Deconversion: Christian Leaders Throw Down Against Ex-timonies

Deconversion: Christian Leaders Throw Down Against Ex-timonies October 5, 2019

In the wake of some high-profile deconversions, toxic Christians have begun to notice ex-timonies again. And as usual, the Christian love flows freely from their spewholes. Today, let me show you some of their reactions–and what those reactions reveal about the fight of their lives.

battle bot arena
(Scott Tranchitella, CC-SA.)

Entering the Arena!

Let’s meet today’s contestants for the Battle-Bot title of Most Incompetent Ambassador Ever. Their names link to the posts we’ll be examining.

  • Al Mohler. He’s one of the biggest names in the entire Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). After helping to create a denomination based upon the notion ofs unilateral, totalitarian white male supremacy, he declared that he just had nooooo idea that sexual harassment is a big problem in SBC churches. Sure, Jan Al.
  • Franklin Graham. This sniveling culture warrior is another of the biggest and most toxic fumes in his entire religion. But he also sparkles with that total lack of self-awareness that marks his tribe. Hi, Franklin!
  • John Cooper of the band Skillet. He sings songs to his imaginary friend and thinks he has the right–nay, the divine orders!–to abuse people who say things he his imaginary friend doesn’t like. In addition to looking like a living, walking commercial for Axe body spray, he’s simply a horrible person all the way around. Everyone give it up for John! Or else!
  • Joe Terrell. Now meet our wildcard Christian, folks. Maybe one day he’ll see his name in lights–who knows? Until then, he keeps busy writing for Christian sites like Relevant. Will this rookie make the grade? Let’s give him a Roll to Disbelieve welcome!

Now let’s get these four battle-bots into the ring to see how they do!

Al Mohler: You Don’t Exist.

In his corner, Al Mohler busts out a move we probably expected: ex-Christians don’t actually exist. He’s working that No True Scotsman angle as hard as he can in his post:

Can believers lose their faith? Can one ultimately fall away if one was genuinely regenerate? The answer is no. The Bible is very clear about that. Once one has been regenerated by the power of Christ, once one has become a genuine Christian and been united to Christ, nothing can separate us from Christ, not even our own sin.

He gets this idea from his magic book that also says snakes and donkeys talk, slavery and genocide are awesome, and tons of dead Jews rose up and walked around in Jerusalem 2000 years ago.

Centuries ago, when some anonymous dudes first invented Christianity, they discovered quickly that without real power in their hands they couldn’t keep anyone in their little mystery cult. Their converts kept wandering away! So around the end of the 1st century, one of those anonymous dudes decided to poison the well.

In 1 John 2:19, he declared:

They [former tribemates] went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us.

Evangelicals love love LOVE the verse above. It comes in very handy when they need to invalidate and negate people who’ve tried their product but didn’t get the promised results. Yep! See, we were never really TRUE CHRISTIANS™ in the first place.

The Ex-C-Bot Overturns Al Mohler, Twice.

Unfortunately, ex-Christians no longer care if King Al thinks we were the real deal or not. It’s not his call to judge how sincere, devoted, or fervent we once were.

And man, there are a lot of us. Either we’re wrong about having been TRUE CHRISTIANS™ at all, or we’re lying.

If we’re deluded, that means Christianity’s all but impossible to get right. That doesn’t speak well of it or its god. And if we’re lying, that’s even worse. It means that Christian leaders have no idea who’s real or fake (which I believe, given all that sexual harassin’ that Al totally never saw).

Al’s one-two punch suffers most of all from its predictability, however. Maybe that’s why his denomination has been tanking for years.

In this case, he thinks that he can vilify us and make us sound like we have no idea what we’re talking about. He hopes to teach his tribe to sneer at us and openly discount our criticisms. (Not a good look for a guy who somehow missed endemic, widespread sexual harassment in his ministry for decades, Al, just sayin’.)

Unfortunately for Al, ex-Christians’ conclusions are what matter, not the path we took to get there. Someone doesn’t need to have been Christian at all to come to the conclusion that Christianity’s claims aren’t true and that it’s an ideology best avoided. (Another easy conclusion to reach: not taking seriously any major religious leader who somehow missed endemic, widespread sexual harassment in his group for decades.)

Score: -2/10. Dude’s game is so tired. Also, the still-ongoing scandal of sexual predation by SBC leaders sorta rains on his bluster parade. If he’s a TRUE CHRISTIAN™, I’m okay with what sound like huge numbers of false ones.

Franklin Graham: Threats and Insults.

Meanwhile, over in the opposite corner we see Franklin Graham flailing his lil fists as hard as he can at the air. He decided to go with basic threats and insults: the tribal standbys! Folks, you’ll never see anybody dish out passive aggression more viciously and eagerly than a Southern fundagelical, and his daddy just about invented the culture-war model of evangelicalism. So he brings some skills to our little arena–and the motivation to use ’em.

The guy introducing him, Todd Starnes of Faux Noise, opens with shots fired: “I’ve noticed a disturbing trend among so-called Christian ‘influencers.'” Ouch! Can’t ya just feel the Christian love flowing from him? Let’s ignore that Faux Noise would absolutely love to claw off some influence for itself (its market share among younger viewers can be best described as “OUCH TOWN“).

However, Franklin Graham’s even worse. Remember in God’s Not Dead where the Muslim girl converted and secretly listened to this horrifying windbag on her iPod thing? You know, like KIDS TODAY never do? These two embittered Christian dudes wish so, so hard that KIDS TODAY actually cared what either of them has to say. About anything.

Anyway, Franklin Graham dives straight for the jugular. He whines that people actually criticize him and his imaginary friend now instead of cowering in fear of Christian love (“these young men who have renounced their faith have made it so public” . . . “why did they make it so public?”), smears the motivations of those discussing their deconversions (“I think they just want publicity”), demands they stay silent (“why didn’t they just leave their faith and just be quiet about it?”), wags his pearl-clutchin’ finger at them (“Shame on them”), and finally threatens them (“You’ll stand before God one day and give an account to Him”).

Poor guy is so distressed over losing dominance. Won’t someone think of his lost dominance?

Anyone?

(See endnote for an example from the wild of impugned motivations.)

The Ex-C-Bot Squirts Motor Oil in Franklin’s Face.

I’m really struggling to imagine anybody caring what threats Franklin Graham thunders down from his goo-slicked tower. If ex-Christians no longer believe in Hell or his imaginary friend, he might as well be threatening them with a trampling from his best friend, Eddie the Magical Pink Unicorn.

At most, he gives his tribe permission to mistreat others. That, in itself, will only backfire as well. People already don’t like evangelicals.

But it is awesome to see an old white fundagelical dude screaming in the key of Lost Dominance.

He’s still got way too much political power, but that won’t last forever. I don’t reckon it’s cheap to purchase Republicans’ pandering, and every person walking away from his tribe takes their wallet with them. And his shockingly hypocritical ambitions require a lot of wallets.

I give his sad, confused effort a 0/10. It made me laugh so hard that I’m not even mad, though.

John Cooper and His Luxurious Beard Do Not Approve.

Our next contestant clearly thinks he’ll win the title with simple stamina.

John Cooper of the band Skillet likes to talk. Oh, my, he does like to talk. In fact, he likes to talk so much that I screencapped his glorious Facebook lecture and threw it onto my forum site, because there’s no way this blog engine would let me offer it at the resolution you’d need to read it all. It’s about three screens full of him bloviating at length in a gloriously convoluted and authoritarian mess of words, words, words.

And that’s amazing, because all he really needed to do was record a long, high-pitched screech of disapproval while fondling his facial hair.

Right from the get-go, he reveals all that belligerent chest-thumpery with a flung-down gauntlet that defines modern white male evangelicalism: “Ok I’m saying it. Because it’s too important not to.”

Sit tf down, John.

I almost squealed in delight at that. Open letters from ultra-self-important evangelical control freak tough-guys are the best. The BEST. Y’all have no idea how I live for this stuff. It’s like Christmas.

Otherwise, he retreads the outrage of his superiors in the tribe. He’s upset that Christians keep elevating people to influential positions (like, I dunno, popular musicians?) and then getting upset when they don’t conform to expectations. He’s peeved that people are “sharing virally every thought or dark place” because Y’ALL, “That’s not courageous.”

But his finger-wagging lecture consists of him sharing thoughts he clearly hoped would go viral and being a total coward in the doing. I don’t exactly think it’s courageous of him to hide behind his social media profile to write an open letter instead of reaching out to the person he’s supposedly soooooo deeeeeply concerrrrnnnnned about. (And his victim called him out for it.)

Self-awareness is the anti-virtue of TRUE CHRISTIANITY™. And I am here for it.

The Ex-C-Bot Spins Around in Wild Glee, Accidentally Knocking John Out of the Ring.

Poor John. He gave his tribemates a major truculence-boner that probably made them feel really uncomfortable, but his screed backfired grandly otherwise. He comes off way more as an arrogant, paternalistic git than a paladin of the One True Faith.

The problem is, we’ve seen his nonsense before–many times. Outraged white fundagelical dudes pontificating about The Big Problem Here? Oh honey. They’re ten-a-penny on any Christian site out there. They love hurling out these streams of invective about Exactly What’s Wrong With This Place and lecturing people who don’t care and aren’t listening in the finer art of How Everyone Needs to Start Catering To Me Again.

We know how to respond to them, too. We mock them. And we deny them the power they crave.

There’s no love in these ageless, wheezing humbugs. Ultimately, Christians like John stand as anti-witnesses. Their behavior tells us that their ideology does not do what they printed on the tin. They don’t care, either. They’ve got their signed permission slip to abuse people and seek power. If they can’t get actual lordship over all of us, they’ll take that.

We give John a yawned TL;DR and a score of oof/10.

a teal deer
A teal deer for his trouble though. (TL;DR: Too Long, Didn’t Read.) (Jon Bunting, CC.)

Joe Terrell: “Sharing is Caring.”

Our last contestant, Joe Terrell, comes to us out of left field.

Joe’s got a low-profile blog and he writes sometimes for Relevant. That’s an evangelical magazine for Christian Millennials who take themselves very seriously. However, the piece we have today comes from Medium, a site which pretty much allows anybody to write pretty much anything they want on pretty much any topic ever. In this case, his topic is “The Allure of Deconversion Testimonies.” (I use the distinction ex-timony myself, but I don’t look down on anybody who uses testimony to describe either story.)

Surprisingly, his post sounds fairly considerate and measured. He writes movingly of his own struggles with doubt. He describes, as well, the judgmentalism and “willful ignorance” he gets from Christians. In his post, you’ll find honest, heart-to-heart language about the emotions stirred up in Christians who encounter ex-timonies: fear, betrayal, and even violations of trust.

His goal today is not to bury ex-Christians, but to examine why ex-timonies scare his tribe–and then to ask what his tribe can learn from them. The main thing, it seems, that evangelicals can learn is to be kind to doubters in or out of the tribe, rather than shaming them. Joe also suggests that Christians engage more honestly and openly with doubt.

Wait just a minute here… 

[*Scoring Machine Fritzes Out*]

So I’m reading Joe’s blog post, and suddenly I get this moment of dawning comprehension:

This guy isn’t actually an evangelical, is he.

He used to be, but he isn’t one anymore, is he.

I stopped and did a bit of digging around.

In fact, his personal blog tells us that he grew up evangelical. Nowadays, he calls himself progressive.

Sure, he doesn’t have all the answers or get everything completely right. Sometimes he pulls that whataboutism and moral leveling nonsense that his evangelical peers are famous for doing. And, too, sometimes he forgets that Christians bear the burden of proof in any and all claims they make or sales they try to score. Most especially, he forgets that we’re quite right to view Christians with great distrust. But overall, I found his blog post reasonable, decently well-informed, and compassionate.

I give him a 7/10, and hope he continues to learn and grow. If these other three blowhards were more like him, maybe his religion would be in another place right now than it is (though of course it wouldn’t look a single bit like it does today).

The Fight of Their Lives.

Our first three contestants come from the pugilistic, power-maddened end of Christianity. The Christians from that end of the pool eagerly and happily fight in their masters’ culture wars. I speak here not of evangelicals alone, of course. Catholics have been getting into that ring for years as well, and I’m sure some mainline Christians consider themselves die-hard PRAYER WARRIORS FOR JESUS. Any Christian who belongs to the religion out of greed for power, and who sees the religion as a permission slip they can use to abuse and control others, hangs out there.

I haven’t seen a lot of other Christians talking about deconversion ex-timonies (well, deconversions much at all really). The Christians who don’t care about power or controlling others don’t usually fret and wring their widdle handsies about us ex-Christians talking about our experiences. Many of them even support us and our efforts to bring awareness to the abuses their peers commit on the regular. It’s very likely that I describe at least a slim majority of rank-and-file Christians here.

But that thrashing, messy side of the pool has been very busy slamming hard against ex-timonies. Those Christians need us de-legitimized, invalidated, negated, destroyed, and finally smashed to flinders, burned to ashes, and scattered on the winds.

What Silencing Attempts Mean.

If the culture warriors I describe here could simply outlaw the sharing of ex-timonies, they would do so in a heartbeat. They can’t, though.

So instead, they seek to stop the flocks from engaging with us. By the sound of it, they might be failing. My first Pentecostal pastor once said, “Dogs don’t bark at what don’t move.” If these leaders really thought ex-timonies weren’t any sort of danger to their flocks, they wouldn’t bother issuing thundering denouncements about it. They sure weren’t talking like this 10 years ago, before they even understood that they were in decline.

And despite their barking, however, the number of ex-Christians only grows more every single day, while the number of Christians shrinks every day.

As the arena match grows more and more uneven, these battle-bots’ power to abuse and hurt people will only continue to wane.

Ain’t that a nice thought for a fall weekend?

NEXT UP: LSP! Then, I’ll show you how to fool a monster.

See you soon!


Endnotes.

Some Christians certainly think that ex-Christians are as motivated by greed as their tribemates are. A couple of months ago, I spotted this one evangelical blogger snorting in his comments that lucrative book deals exist aplenty for any ex-Christians willing to badmouth his imaginary friend.

He said it, of course, to smear the motivations of the increasing numbers of people talking about why they left his religion. When I asked for evidence supporting this remarkable claim, he first ignored the request. Then he spluttered a couple of names of atheist writers who discuss their ex-timonies sometimes, instead of offering evidence that these deals are common and easy to obtain. When I pointed out his moved goalpost (offering him, as well, many names of Christians making mad bank telling their own obviously-fake testimonies), he then moved on to angrily demand I do his work for him by investigating his claim myself. Finally, he pouted his way out of the entire discussion.

I can’t even remember his name anymore, but it was so hilarious. Logical Christians for the win! Needless to say, he also totally flunked that whole Greatest Command thingie. Oops! Too bad, too. I’d have loved knowing who these publishers are who salivate over ex-Christians with piping-hot tea to pour out! (Back to the post!)


Please Support What I Do!

Come join us on FacebookTumblrPinterestTwitter, and our forum at rolltodisbelieve.com! (Also Instagram, where I mostly post cat pictures. About 99% of my insta consists of Bumble and Bother being adorable.)

If you like what you see, I gratefully welcome your support. Please consider becoming one of my monthly patrons via Patreon with Roll to Disbelieve for as little as $1/month! My PayPal is captain_cassidy@yahoo.com (that’s an underscore in there) for one-time tips. You can also support this blog through my Amazon Affiliate link–and, of course, by liking and sharing my posts on social media! Thank you for anything you wish to do.

About Captain Cassidy
Captain Cassidy grew up fervently Catholic, converted to the SBC in her teens, and became a Pentecostal shortly afterward. She even volunteered in church (choir, Sunday School) and 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. And she still can't carry a note in a bucket. You can read more about the author here.

Browse Our Archives

Follow Us!


TRENDING AT PATHEOS Nonreligious
What Are Your Thoughts?leave a comment