Hi and welcome back! I saw a sad article the other day. Something about it sprang out at me right away, something I see often in such articles. In this one, a nervous-looking, sketchy middle-aged fellow proclaims that he figured out the reality of the entire universe at 16. His story reveals exactly why evangelicals prey upon teenagers and children. Come examine the testimony of Caleb Kaltenbach, a culture warrior crusading against human rights since his teen years. I’ll reveal exactly why this predation works.
(See also this strikingly similar example: Heather Barwick – Sharper Than a Serpent’s Tooth.)
The 4-14 Window.
There’s definitely something anti-intellectual about evangelicalism. Evangelicals themselves have noted exactly that problem for years now, and it’s only gotten worse since then. At this point, evangelicals are quite happy to refuse simple vaccine shots to prevent certain death. They’re even risking death (and certainly quite a lot of agony) by dosing themselves with animal medications in lieu of getting those little bitty shots.
Evangelicals’ leaders have slowly divested the flocks of their critical-thinking skills. Then, the flocks learned to reject and ignore all non-tribal-approved authority figures and experts. Finally, they learned that it was perfectly okay to hold theological beliefs so childish that actual children often see clean through them nowadays.
Perhaps thanks to that anti-intellectualism, though, evangelicals have learned to scare the pants off of people who can’t defend against their skills at emotional manipulation.
Enter the 4-14 window.
The 4-14 window is the span of ages that evangelicals consider people to be the most vulnerable to their brand of manipulation.
Evangelicals consider preying upon kids aged 4-14 to be so important that they’re devoting extreme resources to sneak past parents into kids’ spaces.
Everyone Meet Caleb Kaltenbach. (Wow, a 16-Year-Old Worked All This Out!)
Caleb Kaltenbach tangled with evangelicals at 16. That’s a bit on the late side. But he was close enough.
He offered his testimony in a recent issue of Christian Post. There, he says he grew up with gay parents who divorced each other. At least one parent remarried someone of the same sex. As their child, he became involved in the LGBT community.
At 16, he says, he’d seen the worst of evangelicalism:
“I learned real quick from things that I saw in pride parades, the way how I saw Christians treat people, the way how I saw families ignore their young sons dying of AIDS in the 1980s — I saw real quick that Christians hated gay people,” he said. “And I thought to myself, ‘Man, I never want to be a Christian. If Christians are this bad, I can’t imagine how awful Jesus must be if He’s their leader.’” [Source.]
Of course, if there’s no real Jesus at all, then he can’t be “their leader.” At that point, it’s all just evangelicals being peak asshats on their own.
For someone who claims the ooh-la-la trendy “atheist” label for his childhood self, Kaltenbach certainly seems to be precisely parroting evangelicals’ own straw atheism points.
Bringing a Butterknife to a Laser-Guided Pistol Fight.
At 16, Caleb Kaltenbach decided to join a Christian group. His goal: to totally disprove Christianity to all of them. Seriously.
My ex Biff did exactly the same thing, by the way. And much the same thing happened to him as happened to Caleb:
Those evangelicals sandblasted his little bitty soup cracker!
He was in no way prepared for that fight, just as Biff wasn’t, just as I wasn’t. But he and Biff went lookin’ for that fight.
They sure found out, too.
A bunch of arrested-development, anti-intellectual authoritarians know exactly how to dismantle an arrogant teenager’s poorly-informed objections to their beliefs. Biff and Kaltenbach alike were both sitting ducks for them.
Caleb Kaltenbach: Let’s Monetize This Thing!
Dude said he’d seen firsthand how horrific bigotry was for LGBT people. So you’d think he would not ever want to tangle with a religion that pushed that exact bigotry.
But not Caleb Kaltenbach!
He’d finally understood how the whole universe works, you see. Bigotry was a small price to pay to align himself with what he viewed as the winning team.
(They would have been, back then. His earliest educational credit is for Ozark Christian College, Class of 2000. So he likely converted somewhere in the mid-late 1990s as a teen.)
And just as Biff did once he totally figured out exactly which religion, out of countless thousands, happens to be the only accurate and correct one, Caleb decided to try to monetize his newfound beliefs and bigotries.
Indeed, until about 2017 Kaltenbach worked as the lead pastor of Discovery Church, a large California church. After that, Discovery merged with a megachurch group called Real Life Church.
Somewhere in all that shifting around, Kaltenbach left this church without any fanfare at all.
None. No fanfare at all. He just left. It was as if his entire pastoral position had never existed.
Sidebar: The Strange Matter of Lead Pastor Caleb Kaltenbach.
I could find nothing about Discovery hiring Caleb Kaltenbach, and nothing about Kaltenbach leaving them. Moreover, neither Discovery nor Real Life figures at all in his Facebook profile, where he mentions only his education and his publishing and writing credits.
You’d kinda think that “lead pastor” of a swiftly-growing church would be something to crow about, wouldn’t ya? I mean, our boy sure made a big huge stinky deal out of that rank when he still had it. I found hundreds of links online using this title.
Heckies, the photo provided in the Christian Post story itself is from those days. They even labeled it as such: “Caleb Kaltenbach, lead pastor for Discovery Church of Simi Valley, California. . .” Even though the article ran just a few days ago, the photo’s dated 2017.
In the article itself, though, Kaltenbach brushes smoothly over this position. See, he just “decided to go into ministry and became a pastor.” A pastor? Dude was the lead pastor of a megachurch!
So I’m suspicious that his separation from Discovery/Real Life happened under very bad terms and was not his choice.
Caleb Kaltenbach: Preaching Hatred and Division, Just Nicely.
Either way, Caleb Kaltenbach became a writer. There, he seems to be in his environment. Mostly, he writes about how to be a good little culture warrior. He teaches readers how to express bigotry toward their friends and family in a nicey-nice way.
Kaltenbach is an especially tedious Christian culture warrior (example). As such, he insists that there’s a nice and loving way to tell people they’re going to Hell for loving the wrong person or rejecting his control-grabs. He also thinks there’s a nice and loving way to tell his tribal enemies that they don’t merit full human rights and civil liberties.
A lot of fundagelicals feel uneasy about being hateful bigots toward their loved ones. So leaders like Kaltenbach tell them that yes, they totally can express bigotry through Jesus Power and not incur the usual social penalties for it.
And his followers listen to his sweet lies, and they feel soothed and strengthened in their resolve to go right out there and act like howling bigots. They incur the penalties anyway, of course. But they can easily believe they just implemented his system incorrectly.
They won’t ever realize bigots just can’t express hate and cruelty nicely and get away with it like they used to.
All This, From a Teenager!
Everything Caleb Kaltenbach knows, he figured out at 16. He’s clearly never revisited any of his arguments against Christianity. That’s clear enough.
Similarly, he’s never wondered if there are any other arguments against Christianity — any other dealbreakers that evangelicals have literally never resolved, like the Problem of Evil or the Problem of Hell.
He’s never questioned, either, evangelicals’ beloved habit of using nothing but logical fallacies to support their claims. And he’s never noticed their tendency to consider arguments and anecdotes the same as actual objective facts.
Worst of all, he still hasn’t ever learned to truly love anybody, which we can tell because he’s a howling bigot even toward his own parents.
I can’t speak for them, but I remember how my own parents felt when I tried to condemn them as nicely and sweetly as possible, when I was Pentecostal.
When Teen Cas Abandoned Her Parents’ Love.
My parents didn’t miss what I was really saying to them, of course: I’ve decided to abandon you and swim for shore by myself, then suck up for eternity to the monster who will be hurting you forever. Positions reversed, they’d have stormed Hell itself to rescue me. They certainly would have refused to negotiate with terrorists — like I had, like Caleb Kaltenbach has.
But teenagers don’t yet have the mental apparatus to think through stuff. Seriously: their brains haven’t fully developed yet. And authoritarian leaders like to keep the flocks a state of arrested development right there.
Yes, there’s a reason why evangelicals prey on teens. Caleb Kaltenbach illustrates that reason perfectly. He learned early on to cling hard to the worldview he adopted. Ever since, he’s protected it over his personal connections. He’s always tried to have it both ways.
And I understand. Scare authoritarian-manipulated teens enough, blow them away with arguments and anecdote and a heaping dose of cult programming, and they might just join up.
Then, they might just spend their lives scrabbling for acceptance — and safety — from the tribe.
Recovering From Error.
I was lucky. My parents stuck by me during my zealot years. They were thankful when I deconverted out of them. Afterward, they never threw how I’d behaved in my face.
One day, Caleb Kaltenbach might get lucky, too. He might realize that there are a wealth of reasons to reject Christians’ many claims. And there are, from the smallest miracles to their non-supernatural claims. Hey, he might. There’s hope for anybody.
At that time, he might realize just how absolutely useless apologetics is as a method of discerning objective reality. If it ever happens for him, I’m sure his own parents would only be joyous at getting their son back.
But I bet that sounds scary to a guy pushing or just past 50. Worse, his education consists only of religious stuff. Gosh, it’d super-suck if he’d been totally wrong as a teenager, back when he invaded Christians’ turf alone and got razed to the ground.
Once you start to realize you were seriously wrong about one thing, you start noticing you were wrong about a whole lot of things. Maybe even about all the things. Being wrong is just part of the human situation.
But evangelicals don’t like to be human. That’s not good enough for them. They mistakenly think their god does not change or commit errors in the Bible. Thus, they fear both change and being wrong.
NEXT UP: Wow, this COVID denialism in evangelicals has brought to an understanding at last about the real thing they’re fighting with their anti-abortion culture war. Too bad they won’t ever accept this truth. But we will — tomorrow. See you then!
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(I mean, like I super don’t want to trust my gaydar cuz it’s been broken since the Reagan administration, but dude, some people ping it harder than a Russian nuclear sub.)