Seven Days With Donald

Wow! I’m humbled by the huge response to my post this past weekend on the current state of evangelical culture. Extra kudos to those of you that shared and commented publicly!

If you found anything in the post worthy of consideration or further reflection, you might be wondering what comes next. Well, aside from some of the suggestions I outlined in the post itself (and some additional thoughts on news sources from a while back), I have one more simple, zero-cost recommendation that I invite you to try right now.

It’s something you might not expect, and it’s shamelessly stolen from my wife: follow Donald Trump on Twitter.

Say what now?

Yep. You heard that right. Despite my claims to the contrary, you may still dismiss me as a deluded liberal that’s been brainwashed by the “lamestream” media. All good, lean into that. Just take the few seconds to sign up for a free Twitter account, then follow President Trump unfiltered for one week on his platform of choice.

Treat it like a daily devotional. Take the media’s hot takes out of the equation entirely, and spend just seven days at the end of the firehose. I sincerely hope you’ll give it a try, and I’ll see you again next week!

Always Be Wrestling

So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”

But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

The man asked him, “What is your name?”

“Jacob,” he answered.

Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

– Genesis 32:24-28 (NIV)

I’ve written a decent amount about my relationship with modern evangelical Christianity in the past, and as I’ve mentioned, I’ve generally found the lessons, friendships and values to have been a positive influence on both myself and my family.

That said, the rise of Trumpism has, several years later, deeply damaged my relationship with the church and many of its followers.

To be clear, on an individual level, most evangelicals are lovely people, and I’ve seen heartwarming acts of kindness many, many times over the years. From time to time, a topic would be mentioned during a Bible study or lesson that would cause me to raise an eyebrow, but since the overall message remained one of love (and the topic was typically more abstract than specific), I generally shrugged and moved forward.

I’ve come to realize that this was a mistake. I was in a privileged enough position in life to make that choice, and the events of the past few years have really caused the scales to fall from my eyes.

While there are most certainly exceptions, here’s a general profile of the “2019 evangelical” that I’ve been encountering more and more:

  • Wrestled with challenging/taboo social issues while studying the Bible, then seemingly stopped after being baptized, so as not to be “divisive”
  • Votes Republican, as the prevailing narrative for 30+ years has been that this party is best aligned with evangelical interests
  • Interacts online primarily in groups/on social networks, sharing “news” and information primarily with other Christians (importantly, many Christian men are absent from these gathering places, in an attempt to avoid online sexual temptation)
  • Doesn’t “see color” when discussing race, but is blind to (or unmoved by) the effects of institutional racism
  • Talks about “hating the sin, not the sinner” when it comes to topics like abortion or LGBTQ rights

In a nutshell, the events of the past few years have dramatically amplified issues and attitudes that were lurking in the background, and watching evangelicals actively shut their eyes and close their mouths to what’s happening around them has truly broken my heart.

Still with me? Cool. Let’s talk about some of these “taboo” topics and how they’re affecting people:

  • Abortion: I get it, this is a delicate, painful, extremely personal issue. While I’m obviously not here to provide answers, I’d simply ask if you’ve explored the perspectives of those that don’t share your views, or empathized with those in truly heartbreaking situations?
  • LGBTQ Rights: We know where Jesus stood on this issue (#crickets), but setting the pretty unassailable civil rights issues aside, why are we willing to revisit/re-contextualize New Testament verses about topics like slavery for a modern setting, but not this stuff?
  • The Role of Women: There’s a lot of lip service around the importance of women in the church, but they’re still placed on a second tier in much of the evangelical world. Speaking of revisiting/re-contextualizing New Testament verses, it needs to happen here as well. We need to re-engage in conversations around women in leadership and stop placing the blame on women for leading men to sexually stumble.
  • Race: As mentioned above, I don’t come across much explicit face-to-face racism in the church (then again, I’m a white guy, so grain of salt), but do I see active support for racist policies and disturbing attitudes towards immigrants of other races? Big time.

So what can be done? I remain hopeful that things can be turned around. Our church specifically went through a period of reform several years back, and has recently shown some tentative willingness to have an open conversation about institutional racism (I truly hope that this continues).

Assuming you haven’t already rage-closed your browser tab and run back to your MAGA-fied Facebook feed, what next steps should you take? My two cents:

  • Wrestle with your faith and your church’s Biblical interpretations. You did this when studying to become a Christian, so why did you stop?
  • Pay for and read a newspaper every day (online or print, whatever works). Stop getting your “news” from social media or talking heads on television.
  • If you’re a Christian man, stop avoiding the Internet. It’s admirable that you want to avoid sexual temptation, but your absence from online dialogue (and really from the culture generally, which now lives online) is causing greater damage at this point.
  • If you’re a “single issue” voter, take a moment to consider how your vote affects other people (not only on that one issue, but on all others associated with that political candidate). Are you supporting a message of love?
  • Stop being lukewarm. You’re busy with work and family? Who isn’t? Make time to engage. Why are you afraid to talk about these topics online or otherwise? Prayer is great, as is trusting in God, but many don’t have the luxury of remaining silent.

I believe that focusing on the message of Jesus is the path forward. Bible interpretations and church movements come and go, but love remains constant. The bathwater may be full of poop at the moment, but we want to be careful not to throw the baby out as we proceed.

None of this is easy, and taking action means you’re signing up for a constant, lifelong struggle.

Therefore, my dear friends, as you have always obeyed—not only in my presence, but now much more in my absence—continue to work out your salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you to will and to act in order to fulfill his good purpose.

Philippians 2:12-13 (NIV)

Keep wrestling. Love is worth it.

On Christian Echo Chambers

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I wrote a few pieces last year about Christianity in the age of Trump, along with some thoughts on the precarious state of journalism, so while some of this “media silo” ground has been covered, lately I’ve been thinking a lot about the set of circumstances that unintentionally led so many otherwise caring and intelligent people to distrust journalism, blindly vote along GOP party lines and nod along with Trump’s absurd “witch hunt” rhetoric.

Note: I’m setting aside the set of Internet-phobic seniors that get their information solely from FOX News, as we know that sad story already.

That said, some observations:

  • Like most people, Christians have busy schedules, but they explicitly try and make time every day to read their Bibles and pray (a “quiet time”)

  • Everyone has ongoing personal struggles, but for the many Christians that wrestle with lust, pornography, profanity (or other potentially objectionable content), their solution is often to avoid the Internet as much as possible, or to limit their online activity to “safe” areas, like friends-only Facebook groups or group text threads

  • More and more people are getting their information online, often for free (vs. legacy television and print newspapers)

Yeah? So?

Taken separately, this is just a “well, duh” laundry list, and much of the reflection, community-building and self-control in the first three points is to be admired.

They paint a picture of a Christian that’s saving money by cutting the cord and not paying for a newspaper (that’s for old people anyway), while trying hard to read their Bible and pray every day.

They love staying in constant touch with their friends through social media and group texts. In fact, given their busy schedule, that’s where they get most of their information these days! When something gets shared to the group, they’re much more apt to take it seriously, since it’s coming from a trusted friend and fellow believer. And man, sometimes those memes are hilarious!


These good intentions have resulted in Christian echo chambers. The (healthy!) emphasis on quiet times needs to be paired with a corresponding daily dive into current events and thoughts on ways to improve the state of the world, especially for those being marginalized. Faith and deeds. We need both.

Misinformation flourishes because an entire generation is growing up in a world of infinite content sources, with higher value placed on information relayed by those closest to them. Meanwhile, there’s reluctance to explore alternate viewpoints or venture beyond their immediate circle, because outside there be dragons…and maybe porn. Or in the case of Game of Thrones, both.

To put a fine point on it, isolation has bred ignorance, and a fear of boobs has begotten Breitbart.

So what to do?

Add a legitimate news source (or many!) to your daily routine along with your quiet time. Facebook is great for staying in touch, but if your friends are breaking world news to you, you’re part of the problem.

Discuss what’s happening in the world with others (both in and out of the church). If talking about politics makes you uncomfortable, good! Think about why that might be. If a friend shares a meme that seems problematic, respectfully call them out on it. Have that conversation. Don’t be lukewarm, as we know how the Bible feels about that.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. By all means, if you struggle with temptation, avoid things that tempt you, but constantly keep evaluating whether closing yourself off from the world is opening up other issues (spoiler: it is). It ain’t easy, but man is it necessary.

Focus on those in need, and lift up those who are spreading a message of love and tolerance. Picture Jesus interacting with a person or group, and think about what guidance he might offer.

Take a moment to look at your personal convictions on various political issues. How did you arrive at this position? Have you wrestled with it? Studying the Bible and becoming a Christian can be a painful, eye-opening process. Have you put that same amount of heart and thought into why you always vote a specific way?

Be willing to admit that you may be wrong, or may have gone down a dangerous path. There is no shortage of pride in our current climate, and no shame in repentance.

Anyway, San Dimas High School Football rules!