Hi and welcome back! I hope you’re having a splendid New Year’s Eve and New Year (depending on where you are in the world). Today, let me offer up this past year’s Top 10 posts — plus a couple of older ones that turned out to be popular as well.
Without further ado, let’s dive in!
“‘Christian Love’ Flows as Jen Hatmaker Divorces” (September 8, 2020)
The tribe did not respond well to this Christian influencer’s divorce. Despite evangelicals’ dismal divorce rates, many of them considered her divorce PROOF YES PROOF that her beliefs were not sufficiently Jesus-y.
Nothing shows us the truth of Christians’ claims like their own behavior.
“Gold Canyon’s Shutdown and Other MLM News” (March 25, 2020)
An early pandemic chat post that detailed the ongoing backlash against multi-level marketing schemes. They can’t die out fast enough for my taste.
“Pastoral Suicide: A Sad Dealbreaker for Evangelicals” (May 12, 2020)
With the death of the popular evangelical pastor Darrin Patrick in mind, I looked at some really sad and scary statistics. Pastoral suicide speaks strongly to the dysfunction of evangelical culture, and perhaps because of that fact evangelicals have never been able to deal effectively with the burnout and emotional exhaustion of the people in these roles.
I was surprised by how many evangelicals got mad at me for saying Patrick died by suicide. But I shouldn’t have been.
“John Ortberg: The Scandal That Just Keeps Getting Worse” (July 30, 2020)
Taking fourth place, yet another Willow Creek alum got embroiled in a serious scandal. Every time a new detail emerged about this one, John Ortberg just looked worse.
“A Tangled Web: Rick Joyner, Todd Bentley, Lakeland, Toronto, and More” (January 4, 2020)
I published this post during the tail end of our Toronto Blessing series. It examined the tightly-meshed loyalties and connections between the movers and shakers in that earlier movement and the Lakeland movement that followed it.
After a while, I began seeing Rick Joyner’s name connected to a lot of the very worst elements of modern-day white evangelicalism. Most especially, he’s a big part of the reason that the otherwise obviously-awful Todd Bentley became a big name in the tribe.
Rick Joyner walked so Todd Bentley could kick a cancer patient in the stomach, I suppose.
“Steve Timmis’ Rise and Fall (Reveals a Serious Problem in Christianity)” (February 11, 2020)
At the height of his cultural power, Mark Driscoll started a church-planting network called Acts 29. Mark Chandler was his hand-picked successor. Steve Timmis came out of nowhere to lead it. What could possibly go wrong there? Lots, it turns out.
Interestingly, Darrin Patrick (#3’s topic) was part of this same network — but when his scandal came to light the year after his leader Matt Chandler’s did, he just didn’t have the good connections needed to evade repercussions.
“The Exodus of Single Women from Christianity Continues” (July 12, 2020).
A researcher’s newest work focuses on how many single women are walking away from their church groups — mostly due to sexism.
Evangelical leaders ignored this study, though a few rank-and-file male bloggers lectured those women for their audacity and told them they weren’t allowed to leave. Women ignored them and continue to leave.
“Why White Evangelicals Are Freaking Out Lately” (July 19, 2020).
A bunch of racist incidents highlight white evangelicals’ growing frustration with their decline in power — and their fears about being powerless.
I don’t think it’ll get easier in the near future though. I think they’ll get even more freaked out when their Great Orange Calf Idol loses his cushy presidential title in a bit here.
“Willow Creek: Missing All the Red Flags” (February 5, 2020)
For years, popular megachurch Willow Creek showed serious red flags about sex abuse. But their congregants weren’t the only ones ignoring those red flags. Literally everybody else in the evangelical tribe ignored them too. I traced the history of those red flags — and discovered that the signs were there for years before its leaders’ predatory behavior came to light.
For years, various evangelicals protected Willow Creek’s leaders from consequences and gave them room to prey upon women.
Willow Creek still seems to turn up everywhere. Various evangelical leaders and apologists (like Lee Strobel) owe their entire careers to this church.
“How the Satanic Panic Led Straight to QAnon” (October 28, 2020)
Most regular readers of this blog know I’m a veteran of the Satanic Panic culture war. Indeed, this baseless moral panic and conspiracy theory left an indelible, intense mark on my entire time as an evangelical. When QAnon started to gain prominence, I noticed similarities in how evangelicals responded to its fearmongering leaders.
What’s funny is that a few Christians are doing their best to bring back the original Satanic Panic. They’re out there trying their very best to stoke up renewed fears of a shadowy, worldwide Cabal of Satanic Wiccans (or Wiccan Satanists, Whatevs) (CSWWSW) kidnapping children and pets and sacrificing them to Satan to gain THE REAL MAJYCKUL POWAH Y’ALL.
But these poor fusty wingnuts and their sad vintage horror stories have been utterly, hopelessly lapped by the new hotness of QAnon and its flashy modern elements.
Speaking of Which: First Runner-Up.
This 2018 post would have sat at #5 in our current 2020 lineup. It made a showing in 2019 too! Here it is:
“John Ramirez is Trying So Hard to Bring Back the Satanic Panic” (October 25, 2018)
Despite the fervor of his small-but-dedicated fanbase, this guy is an absolute wingnut and, in my opinion, a Z-list grifter. For years, he’s peddled a wackadoodle, obviously-faked testimony containing all the familiar elements of the old Satanic Panic.
But I saw indications this year that QAnon has absolutely demolished his burgeoning career as a fearmongerer. He couldn’t keep up with it, poor dear.
Second Runner-Up: This One Stayed Popular Too.
Our last entry is another 2018 post. This one would have sat at #8 in the lineup this year, and it made the list last year too:
“Wait, HOW Many Churches Close Per Year?” (November 29, 2018)
I loved this post. It wasn’t easy to gather the information I needed to write it, though. Evangelicals do their level best to obfuscate bad news. Thom Rainer likes to make a claim of 6000-10000 churches per year closing, but he was just then starting up a business aimed at revitalizing churches. So obviously, he’d really want to get church leaders scared spitless so they’d hire him.
The reality turned out to be somewhat less dire than Rainer was saying, but it’s still pretty bad — for evangelicals.
For the rest of us, their ongoing decline is nothing but great news.
Thanks So Much!!!
There you have it! Our 2020 Top 10 lineup — plus a couple of posts that have proven to be enduringly popular.
Thanks so much for reading Roll to Disbelieve. Back in 2013 when I started, I would never have thought we’d come so far, nor get to be as popular as we’ve turned out to be. The readers who support this blog (in all manner of ways) have made this happen. I could not have done it without you. Thank you.
I’m looking forward to 2021 — and I truly hope you’ll be joining me for it. See you next year!
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Today is an Off-Topic Wonderland!