The UYC: Spectacularly-Terrible Advice from The Gospel Coalition (LSP #54)

The UYC: Spectacularly-Terrible Advice from The Gospel Coalition (LSP #54) August 6, 2018

Recently, the Gospel Coalition (TGC) advertised a particularly tedious post on their Twitter feed. It’s written by yet another Christian charlatan offering yet more terrible advice to people in mixed-faith relationships. But it’s got that certain special something: the absolute worst advice ever. Today, Lord Snow Presides over a very telling–and disastrous–list of suggestions from a TRUE CHRISTIAN™ culture warrior about a topic he absolutely does not understand.

Our lovely assistant today will be Bernard Black of Black Books. It’s streaming at Amazon Prime right now. If you like Monty Python, Red Dwarf, and Spaced, this will be your jam. This clip is as happy as he gets.

BTW: Technically, he’s not simply referring to marriages. He generally focuses on Christian parents whose children have noped out of the religion. But it applies to pretty much any relationship between a fundagelical and any sort of non-Christian. Also, all quoted material comes from the post we’re criticizing unless noted otherwise. 

Everyone, Say Hi to Aaron Menikoff. He’s Another Christian Faux-Expert.

According to his TGC biography page, Aaron Menikoff graduated with a Ph.D. from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He works as a pastor in Atlanta and writes books. Mostly, he covers fundagelical-style leadership and theology topics.

He’s simply a typical basic culture-warrior who takes it as read that “many are hostile to the gospel of Jesus.”

(Reality Check: most non-Christians don’t care much about “the gospel of Jesus.” We feel way more hostile toward Christian culture warriors like him seeking to control our lives. Weird how he muddles those two things, innit? His self-deception won’t get better from here on out. Just warning y’all now.)

For some bizarre reason, Menikoff leaped into the Unequally-Yoked Club (UYC) last week. I can’t imagine why. His books have nothing to do with the UYC, nor even marriage itself. His previous posts for TGC don’t either.

Nonetheless, he calls his post “Someone I Love Won’t Believe. What Should I Do?”

Make no mistake: this advice is absolutely disastrous. It functions quite well as a blueprint for how to destroy a relationship entirely and forever.

“Begin at the Beginning,” the King said Gravely.

To begin with, Menikoff’s title shrieks Christian entitlement. He assumes that any people who endure Christian blathering without converting do so because they “won’t believe.”

He doesn’t say they can’t. Rather, he insists that they won’t.

In his introduction, he clutches his pearls over the notion of a loved one who has been subjected to endless Christian blathering–and yet still, somehow, against all odds, “refuses to submit his or her life to Christ.” He laments the non-Christian’s “refusal to bow the knee to Christ.”

He doesn’t say this person sees no reason to buy in, nor that Christians have never come up with any compelling reason for this person to convert. Rather, he uses the phrases refuses to submit and refuses to bow the knee to describe this loved one.

Nothing’s accidental with toxic Christians. And this guy is as toxic as they come if he perceives non-belief as a stubborn refusal to accept a well-established truth.

First Error: Faith Is Not Actually a Choice.

This attitude is about as universal as it gets with toxic Christians. They don’t like the fact that there is no credible, objective reason whatsoever for anybody to accept their supernatural claims.

But Menikoff is wrong. And someone in a mixed-faith relationship will quickly realize his error if they open themselves to truly listening to their non-Christian loved one.

If they do, they’ll learn that we can’t choose to believe or disbelieve. Belief–or loss of belief–both function as responses to the evidence we encounter.  He couldn’t force himself to believe again in Santa Claus. Non-Christians can’t force themselves to accept Christian claims they know aren’t true.

Someone who really wants to believe nonsense can certainly perform a lot of mental gymnastics in their head to avoid uncomfortable truths. Menikoff himself demonstrates that point. But that Christian will alienate a non-Christian loved one very quickly by positioning disbelief as some kind of willful, petulant choice. It isn’t.

Aaron Menikoff must cling to his indoctrination, however. Even something like actual reality won’t persuade him. Something even more powerful than truth compels him here.

His Bad Advice #1: “Don’t Abandon the Doctrine of Hell.”

Above all, no matter what, Menikoff advises that Christians must not dismiss the “doctrine of hell.”

He claims that this extortionist threat was the reason for his conversion. For what it’s worth, I believe him. Toxic Christians, above all, tend to be the most honest in this regard.

Oh sure, many will witter and warble about the lovey-dovey Boyfriend!Jesus stuff. But toxic Christians embrace this most evil of all evil Christian doctrines. Consequently, the doctrine figures extremely heavily in their own blathering and sales attempts.

Fundagelicals like this guy stand to lose the most if people figure out just how baseless and incomprehensibly empty this threat truly is.

It’s simply too valuable for him to give up.

Why That Would Just Be Awful–For Christians.

If a fundagelical figures out that Hell is a bunch of hogwash, then a lot of their demands collapse. If Hell doesn’t really exist, then there’s no need to entertain fundagelicals’ claims that everyone needs salvation. Salvation? What from, pray tell?

For that matter, without extortion to drive compliance and buy-in, what can fundagelicals possibly offer any potential recruits? The kind of fundagelicals who focus greatly on evangelism tend to be extremely unpleasant people. Their groups demand a lot without providing much in return. Worst of all, they hurt people. Often they deal out this hurt without even realizing they’re doing it. Sometimes, though, they exult in causing others pain.

(We call this behavior Christian love, and so do they. We both know that it isn’t real love.)

Toxic Christians’ stated reason for doing this harm is often their own fear of Hell. Evangelism, for them, works out to their attempt to convince other people to fear that which they fear.

As a doctrine, it works grandly to force compliance. The panic and terror induced by the threat of Hell can even temporarily overpower real love.

That’s why Menikoff and his ilk like it.

Compassion Beats Indoctrination, More and More Lately.

But a funny thing happens on the way to the anxious bench, for more Christians than Menikoff would like to think about. Two ideas fight in their minds when they have a non-believing loved one.

On one side, we find the evil, grotesque doctrine of Hell. Fundagelicals act like they know precisely who is and isn’t heading there. Non-Christians absolutely cannot go anywhere else. It’s a near-universal doctrine in fundagelicalism.

On the other side, though, we find the most powerful force in the ‘Verse: love. Terror is a series of sharp, jagged, chaotic spikes, but love is a deep wide bridge that can blanket those spikes and ease our passage across them. Love dares to travel new and unfamiliar ground; it whispers maybe, maybe, maybe. 

If love can whisper louder than terror can shriek, then Christians in these relationships can engage with the reality of a loved one who is a wonderful person but rejects their sales pitches.

This loved one isn’t a rebellious nitwit stubbornly “refusing to bow the knee to Christ.” And they don’t act at all like fundagelical doctrines predict.

At the notion of their god condemning this person to Hell, love makes many Christians balk. They rewrite their beliefs a little. They’re willing to at least entertain the idea that maybe at least some of a person’s afterlife destination depends on how they live, not on what specifics they believe about the supernatural.

Where terror shatters, love bends. More and more lately, Christians demonstrate that they are far more compassionate and loving than their god–and their leaders. And Aaron Menikoff needs their terror to overwhelm their love.

Hell as a Central Foundation.

By centering a mixed-faith relationship on threats, in effect keeping terror at the forefront of Christians’ minds, Menikoff creates an unwinnable argument in his flocks’ mixed-faith relationships.

No resolution except the full capitulation of the non-Christian exists in Menikoff’s paradigm. Since no compelling evidence exists regarding Christian claims, the Christian almost certainly won’t score a sale here.

Sure, an unwinnable argument suits Menikoff just fine. Real people, however, will find that it devalues their relationship and turns them into a simple sales mark. That conflict over religion eventually eclipses everything else.

Menikoff doesn’t care that the Christian will destroy their relationship and social capital in this argument he’s starting for them. The repercussions will never roll up to him, after all. He ain’t losing anything.

His Bad Advice #2: “Don’t Stop Crying.”

I read this and literally laughed out loud.

My mother’s wry, Baltimore-accented voice rang through my mind, as clearly as if she’d spoken: He needs to get off that cross. Somebody must need the wood.

There it was, though, in black and white.

Menikoff advises his sheep, “Don’t stop crying.”

This bad advice links to his first bad advice. Christians must sorrow and even “mourn” the eternal fates of their loved ones.

They must also make sure their non-Christian loved ones know they’re sorrowing and mourning. (Toxic Christians hate swanning around and posturing if nobody’ll ever know they’re doing it.)

The more Christians concentrate on Hell and how saaaaaaaaaad they are that their loved ones will be tortured forever after they die, the less they will concentrate on the here-and-now and the less they’ll focus on how monstrous the whole idea of eternal torture really is. We only possess so much emotional energy. We can’t spend it twice.

And again, this advice will reduce the relationship to a push-and-pull battle that the Christian absolutely cannot win. It’ll also completely alienate the non-Christian. Who wants to be with a sad sack making basset-hound eyes and sniveling about how saaaaaaaaad they are all the time? Where is the joy in the presence of that loved one? Where is the love?

A Christian taking this advice will, guaranteed, end their relationship faster this way. But that wouldn’t be a bad thing from a pastor’s point of view. Christians who sacrifice important relationships–or anything else they truly love–tend to drill down harder on their beliefs afterward. We feel more reluctant to give up a very costly purchase than a freely-gained one.

Walking It Back. Except Not.

Then Menikoff suggests that the flocks “Do back off.” By this he means that Christians should make one last big sales pitch, then drop the topic.

Well, sort of. Except not really.

See, the Christian should totally bring up their loved one’s “spiritual state.” All the time. Whenever possible.

At any sign of an opening, the Christian should remind their loved one that they’re still in a lather over them going to this nonexistent place they fear more than death itself. After peppering their loved one with reminders that it’s been a while since they talked about religion, by which they mean the relationship has recovered somewhat from their last boundary-stomping sales attempt, the Christian should point out that they’re “always available” if the loved one wants to “talk more about” Christianity’s religious claims. (Hey, maybe their loved one forgot that fact in the past five minutes.)

Otherwise, a Christian should never “hide your faith. Continue to talk about the things you value,” which of course means making constant sales pitches in the guise of “talking about your relationship with Christ and your local church.”

Menikoff thinks he’s fooling non-Christians here.

But this is not backing off.

This is harassing people in a really passive-aggressive way, needling them and poking at them till they (maybe) break–or (more likely) dump the Christian for good.

I feel sadness for the people in his life who aren’t Christian. I suspect he’s lost a lot, as in a lot a lot, of relationships because he couldn’t stop trying to sell his crappy MLM religion when people asked.

Normally I wouldn’t provide context, but in this case, Bernard is rationalizing an untenable cashflow situation.

This is What Trust Doesn’t Look Like.

Menikoff ends with a lame-o admonition to “Do trust the Lord,” but it rings quite hollow by now after an entire post admonishing the dead opposite of that. He declares in chest-beating fundagelical culture-warrior fashion,

When it comes to the sin in my own heart, the sin in the world around me, and even the sin in those closest to me, I must always take God’s side.

But he’s not. He’s absolutely not. If he really trusted his god to work things out, he wouldn’t be suggesting that people constantly try to snake their blather past their loved ones’ stated objections to hearing it. Instead, he’s suggesting that Christians make nonstop sales pitches at people who have made clear that they don’t want to entertain sales pitches.

If he were really taking his god’s side, he’d be doing what Jesus told him to do. He’d be spending his resources to help the poor. He’d be praying in private and hiding his devotions.

But that stuff probably feels super-boring compared to flexing his religious privilege in his loved ones’ faces.

What We Don’t Find In His Advice.

In every single way, this TGC post is like a guide about how to be a toxic Christian. But it’s interesting to see what Menikoff leaves out of his advice.

He never once suggests to his flocks that they figure out what their non-Christian targets would find persuasive, then supply that to them.

Every single point of his advice centers on emotional manipulation.

Instead of evidence, he offers up constant targeted harassment disguised as Christian love. Instead of credible reasons to accept Christian claims, he offers up threats–because, as he himself tells us, that’s what worked to terrorize him into compliance.

(Dude needs to work on his threats, by the way. I can’t think of many fates worse than spending an eternity around people like him.)

Christians Need to Know Just How Inept This Advice Is.

I began the whole series about the Unequally-Yoked Club precisely because I looked around and saw that existing Christian advice on the topic was terrible. Christians wrote this guff, not non-Christians. Because Christians don’t tend to operate in reality, their relationship advice won’t tend to honor boundaries, nor result in anything but increased conflict and contempt between both parties.

When they take this bad advice and destroy their relationships, they’ll only blame themselves for carrying out the advice in the wrong way or not doing it enough (or hard enough). They won’t realize that these advice-givers only seek wealth and job security at their expense. They’ll never guess that this advice sets them up to fail.

That’s where this charlatan stands right now. His advice will not only not convince non-Christians to take a second look at Christianity, but will also push them further away from their Christian loved ones. This post of his is like a step-by-step guide to completely and totally buggering a wonderful relationship with toxic religion.

Hope.

But friends, I see hope in this post of his. You have to look, but it’s there.

An old pastor of mine used to say that dogs don’t bark at what don’t move.

As Christian groups just like his continue to bleed members, and as mixed-faith relationships of all kinds continue to grow in number, leaders like Aaron Menikoff fly increasingly into panic mode. That’s almost certainly why he’s written a post that is a complete departure from both his wheelhouse and his usual body of written work. Like I have, he’s doubtless noticed that when a mixed-faith relationship comes into being, the TRUE CHRISTIAN™ involved typically chills out. This post represents his effort to stop that chilling-out process.

We’ll talk later about why and how this chilling-out happens (It. Is. Fascinating!). For now, just know that Menikoff chose the don’t and the do statements he did for a reason. He’s trying to encourage Christians to Jesus harder than ever when they find themselves loving people who aren’t–or who stop being–Christian.

He knows that love destroys his evil, nasty, bigoted religion and obliterates the threats he loves so much.

Further, he knows perfectly well that “Jesus” won’t be stepping in to fix the situation any time soon. He’s all but told us so, right here. He needs his sheep to be harassing their loved ones constantly and seeking to manipulate them. It ain’t about makin’ sales, y’all. It’s about his tribe’s survival.

Christians who make the mistake of taking this advice won’t actually make any sales, no. But maybe once they destroy their relationships, they’ll park their butts more securely in his pews.

NEXT UP: Join me for a peek into the world of Stompy Robots! Mr. Captain guest-stars! See you soon. <3


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About Captain Cassidy
Captain Cassidy grew up fervently Catholic, converted to the SBC in her teens, and became a Pentecostal shortly afterward. She even married an aspiring preacher! But then--record scratch!--she brought everything to a screeching halt when she deconverted in her mid-20s. That was 25 years ago. Now a comfortable None, she blogs on Roll to Disbelieve about psychology, pop culture, politics, relationships, cats, gaming, and more--and where they all intersect with religion. You can read more about the author here.
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