Why Couldn’t 90’s Kids Watch Cool TV?

If you were raised evangelical in the 90’s, there were lots of tv shows you weren’t allowed to watch for hilarious reasons.1 If you don’t believe me, watch this John Crist video right now.

While it’s fun to laugh at our parents for what my dad calls “Christian political correctness,” we should sympathize with them. They were trying to protect their kids from a multi-headed hydra of influences they knew almost nothing about. Also, there’s a distinct possibility that we’ll do the same thing with our kids.

Maybe.

This may be wishful thinking, but I’m about to argue that my generation won’t do the same thing with our kids. And yes, I do have reasons why parenting in the 90’s was particularly tough:

  • Culture had just shifted. Have you noticed that prior generations don’t have stories about all the 60’s and 70’s shows they weren’t allowed to watch? Back in the day, the entertainment industry still held enough civil Christianity (or at least a venir of it) to not raise any flags.  But by the 90’s the illusion was shattered, and entertainment stopped nodding to “traditional values.” After their heads stopped spinning, evangelicals closed ranks against this new threat: Christianity is under attack! The enemy has breached the gate! All of a sudden, evangelicals were primed to find danger everywhere.
  • Information was limited. Today, I’m a google search away from all the information I need to determine if a show is appropriate. But back in olden times (the 90’s), this was much harder to come by. Other than watching every show yourself, the only information source was rumors from church ladies and grumpy deacons. And they have a tendency to . . . exaggerate.
  • The pendulum hadn’t swung. In the 90’s, the general evangelical opinion was that we had fallen asleep at the wheel, and let the secularists swoop in and steal the culture. They responded by charging into the culture war on all fronts—even the Saturday morning cartoon front.  Twenty years later, the pendulum has swung the other way. Today’s parents are the ones raised on that overreaction. That means they’re primed to react in the opposite direction.

Of course, I could be wrong about everything. Twenty years from now, my kids could be laughing about all my crazy rationales for banning shows. And they’ll rub this post in my face.

*Stares toward the horizon*

Blogs are dangerous things . . .

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1  For the record, the shows I wasn’t allowed to watch were Captain Planet (environmentalism), and Pokémon (psychic). I also wasn’t allowed to read Harry Potter (witchcraft).

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Photo by Gustavo Devito

 

Evangelicals Have a Trolley Problem

Evangelical support for Donald Trump has made me think about the Trolley Problem. You haven’t heard of the trolley problem? No worries–you were just too busy with your social life to pay attention to your Philosophy 101 course in college. The Trolley Problem is a popular ethics hypothetical. It’s ridiculously easy to find background info about it. Here it is in brief:

A runaway trolley is careening down a track toward five innocent workers. You’re standing to the side and unable to warn the workers. But you’re next to a switch that will divert the trolley onto another track. But this track has one innocent worker on it. Is it more ethical to (1) pull the switch and divert the trolley, thereby killing the one worker, or (2) do nothing, and allow the trolley to kill the five workers?

The Trolley Problem is interesting because your answer reveals your deeper assumptions. Is your driving consideration the consequence of your choice? Then you likely said you’d kill the one person to save the five. But if your driving consideration is the process of your choice, you’d likely refuse to kill a person by pulling the switch.

Things get even more interesting when we tinker with the factors.1 Let’s say you said you would pull the switch to divert the trolley:

What if the one person on the other track was a close family member? Would you change your answer? Why?

Continue reading “Evangelicals Have a Trolley Problem”

“Evangelical Apocalypse:” Rejecting Both Naivete and Cynicism

This week, Ross Douthat had an article that hit close to home. In fact, he pretty much summed the purpose of this blog. You should read the whole thing: here it is.

For those of you who didn’t follow the link (for shame!) the article is about how Trump’s presidency has been an apocalypse for American evangelicalism. An “apocalypse” in the original Greek meaning is “an unveiling, an uncovering, an exposure of truths that had heretofore been hidden.”

Unless you’ve spent the past three years dwelling in the wilderness and surviving off honey and locusts, you know it’s been a particular apocalypse for evangelicals. It’s easy to assume that this apocalypse will reveal two sides–the good side and the bad side–and that the good side will win. As Douthat explains:

I’d like to tell a simple story that describes the Patterson scandal [link added by me] as an inflection point — after which Moore’s kind of Baptist will inevitably increase while Jeffress’s kind diminishes, as the “judgment” that Mohler describes leads to a general reckoning with the pull of sexism and racism within conservative-leaning churches.

But to assume that’s necessarily going to happen is to fall into the same inevitablist trap that ensnares both arc-of-history progressives and providentialist Trump supporters. Instead it’s wiser to regard an era of exposure like this one as a test, which can be passed but also failed.

I agree. We shouldn’t sit back in a triumphalist assumption that “those evangelicals” will inevitably lose and history will vindicate us.

But the opposite is also true. It’s easy to look at the struggles in the current apocalypse and get discouraged. It can even lead us to apathy and (wait for it) cynicism. But that shouldn’t be our response. As Douthat explained when he accidentally wrote the tagline for this blog:

So the question posed by this age of revelation is simple: Now that you know something new and troubling and even terrible about your leaders or your institutions, what will you do with this knowledge?

That’s what this blog is (hopefully) about. Finding a way to move forward from the disappointment and frustration. But doing so in a way that isn’t naive or cynical. Instead, it’s a way that is clear-eyed and gospel-centered.

The apocalypse should be a call to self-reflection and to prayer. And hopefully, it can lead to renewal.

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Photo by Formula None

Shea Serrano, Trump Supporters, and Double Fundamentalism

We evangelicals like to draw a distinction between ourselves (the normal people) and the fundamentalists (the crazy khaki pants people). Obviously, definitions are complicated, and often sloppy, but a key aspect of fundamentalists is their tendency to isolate themselves from non-fundamentalists. A good summary comes from a slogan that my grandparents heard back when they were young:

Don’t smoke, don’t chew, don’t go with those who do.

To paraphrase slightly, fundamentalists: (1) don’t smoke or drink, and (2) don’t socialize with people who smoke or drink.

Double fundamentalists take it a step further. Their rules are: (1) don’t smoke or drink, (2) don’t socialize with people who smoke or drink, AND (3) don’t socialize with people who socialize with people who smoke or drink.

To make things more concrete, say we have three people: Anne, Bob, and Carol. None of them smoke or drink, but Anne socializes with people who do. Bob, a fundamentalist, could still socialize with Anne. Carol, a double fundamentalist, could not.

Based on my (too) extensive use of Twitter, I’ve noticed a troubling pattern emerging. I’m thinking of one writer in particular: Shea Serrano from the Ringer. For reasons that will soon become clear, I want to emphasize that I like most of his writing a lot.

Continue reading “Shea Serrano, Trump Supporters, and Double Fundamentalism”

A Few More Imagination Redeemed Reflections

In my last post, I shared some initial takeaways on this year’s Your Imagination Redeemed conference. For this post, I’ll share . . . MORE takeaways from the conference! Here they are:

4. Know Your Goal as an Artist

I was the moderator for a panel on the Christian music and the Christian radio industry. The panelists were musicians whose work doesn’t fit the Christian radio formula. But none of them seemed frustrated by that for one simple reason: their goals weren’t to be on Christian radio.

Instead, they focused on creating music that would actually have an effect on people. As one of the panelists (Hi, Teressa!) explained, she realized her goal at an Andrew Peterson concert. She realized how many of the folks in the audience were welling up at his songs. Her goal was to have a career like that–create music that connected to people on that deep level. Getting on the big radio stations was an afterthought.

Continue reading “A Few More Imagination Redeemed Reflections”

The Opposite of a Cultural Evangelical. Sort Of.

In my last post, I questioned poll results based on (some) evidence. Now, I’m going to question those same results without any evidence.

But don’t worry, I have something way better than evidence–a hunch. Here it is:

Picture a spectrum of people. All of these people affirm the same basic “evangelical” beliefs about Christianity, Scripture, and everything else. Now let’s say we line up all those people according to how enthusiastically they embrace the term “evangelical.”

Continue reading “The Opposite of a Cultural Evangelical. Sort Of.”

Not the Enemy

I meant to post this a couple days after the election, but a combination of work trips and Thanksgiving held me back. That’s probably a good thing. When your country just elected a reality star as president and you spend the next day staring out the window wondering if the whole world has gone insane, hot takes aren’t healthy. So instead, here’s my cold take…

Continue reading “Not the Enemy”

“Those Evangelicals” Are Ruining Everything

My last post was on assuming the worst about “Those Evangelicals” and the liturgy. This week, I thought Those Evangelicals deserved their own post. But first, I should explain what I mean by Those Evangelicals.

Who are Those Evangelicals?

No matter your theology or politics, everybody can have Those Evangelicals.

If you’re a conservative, Those Evangelicals are the people who read Rachel Held Evans and vote Bernie Sanders and use words like “social justice” and “fair trade coffee.”

If you’re a liberal, Those Evangelicals listen to James Dobson and vote Ted Cruz and use words like “sanctity of marriage” and “American exceptionalism.”

And if you’re like me and like pretending you’re a moderate, you could have Those Evangelicals on both sides of you.

There are characteristics that apply to Those Evangelicals. All of them: Continue reading ““Those Evangelicals” Are Ruining Everything”