Every single time I think I’ve seen fundagelicals hit rock bottom, one of them tells me to hold his Bible while he breaks out a pick and shovel. This time the guy digging frantically for an even lower spot in my estimation of Christians is Gus Eli Reinhardt, who wrote an absolutely shocking post comparing a standard Reformed doctrine to a violent rape as a #MeToo declaration. Worse, he’s depicting this spiritual violation as a good thing. Here’s why Christians keep doing this, and why it backfired this time–and how this particular post fits into the overall way that fundagelicals are engaging with the #MeToo movement.
The Religious Right Doesn’t Like #MeToo to Begin With.
#MeToo is a social-media movement in which women talk openly about sexual assaults and gender-based injustices that they’ve experienced. It’s meant to demonstrate just how widespread these assaults and injustices are–to say, in effect, This has also happened to me.
Naturally, fundagelicals don’t seem really happy with the whole idea. Their religious group was created and predicated upon the idea of divine right, absolute mastery, and unflinching dominance–but only for some members.
There is only one result we can expect from a social system that allows such a lopsided distribution of power, and that is abuse of all kinds–and silence about it from those who suffer the most.
Literally the only way that Christianity has managed to struggle forward to the present day is through the brutal use of power to oppress and silence dissenters who would expose their wickedness. Without the force of law and cultural dominance, they can’t maintain that veil of silence.
Further, fundagelicalism in particular teaches a bizarre kind of 24/7 Total Power Exchange (NSFW) in marital relationships. Women’s bodies belong to men, who consider themselves those women’s literal masters on Earth. The more extremist the flavor of Christianity, the more extreme and one-sided this power disparity is. Victims of abuse get carefully scrutinized to figure out how they might have “brought on” their abuse by provoking abusers–while abusers themselves can get standing ovations for revealing that they’ve assaulted someone. Meanwhile, Christian groups have begun arguing about how to proceed in case of scandals.
So there was never a chance that fundagelicals were going to like #MeToo. They probably liked even less the Christian-specific spinoff hashtag #ChurchToo. There is nothing in either of those hashtags that makes their Jesus-flavored brand of misogyny, complementarianism, sound good.
I said “probably” up there because there aren’t any formal statements regarding #MeToo (much less #ChurchToo) that I’ve been able to track down out of the leaders of any high-end fundagelical groups.
Oh, for sure, there are a lot of women talking about the hashtags–including big names in women’s ministry. There are blogs where Christian women are discussing how important the hashtag is and how to best utilize it. I’m aghast to see that sanctimonious Christian men are pontificating on Twitter and elsewhere about how their tribe needs to Jesus harder, cuz yeah, that’ll totally help (spoiler: no, it won’t). And I saw some sites that cover general religious news discussing both the pervasive abuse going on in the religion and the effects that the hashtag are already having on fundagelical culture. Some conversations are starting that are long overdue–but their arenas are limited.
However, you’d never know this discussion was happening by how the Southern Baptists are ignoring it (most of their pastors still don’t even know how prevalent domestic violence is in their churches–or have plans in place if they discover any). You’ll hear not a word out of the United Pentecostal Church (UPCI) either–though you’ll sure hear an earful on the hashtag about their own response to abuse allegations like these, and that response won’t surprise many folks. Nor could I find any big-name pastors talking about #MeToo/ChurchToo. There are no coalitions of ministers busily preparing big ol’ Nashville-y STATEMENTS condemning the weird pervasiveness of abuse and injustice committed against women in fundagelicalism.
I wonder if they’re just hunkering down to weather the storm in hopes that it’ll go away so they can go back to doing what they do best: grooming victims in the dark of shadows, and then covering up the inevitable abuse that crops up in broken systems.
That doesn’t mean it’s having no effect, of course. Some anecdotal number of men are apparently getting way more cautious about approaching women thanks to #MeToo. Some men react very poorly to the suggestion that they might need to start caring about the cues that women have always provided. So there is that.
Based on the broad scope of what I’ve seen, I’d say that male-dominated fundagelical culture hasn’t taken kindly to the whole meaning of the #MeToo/ChurchToo movement. The leaders definitely are not on board. Worse, the most gung-ho of their male adherents actively resist and reject the ideas contained within that movement.
Okay, So Let’s Meet Gus Eli Reinhardt. (Sort Of.)
Gus Eli Reinhardt is an aspiring minister from Georgia. According to his Facebook page, he’s a 30-something-looking corn-fed, ruddy-faced single dad with a trying-wayyyyy-too-hard lumberjack beard. He lives in Douglas, Georgia, a tiny little town of about 10,000 people that is situated in South Georgia (a 3ish hour drive southeast from Atlanta, depending on how closely your driving style matches that of the average Atlanta resident). So he’s a basic white Southern fundagelical gadabout and good ol’ boy.
He either left or lost his last probably-volunteer gig with a church–handling youth ministry and some kind of addiction-recovery subgroup–on June 28, 2017, literally the day after his banner photo was uploaded. The church confirmed with me that he was “gone” on that day.
(The mind boggles: How did Reinhardt end up “gone” from such a small church? Volunteers are damned near a requirement in such small churches, as I can attest personally. Did they fire him? Did he quit?)
Whatever the case, after apparently stewing for a while without any “ministry” to perform, he saw fit to post this to his Facebook page. The little grey planet icon under his name means it was universally visible–not filtered to appear only to select friends of his. (Note: This screenshot may be the same one in Addicting Info. Other near-identical screenshots exist “in the wild.” Some bear different timestamps–for example, this screenshot was made 10 hours after the post was published, while others were captured at earlier or later times. Some were taken from phone screenshots; others from computers. I don’t know who initially gathered any of them but it sure seems like a lot of people were pissed about the whole thing.)
#MeToo, Jesus Style.
The post initially starts out sounding like something an actual sexual assault victim would say. Reinhardt pretends to empathize with survivors because of his own personal experiences: he, too, is a survivor. Only a misplaced capital letter in “Himself” hints at the real meaning of the post.
Reinhardt writes about someone who “forced Himself on me.” He writes about not consenting to the violation or having any say in it. He writes about not even realizing he’d been assaulted “until years later.” He tells us that he’s “struggled to figure out how it happened and why,” and that he asks himself, “Why me? What did I do to deserve this?”
And then he slams his Fail Train into a hard right to Fundy-Land by telling us that the person who did all these terrible things to him was Jesus.
That man was Jesus. He assaulted me with His complete and perfect righteousness. He forced Himself on me by forcing His perfect life over my record of mistakes and shame. It happened in an instant – The moment I believed – And it can never be undone.
The mind simply reels at how completely, totally, mind-bogglingly, and blitheringly inappropriate this whole paragraph is.
After a quick insistence that despite having just made complete light of the #MeToo movement he totally doesn’t want to be held responsible for doing so, he then tells his fellow Christians that they, too, “have been assaulted by Jesus!!” (The double-bangs are his.)
Don’t you just love Christian analogies? (NO.) I wrote about them a few times early on in this blog’s lifetime–and never with much affection. They are simply terrible. The Christians who create them sure think highly of them though.
An Attempt at Theology.
He says that this stance is justified by a theological doctrine called “Imputation,” which he considers to mean exactly this process of his god forcibly making Christians “eternally righteous.” He sniffs disdainfully that “even though no pastor or bible scholar in their right mind can argue against it, it’s something most Christians never hear or understand.”
Is he sure?
Cuz I looked it up and it doesn’t sound like that at all.
Here’s what Westminster Theological Seminary (WTS) says about Imputation:
In brief, in Reformed theology imputation most often refers to the legal (or forensic) crediting of Jesus’s perfect righteousness to believers by faith for justification (another important theological term). Imputation communicates that believers are made right with God (or justified) on the basis of the obedience of Christ (both active and passive—again, key theological terms).
Is anybody really surprised to see Reformed Theology pop up here? The writer there goes on to explain that Jesus’ sinlessness is imputed to believers so that they will be acceptable to their morally-pure and completely-justice-obsessed god.
WTS sure doesn’t make Imputation sound like an active assault or violent action. I looked next at the mega-way-lots Reformed group Ligonier, which described Imputation thusly: “The word imputation comes directly from the Latin. It is an accounting term; it means ‘to apply to one’s account.'” They think it worked in two ways–that humanity’s sins were imputed to Jesus, and Jesus’ sinlessness was imputed to humanity. And like all Christian doctrines, this one has its opponents too–like this very, very excitable Christian, who appears to think it sounds suspiciously like salvation by works.
(The funny thing is that obviously, there’s a lot to be desired regarding Christianity’s general worldview regarding consent–and fundagelicals, in particular, hate the concept of consent.)
You’ll All Doubtless Be Shocked to Hear That Reinhardt’s Got Imputation All Wrong.
It doesn’t sound like many Reformed theologians would actually want to argue about the importance of Imputation, and I’d reckon that most Christians have in fact heard some flavor of this doctrine. But I couldn’t find any theologians who thought it was like a sexual assault. Nor could I find any evidence of any formal theological training on Reinhardt’s part that would empower him to make that startling assertion.
But it also sounds like Reinhardt considers himself More Hardcore Than Thou, and this is one of the places where that impulse runs the strongest. He’s not just going to sign off on Imputation like his Reformed pals; he’s going to outdo them by making Imputation sound like an actual assault. He reinforces the idea a little longer and then assures his pals that thanks to this assault, “God has FORCED the perfect life of Christ over your dirty sinful existence and that you didn’t get a say, don’t get a say, and won’t get a say…Ever. You ARE righteous. #metoo.” And he ends with a Bible quote. (What, did you not realize that #MeToo meant that everyone is “righteous?”)
Just to double-check myself, I checked in with my dear, patient friend the Apostate, who probably has forgotten more about Reformed theology than most of us will ever know. He confirmed that yes, this guy has no idea WTF he’s talking about. Imputation, in Reformed theology, could be considered something done without a person’s consent, in the sense that the person didn’t ask for it and it was done anyway. But it’s sure not an assault type of thing.
We talked about this post maybe being fake or satirical, because that’s just the new normal of this world. Yes, it could be. I don’t think so (the different timestamps on the initial post, plus the number of times that responses include Reinhardt’s name, speak to its authenticity), so ultimately I’m focusing here more on fundagelicalism’s general non-engagement with #MeToo and using this post as an illustration of that tack.
Oh, and the Apostate looked at the doctrinal statement of Reinhardt’s former church and said it sounded “a bit Arminian,” which makes Reinhardt’s position on Rapist!Jesus sound “pretty whack.”
Seriously: the Apostate is awesome. And quite generous with his time.
A Swift Reaction.
Reaction to the post was quite swift–and unanimously negative. The kindest thing I saw among those screenshots was “This is odd.” Most of the commenters understood his post to mean that he was “implicitly comparing the love of Christ to being raped,” as one guy put it. Others–especially people who’d gone through assaults themselves–were beyond horrified and demanded an apology from him. And one person joked that Reinhardt’s “sense of humor may have been raptured.” I was encouraged to see that nobody was giving him a pass on comparing himself to a sexual assault survivor–not even if he tried to give himself a pass through his CYA disclaimer.
Reinhardt’s initial response was as belligerent as one would expect:
Like most inflammatory trolls, he declares at the outset that he’s “not really going to respond to the posts” and won’t even be reading them right away. He hand-waves away all the Christians seeing it who “think it was too much.” He dismisses the level of offense taken. And he even smugly assures us that “this is far from the worst thing [he’s] done” or will do.
But that show of defiance and belligerence didn’t last. By the time I saw the story, he’d not only taken down all of the posts, but he’d BALEETED EVERYTHING. His Facebook profile is now a skeleton; even his Twitter is empty/private.
So much for all that chest-thumping he did and how very proud he seemed of his really awful analogy.
Why Oh Why?
We might never know what possessed this guy to set his religion’s cause back like he did, or to make his credibility sink so low. He might not even know himself why. But a few speculations come very quickly to mind.
Re-centering. In re-centering, someone with a really regressive or self-inflated opinion gets distressed when their views are no longer front and center of any discussion. Somehow, a conversation had managed to be about someone who was not them! So they try to take back that spotlight. In this case, Reinhardt would have seen the hubbub and buzz around #MeToo and would have been distressed that he himself was not getting any of that attention. So made #MeToo about himself.
Someone who re-centers loves the attention that it grants them. Good attention or bad attention, it’s all wonderful for someone who desperately needs it in any form. Most of us have known people like that starting in our earliest childhood. And I can easily see someone like Reinhardt being exactly that kind of tedious person who needed to jump-start a little personal drama for himself after nearly a year out of the ministerial spotlight.
The Jesus Juke. A Jesus Juke happens when a Christian hijacks an otherwise secular conversation with religious twaddle so they can feel super-spiritual at other people’s expense. The classic example is when a bunch of Christians are talking about their favorite movies and the juking Christian pipes up “You know what I like? Jesus’ Crucifixion!” And everyone else just goes quiet because holy cow they are just so worldly compared to Luke Buzzkiller over there, and he then gets to bask in their religious shame and awkwardness and feel like the most Jesus-y Christian who ever Jesus-ed. In this situation with the Facebook post, Reinhardt would feel distressed that #MeToo wasn’t focusing at all on his religious opinions. There was precious little Christianity going on in that tag! So he injected some into it with a vengeance.
Provocation Sells. In today’s fundagelicalism, provocation–especially of the toxic-masculine chest-thumpy variety in this post–is an easy sell. Fundagelical men in particular, and the most successful male leaders in that end of the religion most particularly of all, tend to disdain anything that seems too conciliatory and gentle-hearted. And so they say and do things to deliberately get a rise out of people. Christians mistake this abusive behavior for feeling supernaturally challenged. Mark Driscoll’s rise to power speaks to that truth. He fell, and there have been numerous men who’ve tried to rise up to his position by offering up his level of deliberate provocation. So Reinhardt might have wanted to gain a lot of attention by saying something outrageous.
Power Abhors a Vacuum. Just as it seems like cats notice a vacuum in a home after another cat has left it permanently and move themselves in, fundagelicals see a leader fall from grace and wonder who’s going to take that position of power next. Someone has to. Who knows, maybe Reinhardt was wondering if he’d be the next Mark Driscoll. Well, the tribe told him #IDontOwnaFundagelicalAsshole, then booted him out of the house.
Drilling Down on the Culture Wars. Most of us are long, long familiar with Christian bastardizations and appropriations of cultural events and catchphrases. One could easily see this attempt to piggyback off of #MeToo/ChurchToo as a way of appropriating that powerful movement. At the same time, by sneering at the very real abuse that the women using that tag are describing, Reinhardt may well be seeking to negate that suffering–thus affirming his tribe’s culture war against women’s rights. A lot of men in fundagelicalism are also full-blown misogynists, proudly affiliating with movements like the Red Pill and MGTOW–and they view #MeToo with great suspicion and dislike. Is Reinhardt one of them? I can’t say. But it’d sure fit.
What a Great Sales Pitch.
Definitely stress how little consent exists in Christianity.
Definitely make sure young people in particular know that you think Jesus is just like a rapist. Make them wonder why so much of their religion feels like an abusive marriage. Definitely make sure people start wondering why the religion looks like it does–and why its teachings constantly turn out men like this one who keep talking like this. Keep on being your own worst problem.
With friends like these, Christianity doesn’t need any enemies at all.
So there’s the whole Reinhardt situation: the fallout around the post, the response to it, how it all fits with how Christians generally deal with cultural events and stuff that deeply contradicts their party line, and an opinion from someone who actually knows his stuff about the theological doctrine involved. Whew! Next time we’re diving into how a love of shortcuts can lead us astray–and how. It’s a busy week lining up, and I hope to see you then!
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