Hello and welcome back! Gosh, it is cold outside lately! What’s even colder, though, is the reality of evangelicalism. Last time we met up, I showed you a survey that revealed what evangelicals believe about themselves. Today, I’ll show you how that self-image stacks up against reality.
(I noticed that a lot of bloggers tackling this survey took on the negative descriptors: misogynistic, racist, etc. I wanted to go another direction and tackle the positive ones. We know that evangelicals don’t see themselves as bad people. I wanted to test the other claims instead about the positive descriptors in the survey, because those are what evangelicals hold so dear as beliefs about themselves. So that’s what this post is about.)
Assessing Claims in Reality-Land.
Let’s say you hold a belief about yourself, about what you’re like as a person, about your strengths and weaknesses. Let’s say one of those beliefs is that you are a dependable person. And then let’s say you wanted to assess that claim.
What goes into being dependable?
Maybe a list might look like this one:
- Punctual: are you where you say you’re going to be and when you say you’ll be there?
- Trustworthy: can someone rely on you to be realistic about your capabilities and plans?
- Reliable: when you say you’ll complete a task by X time, is that what happens?
- Consistent: does your work meet the quality standards you claim it can?
- Accountability: if you mess up, do you take responsibility for what happened and then take steps to assure it won’t happen again?
The list should include testable claims–because the next step is testing them.
Amending Beliefs in Reality-Land.
If you discover that maybe you’re not as dependable as you believe you are, then you have a decision to make. Do you want to start fixing those problems? Or amend the belief into maybe not being super-dependable, and go from there?
And people should be examining their beliefs about themselves and making those command decisions. If we’re operating with erroneous beliefs, be they about imaginary friends or traits about ourselves that aren’t true, then it could lead us to causing inconvenience or even harm to others around us. We could disappoint them or even mess their lives up–as well as our own.
Plus, erroneous self-beliefs cause us cognitive dissonance, which is stressful in and of itself. In such cases, we wear a false self over our real one. That’s as emotionally painful for most people as pretending to be religious when we’re not! Authenticity is important to most of us, and for a reason.
As you might guess, though, things work very differently in the Bizarro-World of toxic Christianity.
Assessing Claims in Toxic-Christian-Land.
Last time we met up, I showed you a recent Barna survey about evangelicals’ self-perceptions vs. those of other groups. The survey discovered that respondents didn’t like evangelicals much at all, and non-Christians downright despised them. But evangelicals sure adored themselves. They were very sure they were a very misunderstood bunch of precious snowflakes, and all those non-Christians were just meaniepies who were “predisposed,” in Barna’s own words, to dislike them. Here’s their results chart again:
As you can see, descriptors tended to be positive or negative, and most were quite emotionally-loaded at that. Evangelicals didn’t get far past the 0% mark on any negative descriptor except for narrow-minded, which even in my years as a Christian was a negative evangelicals embraced with strange pride. That negative bagsied about 5% of evangelical respondents. Otherwise, almost no evangelical respondents thought those negative descriptors fit their tribe at all. Almost none of them thought evangelicals were homophobic, puritanical, uptight, invasive, misogynistic, racist, selfish, foolish, hurtful, or unhappy.
Moving on to the positive descriptors, evangelicals soared to the top of the respondents’ pack in praising themselves to the skies. They overwhelmingly thought their tribemates fit descriptors like caring, hopeful, friendly, encouraging, generous, and good-humored.
And amazingly, all of these descriptors can be tested, just like beliefs in religious claims can.
It’s just that evangelicals don’t actually test any of their beliefs, ever. So I thought I’d be helpful again and show them how people outside their tribe can test their beliefs about themselves.
They’re Not Caring.
Caring came in on top of the list of evangelical self-flattery. Over 60% of them thought evangelicals were, as a group, caring people.
Caring people display compassion toward others. They find common ground, show empathy, express gratitude, volunteer to help those in need (either formally or informally), and recognize others’ rights and self-sovereignty. (As a result of my definition of this term, I’m lumping encouraging and generous in with caring. They overlap so much that it’d be a waste of all of our time to do otherwise.)
None of that sounds like evangelicals.
Overwhelmingly, they approve of torture, child abuse, putting children in cages, oppressing half the human race, blocking access to any human rights that run contrary to their authoritarian dreams of absolute power, and seem absolutely incapable of recognizing others’ needs, much less leaping to fulfill them unless there’s something in it for themselves. Worse, when they do bother to piss out a little bit of the wealth they take in on charity, usually it comes with a lot of strings attached–or that money’s going straight back into their self-congratulatory country clubs.
When evangelicals warble about being such caring people, I can’t help but remember how they behaved after their golden idol, Donald Trump, got elected. They were giddy at the prospect of sticking it to their enemies at last. And they still are. Nor can I forget that a sizeable percentage of evangelical parents with LGBT kids throw them out on their ear into the streets, nor that evangelical spouses tend to auto-dump their newly-deconverted spouses–often with the full encouragement of their pastors.
Evangelicals’ goals are absolute power, enforced ideological purity, and the utter destruction of their enemies. Those desires can’t coexist with caring.
They’re Hopeful For What, Exactly?
I’m surprised that hopeful didn’t come through to number 1, considering that most evangelicals would say that their biggest hope involves getting Raptured into Heaven to see Jesus at last. Still, it hit the top 3. Almost 60% of evangelicals describe their tribe as hopeful.
It’s hard to say exactly what evangelicals even mean by the word. I don’t know if Barna actually described or defined it. That said, to me the word hopeful implies optimism about the future. It’s a sunny disposition that thinks everything will work out fine in the end.
And that doesn’t describe evangelicals either.
In fact, if I had to put any single descriptor to their tribe it’d be fearfully enraged. They’re a frightened bunch of clustered ducks if ever there was one.
Their entire end of the Christian pool fights ceaselessly to re-enshrine white male supremacism into totalitarian power in the United States. They express nothing but belligerence and fear at the idea of women’s equality, or at the notion of people of color (POC) gaining access to the same opportunities they themselves enjoy without even thinking about it. The idea of atheists simply existing throws them into vapor-locked overdrive.
Most damningly, at the mere idea of Donald Trump failing to secure a second term, his more sociopathic evangelical supporters have begun to bellow about mayhem and revolution. Yes, they will quite happily destroy the entire country and flat-out murder their enemies if they can’t control everything.
None of that sounds hopeful to me. (Or caring for that matter.)
Friendly? HAHAHA OH WOW, NO.
Evangelicals rated the descriptor friendly in their Top 3, with almost 60% saying the word fit their tribe.
My mind whirls at the mere idea of reconciling that assertion with the reality of evangelicals.
Maybe they mean friendly toward those they like. Sure, anybody can be nicey-nice to people they already like. Or maybe they mean they generally refrain from screeched curses and abuse toward people who could easily hold them accountable for doing it.
Their entire worldview revolves around power–using it, abusing it, gathering it, defending it–so yes, of course they can very easily recognize power dynamics that would be really disadvantageous to themselves in cases of abuse.
But go ask any waiters or workers at any restaurant or fast-food place what they think of the post-church crowd. The most obnoxious customers all seem to be wearing evangelical swag, carrying Bibles, and showboating with pre-mealtime prayers in public. As well, nobody who’s tangled with an evangelical online would ever think they’re friendly.
Maybe fewer than 10% of non-Christians went for that descriptor because they either encounter evangelicals online or at work. Hmm!
Mistaking Niceness for Kindness.
They do display a shiny outer veneer of niceness, but that’s nowhere near the same thing as friendliness.
A great many evangelicals mistake niceness for kindness/goodness. They think there’s a nice way to oppress other human beings or to block access to human rights for groups they hate. They’re positive that one day they’ll luck into a magical nice way to dehumanize people or flex power over them that will absolve evangelicals themselves of accusations of cruelty, bigotry, sexism, and the other wrongs they commit regularly against others. As just one example of this belief, Preston Sprinkle’s entire book People to be Loved represents his attempt to find that magical escape clause. And he thought he’d found it with his strategy of endless “coffee dates.”
Evangelicals seem certain that they just need to do terrible things nicely enough to be off the hook. So maybe friendly falls into that strange category for them.
I had a friend in gaming years ago, a chemist of some kind who lived in SE Asia. He used to tell us all kinds of neat stories about a product he was working on: explosive paint. Yes. Seriously. Apparently that’s a thing that exists, unless he was just messin’ with us, and his country’s military adored it.
Forever after knowing him, when I think of evangelicals’ veneer of niceness that image always comes to my mind. Evangelicals have this thin coating of niceness that explodes on impact with any kind of friction.
That’s not friendly.
Good-Natured: Oh, Tell Me Another Great Joke, Unca Pat!
Evangelicals are absolutely not good-natured people. In fact, I’d say evangelicals are the least good-natured group in our country. Maybe sovereign citizens beat them. It’d be hard to call that horse race.
As I write this post, the current meltdown going on in evangelicalism involves the adherents of this major branch of a world religion going on full shieldsupredalert over what they view as a real live “betrayal” by the chicken-selling fast-food-chain Chick-Fil-A (CFA).
(That’s a sentence that I just wrote. That’s a description of something going on in the world in which I live. These times are simply breathtaking.)
For years, evangelicals have virtue-signaled using Chick-Fil-A food because CFA virtue-signaled to them. In my teens, everyone wanted to work at CFA because they were famously closed on Sundays. Later, CFA stood defiantly with the bigots in their tribe.
In turn, evangelicals lavishly rewarded CFA’s pandering. In the 2008 movie Fireproof, Kirk Cameron surprises his wife in bed with a big bag of CFA food. Around 2012, evangelicals literally lined up around the block around America to purchase its products–just to show gay people how much they truly despised them. (See how caring they are? See?) In 2018, Donald Trump–the mouthpiece, lapdog, useful idiot, and idol of evangelicals, as always–famously featured the chain’s food as part of a buffet the White House offered to college athletes.
Evangelicals take their alliance with their fellow bigots very seriously. Well, really they take everything seriously–especially themselves. Most of all themselves. And they know it! (Also see this.) They’re always trying to find that middle path—and failing.
That trait is simply not compatible with being good-natured.
A World Where Mathematics No Longer Works.
The disparity between reality and evangelicals’ beliefs about themselves isn’t surprising, in and of itself. I’m not the only person who’s noticed that this is a group that moves through a world where nothing makes sense, where form doesn’t ever follow function, where strategies do not ever actually seek stated results, and where outcomes don’t even slightly hinge upon behaviors or intentions.
To create a self-image so at odds with reality, evangelicals must all but torture themselves. They must redefine words into nonsense, go for broke on intentions over actions, and completely ignore the input of the people they actively hurt on a constant basis.
And sure, all of these contortions fool the sheep in the flocks.
It just doesn’t fool people outside the sheepfold.
I can see why evangelicals might not want to confront the reality of how they behave toward others. Nobody wants to think of themselves as a bad person. But they live in denial to this extent while also creating endless recruitment campaigns that completely ignore the reality of how evangelicals actually behave toward others. It truly staggers me to consider what they’ve proudly wrought here. They’ve left nothing whatsoever to chance.
Evangelicals’ own inability to confront their own flaws and shortcomings, much less address them, is only going to hasten their own decline.
Perception and Experience.
None of it matters to evangelicals themselves in the end, of course. They will always find a way to discount their critics and hand-wave away all criticisms from outsiders. Any time one of their own agrees with our criticisms, they simply go on the attack to punish those dissenters. (We’ll cover some of their responses to such criticism in coming days.)
Indeed, Barna’s already trying to poison the well in the usual manner. They’re saying that we’re simply predisposed to see evangelicals as horrible people.
But that’s not why we think that.
Our opinion does not come from predisposition or unfairly-slanted marketing. It’s not unfair bias against TRUE CHRISTIANS™ who are guilty only of jus’ bein’ KRISchin. Their imaginary Jesus Auras have nothing to do with anything. The Cabal of Satanic Wiccans (Or Wiccan Satanists, Whatevs) (CSWWSW) did not plant people in strategic news outlets to make sure a nasty news story runs about evangelicals every news cycle.
No, we derive our opinions from experience. That’s why evangelicals can’t combat it. What are they gonna do, finally start acting like caring, hopeful, generous, friendly, good-humored people? Who’s gonna make ’em?
NEXT UP: I want to dive headfirst into the full glorious tub of pistachio pudding that is the Chick-Fil-A meltdown. Join me! This is going to be hands-down hilarious. See you soon!
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