Hi and welcome back! After Donald Trump supporters attacked the nation’s Capitol Building on Wednesday, I noticed some evangelical leaders saying there’d be some big ‘reckoning’ due for American evangelicals. It made me laugh. Evangelicals don’t do reckonings. There’ll be no reckoning for them, not even now, not even after all the stunts they’ve pulled to regain their lost dominance. Today, let me show you why.
Let the Hand-Wringing Begin!
On Wednesday, Donald Trump’s fanatical, delusional supporters attacked the Capitol Building in hopes of establishing a coup to keep their Dear Leader in power. Thankfully, this attempted insurrection failed.
Right afterward, Ed Stetzer took to his bloggin’ desk to tell us there’d totally be a “reckoning” for evangelicals. Of course, he couched it as “America” facing this reckoning, “evangelicals included.” To hear his mangling of the situation, one might easily make the mistake of thinking that Stetzer’s tribe of white evangelicals aren’t Trump’s primary voting bloc. But whatever. “America Faces a Reckoning — Evangelicals Included.” Fine.
In his post, Stetzer mostly concentrated on other recent scandals committed by Trump: the phone calls asking state officials to “find” votes for him, his attempts to suppress information and distort it, and finally his outright lying and smearing his enemies to inflame his fans to violence. Stetzer concludes that there’ll be “an American reckoning” because of general American support of Trump, but says that [white] evangelicals will also face their own reckoning:
But there is also an evangelical reckoning to be had.
For now, we know three things.
Elections have consequences.
And, so do conspiracy theories.
When I saw that, I just laughed. Y’all, Ed Stetzer is right around my age. And he still doesn’t even halfway understand his own tribe.
There will be no “reckoning.” Evangelicals don’t do “reckonings.” His fellow evangelical leaders have been predicting “reckonings” for quite some time, and it still hasn’t happened yet. They’re sure not gonna have now.
More Failed Prophets.
Here’s a slew of similar predictions, arranged in order of date.
November 9, 2016: “After Trump’s Win, White Evangelical Christians Face a Reckoning.” Nope.
June 1, 2018: “A reckoning for Southern Baptists, and an opportunity.” Someone thought evangelicals would face a reckoning over all their sex abuse scandals. It didn’t happen.
July 5, 2019: “The Deepening Crisis in Evangelical Christianity.” They didn’t care about their witness.
September 5, 2019: “Buttigieg says ‘reckoning’ coming over GOP and Christianity.” It didn’t happen.
June 29, 2020: “White Christians face ‘moment of reckoning’ about racism.” Unfortunately, the recent racism crisis didn’t actually spark an evangelical reckoning.
November 10, 2020: “Why America Needs a Reckoning With the Trump Era.” Evangelicals didn’t care.
November 10, 2020: Another post-election hot take, “Evangelicals Face a Reckoning.” Its writer asserted that “justice” would begin with evangelicals reckoning over their extremism and politicization. In our dreams, we are free indeed.
November 15, 2020: “The Evangelical Reckoning Begins.” LOL no. Ain’t nothin’ begun, honey. Here, Andy Stanley lamented the way Trumpism has wrecked evangelicals’ sales metrics.
December 31, 2020: “What to expect on the religious scene in 2021.” Though this Catholic site advised readers not to expect “an evangelical reckoning,” they also predicted that “some evangelicals” would “attempt to restore evangelicalism’s gospel witness.” (What witness?)
January 6, 2021: Ed Stetzer’s insistence on an incoming reckoning seems bizarrely out of touch with actual evangelicals’ culture.
Why Evangelicals Won’t Face Any Kind of Reckoning.
Evangelicals are, at heart, authoritarians. They also tend to be deeply narcissistic: grossly over-entitled and staggeringly self-important. Self-awareness has never been their strong suit. Nor has compassion. Their culture is a shallow, incredibly transactional mess of power-mongering and jockeying for as much control as they can grab.
In particular, evangelicals seek positions of power in their various groups. Once they get into power, they become largely untouchable — and able to behave as they truly prefer. Thus, evangelicals’ overall goal is to have as few people over them who can command them, while having as many people below them that they can command with utter impunity.
Because evangelicalism has few ways of reining in bad actors, evangelical groups attract abusers and predators like honey-soaked pears attract hornets. Such people can’t gain the kind of power they want in any legitimate way. But it’s painfully easy for them to gain the trust of evangelical hiring committees and pastors.
In recent years, growing numbers of evangelical leaders have whipped their flocks into a frenzy with increasing politicization and conspiracy theories. This is how they maintain their level of control and grow their power. It works grandly, too.
The flocks have been trained from birth to obey and trust their leaders — even though their leaders don’t deserve any of that trust and obedience. Shorn of their critical thinking skills, evangelicals can be trusted to accept any lie they’re told.
Any real, tangible, substantial changes to evangelicalism could impact the obedience and trust the flocks grant their leaders, and it would certainly impact those leaders’ power.
So it ain’t gonna happen. They’ll torch their entire end of Christianity first.
Change: Why It Won’t Happen.
Evangelical leaders create and maintain a netherworld of misinformation, which looks almost nothing like our real world. Evangelical leaders teach their flocks to distrust literally every valid source of information in the world, then offer themselves as the only accurate font of knowledge their sheep can trust.
(Yes, that’s the textbook definition of gaslighting.)
As a result, to be evangelical is to blunder, always, through a netherworld of unguessable threats and constant drama. Rage and terror are always right under the surface of their minds, ready to be stoked to fever pitch at a moment’s notice.
It’s almost funny now to see evangelical leaders like Ed Stetzer, Matt Chandler, and Andy Stanley lamenting the exact post-truth tribe they themselves helped create.
What are evangelical leaders supposed to do? Admit they were wrong about Donald Trump being their King Cyrus? Tell the flocks that their culture wars were actually a bad idea? Walk back all their ridiculous posturing and prophecies? Start teaching the flocks critical thinking skills?
If they try to do any of that stuff, their flocks will only accuse them of ‘compromise.’
So it ain’t gonna happen — even if they wanted to do anything like that, which I assure you they do not.
The Reckoning That Won’t Be.
I perceive no support for the notion that evangelicals are coming anywhere close to any kind of reckoning over anything they’re doing. Their racism, sex-abuse scandals, and unholy fusion to Donald Trump’s backside are not problems for them. They’re the outgrowths of divine mandates.
Remember that netherworld of misinformation? To fervent evangelicals, racism is an individual sin problem, sex abuse just means their leaders aren’t Jesus-ing hard enough (or that they’re being unfairly targeted by meaniepies), and Trump really is going to save them from their enemies. Unraveling all these lies they believe with all their hearts would threaten every single thing they hold dear. It could even destroy the whole reason they got involved with evangelicalism in the first place.
(There’s a reason why deconversion can be so devastating for ex-evangelicals.)
Unless the flocks somehow manage to become something entirely different from what they are now, their leaders won’t risk their positions by suggesting any real changes to the tribe or how it operates. However, the flocks are, themselves, cowards. So they won’t demand anything like that.
Reckonings require compassion and courage.
Unfortunately, you’ll find neither quality in evangelicalism.
And so you’ll find no reckonings there.
NEXT UP: Christian infighting over the latest evangelical outrage reminds us of an important fact about Christianity itself. See you tomorrow!
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