Hi and welcome back! Recently, we checked out Daniel Bennett’s recent essay over at Christianity Today, “We Need to Be Better Losers.” He’s right, but he doesn’t seem to grasp the full scope of his tribe’s problem. They’re #winning junkies through and through. Today, let me show you this mentality — and why it’s so pervasive among evangelicals in the first place.
#Winning Means Not Accepting Losses.
In his recent post over at Christianity Today, evangelical political-science professor Daniel Bennett writes:
The truth is, sometimes people lose. Our system of government depends on citizens recognizing that fact and being okay with it. The American system of government actually guarantees losers. [. . .] There is no consolation prize for second place. There is only a winner and a loser.
If Americans can’t accept that, the system will be seriously undermined.
By “Americans” in that last sentence, of course, Bennett means evangelicals, who are the chief consumers of election-fraud conspiracy theories at this point. He wants evangelicals to accept their presidential-election loss.
Indeed, the post’s address tells us what might have been his post working title: “christian-victory-election-loss.” Interesting juxtaposition of terms there, hmm?
And unfortunately for Daniel Bennett, evangelicals won’t have it. They accept only #winning, and will go to any lengths to believe they’ve won even when they’ve lost.
And largely, evangelicals exist in this delusional state because their very own leaders have indoctrinated them to accept only victory. They must be #winning at all times, or else they are nothing.
Why Evangelicals’ Obsession With #Winning Is Now a Problem.
It’s interesting to see what Daniel Bennett considers The Big Problem Here: evangelicals’ credibility levels. He writes:
Christians should be leading the way in losing well. Rejecting nonsense and embracing truth, however dispiriting, is essential to our witness to a skeptical world. If Christians are broadcasting conspiracy theories about elections, what credibility do we have when telling the world of the Good News of a resurrected Savior?
So, it’s not that evangelicals will become utter hypocrites through false beliefs, which is a bad thing to be in and of itself. Instead, it’s that their loss of credibility will “undermine” them. Their “witness” depends on having a high level of credibility — and a “witness” is essential to making sales. A poor witness becomes what evangelicals call a stumbling block to potential recruits.
Ultimately, then, Bennett’s concern is on evangelicals’ tanking sales metrics, not on doing what’s ethically and morally correct for its own sake. But what else is new?
And the Actual Problem He Has.
(I love the addition of the hashtag to the word, by the way. It adds that necessary and exquisite sarcastic fillip of belligerent-rejection-of-reality that evangelicals embody so perfectly. Ever since Charlie Sheen popularized this variation of the word, I’ve associated it with delusional losers who want to paint themselves as successful. Here’s one attempt I found especially funny.)
I mean yes, sure, this obsession is becoming a big problem, indeed, for new-customer recruitment and retention alike. That’s what Bennett focuses on here. Evangelicals need to learn to lose more gracefully because it will help them recover from their decline. If nothing else, he hopes that their official, stated goal of making sales will goose evangelicals into behaving more ethically.
Unfortunately, those evangelicals already think they’re the ethical ones and that Bennett and his like-minded peers are the ones in the wrong. Neither side has any coin that will work to purchase the agreement of the other side; neither side possesses any arguments that can ever possibly persuade their counterparts. Evangelicals don’t have any beliefs that touch on reality, and so they distrust, hate, and reject any methods of fact-finding that do so.
It’s been a serious problem in Christianity since long before I myself was an evangelical. It’s just come to a head now.
#Winning as a Belief.
For decades now, evangelicals have enjoyed a steady junk-food diet of pandering and #WINNING TEAM rhetoric. They’ve been carefully taught by their leaders that Jesus himself supports their political ambitions — which means they can’t possibly lose any fight they start. They’ve been told Donald Trump is like a reincarnation of King Cyrus from the Bible — a figure who lends his power to Israelites so they can win their own fights. In every single way, evangelicals see America as Israel 2.0, themselves as The Chosen People 2.0, and an American theocracy as their just and righteous due for Jesus-ing exactly correctly.
Donald Trump won evangelicals’ hearts forever by repeatedly and explicitly promising to get them back their dominance. They see his presidency as their ticket to power.
Even more than just their own narcissistic self-image, winning and losing hold special significance in evangelical culture. They perceive someone who wins (at whatever it is — a high school football game or a national election) as reveling in their god’s favor. As you might guess, then, someone who loses is being divinely punished somehow for a shortcoming. Their god grants victory to his favorites and yanks it away from those he wants to punish.
In a lot of ways, evangelicals only know who’s right and who’s wrong in any squabble by who seems to be winning it — and who is losing it. Alas, their god is super-duper-coy that way. He never wants to tell anybody directly what he thinks or wants.
But there’s a much darker side to winning and losing — darker even than that grim vision of divine ineptitude.
#Winning? More Like #Losing.
You know that scene in The Dark Crystal when two Skeksis decide to duel for their newly-deceased Emperor’s title? And they take honkin’ big swords and whackity-whack at a giant rock till someone hacks off a decisive chunk of it? The Skeksis call this ritual duel “Trial by Stone” — and evangelical culture works a lot like that.
“Trial by Stone.”
In the movie scene, right after the duel, the loser’s enemies tear his fine robes off of him, beat him, then throw him out of their castle to starve and die alone. Meanwhile, the winner of the duel just gloats and watches the carnage.
The loser, SkekSil, doesn’t just lose his bid for the crown. He’s revealed his own weakness to his fellow authoritarians. And after losing the duel, he loses everything.
That’s what evangelicals do — metaphorically, ideally, but let’s not make assumptions here — to those who lose fights in their culture. A visible loss, especially a humiliating one, and especially one to a big tribal enemy, is their signal to attack. All they care about is power, and a big huge noisy loss increases the chances of taking power away from the loser.
Evangelical leaders led the flocks directly to this pass. They taught the flocks that victory always belongs to them. So if Daniel Bennett thinks he’s gonna successfully convince his young charges in his classes to accept losing graciously, then oh dear oh my, he really reckons without his hosts on this one.
Also: All My LOL.
At some point reading this essay, I began wondering if there’s some other planet of evangelicals out there somewhere. Nothing Daniel Bennett says about his tribe sounds familiar at all.
Christians [read: evangelicals] should be leading the way in losing well.
After everything I just wrote right in this very post about evangelicals being dominance-chasing, power-coveting, grabby-handed, human-rights-hating authoritarian narcissists, on what planet should evangelicals be “leading the way in losing well?”
In what universe, for that matter, do evangelicals consistently “reject nonsense and embrace truth?” Or have ever done that?
Cuz it sure ain’t this planet and this universe. It may be part of their marketing, sure, but it bears as much resemblance to reality as anything else they believe: zilch.
No, evangelicals have only gotten more and more whackadoodle since I left their company in the 1990s. Back then, evangelicals saw fundamentalists like Cas the Teenage Zealot as fringe weirdo extremists. Now they’ve completely lapped us 1990s-era fundamentalists in fringe weirdo extremism!
No way, no how do evangelicals match that lofty description Bennett wants to give them.
Christians Should Be Different, Yes.
They’re Just Not.
Daniel Bennett ends his essay along similar lines, insisting that according to their own marketing, Christians really should be behaving better than they are nowadays:
The world may constantly jump from truth to truth as the moment demands, but Christians should be different.
That’s a second should. (Incidentally, his post contains ten instances of should.)
Coulda woulda shoulda, but they aren’t and never were. And that assessment applies to literally every bit of their own marketing and sales promises. Yes yes, they should be this and that and t’other. But they aren’t and never were.
What’s hilarious is that the very last bit of the essay circles right back around to evangelicals’ obsession with #WINNING:
While we absolutely should fight for justice and truth in the public square, we should also be prepared to lose from time to time, and do so with confidence that comes from our identity in Christ. After all, we are inheritors of a greater victory than the world could ever provide.
(Another few shoulds!)
It’s like he’s telling the flocks that it’s totes okay if they lose an election here and there, cuz lookie that! They’re totally gonna WIN EVERYTHING FOREVER in the end!
Our dude is fighting the problem of evangelicals’ delusional obsession with #winning… by reminding them that they are, ultimately, totes #winning 5ever. Yep, there’s no way this strategy could ever fail. (/s)
Good Omens Called This Cope Already.
Here’s what Urban Dictionary tells us about copes (non-bracketed links theirs):
A cope or coping mechanism, is a psychological strategy whereby someone rejects a harsh truth, and adopts a less disturbing belief instead. It is a term often used my looksmaxing incels [definition] to indicate that a given strategy is invalid or ineffective.
And yes, that’s what I think of evangelicals’ fixation on winning-everything-forever-in-the-end-so-NEENER-NEENER. It’s a cope — a hard cope at that, one that says some really bad things about them and their entire ideology that they don’t even realize they’re communicating.
Here’s what Good Omens had to say about this cope, in a scene where the angel Aziraphale accidentally pops into the body of a Rapture-preachin’ televangelist in the middle of a big huge sermon about the Endtimes [source]:
“And as for that stuff about Heaven inevitably winning . . . Well, to be honest, if it were that cut and dried, there wouldn’t be a Celestial War in the first place, would there? It’s propaganda. Pure and simple. We’ve got no more than a fifty percent chance of coming out on top. You might just as well send money to a Satanist hotline to cover your bets, although to be frank when the fire falls and the seas of blood rise you lot are all going to be civilian casualties either way. Between our war and your war, they’re going to kill everyone and let God sort it out—right?”
Propaganda. Pure and simple.
If #winning really was totally in the cards for evangelicals, there wouldn’t need to be a fight at all to figure that out. Similarly, evangelicals didn’t get seriously interested in culture wars till they began losing cultural dominance. Until then, there wasn’t really a need to try to strong-arm cultural control over others. They already had it.
Now that they’ve had some of their privilege peeled back, evangelicals are going all-out to regain it and then some. That’s how authoritarians are.
But they’ve been taught for decades now that only losers lose. And they, as TRUE CHRISTIANS™, can’t ever possibly be losers.
Boy, this is gonna be an interesting week. Evangelical leaders have no clue in the world how to rein in their flocks — even if they want to try to do that at all, which many clearly do not.
NEXT UP: Playing it by ear. I’ve learned my lesson and cleared our dance card for the time being. Right now, I’m thinking Franklin Graham and his beyond-ludicrous comparison of Trump dissenters to the people who betrayed his invisible wizard friend Jesus to death in his magical story book, but he might get trumped by something even more outrageous. Who knows? Who can tell? Not I, said the little cat! See you tomorrow <3
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Last Thoughts: “It’s not enough to say it’s not what’s in your heart. You’ve tainted every moment ’till death do we part. I know you didn’t mean it, boy, you meant so well. The pennies are cascading down your wishing well. [. . .] I know you didn’t mean it when you counted to ten. You’ve got your reputation and your good intent… such a good intent.”