When Jesus Abandoned His Slightly Hippie-ish Ways, Part IV – the Finale

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The final chapter in a series in which I explore the spiritual, social, and political ramifications of the evangelical movement of the ’70’s and ’80’s through the lens of my own experiences growing up in a white Protestant church in the rural midwest.

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Most ideological wars have asked young people to do the heavy lifting. There are reasons we send teenagers off to fight our wars, after all, and it isn’t merely that they are the most physically able. It is that they are the most psychologically willing — willing to risk their lives, to conform to a strict ideology, to take risks in order to prove their mettle, make their marks and earn praise for their bravery and sacrifice. In some ways, they are our strongest; in others, our most vulnerable, and easiest to mold into a particular shape. Not to mention, if you really want your ideology to endure through generations, there’s little point in trying to recruit an army of 85-year olds to lead your charge. Pastor X recognized the importance of a strong youth movement, and was particularly engaged with the church’s youth group. It was there, more so than during Sunday morning sermons, that the real evangelical message was being driven home.  Continue reading When Jesus Abandoned His Slightly Hippie-ish Ways, Part IV – the Finale

When Jesus Abandoned His Slightly Hippie-ish Ways and Became and Full-Fledged Young White Republican, Part III

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Part III of a series in which I explore the spiritual, social, and political ramifications of the evangelical movement of the ’70’s and ’80’s through the lens of my own experiences growing up in a white Protestant church in the rural midwest.

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1980 was a particularly shitty year for me. For starters, my family was going through some tough times. It was around then that my father got laid off from his job, as the factory he worked at in Toledo began its rust-belt slide toward extinction. Money was tight. Stuff happened. There was a tremendous amount of tension. I became so tense, in fact, that I began unknowingly walking through life with my shoulders scrunched up, like something was physically wrong with me. It took a moment of brutal honesty from my younger sister to even make me aware of it, and months of deliberate practice to begin to learn to undo it.  Continue reading When Jesus Abandoned His Slightly Hippie-ish Ways and Became and Full-Fledged Young White Republican, Part III

When Jesus Abandoned His Slightly Hippie-ish Ways and Became a Full-Fledged Young White Republican, Part II

Part II of a series in which I explore the spiritual, social, and political ramifications of the evangelical movement of the ’70’s and ’80’s through the lens of my own experiences growing up in a white Protestant church in the rural midwest.

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I didn’t start to really become interested in the church until around 1979 or ‘80, shortly before it changed pastors for the second time in just a few years. I was too young to know the full story behind the latest change, but it wasn’t hard to imagine that things with the pastor at-the-time may not have been going so swift. Something about him didn’t seem to quite fit. He was a large, disheveled man who sweated profusely and lived in one of the filthiest houses I had ever seen. I knew this because he and his wife had three sons close in age to my siblings and me, and I spent a little time at the parsonage, albeit not much. I think their middle son, who was my age, may have been embarrassed by the home’s condition, so we didn’t go in very often. But when we did, the place was almost indescribably messy, so heaped with clutter it was difficult to even navigate through. There were towers of dirty pots, pans, and dishes stacked on every available surface, with cats teetering atop, licking whatever they could find, which was ample. The house smelled like . . . well, what you might expect under such conditions.  Continue reading When Jesus Abandoned His Slightly Hippie-ish Ways and Became a Full-Fledged Young White Republican, Part II

When Jesus Abandoned His Slightly Hippie-ish Ways and Became a Full-Fledged Young White Republican: Part I

Something was stirring in America’s white, Protestant churches back in the 1970’s. A movement was afoot — one that would eventually influence, directly or indirectly, nearly everything that’s happened in this country since. It would eventually result in a near-perfect marriage of religion and conservative politics, and would touch nearly every corner of domestic and foreign policy, from labor unions to reproductive rights to marriage equality, gun control, energy policy — even foreign policy and war. It would also shape and refine a particular image of God, one that is angrier, less tolerant, and more totalitarian than other conceptions. As a kid at the time, I had no idea any of this was occurring, or that I would come to experience a part of this movement directly.  Continue reading When Jesus Abandoned His Slightly Hippie-ish Ways and Became a Full-Fledged Young White Republican: Part I

Trump v. Pope and the Dawn of Post-Papal Evangelicalism

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Something significant happened last week, which was largely lost in the reporting of Donald Trump’s much-ballyhooed tussle with Pope Francis— something that has little to do with Trump, and everything to do with modern American conservative Christianity, and the waning influence of papal authority over it.  Continue reading Trump v. Pope and the Dawn of Post-Papal Evangelicalism

On Choosing the Face of God

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Last week, I blogged about the interplay between authoritarianism and evangelicalism and how it might help explain the sometimes confounding support by evangelicals for candidates like Donald Trump. Today, I’m poking that bear a bit further, abandoning the sideshow that is Trump, and probing instead the notion that how we as a society choose to conceive of God might be the most important issue of our time. I’ll then offer a few suggestions of my own regarding how we might consider approaching such a choice, and why I think it matters so much.  Continue reading On Choosing the Face of God

On Trump, Authoritarianism, and Evangelicals

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So, a vulgar, twice divorced bigot walks into a private Christian school, brags that he is so popular he could shoot someone, and receives nothing but laughter, applause, and a “we love you!” from the crowd.

It might be a sad bit of satire — the kind that pokes fun at people of faith and isn’t particularly funny — if only it didn’t happen just like that, a few days ago at a Donald Trump rally at Dordt College in Iowa.  Continue reading On Trump, Authoritarianism, and Evangelicals

Starbucked: Lessons From the Imaginary War on the Imaginary War on Christmas

It was a strange week in social media land. If you somehow missed it, here’s the twenty second version: a controversy erupted after the coffee chain “Starbucks” unveiled its 2015 “holiday” cup. Unlike past years, when the cup was adorned with snowflakes or reindeer, etc., this year’s cup is simply solid red, and devoid of graphics other than Starbucks’ normal logo. A self-professed “social media evangelist” publicly criticized Starbucks in a video, asserting, among other things, that Starbucks changed its cups because it “hates Jesus.” The video went viral, sparking countless others to react to the backlash by mocking those purportedly “outraged” by the cups. So it has gone all week.  Continue reading Starbucked: Lessons From the Imaginary War on the Imaginary War on Christmas

On Religious Freedom

Well, I swore I wasn’t going to do this. After taking on marriage equality in my first-ever blog post, and somehow coming out with most of my skin intact, I told myself the safest thing to do next would be to write a nice feel-good piece—something everybody could relate to and agree on, that wouldn’t offend anyone. Something involving a golden retriever puppy, perhaps, who teaches a crotchety but decent-hearted old widower how to live and love again—something that could be easily adapted into a one-hour Hallmark Channel special.  Continue reading On Religious Freedom