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:
- There’s pressure for Christians to “pick a side” in present-day America.
- These sides are generally split between the two political parties.
- Both sides are equally flawed (as evidenced by the 2011 Wisconsin State Capitol protests).
- 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.
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-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.