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:
“Yeah, if I was in Germany during World War II, I probably would have been a Nazi.”
And with that, Eric ruined our meal at Chick-Fil-A. Trying to lighten the mood, I asked if he needed to talk with our Bible professors about in my best deadpan.
He laughed. “No. But pretty much everybody in Germany thought Hitler was great. And the ones who didn’t gave in anyway. Only a few people really stood up to him.” He dipped his waffle fry and took a bite. “And since I’m not the ‘stand up to authority’ type, that wouldn’t have been me. I would have followed the crowd.”
Anyone who’s ever been to college will recognize this conversation. I’d been doing lots of pseudo-philosophizing lately–usually in my dorm over video games after a late-night Taco Bell run. But considering where we’d just come from, the timing for this conversation was . . . awkward.
Let me begin with a half-baked sweeping observation: there are two groups of people in the world. The first are those who want to belong to the crowd. The second are those who want to feel special.
These desires aren’t mutually exclusive. In fact, most of us have both simultaneously, all the time. And it’s possible to fulfill both at once. Everything from comic-cons to rugby clubs to the cool kids’ table are built on the concept of being special, with others.
Last week(ish), I gave the first reason I loved being a firebrand conservative in college. This week, it’s on to reason number two: being hardcore conservative made me feel manly.
To summarize: growing up, there seemed to be some evangelical manliness test. It was written on elephant hide, in blood, by John Eldridge and Mark Driscoll. It involved something about rescuing a beauty, jumping off waterfalls, and being a Leader of this Generation. I think bear-hunting was involved, too.
But whatever the test was, I failed. I wasn’t one of those outdoor-ministry wood-chopping beard-growing types; I was a skinny nerd with peach fuzz and a nervous smile. I had no ability to fix a car, survive in the wilderness, or ask a girl out. And forget being a Leader of this Generation–I couldn’t even lead prayer at a Bible study. If there was a skill you’d think a manly man should have, I did not have it….unless you think a manly man should be good at Nintendo.
But then I found politics.
In my last post, I shared three reasons I liked being a firebrand conservative in college:
- It gave a narrative to the world and my place in it.
- It made me feel manly.
- It let me feel different in a good way.
I also said I’d discuss each reason over the next several weeks. Then I didn’t update my blog for a month. I’ll admit my excuse–the birth of my second child–will seem flimsy to many of you. But now that the baby is settled and I’m getting almost enough sleep to function, I’m back to explain the first reason I loved being a college conservative.
This reason also happens to be one of my favorite words: narrative.
“So in conclusion, I’d still rather go duck hunting with Dick Cheney than driving with Ted Kennedy. Or be anywhere alone with Bill Clinton. Or anywhere at all with Hillary.” I smirked into my microphone as my co-hosts laughed their approval.
Me and my friends Brock, Jim, and Adam1 were recording The Right of Way Show, a podcast for our fellow college students who weren’t afraid to let their conservative flags fly. Although we talked everything from news to sports to celebrities, the heart of the show was winning debates on hot-button political issues.
But this caused problems. Because we were all conservative, we basically agreed with each other on everything. So the only way to “win” was to be the person willing to say the most conservative thing.
I don’t mean to brag, but that was usually me.
Last week was about all the ways politics terrified me as a boy. This week is about the moment it all changed.
My family was caravanning to Michigan for a reunion. At a gas station outside Wichita, I hopped out to stretch my legs in the dense July air. My grandparents offered to let me ride in their mini van, and I jumped on the chance to escape my brothers. Ten minutes later, I had the entire back seat to myself, chugging a soda with legs extended.
I was admiring a hawk circling the dusty fields when my grandpa switched on the radio. A shudder passed through my neck–Rush.
Last week, I opened my series on evangelicals and politics with my vague boyhood idea that Republicans were good, and Democrats were bad. But that wasn’t my only vague idea.
When I was a kid, politics terrified me.
“You know what the real problem is–relying on government for everything.” Mr. Anderson’s voice reverberated across the ball pit. It was a tradition: every week after Sunday evening service, a group of families went to the McDonalds Play Place. All us kids scampered through giant hamster tubes and dove out sticky slides. This was great. The grown ups talked politics.
This was less great.
“That’s why taxes have gotten so high–people need government programs to run their lives.” A mom chimed in.
“Taking all our money for no reason.” Mr. Anderson agreed.
Clinton was going to take all my parents’ money? Then how were they going to buy me food and clothes? I scooted to the far side of the ball pit to escape the talking.
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”