Naming Names

I was recently sent this piece that was written in response to the horrifying events of January 6th. It can be boiled down to a few key points:

  1. There’s pressure for Christians to “pick a side” in present-day America.

  2. These sides are generally split between the two political parties.

  3. Both sides are equally flawed (as evidenced by the 2011 Wisconsin State Capitol protests).

  4. Christians should generally work to rise above the fray.

Setting aside the ridiculous equivalency between the Wisconsin occupation and what happened on January 6th, what’s missed entirely is that the warring “sides” that culminated with the U.S. Capitol insurrection are actually truth vs. misinformation, and that Christians should absolutely choose a side: that of truth.

The thorny reality, however, is that (with few exceptions) it’s the Republican party that has been absolutely infested with believers of misinformation, and while only a minority disappear entirely down the deepest rabbit holes, many more quietly tolerate this dangerous state of affairs.

This fantastic piece absolutely nails these types of people, and the profile fits the majority of those I’ve personally encountered like a glove:

If you are in the American Church, you know this person. They are very different from the mob who stormed the Capitol; however, they have actively been building up an Evangelical culture that has contributed to the increasing political polarization and the us vs. them mentality that pervades American life today.

Specifics, please?

They often speak about what they are against, but rarely about what they stand for. They believe older male leadership in the Church is never to be questioned, even when wrongdoing is as clear as day, and they enforce that belief.

They decry cancel culture and socialism, even though they unknowingly engage in both practices. They claim identity politics is evil, not understanding that all politics stems from identity and that they are willing participants in their own way.

Many people would call them racists. Some of them are, but in my experience, I’ve found that honest ignorance and a lack of interest in understanding different lived experiences are the real challenges they face, not racism.

Voting Republican —regardless of the candidate— is a given. Though they tend to be quiet about the specific politics of the day, the singular issue of abortion will unleash full-blown brutalization, with the concept of loving their neighbor being abandoned entirely.

Sometimes they dabble in far-right ideology and misinformation, but more often than not, they adhere to socially conservative media and worldviews. The hope that the Gospel offers each person is often confused with rugged American Individualism, causing the Gospel to be supplanted with a sustained culture war.

Perhaps most importantly, they struggle to separate worshipping God with worshipping the belief that they hold the absolute truth, and wielding it against others.

Many Absolutist Evangelicals also give generously. They serve others, sometimes as the most dedicated servants in a given church. They show up to many of the weekday events at their church, which are often far less attended than Sunday morning service. Many of them are genuinely nice and warm people, right up until one of the above issues arises.

If the church is truly going to address the scourge of misinformation, we need to call it out, despite the fact that it will absolutely alienate more people on one side of the aisle than the other. Change is hard, but talking about misinformation without giving concrete examples will simply make those under its spell smugly nod to themselves, assuming that the sermon they’re hearing is meant to lift them up (as evidenced in this wishy-washy piece).

This nails it:

Especially in the wake of the January 6 insurrection, cries for unity have been heard throughout Washington, as the need to come together feels more urgent than it has in years. Here, Blight sees a useful lesson to be found in history: “In all the work I’ve done on the Civil War and public memory, the central thing I’ve learned is that you can’t have healing without some balance with justice,” says Blight. “You have to have both. The justice has to be just as real as any kind of healing.”

In other words, if we’re to start uniting behind the common banner of what is just and true, we need to name names when it comes to misinformation. Some people/topics to start with:

  • QAnon Adherents
  • Anti-Maskers
  • Anti-Vaxxers (in fairness, this one does sometimes overlap “sides”)
  • Climate Change Deniers

  • Institutional Racism Deniers

Let’s open up (consequences be damned) and fearlessly wade into these waters. It’s the only true way forward.

Just Stop, Trump Evangelicals

Yesterday’s events left me stunned, but it wasn’t until I saw the standard conservative evangelical reactions start rolling in that I became fully infuriated.

Take a look:

Aaaaaargh! Years of garbage like this played a key role in what got us to yesterday. You. Are. Complicit.

Your silence in an effort to not “be political” (except when it comes to pro-conservative topics) makes you complicit.

Your careless sharing of misinformation makes you complicit.

Your lack of empathy for the lives of others makes you complicit.

Your “it’s up to God!” excuse for non-action makes you complicit.

Now is not the time for doubling down and sinking with the ship. Now is the time to repent and start humbly listening. Not only has your orange calf been (at long last) toppled, but you’ve found yourself with bloody hands. Start washing.

The New Normal

As we start a new year with (once the death rattle shenanigans peter out) new leadership, it’s tempting to think that things will slowly start returning to normal. For the most part this will (hopefully) be true, but one of the many ripples of 2020 on American society has been a great “Band-Aid ripping” effect that’s caused many slow but inevitable changes to happen years before anticipated.

As a result, a lot of things are never snapping back into place. Here are my predictions for a few of them…

Commuting and remote work: While it’s possible that we start seeing permanent closures of physical offices (for jobs that allow it), we’ll almost certainly see a lot more flexibility for and acceptance of remote work for a significant portion of the workweek. Future generations will find it jaw-dropping that many people once filled a personal car with gasoline, only to drive to another location five days a week, sit there at a computer for hours, then drive back home.

Our interactions with stores and restaurants: Online/app-centered ordering, delivery services, curbside item pickups and digital in-restaurant menus are here to stay. Who knew that QR codes would finally have their moment?

New movie releases: With Warner Bros. already leading the way, we’ll see same-day streaming releases for new movies, with the number of movie theaters shrinking as the theatrical experience becomes more of a “few times a year” social experience. Spielberg and Lucas were way ahead of the curve on this.

Streaming church services, theatrical performances and other live events: Obviously nothing beats an in-person experience, but the convenience and wider accessibility provided by live streams (augmented with text, audio or video discussion rooms) is powerful, and will become a vital leg on the live event/community stool.

The attitude of American exceptionalism: From the massive bungling of our nation’s COVID response to the long overdue reckoning on institutional racism, many people have experience a forced recalibration to their sense of America’s place in the world. Let’s move forward with an attitude of humility and a desire for cooperation.