Hi and welcome back! One recent topic of interest around here is the redefinition of love that toxic Christians use as a blank permission slip to mistreat others. Often, they call their variant Christian love. It’s anything but love, but it is definitely and specifically part of their brand of Christianity. This variant has certainly flowed in recent months! By far their favorite target for this Christian love is their own tribemates who disagree. They call these dissenters weak Christians and seem to do everything they can to push them right out of the religion. Today, let me show you why they hate those ‘weak Christians’ so very much.
(In this post, I discuss white evangelicals as a group. Black evangelicals operate almost completely differently.)
The Mini-Jesuses of White Evangelicalism.
It used to boggle my mind to see all the rationalizations that white evangelicals use to grant themselves permission to be nasty toward others, to exploit everyone they can, and most of all to punish those they view as particularly inferior to themselves.
But not anymore.
Toxic Christians have always seen themselves as mini-mes of their god. They are authoritarians to the bone, and so they do not identify as mere followers of anybody. Instead, they are heirs to the crown of their god himself: the sons of the ultimate King of Kings.
Sure, Jesus commanded his followers not to judge others. But he himself judged others all the time, and so therefore they may judge to their hearts’ content as long as they do it in a tribe-approved way.
Sure, Jesus told people to be charitable toward the poor. But he himself said it was okay to pour expensive oil on his feet because the poor would always be with us, and so therefore they may be as cruel toward the poor as they please as long as they can be really Jesus-y about it.
Sure, Jesus ordered Christians to show only love toward others, even their worst enemies. But he also fully approved of punishing slaves for disobedience and overturned tables while whipping his enemies and hey, he even warned people about Hell! And so therefore, they may consider such behavior perfectly acceptable — as long as they simper sufficiently with Jesus words while they hurt others.
Sure, Jesus sought only heavenly power, and refused to make contemporary Jews happy by declaring war on the hated occupying Romans. But he also sharply criticized the temporal powers of his day. And so therefore, they may strive constantly for earthly power themselves.
See how easy it is to become a complete hypocrite and still believe oneself a TRUE CHRISTIAN™? But something else is at work here:
Tribalism: The Worst Enemies.
Years ago, Slate Star Codex ran a post called “I Can Tolerate Anything Except The Outgroup.” For me, it became an instant classic.
It concerned how people define ingroups and outgroups. Surprisingly perhaps, people don’t tend to define outgroups as the people least similar to us, but rather the most similar to us except for one little thing. Sure, we may hate those most-alien groups in a general sense, yes. Fine. But oh, we tend to absolutely despise the people who disagree with us about a relatively small point (relative to the differences we perceive between ourselves and our most-alien outgroups). He summarizes thusly:
So what makes an outgroup? Proximity plus small differences. If you want to know who someone in former Yugoslavia hates, don’t look at the Indonesians or the Zulus or the Tibetans or anyone else distant and exotic. Find the Yugoslavian ethnicity that lives closely intermingled with them and is most conspicuously similar to them, and chances are you’ll find the one who they have eight hundred years of seething hatred toward.
That really clicked for me. Especially when I consider white evangelicals today, this idea applies especially well.
Indeed, they direct their very worst vitriol at the Christians who don’t agree with their culture wars at all, nor grant them the instant and complete deference they think they deserve.
The Tribalism of White Evangelicals.
Today’s white evangelicals have built their entire group identity on two beliefs:
- A divinely-granted mandate given to white men to rule over all humanity and the world
- Absolutely the most correct form of Jesus-ing ever devised by any Christians, ever, since the 1st century (lol)
These beliefs, as warped and as obviously wackadoo as they are, may not be questioned by anybody, especially by tribemates. All other practices and beliefs within evangelicalism flow through those two central beliefs.
Really, it was absolutely inevitable that they’d become tribalistic in nature.
Once it goes tribalistic, a group becomes toxic and broken very quickly. Its members take on a distinct us vs. them mindset. They perceive themselves as embodying all the good qualities they admire. Thus, all other groups become inferior to theirs. From there, all those other groups become their sworn enemies.
In very short order, the tribe’s focus becomes destroying those enemies in any and every way possible. The tribe members cut down their enemies with gatekeeping, retaliatory aggression, fearmongering and moral panic creation, and even outright violence if they can get away with it. Their enemies become the root and source of all the evil they perceive in their entire world.
And that’s where white evangelicals find themselves these days.
An entire New Testament full of love thy neighbor and turn the other cheek has fluttered away on the wind in the face of their own impending irrelevance.
Defining Oneself as Not-The-Enemies.
A long long time ago, I realized that today’s white evangelical men define themselves exclusively as not-women. Whatever it is they insist that all women must do and be, they do and are the opposite themselves.
Thus, as women gain more equality and move further and further outside of those old limitations, these men feel increasingly angry and confused over how they should define themselves and behave. When women work at jobs that have been traditionally filled by men, wear clothing these men have traditionally considered theirs alone, and even behave as these men think only men should, they react increasingly poorly to these unwanted societal changes.
It wouldn’t even occur to them to adopt some definition for themselves that doesn’t involve forcing other people to play along without their consent, much less one that’s original to itself. Instead, their only real strategy involves trying to force women back into their previous roles. Once that happens, they feel, their own self-definition can resume play. I’ve overheard them fantasizing about exactly this scenario.
What I perceived back then was tribalism in a nutshell. Tribalistic people need there to be tribal enemies, so they can define themselves as not-them, never-them, not-even-a-little-bit-them.
If they ever truly defeated those enemies, it’d be the worst setback they ever faced — for a few minutes. Then, they would simply find some new enemy, and immediately define themselves as not-them in turn.
Why Caring Equals Weakness.
And now we turn to one of the primary definitions of white evangelicalism, not-caring.
In authoritarianism, caring about anyone’s opinion, welfare, happiness, whatever, it all marks a person as weak. Here is why.
Power means being able to do whatever the hell you please without regard for any consequences — because there either won’t be any, or you’ll be able to brush them off without trouble.
Those who do not possess power must scramble before the whims of the powerful. They must be ever-vigilant! Indeed, they must watch for any sign that powerful people have targeted them. They always stand at risk. It’s a bit like the hypervigilance of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), except the danger is real and the powerless person never quite knows when it’ll strike.
That exact state of vigilant fear is why so many evangelicals scramble and jockey for increased power within their social milieus — and why they seek so much political and temporal power. They want to increase their own safety level — and power over others creates a sort of Green Zone of safety for them.
More than that, though, when another authoritarian realizes that they care about something or someone, that’s a new weapon hand-delivered to their address. What we care about can hurt us; what we don’t care about can’t impact us much at all. That’s true, to an extent, but to authoritarians in their mad frantic dash to safe-feelings, it becomes the Litany Against Fear.
So simply caring about anybody else means weakness, vulnerability, and ultimately destruction. Even if the tribe didn’t sneer at the idea of caring and idolize not-caring, authoritarians themselves know the dangers involved in being seen as caring.
Those ‘Weak Christians.’
White evangelicals have evolved into a perfect storm. They’ve created a tribal enemy that is just like themselves except for one little bitty detail: refusal to give a wet sloppy slap about others’ health and welfare. That detail telescopes in importance until its absence becomes a tribal marker. And they can define themselves as not-their-enemy with ease.
Nowadays, they call those enemies weak Christians.
Weak Christians don’t agree with white evangelical leaders. They don’t want to sign off on the culture wars. They disagree with the absurd level of politicization in that entire end of the religion. And they want no part of the sexism and racism and control-lust they see. Most of all, they care enough about others that they’ll happily take basic precautions against coronavirus spread.
Somehow, against all possible odds, white evangelicals have decided that these are all markers of weakness. They don’t look even slightly like weak traits to me. Authoritarianism is what looks weak to me. But white evangelicals never run out of ways to flatter themselves or feel sorry for themselves (and both at the same time, ideally).
As a reference, they define themselves as strong. They define good things by their own ideals; in fact, they themselves are the only positive standard they’re even willing to use (verrry objective).
Thus, anything that looks different from themselves becomes, therefore, not-strong — and therefore weak. When white evangelicals call someone a weak Christian, be aware that this is the only definition in play.
Also be aware of the only penalty this tribe knows for weakness.
What Fascinates This Evangelical Pastor (Really Shouldn’t).
The reason my ninja whiskers ruffled on this topic is an article I found a few days ago about the wearing of masks in churches. In the article, one pastor notes:
What’s fascinating about this is that if you ask people who want to wear a mask and the people who don’t want to wear a mask, both of them will tell you the other one is the weaker brother.
My reaction was a very loud chuckle.
I didn’t get why he was “fascinated” by this observation.
Really, I’d have thought it was utterly obvious — even a no-brainer.
This Is Me Feeling Really Helpful.
Here’s the answer that pastor needed:
The evangelicals refusing to wear a mask have defined mask-wearing as a show of “fear” and “weakness.” But more than that, mask-wearing is a trait they’ve identified as both suspiciously female and unacceptably liberal, as well as a show of a lack of faith in Jesus (on display at the end of this other article and this one yonder).
Women care for others’ health and welfare, so obviously they would wear masks. Men define themselves as not-caring about others at all because weak people care because they are weak. Thus, they can’t possibly wear a mask.
As for liberals, well, one hardly needs to elaborate — but I will. White evangelicals see liberalism as a system that mollycoddles and spoils undeserving people, while their own approach (not-caring) leads, they mistakenly think, to increased self-sufficiency or complete failure. Either outcome is perfectly fine by them. Remember, they don’t care what happens to the weak.
And people who profess utter wingnut faith in Jesus just don’t believe he’d ever let them get sick. Therefore, they don’t need masks. Masks would be like a vote of no confidence in Jesus! He’d get super-mad at them! Oh, you wouldn’t ever like to see him when he’s mad…
In reality, of course, the mask denialists are, in fact, weak Christians.
So when it’s other Christians who make this demand for masks, their gloves come off. This is heresy within the ranks, dissension of the worst order. To maintain tribal purity, these elements of disagreement must be destroyed.
Who’s Got the Best Gang.
Adam Young was right. Christianity’s entire existence has always been about determining “who’s got the best gang.”
But for white evangelicals, it’s way more than that. It’s about insisting (against all reason, all evidence, and all signs) that their tribe is already the best gang, and destroying anybody who says otherwise.
It’s just such a mess. Nothing in the world speaks as strongly to Christianity being a purely human social system utterly divorced from the supernatural, just purely earthly and natural, as the behavior of Christians themselves. That goes double and triple for white evangelical Christianity.
They know they’ve lost the battle for the cultural heart of America. Few of them even talk about reversing their decline. Now they’re going for broke on gaining political power as a way of regaining personal power. If they cannot be loved, then they will happily be feared. Only the weak fear, they bellow while beating their chests, and they are not-weak and therefore strong. If you don’t believe them, then just look at how not-caring they are! Don’t look at those awful weak Christians a moment longer!
And nothing says strength like white evangelicals needing to destroy all opposition and control everyone in sight just to feel safe and momentarily pleased, am I right? Kin ah hear an AMEN?
NEXT UP: Donald Trump betrayed the tribe completely, and white evangelicals don’t seem to have uttered one single solitary little peep about it a solid week later! See you tomorrow for a shocker of all shockers, I’m sure!
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