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:
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
Civility is a hot topic lately. Based on the smoke from my Twitter feed, here’s where we stand:
- The Left has just abandoned civility because Trump is causing an EXISTENTIAL CRISIS!
- The Right abandoned civility the moment they made Trump their presidential nominee/warlord. Despite this, they are currently complaining about the Left’s lack of civility.
For all the wailing and posturing to the contrary, both sides have the same view of civility: it’s fine under normal circumstances, but dangerous in EMERGENCIES(!).
This thinking is wrong for the same reason that torture is wrong. I should probably explain.
Jordan Peterson is a terrible person. Or maybe he isn’t; I’m not really sure.
To be honest, I barely know anything about Jordan Peterson. And that’s on purpose. Today, I’d like to introduce you to something I call “Strategic Ignorance.”
The concept is simple: going out of your way to avoid learning about a silly hot button topic. That what I’ve been doing with Jordan Peterson. Any time I see an article or tweet about him–pro or con–I ignore it.
As such, my knowledge of Peterson is delightfully slight. He’s a psychiatrist, I think? Or maybe something like evolutionary psychologist. But anyway, he has incendiary opinions on . . . gender? Morality? And his growing influence is either an existential threat to society or its last great hope. I have no idea. For all I know, he could be the lost heir to the throne of Bohemia.
In my last post, I tried using the Trolley Problem to show the moral consequences of evangelicals who support Trump. Today, I want to tease out more ethical consequences with another hypothetical. Because I was pretty rough on Trump-voting evangelicals last time, I thought I’d frame this one in terms more applicable to my brand of evangelical. Here it goes: