I’ve hinted for a while now that we’re going to be covering the Christian mindset of Last Ideology Standing. We’re heading that way very soon! For now, I want to show you just a taste of it. Toxic Christians like to set up big showdowns between two diametrically-opposed sides to force other Christians to pick a side they dislike, in order to avoid picking a side they profoundly don’t want to support. That mentality used to work grandly. But now that Christianity is failing, it isn’t working quite so well. Here’s a Christian who tried to set up one of those showdowns, and how he failed on a galactic level.
Woohoo! It’s our Memorial Weekend Extravaganza!
Everyone, Meet Matt Estes. He’s *3dGY*.
Matt Estes is a fundagelical Christian culture warrior. That means he’s embraced every single lie that his leaders have ever told, including and most especially every bit of their political meddling. He’s got a Twitter where he acts like a hardcore SPIRITUAL WARRIOR Y’ALL. There, he flings what he believes is the unalloyed truth no matter who it offends (and predictably, he’s quick to block anyone who criticizes him too directly–our hardcore, pugnacious warrior has extremely thin skin).
When we peruse his Twitter feed, we see endless tweets denigrating his conceptualization of social justice, bizarre barbs directed at Hillary Clinton’s appearance, and praise for Donald Trump. He buys into the Religious Right’s whackadoodle notion of “religious liberty,” discards out of hand the idea of “sexual minorities,” and retweets any fundagelical who criticizes liberalism. Yep, this one’s the whole package.
He’s based out of North Carolina, according to his Twitter bio, so he’s probably not the odd fellow in the Vimeo video that turns up very early in searches for his name. He keeps a very low profile otherwise–aside from the data in his Twitter account profile, we don’t know all that much about him except that he’s a married straight adult man with a single-family home–and a raging case of Angry White Male Syndrome.
When Tags Tell the Story.
Matt Estes made a wise choice about keeping his personal info on the down-low, but what little he does reveal is revelatory indeed. Here’s his Twitter bio, to illustrate what I mean:
“Ligonier” means Ligonier Ministries, which is officially Reformed (that’s an ideology that draws upon Calvinism to a huge extent). He’s telling us here that he identifies and stands with powerful Calvinist thought leaders.
“Monergism” is a doctrine Calvinists like. It means that if the Christian god wants someone to be a Christian, then by golly they will become a Christian whether they like it or not. It means he isn’t a real fan of free will or individual liberties.
“Imputationism” is another idea beloved of Calvinists. It means that Jesus Christ’s purity and righteousness are imputed to those who believe in him, which makes them acceptable to the Bible’s god. I can easily see this doctrine translating into the bizarre entitlement mentality, arrogance, and condescension that I so often detect in Calvinists.
So when I saw Matt Estes’ bio, a whole lot of things made sense.
A Brief Rundown About Calvinism.
Calvinism is, hands down, the meanest-spirited, most belligerent, nastiest, cruelest, and control-hungriest flavor of the religion that I know of. It’s not actually a denomination all by itself, but rather an add-on module that Protestant leaders can install in their groups if they wish. Thus, Calvinism has infected Protestantism as a whole.
The Calvinist god is purely and completely evil. In their mythology, this god figured out who was going to Heaven and Hell before the universe even existed. Nobody can change his mind, either. This means that the majority of humans who have ever existed are Hell-bound. And Calvinists think that’s just fine.
Though this version of the Christian god certainly sounds like an accurate interpretation of the Bible as far as that goes, it’s a grotesque vision of godhood.
And it’s this vision that informs Calvinists’ behavior.
I’m certainly not the only person who’s noticed that, as a group, taken in total, Calvinists are really awful people. So has my fellow Patheos blogger Benjamin L. Corey, who writes: “Calvinism produces some of the most toxic culture in Christianity.” The Gospel Coalition (TGC) has too, as has Rachel Held Evans (more than once).
And Calvinists do not politely and meekly practice their version of Christianity without bothering other people. No, theirs is a faith that wholly embraces culture wars: those political squabbles aimed at regaining Christian dominance. Their god has specially picked them for Heaven, and that means that they should rule the rest, obviously.
Edgy Meets Jerky.
So we shouldn’t be shocked that Matt Estes’ feed is nothing but aggrieved self-pity and tedious culture-war provocation. This guy has got to wake up every morning wondering how he can offend his tribal enemies this fine day. And wow, he can really be quite the ass:
In between insulting his critics and lavishing praise on fundagelical leaders, he also proudly displays his gardening skills:
Usually, his flailing-about doesn’t get a lot of traction. He’s the tiniest of tiny fish in a huge pond in the Christ-o-sphere. I noticed that the majority of his posts garner little-to-no engagement at all. He’s got easily three times the followers I do, and yet I get way more engagement on tweets than he does. And I’m not pointing this out because engagement determines correctness. I know better than that. I’m saying that this right-wing nutjob (RWNJ) is out there doing his best to provoke people, and nobody seems to care WTF he says or does.
And I just can’t imagine that a fundagelical culture warrior is going to like that much. He has found his cosmic permission slip to be a jerk to other people, and yet he’s competing with so many other jerks in his pond that nobody really notices him adding his jerky voice to the general jerkiness inundating the jerkiest of Christianities these days.
Well, he found a little bit of success a few days ago.
Ever since Paige “Protecting Batterers and Rapists Since, Well, Forever” Patterson came to national attention a few weeks ago, Matt Estes has been right out in front in the disgraced and embattled leader’s marching band. (He fully supports Patterson. That goes without saying. You weren’t wondering, I hope.)
But it seriously takes a religious zealot who is totally disconnected from reality to think this stunt was a great idea.
He posted a poll on May 23. Here it is:
The text reads:
Satan is inundating the
#SBC with the false gospel of “social justice”, the heresy of “gospel sexuality” and other cancerous forms of liberalism. He’s also seeking to devour one of our last remaining conservative stalwarts, _PPatterson_. Who’s side are you on? #SBC18 #sbcam18
And then he sets up a voting box with only two options: “Dr. Patterson’s,” and “Satan’s.”
I couldn’t possibly make up something this ridiculous, and yes, I’m absolutely counting the zany story I almost successfully sold 15-20 years ago about the animated hentai character interviewing to make a sideways jump to mainstream movies.
In essence, Matt Estes was asking his respondents:
Were they on Paige “Honey, I Shrunk The Seminary’s Enrollment” Patterson’s side, or on Satan’s side?
Nonono, I just CAN’T EVEN deal with this. I can’t. I can’t even. Lookie there! My “even” just got up and walked away. I don’t have it anymore. It’s heading to the theme park across town as we speak. It’s gonna have a great time, and it isn’t coming home till dawn–if then! It might hook up with a guitarist at some point, it doesn’t know, and it’s none of my business anyway, I’M NOT ITS REAL MOM. The sky’s the limit here. Who knows. This whole episode might end up on the even-ing news.
I just hope one day it realizes it misses my cooking and comes home.
Why This Poll Was a Terrible Idea.
See, Matt Estes was trying to set up a false choice for his followers.
On one side of the ring, he put Paige “If I Ignore Rape Accusations They’ve Always Gone Away Before” Patterson, and on the other he put Satan. To any Christian, this would strongly imply that he thinks Patterson’s position is identical to his god’s position.
Christians often set a squabble up in this fashion, especially in their culture wars. They see themselves as fighting on Team Jesus, which naturally sets their opponents up on the opposite side–Hail Satan. The idea comes from a Gospel verse attributed to Jesus:
Anyone who isn’t with me opposes me, and anyone who isn’t working with me is actually working against me.
This one little bitty Bible verse has probably caused more human misery than almost anything else in that whole rotten, festering, stinking book.1 Thanks to that verse, Christians can’t function in a diverse, pluralistic world. Instead of building consensus with others, all they know how to do is dominate and subjugate. If you ever wondered why fundagelicals put compromise on the same shelf as they put necrophilia with animal corpses (and I don’t want to know if there’s a one-word description of that), this Bible verse is why.
Estes’ poll was a dumb and divisive idea in the first place. But now we add Paige “I Don’t Get Why You’re All So Mad” Patterson to this mix. Patterson’s scandal centers around protecting men who abuse women in various ways. He told a domestic violence victim to goad her abuser, and then told her he was happy to see her with two black eyes because the guilt of hitting his wife made her abuser join the church at last, and recruitment mattered more to him than a woman’s safety. He also apparently advised a rape victim to keep the assault to herself and also to forgive her attacker, and he may have helped a fellow leader accused of sexual assault escape justice (maybe even two such leaders).
But the SBC has never been morally accountable to anybody. The foxes guard the henhouse, and nobody on the Council of Foxes thinks there’s anything amiss about that idea.
Since the people getting hurt here have always been mostly women, the leaders at the SBC have never been particularly concerned with fixing their broken system. It’s not like they view women as fully human people with rights or anything.
The outcry around Patterson has been surprising–and pleasing. I applaud the many Christians screaming their heads off in protest.
And it’s likely that exact level of protest that gave Matt Estes an idea that he thought maybe would finally get him attention. He despises women’s rights, he kneels at the feet of fundagelical leaders, and he likes provoking people.
Gang, it’s like a perfect storm of boorishness.
A Totally Ridiculous Showdown.
Matt Estes had tried–very clumsily, one might even say buffoonishly, and yes, that’s a word now cuz I said so–to set up a particularly lame showdown.
He labeled the side against Paige “No Low Is Too Low” Patterson as Satan. Christians are supposed to recoil immediately away from any association with Satan. That’s their bad guy, their villain. They can’t even say or do anything that might even look too sympathetic toward that side. By making Patterson’s opposite “Satan,” Estes fully expected people to vote for Patterson. Surely no TRUE CHRISTIAN™ would ever vote for Satan! So he expected them to hold their noses and vote for Patterson, to borrow a similar phrase from his fellow culture warriors regarding Donald Trump.
And that’s a completely unfair thing to do, gang. What Estes did is something abusive people do to manipulate others and victimize them. He deliberately created this poll as a no-win situation, to strong-arm Christians into supporting a man who quite literally “joked” once that every man should own “at least one” woman. (“Mean Girls” and abusive partners and family members force showdowns like this, too–all the time. It’s always gratifying to witness them getting all SHOCKED YES SHOCKED when their victims defy them that first time.)
He set two deeply unpalatable choices before his fellow Christians. One is a hypocrite who has consistently taken male predators’ sides against their victims and the other is the entity that Christians (mistakenly) think brought all the evil in the universe crashing down on humanity’s head.
This is a false choice. It’s not fair, and it’s certainly not loving.
But the effort backfired when even his own ideological tribemates didn’t feel like playing along.
The Votes Racked Up.
I’m sure that Estes was quite surprised when thousands of votes poured in. But he clearly wasn’t expecting them to go the direction they did!
Very quickly, “Satan’s” side zipped up into the 90% zone. By the time I got to it, it sat at 95%; later that night, it reached 97% before everyone got bored and wandered off. All told, 2806 people have voted as of this writing, and “Satan” is still at 97%. If my math is right, that means about 80-85 people total voted for the side that Matt Estes had set up as the divine side.
And naturally, Estes had a very ready
whine explanation, one that also comes easily to fundagelical culture warriors like himself.
Yep, you heard him clearly. He’s positive that a bunch of his tribal enemies showed up to destroy the vote, overwhelming all the TRUE CHRISTIANS™. I guess we have iron chariots? (Notice that he very much includes other Christians in that tally of enemies. Ugh, Calvinists are so so so seriously the worst.)
But I looked over the thread–yes, a lot of Exvangelicals and ex-Christians showed up, but a lot of Christians he’d probably have considered allies did too, in the poll and in his belligerent follow-up. They all voted for Satan. Many specifically noted that they were indeed fundagelicals, or else had beliefs that put them very squarely in his party van, like Ms. Black, whose account is full of anti-abortion talking points and glurge about Jesus, and Mr. Red, who flat-out stated his affiliation:
So no, our poor widdle beleaguered culture warrior couldn’t cry and point to ZOMG PERSECUTION Y’ALL as the reason for “Satan’s” win. I mean, he might still try it, but that dog don’t hunt, as they used to say down South.
What’s His Second Guess?
So me, being all helpful, asked Matt Estes a pointed question: Could he perhaps think of some other reason why this straw poll of his was going so hilariously wrong? That maybe, just maybe, he’d picked incorrect sides for his hero Paige “Objectifying Women Is Just My Thing” Patterson and even TRUE CHRISTIANS™ are getting over this kind of misogyny?
I wasn’t the only person who saw the false choice on offer.
One of his critics made an alternate poll, too:
And I guess that about covers flybys.
An Act That Dissolved Immediately Under Pressure–You Know, Like Bathroom Tissue Does With Moisture.
Remember my super-helpful question? Dude not only didn’t answer it, he blocked me.
And look, I’m okay with someone blocking critics. Nobody should be obligated to deal with people they don’t like in their social media homes. I just wish that these swaggering guys with their tough-guy acts and their macho posturing would at least try to be a little consistent.
Mark Driscoll, King of the Tough Dude-Bros, insta-bans critics on Twitter in between simpering about how Christians should totally embrace outsiders and learn from them. When I took him seriously and suggested (gently, I thought) that he maybe shouldn’t tell people with PTSD to pray it away, I got banned.
And Matt Estes, whose account is full of the exact same kind of swagger minus even the pretense of wanting feedback, did the same thing.
I guess when he posted this tweet a few months ago, he was talking about everyone else, not himself:
The Age of Coercion Is Over.
Poor widdle Matt Estes. He came of age in a world where Christians simply don’t have powers of coercion anymore. Even fundagelicals themselves are rebelling against the Good Ole Boy Clubs that are the senior leadership ranks of fundagelical churches across the country. Those leaders are setting up all kinds of similar showdowns with their members, and to their absolute gobsmacked astonishment, the same thing is happening to them as happened to Estes.
See, before the last few years, Christian leaders had considerable personal power over their followers. If an outfit like Mars Hill ordered its members to follow a draconian conduct code, those members had to lump it for the most part. And most did. If a pastor told his flocks that all TRUE CHRISTIANS™ had to oppose abortion rights, or to vote for a particular Republican, the flocks made peace with it as best they could.
Things are different now. Members are more ready to jump ship nowadays than they have ever been in recent memory. They’re more comfortable with criticizing hypocrisy in their leaders and peers. And they’re more aware of their ultimate power as consumers in the religious marketplace than I’ve ever seen before. When their leaders tell them that “this is what TRUE CHRISTIANS™ must believe and do,” they’re quite willing to decide that they don’t want to be TRUE CHRISTIANS™ anymore, if that’s what it comes down to.
So when told that Paige “Gimme My Retirement McMansion” Patterson was equivalent to “God’s” side, while anyone opposing Patterson sat on the side of “Satan,” Christians were happy to give Estes a lesson he will never forget–but also will never learn from.
If Christian leaders aren’t willing to adapt to the new normal (which I absolutely don’t think they’re ready to do yet), then they will find themselves presiding over smaller and smaller fiefdoms.
And I’m okay with that.
NEXT UP: I hope your weekend is going great! Hopefully my “even” is getting back soon, because I’ve got another treat for you. Long, long ago I wrote a bunch of posts about the Unequally Yoked Club, and I’ve been thinking of revisiting it. Well, I mentioned in comments a while ago that Biff took a while to figure out that I wasn’t Christian anymore. Folks wanted to hear that story, and I’ve never been able to refuse y’all much of anything. So next time, please join me for a very, very special episode of Roll to Disbelieve!
1 The sheer destruction caused by Matthew 12:30 is only beaten by Matthew 5:28, which formally ushered thoughtcrime into the religion. But, like, I’m open to opinions here. What do you think is the hands-down worst Bible verse of all time, in terms of destroying people’s lives and relationships and making it impossible for Christians to relate to others?
If you like what you see, I would love to have your support. My PayPal is firstname.lastname@example.org (that’s an underscore in there) for one-time tips. I also welcome monthly patrons via Patreon with Roll to Disbelieve. Thanks!