It’s been a long time since I last updated this blog. Since I last posted anything, my life has gone through something of an upheaval and I haven’t really been able to find the time or head-space to write anything coherent or useful. Things are calming down now, but more importantly, the events of the last week or two leave me no option but to write.
My last post was probably the most dense and philosophical piece of my catalogue of posts up until this point. This will be somewhat at the opposite end of my writing spectrum. I’ve even decided to frame it as an open letter, because it really is a question more than it is any attempt on my part to give an answer of any sort.
I have a lot of Christian friends. I think that this is because, in a university context, the “Christian Union” and “Playing Board Games” subcultures seem to have quite a lot of overlap, so we end up with good shared interests and plenty of mutual friends, and this creates good ground for the building of friendships.
These friends are not the kind of Christians about whom I spent plenty of time writing about. I write a lot about the kind of corruption, lying, and general evil which goes on under the banner of Christianity. It is a goal of mine to raise awareness of the kind of abuse that happens on a large scale, primarily in American Evangelicalism. The sexual abuse, the funding of war criminals (and by war criminals I don’t mean George W Bush, I mean people like Charles Taylor – serious hard-nosed outright dictators at the head of genocides, mass-rapes, the use of child soldiers, and the like,) the diversion of charity money to illegal diamond mining, the expulsion of rape victims from evangelical institutions, the financial corruption and dodgy dealing with para-legal or even terrorist organisations, and so on and so forth; because I want people to know about it, and because I want people to distance themselves from it. I want it to be known about and condemned, I want Christians who aren’t like that to look at it and say “that is not my religion”.
This has been significantly harder than I had originally hoped. Most of my friends are not the kind of Christians who believe that God deliberately kills people at random because some people are gay. They are not the kind of people who would make rape victims apologise to their congregation. But it’s tremendously hard to get them to say that doing such things is evil, that it is sinful, that it is everything their Christianity is against, that it is a perversion and misuse of their religion. These scum from across the pond call themselves “Christian”, too, so my friends are hesitant. They fear infighting and division within their tribe because it weakens them. They suddenly allow their morals, and their religion, to play second fiddle to politics, to power-plays, to tribalism. Time and time again I produce quotes, or verified reports of actions, which show these evil men striking at the very heart of everything my friends believe, show them demonstrating the most disgusting and depraved of morals, but still there will be nothing in response but farcical sophistry and sudden displays of leniency that could pardon Stalin. They will duck, dodge, and weave. They will try to find the flimsiest of grounds upon which to grant these charlatans and hate-mongers the tiniest possibility of some twisted excuse for good motives. Nobody will take a stand.
But now everything has changed. The events of the last week have rendered such fence-sitting completely impossible. A disturbance within the ranks of the Gospel Coalition has caused the leaders of this organisation, and their allies across the evangelical tribal confederation, to show their hand fully. A line has been drawn in the sand with the utmost of clarity, and it is sharp enough to allow no compromise. The division between hate and love in the worldwide church has been building furiously over the previous decade, and now the “95 Theses” moment has arrived. It can no longer be maintained by members of either camp that any kind of compromise can be made. Any secession movement must be cautious at first, so as not to ruffle too many feathers, lest it be crushed before it has time to grow. But there must come a point where the colours must be nailed to the mast, and the decision made to break off. For the core of the modern evangelical movement, this moment has come.
Evangelicals and their allies have had a few totem issues in the past. Their attempt to define themselves by their radical anti-semitism in the early days crumbled as the defeat of Nazi Germany by the Allies put hating the Jews firmly out of vogue. Evangelicals have maintained their links with powerful anti-semetic organisations such as the John Birch Society, but these have for some time been behind closed doors. It could not continue to be a totem issue. Racism was next up, with opposition to interracial marriage and strong support of racial segregation, as well as fanatical opposition to voting rights for African-Americans, for a while became the defining issue of evangelicalism. Taking the proper “Biblical Position” against the corrupting of white blood by intermarriage was at one point the same kind of litmus test of true Christianity for evangelicals as taking the proper “Biblical Position” against the rights of women to healthcare is nowadays. But they lost. We won. Positions were quietly adjusted, statements altered, and the evangelical establishment gathered up the pieces and prepared to try again. Of course, links with racist and even terrorist organisations remained in place, but they were now embarrassing secrets, rather than proud badges of allegiance to Jesus. Minor attempts at rallying around opposition to imaginary Satanic conspiracies followed, but only served to bolster the movement, not define it. More recently, discrimination against women and hatred of the poor have bought many friends, but also many enemies. But now the information age is upon us. Positions cannot be quietly changed and then everyone pretend that they had been that way all along, as happened with interracial marriage. The next big push will be the last.
That big push is here. The world, not just Christianity, is suddenly polarising over LGBT rights. Whilst the west, including much of the US, has suddenly realised that discriminating against people because of their sexuality isn’t really okay, Russia and parts of Africa have run screaming back to the middle ages in response, passing legislation that amounts to nothing more than open hunting season on LGBT people.
Evangelical leaders have made this their number one issue. The lies, hate, and fear-mongering that spray forth from the despicable mouths of the villainous charlatans who front this morally bankrupt perversion of Christianity have been something to behold. Even the long-standing opposition to Russia that was once ubiquitous and unquestioned within this vile tribe has been sacrificed for tactical gains within this new paradigm. White-supremacists suddenly praise African leaders, united by their opposition to the gay menace. Evangelicalism has gone all-in on gay-hating. The gloves are off, and the schism has begun.
The move had to be made before LGBT people lost their mantle of social pariahs. Before the issue was closed for good, and homophobia confined to the outer fringes of society and fringe regressive movements. The move had to be made whilst significant political capital could be gained by nothing more than simple, uncomplicated hatred of the unknown and the different; whilst LGBT people were still the Samaritans, the Gentiles, the Tax Collectors, the Prostitutes of the day. That time is now.
Gospel Coalition organisations have, for decades, operated a sort of “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. This works just as it did in the US army, as in not at all. LGBT people work for the Gospel Coalition organisations, they just lie about it. Some organisations force an actual signed affirmation of straightness, whereas others make it implicit. This is all part of a very important lie. According to the Gospel Coalition, LGBT Christians don’t actually work for the Gospel Coalition. This is because, according to the Gospel Coalition, there is no such thing as an LGBT Christian. Everyone must participate in this deception. If one group breaks ranks, the whole edifice of lies comes crashing down. World Vision broke ranks. It decided to allow LGBT Christians to serve openly. The Gospel Coalition acted quickly and decisively. It used its number one weapon: money. Franklin Graham, Denny Burke, and other such despicable excuses for human beings urged that evangelicals across the US withdraw their support from World Vision. This generally comes in the form of those nice “sponsor a child” deals in which you get to have quite a tangible connection with the idea of saving one particular human life. It’s a nice model for development charities. Thousands of evangelicals took up the advice, and began the process of refusing to save the life of an innocent black child in order to blackmail World Vision into continuing to participate in the communal lie.
It worked a treat. The amount of support withdrawn would have put WV into severe difficulty, threatening more than just the lives of the individual children sponsored directly by the anti-humans who withdrew their support. WV did not expect that making a small change to their hiring policy based on their religious principles of honesty and love would result in them being almost instantly destroyed as an organisation. They underestimated how ruthless the GC was capable of being. The message was clear: “You back our line to the hilt every step of the way, or we take you down and take thousands of innocent lives as collateral damage, which you’ll have on your conscience – how does your principled stand feel now?”
World Vision backed down. They judged the destruction of their entire mission, and the subsequent death of innocents, not to be worth the trouble. Do I agree with that decision? Hell no. But I can see where they’re coming from. I couldn’t live with myself in their situation whatever decision I’d made. A lot of people saw this tiny move towards love from World Vision as a glimmer of hope, and it has now been cruelly snuffed out. I’m not a Christian, so I’m not one of the people who, after a seeing a ray of light, have returned to being told they don’t exist. This guy is, so I’ll let him do the talking:
“I am tired, friends, so tired of being hit. I am tired of being the most galvanizing symbol for evangelical Christians. It is awaking a lot of old demons in me and the stab feels so much deeper when it’s your own faith attacking you. But who am I kidding? It is usually my own faith attacking me. And I am now at a breaking point, as I am sure is true for many others.”
“I’m done with evangelicalism.”
“I am done being patient with Piper.”
“I am done pretending I can engage with the SBC.”
“I am done hoping Franklin ends up more like his dad.”
“I am done listening to Denny Burk and his blowhards at the Gospel Coalition.”
“I am done with each and every one of the tweeters out there bragging about dropping their sponsorship of a child in need, just because they hate me.”
“I am done fleeing from and returning to this perpetually abusive house of faith. I am stopping the cycle. I am empty of strength.”
“And I am clinging closer to Jesus than ever before”
“Thank God our God is our God”
That was Ben Moburg, just after the controversy broke, and just before World Vision itself reversed its decision. He had more to say after that development:
“I am not ready to forgive those that held starving children as ransom because of who I am and I am not ready to forgive Richard Stearns for this profoundly deep betrayal. I am not ready to forgive either of them for the devastating message they have sent to gay children everywhere.”
“But I can do grace. I can reach into the deep pockets of all that I have left and let it be a balm on my heart, let it tend to me until that moment comes when, as Anne Lamott says, “it finally becomes unimportant that you hit back.” I can give and give and give even as I’m pissed off and hurt because although they don’t deserve this, neither do I.”
“And my rage isn’t wrong, because this isn’t right. And so I will channel it all into doing my job here as a blogger, as a believer, loving gay kids and talking about the Jesus that wouldn’t change them for the world.”
That’s just a taste of the pain that these disgusting people are so keen to inflict that they will blackmail any of their troops who show the slightest concern about what they’re doing with the lives of innocent children.
But this isn’t just one more depressing story, one more act of hate, one more chapter in the unfolding tragedy of evangelicalism. This is not one more crime that can be smoothed over by “moderate” Christians everywhere, swept under the carpet, ignored, excused, dodged, fudged. This time they came right out and said it. “Stay in line or we’ll kill children”. This is the kind of thing you say when it’s crunch time. This is what you do when you’re prepared to move on the strength you’ve amassed. They won’t gain any more friends now. They’ve shown their true face to the world. Evan Hurst sums it up:
“When given an explicit choice to love children or hate gay people, they chose the latter, and they chose it loudly. … Perhaps the only silver lining is that the Religious Right truly just showed America, and World Vision, who they really are.”
My favourite blogger, Fred Clark, adds his two cents:
“There wasn’t much doubt about who they really were before, but there isn’t anydoubt now. These folks — Piper and The Gospel Coaliion, Mohler and Moore and the SBC, Franklin Graham and the hacks at “Christianity Today”, and the whole hideous white evangelical army of hate they lead — just voluntarily rejected any benefit of any doubt about who they really are as opposed to who and what they inexplicably claim to be.“
He’s been fighting the same crusade I have, though with much more effort and dedication, and with much more heart (because he, as a Christian, has much more of a personal stake in the matter than I do) for years. It’s good of him to resist adding an “I told you so” about 300 times in his relevant blog post.
To those who tried to reconcile these monsters with the Christian religion that is the antithesis of everything these people stand for, tried to believe that there was some twisted and broken good motive behind these wicked men and their disgusting lies, contended that the problem had been over-stated, that this only applied to extremists like Phelps (who for some reason was never a part of the movement, despite the fact that his views were really no more extreme), or to claim that pure ignorance and stupidity, not evil motives, were at the core of this whole matter: the scales have been pulled violently from your eyes. These human incarnations of pure evil have showed their true colours, and they’re proud of it. It’s time to stop pretending that their “Christianity” is in any way reconcilable with the multifaceted tradition of belief that normally goes by that name.
Of course, nobody can stop these bastards from continuing to use that term, but that hasn’t stopped the anti-Balaka (a paramilitary group in the CAR who mercilessly butcher Muslims), and the vast majority of Christians are happy to aggressively distance themselves from the anti-Balaka, and to condemn the anti-Balaka’s use of the term “Christian” to describe themselves.
It’s time to admit that an ideology which feels proud of using the lives of innocent children as currency with which to blackmail people into lying about their sexuality so as not to weaken the political position of the tribe is NOT reconcilable with Christianity as it is normally known. This school of thought, this vicious army of hate, cannot be contained within the borders of the Christian tradition. Like the Cathars, the Bogomils, the Munster Anabaptists, the Mormons, and the anti-Balaka, these people differ so radically from the most basic tenets of Christianity that they can no longer be considered “Christian” by the majority Christian tradition. They can call themselves what they want, but it’s time for Christians everywhere to start openly condemning their hate and their heresy, lest the word “Christianity” be rendered utterly pointless as an identifier.
It’s worth considering that these monsters are perfectly happy with that split. They’ve been condemning mainstream Christianity as heretical and not true Christianity for years. They thrive off the legitimacy given them by the grudging acceptance of their bile in mainstream Christianity, but have no intention of returning the favour.
So this is my question to the Christians I know, and to Christians everywhere. These people hate you. Whether you have joined them in their ludicrous twisting of the Bible to condemn non-heterosexual relationships is immaterial. If you don’t join them in their vicious parade of outright hate, if you stand anywhere outside their hateful anti-Christian thuggery, then they don’t think you’re a Christian. They wouldn’t defend you. They wouldn’t excuse you like you excuse them. They’re happy to admit that you and they don’t follow anything that could even loosely be termed as the same religion. You’ve been patient, you’ve been lenient, you’ve tried as hard as you can to believe that these people aren’t as evil as they look, that there’s some way out of this. That is, of course, exactly what they wanted. They needed to feed off the legitimacy you gave them for so long in order to build up power before the breakaway. But those times are over. Everything is in the open now. The Evangelical Movement stands proudly and openly against everything Jesus ever said or did. They’re a breakaway movement now, a new religion, and a dangerous and evil one, one that makes the worst excesses of past Christianity look positively Christ-like in comparison. It’s time to denounce them as heretics, or join them and denounce Jesus as a heretic.
Christianity stands divided between hate and love. Whose side are you on?