Alan grumbles over his newspaper from time to time, but seldom says, “This is really good,” so when he does, I pay attention.
He said this is really good. I agree. It’s about how evangelicals have sold their souls, ha ha, to a new kind of religion, which the author, Amy Sullivan, calls Fox Evangelicalism:
But if the conservative media has created a category of Fox evangelical converts, it has also influenced the way a whole generation of churchgoing evangelicals thinks about God and faith. On no issue is this clearer than guns.
In fall 2015, I visited Trinity Bible College, an Assemblies of God-affiliated school in North Dakota, to join the conservative evangelical students there for a screening of “The Armor of Light,” a documentary by the filmmaker Abigail Disney. The film followed the pastor and abortion opponent Rob Schenck on his quest to convince fellow evangelicals — the religious demographic most opposed to gun restrictions — that pro-life values are incompatible with an embrace of unrestricted gun access. I found Mr. Schenck compelling, and my editor had sent me to see if his target audience bought the arguments.
It did not.
As two dozen of us gathered for a post-screening discussion, I was both astonished and troubled, as a fellow evangelical, by the visceral sense of fear that gripped these young adults. As a child in the Baptist church, I had been taught to be vigilant about existential threats to my faith. But these students in a town with a population of some 1,200 saw the idea of a home invasion or an Islamic State attack that would require them to take a human life in order to save others as a certainty they would face, not a hypothetical.
These fears are far removed from the reality of life in North Dakota, a state that saw a total of 21 homicides in 2015. Of those deaths, seven were caused by firearms, and only three were committed by someone unknown to the victim. Yet the students around me agreed unreservedly with Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association, who was seen in the film asserting that “in the world around us, there are terrorists, home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers, rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers.”
Imagine living in a state – not a city, a state – with 21 homicides in a year, only three of which were by an unknown assailant. I’m subscribed to a number of Facebook groups about various communities in the Grosse Pointes, and I’m amazed at how many people talk wildly about using guns to remedy petty-crime issues like theft from unlocked cars or package thefts from front porches, a common crime at this time of year. Imagine somehow catching a person trying to abscond with an Amazon box containing a Bluetooth speaker or pair of pants or whatever, and putting a bullet into their body.
Also imagine being the person who fans that fear, and uses it to gather power, or make money. I shudder to think.
But as the recent election in Alabama indicated, this particular segment of the electorate is willing to go very very far afield of their stated principles. From Politico, another rather alarming dispatch, about Jen Hatmaker (great name), an evangelical leader who went on the record as a never-Trumper and a supporter of same-sex marriage:
That’s when the full weight of conservative Christian outrage crashed down on Hatmaker. There were soon angry commenters and finger-wagging bloggers. She says people in her little town of Buda, Texas, just south of Austin, pulled her children aside and said terrible things about her and her husband. She was afraid to be in public, and she wasn’t sleeping or eating well. “The way people spoke about us, it was as if I had never loved Jesus a day in my life,” Hatmaker recently told an audience in Dallas. The gilded auditorium was quiet, its 2,300 seats filled to capacity with nearly all women. “And I was just an ally,” she said. “Think about how our gay brothers and sisters feel.”
Such a strange time to be alive.
It was a strange weekend, too, here in Detroit. A prominent journalist, Stephen Henderson of the Detroit Free Press, Pulitzer winner, host of a daily public-radio show and with fingers in many other pies, became the latest man to fall to you-know-what. However, it was handled about as badly as these things can be handled, with the paper declining to release any details to their readers whatsoever. I’m not the only person who was shocked to hear this, and I have doubts as to the nature and seriousness of these unspecified incidents. This has led to a social-media frenzy, as you might imagine, with uninformed readers speculating as to the nature of these offenses, whatever they may be.
There’s a time when it’s best to shut up, and best to come clean. There are also times when you should talk to a lawyer. This was a big career to fall without a single justification being publicized.
Finally, I mentioned I’m back to work. I’m the new — and founding — director of communications for the Citizens Research Council of Michigan, a policy-research nonprofit with roots dating back to the progressive era. It so happens I wrote the story for Bridge on the group’s 100th anniversary, in which its president emeritus described it as the best-kept secret in Michigan. My job, which is funded by a capacity-building grant, will be to raise their profile. I’m not doing any of the research, just helping them spread the word. It’s a new role for me, and a challenge – they’re scrupulously factual and nonpartisan in a time when that approach is both more necessary and less common than ever. Not much will change around here, but I feel like I could host an ask-me-anything about Medicaid expansion right now.
The homestretch to the holidays is on.