any self-reflection, scary change, or tortuous personal growth.

Evangelicals’ inability and unwillingness to find real stuff to do in expressing their Jesus-osity has led directly to their over-reliance on church attendance as the sine qua non, the non plus ultra way to express their faith. It’s never been about real-world work — but rather about its avoidance.

I just cannot even, with this guy.

Ed Stetzer’s Total Lack of Compassion.

But you knew he’d manage to top himself with his third listicle item. Right? You knew it. I knew it. We all knew it. Give him a few minutes, and he’ll always manage to find a way. Toxic Christians are like a twisted version of life itself. They always, uh, find a way.

So here’s Ed Stetzer’s third reason revealed for why he’s actually really glad the pandemic’s come along:

Third, that we would see the heart of God more clearly.

Does this guy ever listen to himself? I mean, like, does he check with anybody else before publishing his posts to make sure they sound like something a human being would write to look like a good, compassionate member of a tribe that any reasonable person would want to join?

What’s worse is his explanation of that idea. There, he writes about a tribe that is most definitely not his:

This crisis has focused us on the impact this has had on marginalized people. [. . .]

And, we’ve seen heroes like those who helped and served the poor, and stories of first responders and healthcare workers sacrificing greatly.

As we look forward, how can we continue on the positive movements and focus that we have seen emerge?

Really, Ed Stetzer? Cuz see, evangelicals largely lost their ever-lovin’ minds over the pandemic. They embraced the worst, lowest-common-denominators imaginable: conspiracy theories, woo snake-oil cures, and an extreme form of oppositional defiance that would embarrass any disaffected teenager. So when they “see” stories about first responders and healthcare workers, they see people who seek to grab control from the tribe. And they react accordingly.

Evangelicals have humiliated and shamed themselves during this pandemic. If that’s what “see[ing] the heart of God more clearly” looks like, then yes, obviously that’s why they are in decline right now.

Ed Stetzer Is A Small Part Of Evangelicals’ Current Decline.

I feel this awful sick distaste in my mouth reading about Ed Stetzer’s obvious glee over a worldwide pandemic. That pandemic has killed almost 600,000 people so far, with no signs of letting up any time soon, no vaccine in sight yet for it, and no specific cure.

But to Ed Stetzer, this tragedy represents pure opportunity! It’s his tribe’s chance to shine at last! It’s their chance to show the whole wide world exactly what they’re all about!

Woohoo, y’all!


He writes:

Returning to normal after such a historic moment would be nothing short of missing one of the greatest opportunities of our lifetime. We’ve been handed the chance to be better and do better. Let us go and do it.

Though ya know, I kinda guess that evangelicals have indeed shown us exactly what they’re all about during it.

Ed Stetzer Won’t Change Anything For The Better.

Nothing of import will change about evangelicals’ personalities, however. Ed Stetzer can’t change them any more than he can change the timing of the tides, and for many of the same reasons.

If evangelicals could change, they would have done it long long ago, when their scandals began breaking into public awareness, when their sad obsession with LGBT people began to drive their compassionate members away, when their brand became so hopelessly tainted that many Southern Baptist churches try hard to obscure their affiliation with that entire denomination, when their science denial made them the utter laughingstock of the world, when their vicious racism and misogyny emerged as the driving forces behind their two current culture wars, when their sickening love affair with Donald Trump turned out to cost them over 10% of their overall flocks in just one year, when when when when…

when when when when when when…

There exist so many turning-points in evangelicals’ recent history that they could have taken as the time to completely re-examine their ideology. They didn’t then. And I doubt a little thing like a pandemic will bring them to that table now.

No, they have laid their chips down on the NEVER CHANGING EVER NUH-UH SHUT UP YOU AIN’T MY MOM divot in the roulette wheel. They guard their ideology like a feral dog guards its food. And, again, they do so for many of the same reasons.

Ed Stetzer Doesn’t Understand How He Shot Himself In The Foot.

I could also, if I wanted to be really sharp-tongued today, mention that if it takes a goddamned pandemic for evangelicals to finally “see the heart of God,” then there’s no way their god’s heart can actually exist in the first place. I’d be kinda mean to say that, but really, the situation requires directness.

Fine then.

Evangelicals’ god is huge, large-and-in-charge. He creates miracles every single day that violate all the laws of physics and cause-and-effect. He laughs at limitations and scorns boundaries. Why, he even set in motion every quark and quasar that ever was! And yet his followers need a pandemic to take his orders seriously? To see his “heart?”

If I thought this god were real — and I did once, with all of my heart — I would feel insulted at the idea of it taking a global tragedy for him to make himself obvious enough for even evangelical blowhards to recognize his orders as compelling and worth following. The sheer disrespect expressed by such a blog post staggers me.

Nothing I’ve ever said, no challenge I’ve ever hurled, no debunking I’ve ever written could shoot evangelicals’ entire ideology in the foot like Ed Stetzer has here.

His god’s heart can’t be seen without half a million miserable, painful, terrified people dying. Just think about that, and marvel.

If he were real, this god would be the most incompetent idiot who ever existed, and worthy only of humanity’s scorn, contempt, and unending rejection.

Ed Stetzer Can’t Even See His Tribe’s Actual Problem.

So fine. Ed Stetzer can write his overly-optimistic screeds about how jolly it is that his god has decided to allow humanity to suffer and die from a pandemic.

And sure, yes, he can tell his tribe that this pandemic and its hundreds of thousands of deaths exists as a golden, glittering opportunity for them to finally become the tribe he envisions.

And certainly, he can even make grandiose claims without a single citation of supporting evidence to suggest that somewhere, somehow, massive numbers of evangelicals are already stepping up to the plate in ways they simply never did before the pandemic!

It won’t matter. None of it will. None of it could.

The problem isn’t evangelicals not changing because of the pandemic.

They won’t. And that’s beside the point.

The problem is that the essential flaw in evangelicals’ worldview and ideology still sits there at the gaming table and glaring at them and getting in the way of anything they try to do. Ed Stetzer can’t even engage with it, much less shift it even one green inch to the beauty side with anything he’ll ever say or write or do.

And next time, we’ll talk about that problem — and why it will stop evangelicals from becoming decent human beings, pandemic or no.

NEXT UP: Why evangelicals are losing their ever-lovin’ minds lately. There’s a reason. And it is a terrible one — as terrible as an army with banners, to borrow a phrase.

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(This last note goes out to the nutjobs at that one Catholic blog whose name escapes me right now, the one that reblogged some of my posts criticizing evangelicals like it PROVES YES PROVES that they’re totally better at Jesus-ing: Do not for a moment imagine that rabid Catholic hardliners don’t face exactly the same problems for exactly the same reasons. See? You can BOTH be the prettiest princesses of toxic Christianity. Enjoy your tiaras.)

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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,...