The Unbearable Lightness of Evangelical Triggers

The Unbearable Lightness of Evangelical Triggers August 13, 2019

I’ve written before of how evangelicals get upset over the wrong things.  And new examples seem to come unbidden all the time.  I suppose this is what happens when evangelical pastors and leaders, out-source their discipleship and teaching duties to Fox News, Breitbart, and other right-wing propaganda outlets.

The average evangelical pastor has no idea what he’s up against.  They get a couple hours on Sunday and maybe an hour or two during the week, but these “news” outlets get to disciple and teach several hours a day, seven days a week, year-round.  There’s no competition.  These poor pastors, leaders, and teachers think they are discipling and shaping their flocks, but they show up with that goal already accomplished and then “hear” everything the pastor is saying through the grid already provided them by the likes of Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson.

Sadly, we know there are many evangelical pastors, leaders, teachers, and professors, who have, themselves, been discipled by these right-wing channels of propaganda.  At some point, they re-interpreted much of what they had learned so it would comport with the new understanding given them by people, who, upon cursory inspection, are nothing more than political ideologues taking advantage of peoples’ prejudices and fears. And, it’s worked.

For decades, Christian ethics and morality in evangelical circles have been re-interpreted to fit a modern right-wing ideology, rather than the rich and deep tradition going back 2000 years and longer.  And now, the chickens are coming home to roost.  When we out-source our teaching of ethics to hucksters and pseudo-intellectuals, we get these sorts of responses and triggers.  When we have been fed a steady diet of the ethical equivalent to hot dogs and Twinkies in their moral nutritional value, we get this.

Let me get this straight: We’re not triggered over the abject dishonesty and lack of integrity, paying off porn stars, the serial adultery, the tacit support of those trying to disrupt our democracy, obstruction of justice, the sexism, the racism, putting children in cages and separating families, the bullying, the name-calling, and the crass narcissism of an insecure, small, angry, and petty man.

No, none of that.  We’re not upset this man, who is a cross between Archie Bunker and Michael Scott, is a national and international embarrassment.  We’re not upset he’s a propagator of insane conspiracy theories and goes out of his way to divide people and push them farther apart.  Nope.  We’re not upset he defends dictators and murderers while calling into question leaders of democracies, his own intelligence agencies, the FBI, and our allies around the world.  Nope, we’re fine with all that.

What will trigger us however, what will really upset us, what will make us call our congressperson or senator, is, yep, you got it: cussing.  And God forbid anyone throw in the Lord’s name—then we will get our boxers in a real wad.  We will rush by the people truly offended and hurt by Trump’s racism, sexism, and other weightier ethical failures, to wag our fingers in his face.  Like he cares.  Folks, if this other stuff doesn’t bother him, do you really think he cares one whit that his normal way of speaking and thinking offends you somehow?  Please.  You’ve been had.  He knows what you are—and as to what it may cost him, it’s just a quibble over price at this point.

We have a segment of evangelicals out there with an understanding of ethics and morality on par with that of a child and their understanding of physics.  Their sense of scale, of what matters, of moral weight in the balance of things, is seriously off.  It is unbearably light, flimsy, and air like.  Since it cannot bear any weight, we get the ridiculous responses from these people triggered more by Trump’s cussing than his racism/sexism or his being just a generally terrible person.  This is where we are and it’s really a damn shame.

I have a Patreon Page—please consider supporting my writing.

"“…i've merely pointed out that your method (the 'us-them' narrative approach) not only is a ..."

The Unbearable Lightness of Evangelical Triggers
"you are the moderator. it says awaiting moderation. if not from you - then from ..."

The Unbearable Lightness of Evangelical Triggers
"I have no idea why your response wasn’t posted. A Disqus issue, not mine. I ..."

The Unbearable Lightness of Evangelical Triggers
"Asking me to respond but refusing to post my response..."

The Unbearable Lightness of Evangelical Triggers

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Progressive Christian
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment
  • soter phile

    I hope this is intentional satire.
    You’ve written the very sort of article you claim to be criticizing.
    Change a few key names/issues-of-concern and it could easily be found on the very sites you’re castigating.

  • Darrell

    I wasn’t criticizing an article. I wasn’t castigating sites. If that’s what “triggered” you, if that’s all you were able to glean, then you make my point for me. And the “what-about-ism” or the, “they’re all the same” defense you suggest is a non-starter just because it’s so factually inaccurate and, again, tone-deaf to the point of the post. It’s always the resort of those who can’t address the point put before them, and have to divert and digress.

    And what “could easily be found” on other sites (another sign the point was missed)? Show me where there are people cheering on a public figure who is racist, sexist, ignorant, a narcissist, a bully, a person unfit for public office in every way imaginable, but the people cheering pass over all of that but get upset and triggered if he cusses or takes the Lord’s name in vain. Please, show us where that is happening with a similar public figure in the context of evangelicals and their decades long calls for morality, integrity, and honesty in public figures (prior to Trump). Take all the time you need.

  • soter phile

    The article would be “the unbearable lightness of progressive triggers.” (case in point: your article)
    The name (of the moment) would be AOC instead of Trump.
    The moral hypocrisies cited would be (pick your topic, you probably know them…)

    – claiming to be pro-choice… but not for fathers
    – claiming to be for minorities, but ignoring abortion (heavily) disproportionately affects minorities
    – claiming the moral high ground, but ignoring (see thru their lens) the immorality of LGBT, etc.
    – claiming “black lives matter” is better than saying “all lives matter”
    – claiming psychology should override biology (trans discussion)
    – claiming to be pro-women, but ignoring the differences between genders
    – ignoring the American Psychiatric Association labeled gender dysphoria a disorder until 2012, and now suddenly insisting it should be ‘settled science’
    …shall I go on?

    Again, you don’t have to agree to understand the echo chamber in which both sides operate.
    My point was: you are doing the very thing you are mocking. Same method… just mirrored.

    For the record: I can’t stand Trump. I’m an independent. And I’m sick of the incessantly polarized political discussions which are merely designed to silence ‘the other side.’

    It merely perpetuates the problem of villainizing the ‘other’ – preventing any genuine dialogue.
    So yes, tone deaf. Xenophobia exists on both sides of the spectrum.

  • Darrell

    You again divert. If you can’t see the difference between what I’m addressing in my post and general disagreements in political discussions, polarized or not, echo chamber or not, I can’t help you. The “they’re all the same,” defense is tiring and not true, but more importantly, doesn’t even address my post. My post and my first reply you have not addressed.

  • soter phile

    Twice I’ve held up the mirror for you to see yourself.
    Twice you’ve claimed I’m diverting.

    Consider: when Jon Stewart went on Cr0ssfire 15 years ago, this was his exact point.
    It wasn’t just T-cker Carlson he called out. Paul B3gala was equally criticized.

    “Stop. Stop hurting America… you are part of their strategy. You’re partisan h@cks.”
    He successfully ended that show. Sadly, he did not end the strategy.

  • Darrell

    Maybe this will help: You seem to think I’m saying the left or progressives don’t have triggers. I’m not—of course they do—who would dispute such? In fact, my post is an example of my being “triggered” by evangelicals being more upset about cussing that all the other terrible things about this person they support.

    And no, the reasons for what triggers us are not the same. I’m asserting somethings should trigger us more than others. You seem to think since we’re all triggered by something, it’s all the same, so it’s just an echo chamber of different triggers. I disagree. I’m no fan of cussing or of taking the Lord’s name in vain, but I certainly know both pale in comparison to the litany of Trump’s other moral failings. Again, if you can’t see that, the post is addressing you (maybe hold up the mirror to yourself).

    And your examples fail. You write: “The name (of the moment) would be AOC instead of Trump.”

    Give me one example of where she is racist, sexist, ignorant, a bully, a serial adulterer, narcissistic, crass, mean-spirited, has paid off porn stars, or been guilty of all the other things I note of Trump in the post, and her supporters over-look it, but get upset with her over some other small and mundane failing. That is what you needed to show, but you didn’t. You didn’t show it in her case and I doubt you can with any progressive public figure in office you care to name—again, I’ll wait.

    And your list of so-called moral hypocrisies isn’t what her supporters would be upset about—only her conservative critics—so it’s the exact opposite of what I was addressing and asking for an example of (especially in the context of evangelicals and what they expected of public office holders prior to Trump). Somehow you completely missed the point of the post and my first reply, but at the same time, made that very point.

  • soter phile

    you said: You seem to think since we’re all triggered by something, it’s all the same…
    i never said it was all the same. i said your methodology is ironically very similar. and it is.

    you said: …I certainly know both pale in comparison to the litany of Trump’s other moral failings.
    …which is exactly what conservatives say about liberal moral failings.
    again, I can’t stand Trump. but i get that 60M abortions since Roe is huge deal for those who acknowledge it ends a human life. glossing over ‘our’ failings while stressing ‘theirs’ is the basic rule of caricatures – and such a hallmark of modern politics that it’s earned a label: “pivoting.”

    you said: Give me one example of…
    i gave a litany of failings before. again, you are minimizing your own group’s problems to highlight the other group’s problems. this is exactly what got Jon Stewart so upset.

    you said: …your list of so-called moral hypocrisies isn’t what her supporters would be upset about…
    so, if no radical feminists get upset about trans, why were they labeled TERFs?
    if men have no say in the life of the child, why do we call them ‘deadbeat dads’?
    if pro-LGBT isn’t an issue for Dems, why did CNN run an article today about religious African Americans struggling to vote for Buttigieg?
    if ‘black lives matter’, why are no Dems talking about how incredibly disproportionate the numbers for abortions are in the African American community?

    oversimplification and melodramatic appeals to an ‘us-them’ narrative perpetuate the problem. your refusal to acknowledge that IS the very point. responding by repeating the same claims only more greatly demonstrates a lack of self-awareness, and it directly fulfills my critique.

    So let me appeal to a baser inclination: you’re doubling down on your hatred of Trump. you’ve forgotten that is precisely what contributed to him getting elected in the first place. as the old saying goes: “don’t wrestle a pig, because you’ll just get filthy – and the pig will love it.”

  • Darrell

    “…i said your methodology is ironically very similar. and it is…”

    My “methodology” was to point out how terribly disappointing it is for evangelicals to be upset over course language and not his much more terrible moral failings, words, and actions. You have yet to give us an example of how that is similar to any progressive public figures and their supporters.

    “…which is exactly what conservatives say about liberal moral failings…”

    Again, you are confused. My post wasn’t about what conservatives say about progressive moral failures. It was about them over-looking the blatant and terrible moral failures of Trump (one of their own) but being upset about things he does that pale in comparison. What you would need to show is not what conservatives say about liberals, but what progressives say about progressives that is similar to what I’m claiming in my post. You have yet to do that.

    “…i gave a litany of failings before. again, you are minimizing your own group’s problems to highlight the other group’s problems.”

    No, you did not. You gave us a list of political, religious and philosophical disagreements. Those are not moral failures or moral hypocrisies. I never minimized the progressive side’s problems, but any such problems weren’t the point of my post. Maybe it is your point, but you can write your own post about it. Mine was about Trump and his evangelical supporters and their being upset about the wrong moral failures

    “…so, if no radical feminists get upset about trans, why were they labeled TERFs?
    if men have no say in the life of the child, why do we call them ‘deadbeat dads’?
    if pro-LGBT isn’t an issue for Dems, why did CNN run an article today about religious African Americans struggling to vote for Buttigieg?
    if ‘black lives matter’, why are no Dems talking about how incredibly disproportionate the numbers for abortions are in the African American community?”

    None of these examples are examples of personal moral failures or overlooking such failures to find fault with minor personal faults that pale in comparison. You are citing differences over political/religious/philosophical views and misunderstandings. Those are not personal moral failures on the part of the leaders involved, which their followers are over-looking only to the find fault with some minor personal failure. My goodness, you can’t tell the difference between what you are noting and what I address in my post? Wow. Maybe try reading the post again.

    I will give you one more chance:

    Give me one example of where AOC—your example [or any progressive public office holder] is racist, sexist, ignorant, a bully, a serial adulterer, narcissistic, crass, mean-spirited, has paid off porn stars, or been guilty of all the other things I note of Trump in the post, and her supporters over-look it, but get upset with her over some other small and mundane personal failing. That is what you need to show to demonstrate the same charges in my post could be applied equally to progressives. Again, we’ll wait.

    If you can’t provide an example or digress to cover, we will be done here.

  • soter phile

    Asking me to respond but refusing to post my response…

  • Darrell

    I have no idea why your response wasn’t posted. A Disqus issue, not mine. I did go in and read it, however. It’s not a response, it’s just a re-stating of the false equivalency you’ve already tried to push.

    “…. your methodology is to point out the “other” group’s hypocrisy – again, a direct mirror.”

    It’s only a mirror if you can show progressives doing the same, meaning, as in what is specifically noted in the post. You haven’t done that. Give me an example and I will point out the hypocrisy on the other side too.

    My post has nothing to do with the liberal/conservative, Democrat/Republican, left/right modern divide. I’m an independent. I have no allegiance to either wing of that modern divide. If any of eithers’ views coincide with, or comport with, the Christian narrative, then I am sympathetic for that reason alone. You are reading my post as part of that political divide.

    If you are trying to make some general statement that progressives and conservatives are often blinded, biased, mean-spirited, hypocritical, give their own a pass, etc., then no rational person would disagree. You would also be pointing out the painfully obvious. However, my post wasn’t about that basic common understanding and obvious truth. It was about a very specific failing, in a very specific context.

    If you can give me even one example of progressives doing what I note in the post, as I have repeatedly asked, I will call it out too just as I have done in my post regarding conservative evangelicals.

    For instance, imagine that Bernie Sanders is a racist, sexist, dishonest, ignorant bully whose been married three time, had serial affairs, bragged about grabbing women by their privates, and claims he is the “chosen” one as others have pointed out. And let’s say his supporters say nothing about all this and over-look it because they like his progressive policies.

    And then, one day, they see him turn in his Prius for a gas guzzling Suburban SUV and as he’s driving off, he throws some trash out the window. And we learn they are really upset with him about this. They are angry and they go after him a little bit.

    That is what you need to provide to claim the other side does this too or that we are mirroring. I am addressing a very specific instance in a specific context, not some general disagreement between the two wing-nut sides over policy or their anger toward each other. You are welcome to write your own post about such.

    You speak of satire and mirroring. The fact you are upset about my post and responses and NOT the much more terrible hypocrisies and moral incongruence noted in the post (no matter which side is doing it—which is just more “what-about-ism”) only proves my very point. My post is about you then. You are the problem here, not the crazy wings of the political divides or their partisan bickering.

    PS: Jon Stewart would probably agree with the thrust of my post.

  • soter phile

    you are the moderator. it says awaiting moderation. if not from you – then from whom?

    a) you are a political independent – as am i. yes.
    but i was invoking theological categories. are you claiming to be a theological independent? (NB: within Christianity, such a term is often regarded as oxymoronic.) your article rather tips your hand (not to mention the Patheos label) as a theological progressive.

    b) i have repeatedly said I can’t stand Trump. at no point have i denied the hypocrisies you point out (as a matter of fact, on conservative pages which defend Trump I make that point). i’ve merely pointed out that your method (the ‘us-them’ narrative approach) not only is a methodology you ironically share with your political opponents, but – unlike your opponents – adds a layer of SJW righteous indignation, all while being guilty of the very thing you despise.

    c) you wanted particulars. i gave you particular examples of moral failing – but you objected they weren’t the exact same as Trump’s. consider how much that deflecting method is like the ‘other’ side’s m.o. wouldn’t you call that what it is if that logic were advanced by “them”? deflect, pivot, point at ‘them’

    you claim such a point is obvious – yet here your article is perpetuating that very narrative. if it’s so “painfully obvious”, why did you fall directly into it?

    so now you claim that *I* am the problem here… for crossing the theological (not political!) divide and pointing this out? yet that adds to my very point. you (much like Fox News does in their political version) are merely perpetuating the echo chamber. if i wanted an echo chamber, i wouldn’t be here. but i do very much loathe that these sorts of blogs have become the unintentional American satire. then you tell me to go write my own post… as if stressing American individualism is a solution to our fragmentation rather than the exacerbation of it?

    no, when those attempting to cross the divide and start genuine conversation are labeled as more of the problem than ongoing ‘partisan bickering’, we truly have lost our ability to see.

    And yes, Jon Stewart agrees Trump is a serious problem. But go watch the video: he has harsh words for Begala, too. I wonder if you can cite such examples on your blog… if not…

  • Darrell

    “…i’ve merely pointed out that your method (the ‘us-them’ narrative approach) not only is a methodology you ironically share with your political opponents…”

    Again, this is just a “what-about-ism” defense that is a non-starter. My post has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with an, “us vs. them,” view or methodology. Zero. Again, provide an example from the progressive side and I will call it out too.

    “…you wanted particulars. i gave you particular examples of moral failing…”

    No, you did not. You gave us examples of misunderstandings and disagreements over policy differences and differences of cultural and political philosophies—not personal moral failures on the part of political leaders (as I did with Trump). Huge difference.

    Yes, you are the problem here. Everything you bring up, even if I agreed with you, pales in comparison to the issues and problems noted in the post, which is, of course, the very point of the post. I’m reminded of the meme that goes something like this:

    “When Nazis are marching through town and you are upset about the people protesting the Nazis, you are the problem.”

    And that would apply to whether it was conservatives or progressives taking the form of the Nazis. Clearly, you would rather find fault with those pointing this stuff out and protesting, than the actual people and events giving rise to the need for protest.

    When those supporting Martin Luther King Jr., pointed out the hypocrisy of the white Christian southerners, I imagine you would have faulted them for such. You would have told them they were just joining in the, “us vs. them,” echo chamber—and that there were good people on both sides.

    Well, I disagree. I will protest and point this stuff out, whether it is conservatives or progressives doing it. And if I ever throw my principles and ethics out the window to support someone who I agree with as to their policies, but is a morally repugnant person, I hope people call me on it too.

    We are done here. Cheers.