Reading Time: 10 minutes Who could ever have guessed that these demons were all really being super-helpful? (Bibliothèque des Champs Libres, CC.)
Reading Time: 10 minutes

Glurge is a term that Snopes coined for those sickly-sweet false stories that circulate in Christian groups that contain very different–and much darker–messages than its tale-bearers think they’re conveying. For a variety of reasons, Christians just can’t discern these obviously-false tales from reality, nor notice those undermining darker messages until someone points it out to them, at which point they get angry at the people pointing it out for ruining their sanctimonious preening. In that vein, something funny happened on Twitter recently–and it was one of the funniest blowups I’ve seen on that site lately: a professional Christian named Matt Smethurst monumentally misread the limits of Twitter glurge-evangelism and one of his tweets blew up in his face. Today, Lord Snow Presides over some unexpectedly-illuminating tweets.

Everyone, Meet Matt Smethurst.

Matt Smethurst is a young-looking Christian guy whose job title is Managing Editor of the Gospel Coalition (TGC). You’ve probably heard me mock and criticize TGC on many occasions; they’re one of those super-religious sites for fundagelicals that reinforces their culture wars and keeps them all thinking along the correct lines. They are only one-quarter-step up the credibility ladder from, say, World Net Daily (the hallowed online tabloid for swivel-eyed, frothy-mouthed, conspiracy-theory-loving Christianists).

A casual perusal of his output on TGC reveals that he’s one of those Christians who seems more like an artificial-intelligence assembly of talking points and glurge than a real person. He’s just wild about Tim Keller (an apologist who is infamous for his guilt-tripping and straw-manning as well as for his inability to construct a coherent, credible argument for his religion), and he likes to talk about the various deepities that have impressed him and the books he claims are “on my bookshelf,” all of which are apologetics or devotionals.

And by far his greatest howler, before the dustup I’m going to show you shortly, was a January post he wrote called “The Day I Made My Biggest Mistake in Evangelism.” If you’re wondering and don’t feel like reading the post, his biggest mistake in evangelism was not trusting his magical invisible wizard daddy in the sky to make his sales for him despite doing everything possible wrong in the sales pitch. While on a short-term missions trip, he showed a super-cheesy old Christian movie to an East Asian prospect he describes as “a hip, modernized college dude” who’d somehow never even heard of Jesus or Christianity! He expected the movie to wreck his sales pitch–and yet his prospect bought the product anyway! Smethurst’s “biggest mistake” was, apparently, not having faith in his god to do miracles.

The whole post sounds like a real r/ThatHappened: Jesus Edition story, but I’m sure it played very well to a tribe that is despairing as it enters what is at least its 12th straight year of decline. Smethurst, in effect, told them to keep Jesus-ing just as hard as they can–and to keep doing everything they’ve been told to do and not to stop doing it even if it looks totally ineffective and counterproductive, because

(∩`-´)⊃━☆゚.*・。゚ magic happens somehow ✩°。⋆⸜(ू。•ω•。)

… and cain’t nobody explain why some people convert and others don’t, or why one technique closes a sale but another doesn’t. So obviously when the sales pitch works against all odds, only a supernatural miracle could possibly explain that success.

Casinos probably treat gambling addicts with more decorum, honesty, and integrity than apologists treat their downline.

Satan’s Big Lie.

Matt Smethurst has a Twitter feed which doesn’t normally get a lot of engagement considering who he is and what function he serves. Mostly he just transmits Christian glurge along the same lines as the post I outlined above.

A recent tweet from March 17 illustrates exactly what he’s about: “I don’t remember 99% of the meals I’ve eaten, but they’ve kept me alive. God uses faithful, forgettable sermons to beautify his bride.” It means exactly what you think it means: oh god please everyone keep going to church even when it feels completely, totally irrelevant to your life. And his tribe ate that nonsense up with a spoon.

On February 27, Matt Smethurst decided to trot out the following tweet, which surprisingly took a little while to break out of the Christian bubble.

“Satan doesn’t whisper, ‘Believe in me.’ He whispers, ‘Believe in yourself.'” From Twitter.

I was surprised to see that it was created so long ago. I didn’t hear about it until the 14th or 15th, myself, and I don’t think most people did either. But that’s when it just exploded across the skept-o-sphere.

The Big Problem With Christianese.

Part of the problem Matt Smethurst had with this tweet involves how he and his tribe view those who reject them. One of the most common lies they tell each other about non-Christians is that we heretics believe in ourselves–as gods. It’s part of that Law of Conservation of Worship thing that we talked about a while ago; fundagelicals think that everyone must worship something, and so people who reject the idea of supernatural gods obviously want to be gods themselves. So they think that Satan himself seduces those people to Hell by telling them that they can be gods–and they think that non-Christians accept this idea wholeheartedly.

So when Smethurst was talking about “believe in yourself,” he wasn’t talking about it from the standpoint of how regular people mean it, which is to say having normal self-confidence and trust in one’s own abilities. He meant it quite literally: that people who accept Satan’s rule in their lives quite literally put themselves into the Christian god’s rightful place, giving themselves the worship, praise, and groveling that belongs to their god, and considering themselves the judges of right and wrong rather than their misunderstood set of ancient writings by anonymous authors.

Further, Christians like Smethurst think that only their god can possibly give anyone real self-confidence (or happiness, contentment, or joy, for that matter). Any negative feelings they have must be given to God, as their Christianese goes, after which time they aren’t allowed to feel those emotions anymore. Any non-Christian who feels self-confident is obviously functioning at the pleasure of Lord Satan, because the natural state of human beings is so awful and depraved and evil that only a god could ever uplift any of us through grace–or so the thinking goes.

So for a non-Christian to have that kind of self-confidence that Christians think only comes from their god is deeply heretical as well as impossible. Non-divine self-confidence is a pale second to what they think the real thing is.

And they’re so far outside of reality and so stuffed into their own bubble that they literally have no idea what it is we actually think and believe; they just take for granted that their leaders are correct about us.

So on February 27, Matt Smethurst popped out a glurge-y tweet that he knew would appeal to his tribe. It was just one of those meaningless deepities that so impress Christians–and yet like deepities and glurge always do, it carried a second meaning that Christians never notice or care about.

I really don’t think it even occurred to this guy that anything might go wrong with it. I really don’t think he ever notices, much less takes in, any significant levels of pushback to any of his ideas. It’s all so ironic considering that the tip he recently offered to aspiring Christian writers was “Seek out honest critique.”

But out here in Reality-Land, we took his tweet very differently.

Awww, Thanks, Satan!

Once the tweet filtered out into the real world, people began responding to it–and not in any way that made Matt Smethurst or his tribe look very good.

You can find a number of excellent responses to Smethurst’s poorly-conceived tweet here. Samples:

  • “believe in the satan that believes in you”
  • “Sounds like good advice to me. I’m going with that!”
  • “Man, the Satanist recruiters are on point.”

My favorite response by far is Eli Bosnick’s: “Dude thanks satan”

Christopher Stroop declared, “Apparently Satan gives surprisingly good advice.”

The Church of Satan’s official tweeter got a kick out of it too: “This is accurate, as there is no Satan to believe in and believing in yourself is what the individualistic, carnal religion of Satanism is all about.”

And I’ll just add that my own response included the fact that it cracked me up that this whole thing was obviously something Matt Smethurst has said before to folks in his bubble–and they probably loved it.

One learns the stink of a finely-polished Christianese turd after a while.

Making Matters Worse.

Matt Smethurst, of course, did not actually take in the honest critiques leveled at his statement. If anything, he just drilled down the harder with a pair of tweets meant to commute the sentence that the Shade Court had thrown his way:

This is a time-honored Christian strategy called “making matters much worse.”

The problem, of course, with the first post is that he can say what he didn’t mean that all he wants, because his clarifications are literally the opposite of reality. It’s bizarre that he’d even try to say anything else. Any ex-fundagelical would know he’s flat-out lying here.

The problems with the second are, in order, that Proverbs 28:26 has been used to create and justify abuse in fundagelicalism in addition to not saying what Smethurst thinks it says; that Luke 9:23-24 doesn’t even tangentially relate to what Smethurst tweeted; and that any Christian who punts to Tim Keller like this either hasn’t actually critically read the man’s work or is a terrible, dishonest, and/or deeply dysfunctional person at heart.

A Deepening Rift.

Mostly it seems like people were just amazed that Matt Smethurst, and by extension his tribe, positioned himself against the idea of anybody telling people to believe in themselves. We concentrated more on the “believe in yourself” part of it than the source of the encouragement.

Generally speaking, people took the tweet as a sign that fundagelicals disapproved of self-confidence and considered that quality to be literally Satanic in nature. Out here in Reality-Land, when we tell people to believe in themselves, we’re not talking about people literally believing that they are themselves gods because nobody except the most seriously disturbed people ever think of themselves that way.

No, out here we mean something completely different–and healthier–by the phrase. And the kind of Christianity that Matt Smethurst endorses doesn’t sit well with that healthier meaning. Many of us who’ve tangled with his kind of Christianity came out of it with a host of terrible problems relating to self-esteem, confidence, boundary-setting, enmeshment/codependency, and undeserved guilt. Many of us take years to figure out how to perform self-care, let alone self-indulgence, without feeling enormous shame for even desiring to do it; many of us have great difficulty with refusing others’ demands or finding motivation to do the stuff we need to do.

It isn’t until we deconvert and walk away from that toxic environment that we even figure out just how messed up we were. That’s when we learn that the kind of divinely-granted self-confidence preached by the Matt Smethursts of the world is, itself, the false version of the real thing–and it’s a piss-poor imitation, if not a disastrous one. That’s when we learn that the kind we find for ourselves is what really counts and what truly matters.

So his tweet became one of those hilarious and unsettling illustrations of the disconnect between the Christian bubble and Reality-Land–and another example of how Christianese differs from English–and people had fun with it.

Was all that mockery totally fair? Oh, maybe not, though Smethurst can thank his tribe’s obfuscation of English and his bubble’s insularity for his discomfort. 

Was it accurate criticism all the same? Yes. He has inadvertently contributed to an ongoing serious conversation online about stuff that is only going to hasten his tribe’s decline.

Did he accidentally reveal something important about the Christian mindset that is irredeemably broken and cruel? Yes, yes, yes.

Today Lord Snow presides over Christians who accidentally speak out of their hearts’ abundance.

Who could ever have guessed that all these demons in medieval and Renaissance art were all just being really helpful? (Bibliothèque des Champs Libres, CC.)

Next Time: Oh my friends we’re in for a treat! All that talk of eschatology last time got me interested in watching one of the granddaddies of all Rapture movies: A Thief in the Night. I have literally managed to get through almost 50 years of life without seeing it and this sounds like a good time to remedy that oversight. It’s streaming on Amazon Prime and probably alllll over the internet–and I hope you’ll join me for it tomorrow. I’ll do my usual thing of posting a pre-review introduction to the movie, probably around 3-5pm PST, with a time for when I’m hitting the PLAY button. Feel free to “live-tweet” in the comments if you’re following along. It’s only an hour long, so I don’t reckon it’ll be that long of a slog. Later that night after I’ve sobered up a bit I’ll pretty up the mega-review and put that up. Next week we’ll be talking about it and about Christians’ Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), and I do hope you’ll join me! See you then!

I am totally accepting era- and genre-appropriate booze suggestions! Nothing lethal or illegal please =D

Endnote: I left out a lot of very worthy Satans from this meme lineup, and please rest assured they weren’t left out from neglect or antipathy but rather because there’s only so much room to jam them into a post!

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Lord Snow Presides… is our weekly off-topic chat series. I’ve started us off with a topic, but feel free to chime in with whatever’s on your mind! Lord Snow is my sweet, elderly white cat, who presides over my household like King Jareth over his goblins.

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,...

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