Social Media and Forums Have Outlived Their Purpose
Originally written in February 23rd, 2022
I did some edits to this post even though it was originally published on February 23rd.
So ever since the last time I posted here, we've had an insurrection, my favourite electronic musicians called it quits, my aunt paid for my wife and I to hang out in Vancouver after voting in an election, many MANY grown adults whined like spoiled brats about mandates and vaccines, and a Christian Nationalist Flu Trucks Klan tried to take over the country. That last event listed is what got me to write this post.
After seeing a majority of my friends jump on the convoy wagon, I have to speak out. We just had an election not even a year ago and a massive number of insane tinfoil wearing losers essentially decided democracy is a joke? I'm done.
We have to bring the internet back to kittens and Homestarr Runner. We have to make politics boring again. We have to keep politics and religious discussions to in-person forums without the outrage, immaturity, and personal attacks. No more Memes, no more Facebook groups, no more Tik Tok rants, no more Twitter threads. I'm tired.
I then signed up on a few music sites after high school and shared as much music as I could with a dial-up connection and 15 MBs of server space. It was fun and games promoting my work to various music forums. Then I got caught up in evangelicalism, the religious right in Canada, and the prosperity gospel and then it wasn't fun anymore. I was disrespectful on a majority of forum chats because I pushed my religious beliefs on members there while crying persecution and the clap-backs were nasty enough to get me kicked off every forum I was part of. My point in sharing this is that being radicalized offline and through the internet is nothing new, it's only NOW become a threat to national security thanks to the merging of wellness influencers with the alt-right.
Then along came Facebook. I connected with my friends online. We shared funny pictures, we talked about Jesus, we laughed at cat memes, Smosh or HappySlip YouTube videos. I shared my music even though it never really got anywhere. I met a girl online. We fell in love and we're still married today and left the church. But the original group of church friends I met in 2004, while still on my friend's list are now sucked in extreme alt-right political rabbit holes. Whether it's support for Trump, the convoy, News Max, or sharing really bad hot takes from Candace Owens or Dennis Prager, I noticed the change since 2015, but didn't say anything until I shared a news article from The National Post about the 45th president and was called a liberal by a close co-worker who went to church with me. On that day, I saw the angry Christian I used to be back in 2004.
After taking down the National Post article I shared, this took me on a journey of figuring out what happened to Christianity and why my friends I used to go to church with have become so angry with the world rather than seeing the world as potential friends to bring into our evangelical circle.
It took me four years to figure it all out and here's what I've found:
1. In the 1800’s, Christianity began following two distinct tracks, with a populist “revival” movement, and an academic movement.
2. The revival movement became very popular in the US (spinning off many sects and “cults”). It placed a strong emphasis on personal faith, and tended towards emotionalism, pietism, and personal Bible reading. The academic movement, on the other hand, became more popular in Europe (especially Germany) and began to lean towards humanism.
3. These two ideologies clashed in the 1920’s, arguably making both sides more extreme. The so-called “Fundamentalist” and “Liberal” divides were born.
4. Throughout the early 20’th century, the fundamentalists made huge inroads into America and sent missionaries around the world. They reached mostly the lower classes (however, lower-class white Americans became upper-middle class by the mid to late 20’th century). Also during this time, the “liberals” took over the mainline denominations, schools, seminaries, and secular education.
5. During the Cold War era, America developed a church-state identity as a “Christian nation,” believing that strong “family values” and traditional religion was needed to combat Marxism. “In God we trust” was printed on money. Fundamentalism was privileged by the state. Billy Graham was instrumental in creating a new, less extreme form of fundamentalism, and bringing it to an even larger percentage of America and the world. His version of Christianity gained financial support from American investors, and political support from Republican presidents.
6. Also during this time, the Scopes Monkey trial convinced America that fundamentalism was intellectually bankrupt, and convinced Fundamentalism that they needed to protect their children from the evils of society. The sexual revolution seemed to emphasize the importance of this belief. The divide between liberal and fundamentalist/evangelical deepened.
7. America/the world became increasingly aware of sexual and racial inequality. Invested as they were politically and socially, these ideas were seen as a threat to fundamentalists, who rejected them and sought to further protect their children from them. Christian schools/colleges sprung up everywhere. Republican politicians began defending the rights of private schools to exclude perso s of colour (Bob Jones university, for example, only allowed interracial marriage in 2000). Because race relations was a bad image, abortion was increasingly used as a political flag to rally Evangelical/fundamentalist voters
8. In the 1970’s-mid 1990’s Evangelical fear and Persecution complexes peaked with the “satanic panic” (the sincerely held belief that witches and demonic forces were attempting to take over the world) and the “end times craze” (the equally firmly held belief that the earth would end within a decade or less, in a terrible apocalyptic unferno.
9. Entrepreneurial influencers like James Dobson and Bill Gothard, as well as many televangelists and authors capitalized on this apparent need to separate from the perceived evils of “the world.” An entire subculture was created. Children born in the 1980’s could live their entire young lives without ever reading a book, hearing a song, or watching a movie that was not created by a fundamentalist source. Society was shut out completely, and fears of Satan and the Antichrist used to keep people inside the bubble, even as they interacted with others at work and school.
10. While the rest of the world moved on, and began to face new challenges of global warming, sexual equality (“me too”), and now the pandemic and BLM, the Fundamentalist/Evangelical church (there is no meaningful difference, in my opinion) has become so: a) isolated from the world b) shut off from outside ideas c) convinced of the evil intent and nature of all outsiders d) terrified of a coming apocalypse, as well as the dangers of personally falling into Hell ...that these other concerns just don’t phase them.
At best, they are the attempts of misguided people, trying to detract from the “true mission of the church” (which is saving people from hell, by getting them to go to church, obviously) At worst, and far more commonly, they tend to see any and all movements outside of fundamentalism (INCLUDING movements and actions performed or supported by other groups of Christians) as evil, Antichrist, part of the end times, deception, demonic, and the like.
And here we are in the present with these lessons from the last few years:
- The church is the building after all
- The majority of churches are pro-death
- Our communities can vaporize in an instant
- Gathering has replaced transformation
- Every 6 months, fundamentalist Christians will dig themselves a deeper and deeper hole
- Some ministries are mostly stuck correcting and apologizing for something odd they said several years prior
- Romans 13 is for marginalized groups only
- Money is the true god of the American church
- John MacArthur’s following is cultic
- And I personally found that the “spontaneous” worship moments were all fake (this became obvious when churches streamed consistently and their worship sets were identical)
It's hopeless to change the minds of people who have been conditioned into this mindset for over five decades. No amount of thought leadership, movements, or protests from the left, progressive Christians, or even centrists like myself who try to think things through before forming an opinion can save evangelicalism from its agenda of turning the first world into a theocracy. And now with the overturning of Roe, it's over. The end is going to happen sooner than we think because evangelicals have been carefully trained to listen only to their own leaders and media sources: and those sources are all saying the same things: "vote right, we are being oppressed, ignore what is going on with all these other issues. That’s just a leftist ploy to deceive you."
My heart and my mind are completely broken right now because of how radicalized both the left and right in my hometown in Winnipeg have become. I've quit almost every form of social media "preaching" I do online and do not practice my faith at all except for some prayer and occasional Sunday attendance at a very tiny Methodist church. My wife has completely lost interest in Christianity. The family and community I had in the past has rallied around winning a culture war against fake enemies rather than loving and serving widows, orphans, and disabled folks.
Where do you turn when home isn’t home anymore? Where do you go when your spirituality is the equivalent of Ghost Protocol? How do you say hello again after saying goodbye to everything that was ever known to you? I never imagined that following Jesus would mean walking out the doors of the evangelical community as I’ve always known it. But if that's what it takes, that's what has to be done. If our political and climate of discourse keeps up like this, division at this point is one thing: inevitable.