Evangelicals’ Two Biggest Fears Have Collided

Evangelicals’ Two Biggest Fears Have Collided April 26, 2020

Hello and welcome back! This past week, we’ve seen some really grim news concerning the pandemic. And much of that news centers around evangelicals and their head-in-the-sand refusal to accept reality about it. Lately, evangelicals’ metaphorical death cult seems to be turning into a real live one, thanks to their Dear Leaders’ culture wars and reality-denial. Today, let me show you the end results of taking false ideas too far, and how evangelicals’ two biggest fears have brought them to this pass.

signs warning of bears in the area
(a.dombrowski, CC-SA.) Evangelicals: “Hold my Bible a minute. ‘Jesus’ just told me to go wave my wedding tackle at an angry bear.”

The Phantom Plague.

I spotted this story yesterday in the Independent, a UK news outlet. They titled it, “‘A Phantom Plague’: America’s Bible Belt played down the pandemic and even cashed in. Now dozens of pastors are dead.”

The story covered the latest tiresome culture war evangelicals have started.

Evangelicals do this periodically, you see. Their goals remain the same, though the exact topic of the culture war du jour can vary: they want to cause a moral panic that they can manipulate to regain power at others’ expense. They’ve been doing the same exact song-and-dance since at least the 1950s, and probably even before that. The playbook and dance steps haven’t changed since then, either.

This time around the dance floor, evangelicals have decided that their religious liberty has been violated by stay-at-home orders.

Jesus’ orders may have been for them to turn the other cheek, go like sheep to the slaughter, and render unto Caesar that which is Caesar’s, but it’s been about 2000 years since Christians gave a flying leap what Jesus told them to do.

Really, I’d have been way more surprised if they’d actually obeyed Jesus’ orders instead of doing what they always do, which is the polar opposite every time.

Like now.

Here’s Where Their Disobedience Led.

Claiming that their “right to worship” has somehow been threatened, for months evangelicals have violated isolation orders. Instead of worshiping their god at home in their closets like Jesus said was fine, or even congregating in their own homes in small groups like Christians did originally, these hypocrites congregate together in churches to showboat and swan around.

There, they sing and clap their hands and hang out together while they pretend to listen to their vile, bigoted preachers spewing hatred and belligerence.

And then these TRUE CHRISTIANS™ go home, get sick, and die of COVID-19.

The pastors I’ve seen these past few months have shrugged it off. Sometimes they hand-wave their irresponsible behavior away, punting to “gawrsh, it’s just a mystery” and “gawrsh, who can argue with our god’s ineffable plan?”

But there was a wrinkle to this sad and sorry story that I hadn’t thought about:

Those pastors, too, are in those churches hanging out with those congregations.

And they, too, are going home, getting sick, and dying of COVID-19.

Evangelical leaders’ hypocrisy is killing even themselves.

Toxic Christianity Kills.

Across the country, the death tolls climb. They climb particularly high in areas where evangelicals dominate — both in population and in local clout.

The Economist recently created a map that aimed to predict how many deaths from the pandemic Americans can expect and where they’ll occur. They called it “Dixie in the Crosshairs.” And no wonder. Take a look at it:

a map of predicted cv deaths
(Source.)

As I looked at it for the first time, a chill went through my whole body.

This map could be the twin of many other maps measuring evangelicals’ misery, but this time it just hit me hard.

I’ve long known about the double whammy of evangelicals’ tradition of extremely poor physical health (mostly brought about by their high obesity rate) and their favored brand of short-sighted, cruel, greedy, pandering Republican politics (destroying these areas’ social safety nets and reducing residents’ access to healthcare). I’ve always known that this double whammy carries with it a body count.

It’s like evangelical leaders are doing their damnedest to destroy their entire end of Christianity. Medical professionals have told them how to keep themselves safe, but no, they see the “WARNING: DEADLY BEAR IN AREA” sign on the trail and rush right off to play with it.

The Scythe.

The Independent brings us another story:

Dozens of pastors across the Bible Belt have succumbed to coronavirus after churches and televangelists played down the pandemic and actively encouraged churchgoers to flout self-distancing guidelines.

Mostly they’re talking about an African-American Pentecostal denomination called Church of God in Christ. So far, according to the Independent, more than 30 pastors in that denomination have gotten sick and died.

As I read this account, I wondered about pastors in other denominations, especially evangelical ones. As this Religion News article reveals, most congregations are being sensible about the pandemic. They’re obeying isolation orders. The holdouts, of course, are evangelicals. In areas facing isolation orders, evangelicals are the ones who tend to disobey.

So it’ll be interesting to see if white evangelical pastors face the same consequences — even if white evangelicals’ defiant behavior comes from a very different motivation: pure spiteful aggression rather than tight community connections.

I don’t think viruses care overmuch about why people gather together.

And These Evangelical Pastors Don’t Care.

In the early days of the pandemic, I heard a lot of evangelical pastors huffing and puffing and beating their chests about how Jesus would totally keep their congregations safe from the virus. One even claimed that their orange idol, Donald Trump, had ensured America’s safety through his support of the anti-abortion culture war.

That tune’s changed and is heading into ominous minor keys. Now we’re far more likely to see pastors drilling down on the necessity of attending church no matter what, and cloaking their obvious self-interest in the matter in high-flown terms like right to worship like they think they’re Dietrich Bonhoeffer or something.

Here’s an example of what I mean:

Tony Spell is the creepy-looking pastor of a Louisiana church called Life Tabernacle. My old crowd, the United Pentecostal Church, loved that exact church name, so this is probably a hard-right Pentecostal group. And let me tell you: Spell is just thrilled at all the attention he’s getting lately because of his defiance of isolation orders.

Recently, he declared that his congregation doesn’t mind dying at all. They’re happy to take tons of unnecessary risks! In fact, he insinuated that if anyone in his church dies of COVID-19, they’ll be all but martyrs to FREEDOM and JESUS!

FREEEEEEEEEEEEDUMB!

On Friday, a judge placed Tony Spell under house arrest for refusing to comply with Louisiana’s isolation orders. Here’s how this lackluster, self-important, narcissistic, hypocritical oaf acted in front of the judge:

A judge on Friday, April 24, asked Spell if he’d comply with state orders that limit the number of people who can gather in one place at the same time.

Spell replied by quoting a bible verse, Moore said.

Moore said Spell remained silent when asked a second time. The judge interpreted Spell’s silence to mean he would not comply with those state orders.

WATCH OUT, everyone, we got ourselves a BADASS over here!

I will say this, though:

Tony Spell makes a great spokesperson for evangelicalism, what with his callousness and utter disregard for the value of human life. Heck, he’s not even trying to pretend to care about the deaths his teachings and exhortations will inevitably cause. It’s like he’s allergic to personal responsibility, shame, and accountability. So yes, he’s a perfect spokesperson for the tribe. I bet he’s dreaming of winning a presidential election in a few years.

(Incidentally, much of Tony Spell’s vocabulary consists of Christianese redefinitions. See endnotes for an example.) 

Playing Top This With Human Lives.

Tony Spell has glamorized and even thrown a martyr’s cloak over dying of COVID-19. He declared at one point, “True Christians do not mind dying.” His declaration makes me wonder how many of these folks he’s actually met.

(Queerty notes that Spell never defined what a “True Christian” is, but Roll to Disbelieve readers know exactly what this classic Christianese means. A TRUE CHRISTIAN™ believes the same basic nonsense as the judging Christian, hasn’t gotten caught doing anything the judge thinks is totally out of bounds, and is still part of the tribe.)

The worst part?

I bet you this: many hundreds, if not thousands of evangelical pastors envy Tony Spell his time in the spotlight. They’re just itching to bellow so loudly and beat their chests so dramatically that a TV camera swings their way for a few undeserved minutes. The moment that happens, they’ll do their best to top all the rest of their braying crowd with something so extreme and cruel that it sets a whole new bar for the tribe.

Wingnuts seek constantly to outdo each other.

And strangely, “Jesus” isn’t telling any of them to cut that out before they get someone hurt.

Their Worst Fears.

But Tony Spell is just wrong. Nobody but nobody fears death more than modern evangelicals. Nobody clings to life harder or demands more heroic and extreme life-saving measures than they do. They might not be real keen on prevention, but when the equation swings around to the other side, they claw for each and every sliver of extra time that they can possibly manage. I’ve heard more nurses and doctors talking about this trait of theirs than I can even remember.

But I don’t need to hear a word out of them to know about evangelicals’ fear of death. All I need to see is their marketing, most of which centers around trying to get their marks as scared of death as they are.

However, this fear vies with their other major fear: the fear of losing dominance. Evangelicals are absolutely terrified of losing power over other people. They’re scared that the rest of us will take up that power, and then do to them what they’ve been trying their best to do to us. It’s all projection, to be sure, but that projection speaks so loudly to them that they can’t hear a word we say about not wanting to mistreat them.

These two fears are the biggest ones in the evangelical heart. The pandemic speaks to evangelicals’ fear of death, but self-protection speaks to their fear of lost dominance.

Their leaders indoctrinated the flocks with these two fears because they made evangelicals much easier to control and direct. But now those fears are going to rend and tear their tribe to pieces, and no imaginary friends in the sky are on hand to magically soothe them and keep them safe.

I just hope evangelicals’ fears won’t cause too much harm to others. Their god has ridiculously poor aim, I’ve noticed.

NEXT UP: LSP! Then, we’ll take a closer look at that “Summit” thing that Sean McDowell recommended. See you tomorrow!


Endnotes.

Check out this mess of redefinitions from Tony Spell:

[Spell] insists that what they fear instead is living in fear. As he puts it, “People that can prefer tyranny over freedom do not deserve freedom.”

Mind-blowing. He’s the “tyrant,” not the doctors and governments trying to keep his smarmy, miserable ass alive. His “freedom” is actually shackles and servitude. And evangelicals are already living in fear. They are the most terrified, pants-wettingest, hand-wringingest people I’ve ever met in my life. That’s why they’re evangelical: the ideology promises them safety and security. They’re false promises, but even those are better than none. (Back to the post!)


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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 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. She lives with an adored and adoring husband named Mr. Captain and a gentle-and-squawky orange tabby cat named Princess Bother Pretty Toes. You can read more about the author here.

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