Hi and welcome back! While reading up on our new pal Greg Stier, I caught sight of a post he wrote in 2009 that has aged particularly poorly. (Yes, even compared to the one we actually discussed from 2008.) It involves his galaxy-brained predictions for white evangelicals’ next ten years. These predictions obviously didn’t come true at all, but they did reveal something interesting about the mindset of white evangelicals like Greg Stier himself. Today, Lord Snow Presides over what evangelicals’ predictions about the future reveal about themselves.
Writing Predictions: The Real Way.
When people in Reality-Land make predictions, they seek as much information about their subjects as they possibly can. Using past performance and rates of previous trends’ decline or growth, they try to guesstimate how their subject will change over time.
Paul Djupe, for example, writes for a blog called Religion in Public. He often makes exactly these estimations in exactly this way. Here’s one such analysis he wrote recently, “Has Support for Donald Trump Hurt Christian Witness.” (See endnote for more.)
You can see a good example of this estimation process in this YouTube video, too:
“When will Christianity become a minority religion in the USA?” Uploaded June 9, 2018 by Freethinkers Books.
I’ve been keeping a weather eye on these estimations for years now. So far, not a single reputable expert has been wrong about much — except for the sheer breathtaking speed and breadth of decline.
But TRUE CHRISTIANS™ don’t operate that way at all. They do not live in Reality-Land, so their processes differ considerably — and their estimations’ accuracy suffers as a result.
Speaking of Which: White Evangelicals’ Predictions.
When white evangelicals want to make a prediction about their own future, they use dramatically different methods to arrive at their estimations.
First, white evangelicals operate according to impulse and feelings, not facts and reality. And their primary impulses center on self-gratification. So if they feel like nobody’s giving them what they deserve as children of a living god who rules the universe, their estimations will contain much narcissistic outrage and bottomless self-pity.
Second, white evangelicals desperately need to feel persecuted — but they don’t want real persecution, ever. In their opinions, real persecution represents a mark of extra Jesus approval. In truth, however, they want to be the ones dishing out persecution to their tribal enemies, not taking it. So their estimations may take on a truly surreal quality as they craft weird fantasies of guillotines and life imprisonment for jus’ bein’ KRISchin — even as they flex a level of political power that terrifies the rest of us.
Third, white evangelicals aren’t terribly imaginative, as a group. Authoritarian leaders frown on creativity of any kind, and white evangelicals have, as a group, become cartoonishly, ridiculously authoritarian. Whatever creative impulses they ever had have suffered as a result. So their fantasies and boogeyman stories haven’t changed overmuch in the past sixty years.
Fourth, white evangelicals operate in a hazy bubble of fake news, pseudoscience, revised history, and urban legends that they mistake for reality. They never leave this bubble. It isolates them from other people who might provide much-needed corrective feedback. It also keeps them from realizing that their Dear Leaders are feeding them nonstop fake news and urban legends to sell them snake oil, all in service of creating a future that fits in with their revised history.
Fifth and most importantly, white evangelicals desperately need to feel like they play for what they call the winning team. As authoritarians, they can’t accept losing. That would mean a lot of absolutely unthinkable, unacceptable changes in their lives. So in all of their fantasizing, they will always come out on top — eventually.
Diving Into Greg Stier’s Predictions.
So with all that in mind, let’s dive into Greg Stier’s December 31, 2009 post. He called it “My 5 Predictions for Christianity and Evangelism over the Next Decade,” which means that these predictions’ expiration date has well and truly passed.
Stier begins with a disclaimer. You will all be shocked to know that he is neither “a prophet nor the son of a prophet.” (I don’t know why he thinks the son of a prophet would also be a prophet.) Gosh, y’all, he says he can’t even properly play “Fantasy football!” But he still wants to issue predictions about the future of his tribe over the next decade.
I dunno. I think not being able to use predictive logic in a popular game like fantasy football would invalidate everything to follow. But that might just be me.
I’d be way more impressed if he had any kind of background in statistics, really. Without some kind of expertise in watching or predicting trends, his input is worse than useless. But he’s not really trying to make accurate predictions, as we’ll see.
Prediction 1: GOING PRIMAL.
The first of his predictions:
1) “Economic strain will force churches to go primal.”
Mostly, he’s upset about “universal health care,” which his Dear Leaders insisted would totally bankrupt the nation. Opposing healthcare for poor people became a culture-war hot button right around 2009, as Pew Research discovered. So naturally, Greg Stier had to drag his tribe’s cruelty toward poor people into his self-pity party. Yes, indeed! Because thanks to affordable healthcare and large-scale government, obviously, America would end up in a recession way worse than anything that happened in the 1930s — and go bankrupt as well.
But national bankruptcy and recession won’t be all bad news, he writes:
I believe that, if or when the economy of America collapses, that many churches and ministries will go primal in their purpose, priorities and programs. Bigger and better church buildings will become a thing of the past and loving one’s neighbor by engaging, serving and introducing them to the Lord Jesus Christ will become central to the focus of thriving churches.
Greg Stier gets the word “primal” from a book by that same name that exhorted TRUE CHRISTIANS™ to get back to their basics. And my goodness, Stier loves this idea. His prediction here involves TRUE CHRISTIANS™ becoming just like the totally-for-realsies Original Christians of white evangelicals’ fantasies.
How that worked out: Nope. White evangelicals still talk this way, but it hasn’t happened yet. But their churches are closing like crazy thanks to their churn rates.
Prediction 2: A “New Spirituality.”
Greg Stier’s 2nd prediction:
2)” The new spirituality will leave ‘that old time religion’ in the dust.”
This belief system is hard to nail down doctrinally because there is no formal creed. But it has something to do with being nice, going green and tolerating others. The only thing that won’t be tolerated is any belief system that claims to be the exclusive way to God. I believe that this will lead to a growing tension between those who espouse this philosophy and those who embrace the historic Christian faith.
I find his lack of an Oxford Comma disturbing.
Cute how he thinks white evangelicalism is “the historic Christian faith,” isn’t it, though? He still does, as far as I can tell — as he still holds all of the opinions I’ll be mentioning here. This is pure culture-war pablum he spews, but it was already a common opinion.
How that worked out: It isn’t “the new spirituality,” but a growing disinterest in religion itself that has left Christianity in the dust. White evangelicals still think, mistakenly, that their weird revisionist beliefs are “the historic Christian faith,” of course, and they still think losing a smidgen of unearned dominance is totally for realsies religious persecution.
Prediction 3: Death for JUS’ BEIN’ KRISCHIN!
Greg Stier’s 3rd prediction is hilarious:
3) “Evangelism will become a hate crime in America.”
Ohh, my head. But he’s positive of this. Yes, y’all, meaniepie activist “postmodern” judges will totally destroy the First Amendment. After that, “any speech or actions that seem intolerant will be considered intolerable.”
WAAAAH! Nobody will let him discriminate against people he hates in the evil dreadful future! WAAAAAAAH! Nobody will let him threaten people with eternal torture for rejection of his product!
So in case you were ever thinking that Greg Stier is harmless and not worth criticizing, don’t worry. He’s a hopeless and gormless bigot and reflexively-hateful asshole who fully and completely deserves everything coming his way.
It’s funny, though, that in 2009 he accidentally predicted the train wreck of a movie God’s Not Dead coming in a few years. Oh those meaniepie “bowtie wearing, atheistic professors” who torture “evangelical freshmen in philosophy classes across America!” Persecution! It’s persecution, I tells ya!
He mutters self-pityingly at the end of this prediction,
Maybe I’ll get to start a prison ministry as a result [of his inevitable arrest for jus’ bein’ KRISchin] — from the inside.
How that worked out: White evangelicals still whine and pity themselves for their dwindling cultural dominance, but if anything, our highest-level judges are all tribe members in good standing, and they seem primed to do exactly what he predicts — to white evangelicals’ enemies. Also, as far as I know nobody threw Greg Stier in jail for JUS’ BEIN’ KRISCHIN.
Prediction 4: Greater Cooperation Between Missionary Groups.
Greg Stier’s 4th prediction comes at us out of left field:
4) “Missions organizations will work together for the fulfillment of THE Cause!”
“THE Cause” is recruitment, of course.
I suppose I can understand why he’d make this prediction, however. He does, after all, run one of those exact businesses. Greater cooperation would only benefit him personally, as well as all similar businesses.
And, of course, he predicted that this cooperation would have dramatic results:
This approach will lead to the exponential spread of the gospel in America and across the world, which leads to my final prediction for the next decade.
How that worked out: The greater cooperation did happen. He’s even gotten platforms from the big-name denominations like the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC)! But it likely happened out of self-interest and desperation more anything else — and it has had nowhere near the prediction’s results.
Prediction 5: Teens Will Save Us!
And last, we come to Greg Stier’s 5th prediction:
5) “An army of youth evangelists will unleash holy havoc across the globe.”
Quit giggling, we’re almost done! He thinks that his 4th prediction will lead to a huge influx of teenagers into white evangelicalism by 2020. They’d all go evangelize the heck out of their friends and online acquaintances, which would lead inevitably to tons of sales to other teens, who’d go and do likewise.
Of course, the culture-war fever-dreams of persecution lead Greg Stier to imagine that these teens would face intense persecution for their TRUE CHRISTIANITY™:
As Christian teenagers are equipped to evangelize their sphere of influence in compelling ways that gospel will spread in powerful ways. As a result even more persecution will take place. This will inspire aligned and united missions organizations to mobilize persecution-hardened, cause-inspired young people for global outreach.
But never fear! None of that would stop the millions of brave child soldiers in Jesus’ army.
Gee, y’all, it’s so weird that a guy whose business involves selling evangelism products for teenagers might predict something like this. He must get his predictions from a divine source!
How that worked out: Sorry, I can’t type for laughing.
Okay. One moment. Let me get a drink of water.
How that worked out (try #2): Out of every demographic white evangelicals have completely alienated with all of the antics listed today, teenagers remain the demographic that is the most disgusted with them. The few who even qualify as tribemates these days tend to value their social capital too much to burn it on unwanted sales pitches. Older evangelicals fret constantly that their few under-30 members aren’t mini-mes of themselves.
“HUGE IMPLICATIONS,” Y’all.
Greg Stier ties up his predictions by reiterating that he is not qualified in the slightest to offer predictions of any sort.
Oh honey. We figured that out already, of course. But it’s nice he says so.
Then he wrecks his goodwill by declaring this:
But, even if half of my predictions come three quarters true, this has huge implications for the church, youth ministry and world evangelism.
Oh, FFS, if “half of his predictions come three quarters true?” Does he mean the predictions he knows he isn’t qualified to make, which don’t bear on reality at all but instead rely completely on his culture-warrior mentality and whatever Faux Noise’s screeching moral scolds told him that week? Those predictions? The ones white evangelical leaders completely make up to score sales with the tribe and scare them into voting the right (Republican) way?
Yes, that’s what he means. And he smugly ends:
Talk to me in ten years and you can either slap me in the face or pat me on the back.
We’ll do neither. He’s not worth slapping, and he didn’t earn any pats on the back.
Maybe we’ll just point and laugh instead.
(That last bit, “Hooah!” comes from the US Marines. It’s their way of indicating enthusiastic agreement and assent. As far as I can tell, and I looked extensively, Stier has no military background whatsoever. But he used this exclamation elsewhere in his predictions post. It was one of his cringey weird thangs around then.)
Why We Laugh.
I’ve pointed out white evangelicals’ hilarious predictions before. But this might be one of the most-obviously-self-serving set of predictions I’ve ever seen out of that crowd.
Reading Greg Stier’s predictions feels like reading a romance novel written by a lonely, isolated person pumped full of stories of love triangles involving vampires, werewolves, kinky billionaires, and secret underground Illuminati leaders.
It’s like we poured Fox News gibberish into a cauldron with narcissistic injury, an addiction to persecution fantasies, and an overwhelming entitlement mentality — then stirred it well and poured it out over Greg Stier’s head. The movement activated his fingers like a newborn baby’s rooting reflex, and this post of his predictions was the unfortunate result. I understand that a semi-popular Young Adult (YA) science-fiction series got birthed in a similar way, with its author closed up in an attic deliberately trying to rerun popular tropes in a way that would earn a multi-part movie deal.
Seeing these predictions operate along such strikingly similar lines just reminds me powerfully of just how false Christianity itself is, and how little the religion’s mythology and source material aligns with reality.
The Reminder I Needed.
But they also remind me of something even more important: Greg Stier inhabits a world where any of that nonsense could actually happen.
It’s not the real world, but it’s his world. And he hasn’t left it since 2009, either. He still lives there, and he tries his hardest to make reality conform to his fantasies — rather than leaving the fantasies behind to come live with us in Reality-Land.
In his own little weird way, Greg Stier told us way back in 2009 exactly why white evangelicals were heading straight for decline, and why they will stay in decline for the foreseeable future.
Today, Lord Snow Presides over a list of predictions that looks a lot more like the compensatory fantasies of a temporarily-embarrassed tyrant.
NEXT UP: The truth about youth groups. See you tomorrow!
About the Donald Trump post (relink): In his July 2020 post, Paul Djupe doesn’t ask if evangelicals’ support of Donald Trump has actually hurt Christians’ witness (a Christianese term meaning, loosely, their credibility and reputation). Nobody needs to ask that. Not anymore. We know that yes, that support absolutely has destroyed the credibility and recruitment rates for all Christian groups, not just those of white evangelicals, though it’s harmed theirs the most.
Instead, Djupe wanted to know if evangelical Christians themselves have started to understand the damage they’ve done to themselves through that support. He concludes that no, they haven’t yet figured this out. And they might not for some time, thanks to the intensely-isolated social bubbles they inhabit. (Back to the post!)
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Lord Snow Presides is our off-topic weekly chat series. Lord Snow was a very sweet white cat. He actually knew quite a bit. Though he’s passed on, he now presides over a suggested topic for the day. Of course, please feel free to chime in with anything on your mind. We especially welcome pet pictures!