Oh, wow, we’ve got a live one today, gang. If you haven’t heard of Dave Daubenmire, he is every single thing you need to know to know that Christianity is a terrible religion that produces terrible people. Today I’ll show you the latest crazypants thing he’s gotten up to. He might have failed at his #1 task in life (raising a good future adult), but he sure ain’t letting that stop him.
The Culture Wars, Made Flesh.
Dave Daubenmire has never heard a culture wars talking point that he didn’t immediately embrace.
Some years ago, he was a football coach at an Ohio high school. He liked to force his players to pray before every game. His team meetings were more like Bible studies–complete with him demanding that his players memorize and read Bible verses for him. He even requested that players start attending his church. In 1998, he got in trouble for it.
Even by Ohio standards, he was out of line. Team members’ parents tried to get him fired, without success. In that 1998 dust-up, he agreed to stop leading team prayers. But he was very petulant about the whole thing, it sounds like, since he insisted even then that he wasn’t just a football coach for his team; he was their spiritual guide, too.
It’s No Fun If He Can’t Force Religion on Anyone.
In 1999, when it became clear that he was lying about giving up that Christian stuff, the ACLU got involved. Proving once again their value to American ideals, they got a settlement that consisted of almost every single thing they wanted.
Daubenmire did not get fired, however; he remained until 2000. But he missed being able to lord his faith over innocent schoolchildren. Turns out being a coach ain’t at all about leading teams to victory or guiding the next generation of athletes. It isn’t even about nurturing a love of sports in children. No, don’t be silly. It’s about indoctrinating the young and forcing religion down the throats of people who aren’t allowed to fight back, resist, or criticize anything going on. And if he couldn’t do that, then coaching wasn’t worth doing at all.
He quit in 2000 after leading his team to an undefeated season. Now, one might think that season had something to do with them not dividing their time and wasting it on religious twaddle. Maybe he was an incredible coach, once he stopped trying to also be a pastor to an “enforced monogamy” of congregants. But he couldn’t handle the idea of just being a coach. It was a demotion.
Worse, his sense of dominance had been irrevocably outraged by a serious reprimand from a source he couldn’t simply steamroll. The ACLU had been very serious. They’d demanded not only full compliance with their settlement, but also involvement in monitoring that compliance. Before, Coach Daubenmire had been able to just agree with the reprimand. Then he could go out and do whatever he really wanted to do. Now, people were watching him. He couldn’t just lie this time.
So he quit.
Salt and Light Ministries.
If you ever hear a Christian talk glowingly of “salt and light,” you are dealing with a Grade AAA Asshole. “Salt and light” is a Christian dogwhistle term. It means being an asshole to people and getting away with it. Literally. That is all that it means.
I talked about these terms extensively before, so I’ll just link them here. For now, I’ll just say that Christians get the idea of “light” from Bible verses talking about them shining light on darkness. We’re the darkness, obviously. And they think that “salt” leavens a dish, so they want to be salty at people. I’m not sure they realize that in baking, salt controls yeast in some very key ways. This is why I suspect old-school bread recipes often taste a little bland. My suspicion was that in years past, yeast was not as strong as ours or as reliable, so they couldn’t risk the rise with sufficient salt to flavor the bread. You want a little salt for help controlling the rise, but too much is as bad as none at all.
Given the circumstances behind Dave Daubenmire’s flounce from coaching, is anybody really surprised that he immediately formed a “ministry” called Pass the Salt?
Its central message is that people are very, very mean to Dave Daubenmire, and also that America is going down the tubes because it isn’t letting people like him run roughshod over other people’s rights.
Fulfilling the Stereotype.
Pass the Salt’s greatest hits include:
- Right-wing nutjob (RWNJ) conferences called “A Gathering of Eagles” that Daubenmire swears aren’t political
- Minutemen United, which consists of bigots-for-Jesus disrupting church services to talk about how much their god hates gay people
- Demanding that Barack Obama finally admit he’s totally a gay socialist atheist
- Getting totally outraged over society’s growing support for gay athletes
- Really, just losing his MIND over the idea of gay people in general
- Calls to create an American Theocracy headed, of course, by himself and people exactly like himself
- Wearing a silly hat he obviously hopes to make the next MAGA trend with RWNJs like himself
He completely, genuinely appears to have convinced himself that the only reason America is becoming more secular by the moment is because “men like you and men like me are letting it go and won’t stand up and push back and say anything about it.”
Ministry Doesn’t Pay the Bills, Apparently.
Oh, he tried to get hired by other schools as a coach, too. He found a gig at Fairfield Christian Academy, then got fired in fairly short order. Then he tried–and failed—to find a gig at Lakewood High School.
So he headed to YouTube to try his hand at video ministry. His videos are the standard RWNJ fare one finds out of Christians there–stuff about supporting Phil Robertson in his troubles, and about how gay people are wrecking everything. It’s tedious stuff, but because nobody can really tell him not to make Christianity look worse, he feels free to do all the damage he likes.
Now he’s got a big event going on in Ohio–the very state that has so shamed him. His goal is to shame Ohio right back. He’s calling it an “All Hands On Deck” event. He’s going to shame a Pride parade, a mosque, and a local women’s health clinic (a real one, not the fake ones that culture warriors prefer). To him, that’s the trifecta of everything wrong with America: feminism, non-Christian religions, and gay people.
Where He’s Wrong About Shame.
It’s ironic that someone who seems so totally incapable of feeling shame over his own behavior is going to try this hard to shame others. But he’s missing a few very key components of human nature here that are going to destroy his attempts–and make him even more of a laughingstock than he already is.
First off, shame doesn’t work to help people be better people. And you’d think he would know this. His very own son turned out to be a pedophile. I’m not kidding. Zachary Daubenmire, then 24, pleaded no contest in 2007 to a felony charge of pandering obscenity involving a minor. The judge found him guilty and gave him five years of probation, plus a small fine and a designation of “sexually oriented offender.”
What’s really chilling about Zachary Daubenmire’s proclivities is that he was starting a new career as a special-education teacher–and he was also a volunteer football coach for an area high school. Dude was very specifically targeting a career with children–and moreover, with children who he thought could be counted upon to keep their mouths shut about abuse. He’d also been the London High School’s “star quarterback” under his dad’s special tutelage.
So living with the premier shame-meister of the country and enjoying close contact with a shame-dispensing machine for his entire childhood did not produce a decent human being in this case. It produced, instead, a sexual predator who sought out the most innocent victims to abuse. (Hmm, didn’t we talk a lot about a guy in very similar circumstances who turned out the same way?)
Shame certainly doesn’t convert people, either. I have not, ever once, run into someone who converted to Christianity because a Christian disapproved at them hard enough. I’m sure it might have happened at least once, but it’s amazing how often Christians clearly believe that it’s a commonplace enough occurrence to justify them doing it all the time.
A Very Small Toolbox.
Second off, for shame to work, people have to care about the shamer’s opinions. Dave Daubenmire is a very small, very shrill little voice in an overall network of similar voices all saying the same things. If shame could work to change people’s behavior, it would already have done so. Instead, America at least becomes more secular by the very day.
Shame is simply another control attempt, one performed by people who don’t have a lot of tools in their toolbox. Dave Daubenmire might not be after direct control over his tribal enemies. No, he’s likely after something else. In his own words, quoted above, he thinks that America is rejecting fundagelical values because “men like you and men like me are letting it go and won’t stand up and push back and say anything about it.” So he might be wanting for “men like you and men like me” to stand and start screaming their heads off about rejecting the behaviors he hates. He thinks that if enough “men like you and men like me” do this, then those practicing those behaviors will become too afraid to do them where “men like you and men like me” can see them.
In that sense, he’s actually seeking nothing less than the mobilization of his fellow culture warriors.
But here, again, he might be screaming into the wind.
In 2014, a bunch of fundagelicals tried to start their own “Operation Spring” in Washington, DC. “Operation American Spring” was initially projected to turn out between 10 and 30 million Americans. They were going to converge on the Capitol Building and White House and scream for “a more limited and constitutional style of governance,” as well as demand the firing of various elected officials they felt weren’t listening to them. Instead, they got maybe a few hundred people. Traffic wasn’t even impacted around DC. The organizers blamed a couple of inches of rain, and a competing protest organized around the “welfare queen in a cowboy hat” Cliven Bundy.
A little rain and a competing event. That’s all it takes to completely derail a huge national protest for fundagelicals.
Shame: The Currency of Bullies.
See, despite talking a very big game in the pre-show, Daubenmire’s fellow culture warriors aren’t exactly well-known for their ability to practice self-deprivation or sacrifice during the game itself. They’re already swimming in the effects of shame: passivity, faking agreement to get out of conflict, and a cultivated desire to sneak around to get whatever it is that they want.
Indeed, fundagelical culture warriors are well-acquainted with shame, just like any bully would be. It’s their currency. It’s the force they dole out to others. For many of the worst examples of Christianity, they themselves are like any narcissist: consumed with shame so buried and deep that they can’t even raise it to conscious levels to examine. Instead, they try to “give it away,” as that psychologist calls it, by triggering shame in other people as part of their bullying efforts.
When we look at how a bully tries to evoke shame in other people, we often come face-to-face with a deep shame the bully feels. It’s like looking into that person’s psyche. Oh, sure, we try to be polite. We don’t guess out loud what the shame involves. But we’re wondering. And in the case of a TRUE CHRISTIAN™ who is blatantly ignoring both the Great Command (to love others) and the Great Commission (to make sales), we should be wondering.
He can relabel his hatred all he wants–and oh boy howdy, he does. He calls what he’s doing love, relabeling it like any other hateful Christian would. The idea of consent forming the basis for his interactions would be completely alien to him. He’d reject that idea out of hand–like any other hateful Christian would. Caring about consent would mean he doesn’t get to be an asshole to the people he despises so much. He needs that permission slip so much that he’s willing to overlook what Christians have been told from the get-go by Jesus himself to do.
A Reflection on Christianity.
Dave Daubenmire is a very good reason to be greatly concerned about Christianity, but not for the reason one might suspect. Most Christians would not ever agree with this loon. We know that most of them aren’t like this. That’s not the point. Instead, we’re concerned because these kinder, more compassionate Christians can’t stop him or even rein him in.
It should vastly concern us when so many people can encounter the exact same source document and come out with such markedly different interpretations of it. It’s a good indication that nothing in that source material touches upon reality in any way. And that means that people engage with it on their terms, not its own terms.
And Toxic Christians prove this assertion true constantly!
The source material includes very few methods of testing it with reality-based observations or measurements. In fact, in a very real sense its source material is frequently hostile to the very idea of being tested. To be sure, the most controlling Christians hate the idea of testing anything in their religion. They know how they’ll come out looking with any reasonable test. So they demonize the idea of testing any of it–or them.
This lack of testability is why a Christian’s conceptualization of their god is so often a reflection of themselves and their own needs. A kind, compassionate Christian will reject the idea of Hell out of hand, or find a way to get decent people out of the risk of it. They will be decent people because they, themselves, value such behavior. Meanwhile, a cruel, hateful Christian will revel in the idea of Hell, and of seeing their enemies suffer. They get off on these sick fantasies. They love being abusive. (Yes, I’m very much thinking of the foul spectacle of how Christians are behaving around the death of Anthony Bourdain.)
So when you see a Christian reveling in culture wars, know that they are the distillation of Christianity. They are the essence of its lack of testability, its total disconnection from reality, and its lack of reasonable social controls.
The Real Miracle.
The real miracle is that the numbers of Christians are declining so far–and that the very behaviors idolized by the Dave Daubenmires of the religion are the source of so much of that decline. The harder he pushes, the more people he’s driving away–even in his own camp.
I guarantee that some of the worst-of-the-worst fundagelicals out there are looking at Dave Daubenmire as we speak right now. And they are re-thinking some of their own behavior, and are finally wondering why it seems to backfire so often. They’re seeing how many people they’re pushing away, and the old mantras that soothed that anxiety simply aren’t working like they used to.
And then they’re taking that first timid step toward figuring out the truth of why it’s happening.
If Mary Griffith, the real mother in the documentary Prayers for Bobby, could take that first timid step, then I reckon there’s hope for almost anybody. Having a pedophile predator for a son couldn’t shake Dave Daubenmire’s idolization of cruelty, but I guarantee that some of his followers have a much lower threshold for truth. And more and more of them are reaching it every single day.
No doubt these multitudes provoke, in turn, more and more outrageous behavior from culture warrior Christians. Really, I don’t think Dave Daubenmire could exist in a climate where Christianity held secure dominance. He acts like this because he knows he’s losing power swiftly.
Today, Lord Snow Presides over a weird signal that Christianity is losing power. Toxic Christians are still dangerous to a society that values liberty and freedom, yes. We shouldn’t allow our vigilance to wane. But they tell us that Christianity is dying–dying inside and out, and all it can do in its death throes is push more compassionate members out of the sheepfold faster.
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Lord Snow Presides… is our weekly off-topic chat series. I’ve started us off with a topic, but feel free to chime in with whatever’s on your mind! Lord Snow is my sweet, elderly white cat. He presides over my household like a Buddha statue presides over a mountain trail.