Do Evangelical Celebrities Really Have Worse Kids?

You may have noticed this post is a couple days late. That’s because my original post was *gasp* shrouded in CONTROVERSY.

Sort of.

My original post’s argument went like this: (1) a declaration that the children of evangelical celebrities are, on average, worse people than children of normal evangelicals; (2) a personal anecdote about a jerk evangelical celebrity kid who I went to high school with; and (3) speculation on why evangelical celebrity kids are worse people.

Before I post anything, though, I ask my wife to review it to make edits and stop me from saying anything stupid. And this time, Danielle’s “anything stupid” detector was blaring.

First, she thought I was stereotyping, and painting evangelical celebrity kids with way too broad a brush (and very little grace). Second, she thought I was simply wrong. She knows lots of people with “normal” evangelical parents who are just as much of a jerk as the celebrity kid I described. Why was I just harping on the celebrity kids?

After my requisite self-righteous defense of my work, I realized she had a point. She may even be *looks over both shoulders* …right.

And that led me to staring wistfully out my bedroom window as I turned the issue around in my head and wished I knew how to whittle.

But then I thought I should throw it out to you all. Here are the questions I’ve been mulling:

—Have you ever met the kids of an evangelical celebrity? I may have a weird background, because I went to a Christian school in Colorado Springs—the place where evangelical celebrities all sent their kids. So I’ve met way more than my fair share….

—Is it fair of me to make declarations on the “average” evangelical celebrity kid, or is that inherently unfair to the many evangelical celebrity kids who are legitimately good people?

—Let’s assume I’m right about the “average” evangelical celebrity kid. What explanations are there for kids with famously righteous parents going off the rails?

—Now let’s assume I’m wrong about them. Is there a reason why people like me would assume evangelical celebrity kids are jerks, even if it’s not true?

There you have it. Now please mull with me…
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Photo by Dean Terry

I’ll Say It: Summer Is Better Than Fall

We are now in the final days of Summer, and the opening days of Fall. That means it’s time to re-ignite a debate as old as human civilization in temperate climates: whether Summer or Fall is better.

What started as fights between serfs and minstrels has now migrated to Facebook and Starbucks. It divides nations, communities, and even homes. Yes, it pains me to say my own wife is an avid Fall-ist.

I’m a Summer man. My reasons are so basic that they barely need explaining. Explaining why Summer is better than Fall is like explaining why civilization is better than savagery–it’s so obvious that it almost defies easy explanation.

But I’ll do my best to put the primal into words. Next time you see someone giggling about their sweaters and their pile of leaf corpses, please respond with the following:

  1. Warmth is better than cold. I can’t believe I even have to say this. But Fall-ists would have you believe that wrapping yourself in layer after layer of itchy wool to stave off the cold is a positive. They crow about there being “a nip in the air!” As if the air biting you is a good thing.

Here’s what I like: stepping outside in the morning and realizing . . . it’s already warm! Realizing that you’ll be comfortable in a t-shirt and shorts. And—again, I can’t believe I have to say this—being warm all day instead of cold.

  1. Sunlight is better than darkness. Like many responsible adults, my goal is to wake up each morning at six. And like many less responsible adults, I struggle with this every morning. But in the summer, it’s easier. The morning sun is kissing my forehead, and when I throw off the covers the air is gentle and perfumed with summer bloom.

In fall, that slowly crumbles. Each morning is darker than the one before, and edged with a greater chill so that by the time November comes, the world outside my bed is a frozen wasteland.

And let’s not forget about evenings. Call me crazy, but I like it when I get back from work and there is still sun out. Unless you’re a vampire, leaving for work before sunrise and returning home after sunset–an increasingly common thing as Fall slinks along–is an existential kidney shot.

  1. Health is better than laziness. Partly because I wake up earlier in summer, and party because–again, I CAN’T BELIEVE I HAVE TO SAY THIS–warmth is better than cold, I exercise more in the summer. A morning jog in 80 degree sunshine along tree-dappled paths is a beautiful welcome to the day. Trudging along frosty sidewalks beneath bare trees in the near-dark is a beautiful excuse to stay in bed.
  2. Leaves are better than bare branches. While we’re on this subject, I’d like to say more about leaves. I like them. Especially when they’re on trees. I submit that twilight behind green is among the greatest sights in all of nature.

Yes, Fall-ists rave about leaves turning color. And that is indeed beautiful–for the day and a half before the leaves fall to their deaths. And after we’ve gathered the carcasses and thrown them away, what’s left? Branches. Brown, bare branches. A constant reminder of absence, of isolation. The tree-lined path, once bursting with green and life, is now a graveyard of skeletal bark fingers.

  1. Pumpkin spice is gross. Before the Pinterest mafia comes for me, let me make one thing clear: pumpkin spice can be good. Like in the pumpkin bread my wife makes each September. Or in that Starbucks latte (I guess). But here’s the thing–it’s only good in those narrow contexts. It’s how nature intended it.

So the grocery store’s annual pumpkin bonanza, with the pumpkin spice cereal and candy bars and oatmeal and dog food and probably salmon, isn’t just stomach-turning. It’s a crime against nature.

  1. Remember your childhood. I want you to do something for me. Close your eyes, take a deep breath, and remember your childhood summers.

Remember waking up with a contented sigh as golden light streamed through your window and a sky full of possibilities beckoned. Eating lunch in the grass with a favorite toy and, later, favorite book on your lap. Jumping in sprinklers in the afternoon and watching movies on your patio at twilight. Riding bikes and playing with your dog and cannonballing into your grandma’s swimming pool. Finally getting your driver’s license and cruising along a mountain road, window rolled down and hand drumming to your summer song.

And what was Fall? It was summer ending, school looming, and darkening days trapped at a desk doing long division.

And yes, I know that any adult with a full-time job works just as hard in Summer as any other season. But to you somber adults scowling over email in your halogen office, I respond with this quotation from Albus Dumbledore:

“Youth cannot know how age thinks and feels. But old men are guilty if they forget what it was to be young.”

That’s right, Dumbledore agrees with me.

  1. Life is better than death. Once again, this point is so obvious that Fall-ists should be ashamed I even have to make it. Summer is a time of life–leaves on trees, flowers in gardens, birds on branches, squirrels on fences, fish in streams, dogs and children skipping through parks.

Fall is when all of that life shrivels away–either by preparing to hibernate through cold and darkness, or by literally freezing to death.

But sure, go ahead and drink your pumpkin lattes…

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Photo by Samuel S.

Twitter Cranks and Evangelical Identity

So I’ve been doing something new and exciting—for me anyway. I’ve started buying some Twitter ads for this blog (it’s going well, thanks for asking). As you can imagine, exposing my tweets to a large number of strangers has done some . . . interesting things to my mentions. Random rude people just come with the territory, but there’s one particular type of comment that I’ve been getting that has gotten my attention:

Lots of people think I’m a Trump supporter.

Obviously, the people making these comments have spent no time on my site. Even a quick glance will show a half dozen posts criticizing Trump.

Which means the comments were prompted solely by the tweet. And what does the tweet say? Absolutely nothing about Trump, or even politics. After thinking about it, I’ve concluded that people assume I’m a Trump supporter because my tweet was not explicitly anti-evangelical.

And that’s got me worried.

I know. It’s a few angry cranks on Twitter. Twitter cranks get angry about literally everything for literally no reason. But I think it might be a harbinger of things to come.

The terms “evangelical” and “Trump supporter” seem to be becoming increasingly synonymous. Considering the spectacle some evangelicals have made, it’s easy to see why. Rumor has it that 81% of evangelicals voted for Trump (though I wrote a blog post about why that number may be misleading). Evangelicals just went to a political rally where Trump told them they may lose everything if they don’t help him. Heck, Eric Metaxas is writing a series of Trump books for kids called “Donald the Caveman.”

With all that, it’s easy to see why casual observers would make a connection.

What does this mean going forward? I . . . don’t know. (Sorry if that breaks some kind of blog rule). But for those of us who already struggle with their evangelical identity, it’s yet another wrinkle to consider.

On the bright side, I’ll have plenty to blog on for a long time.

*Laughs nervously*

*Looks wistfully out at the stars*

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Photo by Found in an Attic

Good News: Our Great-Grandchildren Won’t Care About Trump

I want to share a comforting thought. For this thought, I want to take you to to the year 2068.

I’m sitting on my front porch, scratching my wrinkled head with a finger from my robot body.1 Two of my grandchildren, Xenon and Zorpo, play in the surf2 with my new thylacine3 puppy.

I’m reading my antique iPhone 20 while another grandson, Nikolajokic,4 reads his high school textbook on his iLens.5

“This new dinosaur theme park is a bad idea–mark my words.” I mutter. “Life finds a way–not that young people today know anything about that.”

“Hey grandpa.” Nikolajokic cuts in. “We’re studying the early 21st century in my history class. Is that Don Trump guy for real?”

I get a far away look as a shudder surges through my circuits. “Donald Trump. Now that’s a name I haven’t heard in a long, long time.”

“How did a guy like him become president?” When Nikolajokic sees the gleam in my eye, he instantly regrets the question.

Over the next fifteen minutes, I tell him the whole story–how we all thought it was a joke at first, how he kept winning no matter what we did, and how most evangelicals eventually followed him. I then made some thoughtful remarks about how evangelicals learned from their mistake and tried to make amends to later generations, but Nikolajokic has stopped listening. As soon as I started talking about some ancient technology called “Twitter,” he secretly played a Seinfeld6 episode on his iLens.

***

Yes, that’s my hope: that fifty years from now, Trump will no longer be an epochal disaster. Instead, he’ll be an embarrassing anecdote for our grandkids–hopefully with a hard-won lesson.

Hopefully it’ll keep getting better. In two hundred years, when America has been taken over by Amazon’s droid armada and Rwanda has become the epicenter of world Christianity, Trump may just be a footnote in a treatise about the moral collapse of the Christian West.

One thousand years from now, when we finally defeat the Plutonians7 and the Church consecrates its first Bishop of Mars, maybe Trump won’t be remembered at all.

Don’t get me wrong. Trump’s pollution of American Christianity is serious, and will likely have long-term repercussions.

But Trump isn’t the final world on Christianity. When it’s all said and done, our particular time in this particular country is a tiny sliver in the grand story of the Church. It may be a shameful sliver, and we should do everything we can to fix it. But it’s still a sliver.

So rather than despair over the 81%, let’s take a deep breath and rest in the grander story of the universe. A story whose ending has already been written.

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1  I got my head and vital organs attached to a full-body robot exoskeleton in 2059. Even though nobody gets the reference, I still like to joke that I look like Krang.

2  The rising sea levels submerged so much of the United States that Colorado Springs became beachfront property in 2072. A catastrophe for the planet, but an economic windfall for me. Stop climate change, kids.

3  Scientists finally cloned the first thylacine (or tasmanian tiger) out of extinction in 2065. Because they were so expensive, it took me years to convince Danielle to get a puppy–and even then, it was our grandchildren who won her over. Thanks for your help, Zorpo.

4  After winning his seventh consecutive NBA Finals MVP in 2028, Nuggets center Nikola Jokic was universally recognized as the greatest basketball player of all time. “Nikolajokic” quickly became a popular name in Colorado.

5  In 2055 Apple launched the iLens, which transmits images and audio directly into your retinas and inner ear. I refused to get one for vague “political reasons” which I never articulated.

6  Yes, Seinfeld is still popular in 2068.

7  Ironically, the thing that sent the usually-peaceful Plutonians into an atomic rage was their discovery that Earth no longer considered its homeworld a planet.

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Photo by Neuroventilator

Conservatives Have Weasel Words, Too

A couple weeks ago, I argued that “toxic” was a weasel word that progressive Christians use too much. On my Facebook page,1 a reader2 pointed out that conservative Christians have their own weasel words. One in particular caught my attention: liberal. I think that’s spot-on. And yes, I have several specific points about why conservative Christians shouldn’t use it so much:

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Of Trojans and Turtles

I noticed something strange when I walked past Target’s toy aisle. It was dominated by the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. This is not a criticism. As someone whose boyhood was in the 80’s and 90’s, I loved the Turtles. I watched every show, practiced every ninja move, and collected every action figure. A giant bin of them is still in a corner of my parents’ basement.

But that was nearly thirty years ago, and the Turtles are still popular. I would never have picked the Turtles as something that could endure to new generations. After all, they are a group of humanoid turtles who use karate to fight an army of robots in the sewers of Manhattan. They love pizza and skateboards and shell-based puns. How is this so lasting?

One possible reason for their staying power is their use of classical themes. Beneath the cartoon silliness is a story that has been repeated since Ancient Greece. This is especially evident in the most important relationship in the series: Leonardo and Raphael.

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Let’s Quit with the “Toxic” Talk

There’s a term that gets thrown around a lot that drives me crazy, both for rational and irrational reasons. That term is “toxic.”

It seems especially popular with Christians on the Left1 for describing things they dislike on the Right. Traditional sexuality is toxic. The concept of hell is toxic. Complementarianism is toxic. Missions culture is toxic. Etc., etc., etc.

I don’t want to get into the substance of those controversies. In fact, I agree with some of those critiques. Instead, I’m just giving reasons why we should stop labelling any beliefs we don’t like as toxic.

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Why I Don’t Think Much About Atheism Anymore

So I’ve been on this YA kick because I’m researching a writing project.1 As such, I started on Ready Player One by Ernest Cline.2 The prologue did a great job of setting up an enticing premise. Then in the first chapter, the protagonist–a teenager from a dystopian future trailer park–gives his personal philosophical manifesto. For some reason.3

The speil was predictable new atheist talking points: how evolution is true, and how that somehow disproves the supernatural. How humanity is on its own and we should just deal with it. How all religion is just fairytales used to manipulate the non-enlightened.

At age twenty, this sort of thing would have sent me into a cocoon. I would have journaled my inner thoughts and doubts, constructed arguments and counter-arguments examining the issue from all sides, and stared in horror at the unblinking stars as I contemplated being alone in the universe.

But that didn’t happen this time. I shrugged it off and continued on. My main emotion was irritation that such a silly argument could have such widespread acceptance.4

Is it bad that Matt of 305 doesn’t spend as much time with this stuff as Matt of 20? Have I become intellectually lazy or stubborn? At the risk of being self-serving, I don’t think so. Here’s why:

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5 Christian TV Characters Who Are Actually Likeable

Like any Christian who enjoys complaining, I often criticize Christian characters on tv. It seems like they’re all judgmental, narrow-minded hypocrites whose faith is an easy punchline. Watching those characters makes me wonder if the script writers have ever even met a Christian.

But happily, not every show is like this. In fact, several do a great job portraying Christian characters. I thought I’d list my five favorites.

These characters are either currently on air, or have been in the recent(ish) past. While far from perfect, these are fully-fleshed characters who are openly Christian, and who are portrayed sympathetically.

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Stop Calling Yourself an “Exvangelical”

So the term “exvangelical” is a thing now. It’s an earnest hashtag on Twitter. It’s also the name of a podcast1 with over seventy episodes. The Guardian even used the term for evangelicals who dropped the label after the 2016 election.

You can guess who exvangelicals are: folks who were raised in conservative evangelical homes, have now become progressives, and who keep enumerating the ways their childhood injured them. You can also guess that I reeeeaaaaaally don’t like the term. And yes, I have bullet-pointed reasons for it.

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