October 20, 2017

Election Day Special: Bob Is Angry on Election Day

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Note from CM: Michael originally wrote this for the 2008 election.

• • •

Today being election day, and many of my evangelical friends being in somewhat of a foul mood, for reasons that, as of 12:28 p.m., are suspected and not yet clear, I found myself thinking about a fellow I’ll call Bob.

I met Bob while I was on sabbatical. He was a very dedicated conservative evangelical, and a pleasant enough fellow….when he wasn’t angry. And Bob was angry. Angry, afraid, frustrated and ready for a fight.

Bob was your stereotypical culture war evangelical. He was a Jesus follower, but his passion was what was going on in America, particularly the issues we broadly call the culture war: atheistic advances in the public schools, restrictions on Christian practice in the public square, the aggressive agenda of homosexual rights advocates.

Bob was obviously devoted to Christian and conservative media, particularly radio. He believed what he heard. Dobson. Point of View. 700 Club. There was some Michael Savage in there. Some short wave programs from the Art Bell side of the dial. And all the usual culture war channels on Christian radio and television.

In general, Bob was stuffed full of information that was only available through his devotion to a kind of Christian underground pirate radio, web sites and a regular diet of Christian authorities convinced the culture war was all-important.

Bob was mad and he was mad that more people weren’t mad. Of course, most people didn’t know what Bob knew. They had the general outlines of the problems, and sided with Bob on the issues, but few people had Bob’s zealous focus on the culture war. On more than one occasion, Bob’s assessment of the situation of Christians vs militant atheists, homosexual activists and the rising time of Islamists was quite similar to the attitude of the Confederacy. Secede and arm yourselves. This is a real war.

Now…Bob was part of a local church, but as you can imagine, he wasn’t very happy with his church either because…..that’s right, they didn’t see the situation to be quite as dire as Bob did. I had the feeling that more than a few people in Bob’s church might not be looking to share a cup of coffee with him after the service. Intense fellow, that Bob.

I was only around Bob for a few days, but in those few days I saw a kind of Christian for whom the term “culture warrior” and not the term “disciple” was much more applicable. Emphasis on the “Warrior.” This was Jesus vs Allah; Jesus vs Dawkins; Jesus vs Hollywood…and it’s time for the followers of Jesus to see the most recent Rambo movie or WWE event for some inspiration.

Of course, politics was Bob’s game. Christians had to rise up and vote in order to take back the culture. We are losing because we won’t fight in the arena of political power.

I imagine Bob’s not very happy on this election day. I’m guessing he’s voting for Chuck Baldwin and is upset that more Christians aren’t doing the same. I’m sure he has a small library of information on Obama that none of us have heard, even on Fox. I’m sure he’s alarmed and is frustrated that many of us aren’t taking the threat seriously.

Bob wants good things for his country, family and fellow believers. He sincerely believes those good things are closely related to freedom, conservatism, traditionalism and Christianity. He senses the death of a kind of Christian dominated culture, and he wants to fight with all he’s worth — even with weapons if necessary — to keep his rights and his Christian heritage.

Over at his blog today, Frank Turk basically said this: Pray. Vote. Then Pray again. Then go live like a disciple of Jesus.

Bob, are you listening?

Michael — and the many readers of this blog — are you listening?

Go live like a disciple.

It’s hard to say this, but Bob isn’t seeing the big picture. Our American culture war is not worth the demise of authentic discipleship. Trading following Christ in love, even in post-Christian times, for fighting and defensiveness, is a bad trade. Bob is frightened. Our faith says “Fear not.” Bob says prepare to fight. Our faith says prepare to love.

I am particularly impressed that these days should call us together in real community, not separate us according to Christian media audience niche. There are some helpful voices out there in the culture war, but I’d like to suggest that it’s time to listen to your pastor — assuming he’s showing you how to follow Jesus — more than James Dobson or some angrier, more paranoid manipulator of fear.

I really is time to go Biblically deep into Jesus shaped spirituality, and not into the spirituality of fear and misbegotten patriotic fervor.

Unfortunately, Bob is not a rarity. He’s not a majority report among evangelicals by any means, but he represents a significant number of Christians who are pursuing a very different kind of Kingdom than what we see in the book of Acts, the epistles and Revelation.

Jesus told his disciples that to follow him a lot has to die. We find a new life in Jesus, but it comes at the expense of the old life. I can’t help but believe that Bob, for all his zeal, his holding on to some of the old creation. There are some good things in this American Christian heritage of ours, and no one wants to see it taken away.

But it may happen, and if it does, Frank is right: Pray, then go live like a disciple.

Don’t feed the voices of anger, fear and the justification of violence. These were the same choices that the Zealot movement presented to Jesus; the same Zealots to whom Jesus said “Love your enemy. Don’t resist the evil-doer. Pray for those who persecute you.”

I’m sure it sounded ridiculous at the time, but in the end it was another invitation to discipleship, to Jesus shaped spirituality, to taking up the cross and finding a new life beyond it.

Those choices come to us every day. They sometimes come to us when we are tightly holding on to things we believe enough to be angry.

Put them all down. Pray. Go be a disciple of Jesus.

A good word for a chastened evangelicalism.

Comments

  1. Wow. Amazingly valid today as in 2008. Maybe even more so!

  2. “Jesus told His disciples that to follow Him a lot has to die. We find a new life in Jesus, but it comes at the expense of the old life. I can’t help but believe that Bob, for all his zeal, his holding on to some of the old creation. There are some good things in this American Christian heritage of ours, and no one wants to see it taken away. But it may happen, and if it does, Frank is right: Pray, then go live like a disciple.”

    Nostalgia and resentment are powerful emotions, and very fit for getting people motivated and contributing to your cause. Certainly easier than acknowledging that the cultural, economic, and political environments in which American white middle-class evangelicalism flourished are gone forever, and that we need to learn to be disciples in an environment that is not going to be tilted in our favor. That attitude is, after all, “un-American”, even (as one of C S Lewis’ villains puts it), “defeatist trash!”

    • “…we need to learn to be disciples in an environment that is not going to be tilted in our favor.”

      And yet, so many American Christians are following the path of the Zealots and seeking another Masada.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Or they’re counting on the Islamic Approach: Restore those “cultural, economic, and political environments in which American white middle-class evangelism flourished” by FORCE and lock in that “Year One of the Hegira” FOREVER. Seven Mountains Mandate, 200-year Quiverfull breeding plans, The Family on K Street in DC…

        And they KNOW they’re going to WIN because GOD’S ON THEIR SIDE!

  3. +1000 to what Rick Ro. said.

  4. Today I’m praying for peace at the polls, and for what follows in the wake of this election.

    • Me too Robert. I’m afraid (sorry Michael) that we may have reached a tipping point in our incivility. No matter who wins or loses, this election might not be ‘over’ for some time, and the aftermath will almost certainly be more polarization and less cooperation. I pray that it not erupt into violence.

      There was a time that I was a ‘Bob’, living in that type of church environment in a ‘god and country’ town. That thinking was regularly stoked from the pulpit (of a large church). How easily it is to justify unchristian thinking (and actions) when you believe Christianity is at stake (and only one party represents that way of life – and even they are making too many compromises). One of the good things to come out of this election is that the mask has been taken off of those Christian ‘leaders’ who promote this thinking. Turns out they don’t care as much about Jesus’ values and character as they do their political agenda (and values that somehow transcend ethics). Unfortunately their credibility probably will not be tarnished in the eyes of their followers and the machine will keep rolling on. But as Al Mohler (and I’m NOT a fan) said, this election has destroyed the ‘moral credibility’ of evangelicals and their leaders. Their followers may still follow, but everyone else sees the emperor has no clothes. It is disturbing when the ‘ungodly sinners’ are able to more clearly discern values, ethics, and character than Christians (especially Christian leaders).

      • –> “How easily it is to justify unchristian thinking (and actions) when you believe Christianity is at stake (and only one party represents that way of life – and even they are making too many compromises).”

        When someone’s Christianity becomes all about drawing lines in the sand, planting the battle flag, and defending the Truth, you know Jesus ain’t in it.

    • Adam Tauno Williams says:

      Posting this from the busiest precinct in my city, where I am working as an election challenger for the Democratic party. So far everyone seems happy and relaxed, mostly talking about coffee.

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Probably because it’s early in the morning.

        Things might get lively near close of polls.

        • Adam Tauno Williams says:

          Perhaps. That’s not my shift! :). I will be at a bourbon release party for a local distillery by then.

          Personally I don’t expect much drama to materialize.

          • brianthedad says:

            jealous! a distillery just opened near here (central Alabama). they have tours, and some working tours. they put you to work wax sealing the bottles, or sorting and pressing the local juniper berries they use for their gin. good stuff. they just finished up the test batches for their own bourbon and will be starting production soon. then the barrel time.

          • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

            The real fun begins the day after the election, no matter who wins.

            Both the Trump and the Hillary are known to be sore losers.
            VERY Sore Losers.

            • Richard Hershberger says:

              Eh? Clinton lost to Obama, and went on to serve in his administration, and they are now working together. Sure, things weren’t so rosy right away, but that is simply human nature.

              A sore loser is one who holds a grudge. I predict much fireworks from Trump in the coming months and years, much of it directed at Republicans.

            • Adam Tauno Williams says:

              Nah. All that leaked Clinton e-mail … have you gone an read any of it? I have. I don’t find the anger vindictive narrative to be substantiated there. There is even a non-trivial amount of religion to be found in there.

            • David Cornwell says:

              A sore loser is someone who kicks over the game board after a loss, and goes away pouting. They are not fun to play with because you know what’s coming. Donald Trump thinks he is always a winner and if he loses the other guy somehow rigged it. He’ll probably do what he can to upset the board, call Hillary a crook once again, and threaten to throw her in jail, even if he lacks the power to do so. If he concedes gracefully, I’ll be surprised. If he concedes at all it will be a good night. I’ve never been a fan of Hillary, but I hope she wins big in order to take all the wind out of Trump’s sails, mouth, or other orifice. Then he will have little evidence on which to claim a rigged election.

              One hell of an election.

              • David, Looking at things unfold right now, I’m thinking that Clinton will be lucky to win by a slim margin. She won’t win big, if she wins. As the night goes on, she is falling further and further behind. All the projected demographic advantages that the experts gave to her are evaporating. The Bully looks like he will win. God help us.

          • Dang…that sounds good!

            In other bad news, local Surly Brewery might sell to Miller…grrr….

        • The media WANTS a ruckus so that they can knowingly shake their heads and pontificate. The reality is that most people want to just vote and then move on. Enough of this sad circus that we have been subjected to for the past year!

    • I’m more worried about the days after this election than I have any time in past elections. Trump’s divisive rhetoric has me thinking he’ll be a sore loser, and the people that have gone for his angry rhetoric will likely be sore losers, too. I mean, he’ll play that up with his supporters to the max.

  5. Wow, it must be the name. I have a former co-worker named Bob who puts things on Facebook that make you sure the Jack-booted thugs will be at your church door next week with a gaggle of gays that your pastor will be forced to marry while your grandmother down the road Is forced into baking the wedding cake, all while luring women into destroying their babies. Arming yourselves might be the only hope and electing strict constitutionalists. He’s not trying to scare anyone, mind you, but he is sounding the alarm. You have been warned!

    If there is anything I’ve learned in my life’s journey, encountering God all along the way, is that life is all pretty much a leap off a cliff and what you think is benignly holding your hand is often the very thing pushing you over the edge. God is rarely where you think He should be and rarely does what you think He should do.

    And for all the Bob’s in the world, I wish you peace.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      You do realize we will always have Bobs, don’t you?
      Because Bob is immortal.
      Bob has no life, and how can you kill that which has no life?

  6. Just in case anyone missed it the first or second time around, this from the Church Curmudgeon:

    “This election is pretty much proof that someone went back a million years in a time machine and stepped on a butterfly.”

  7. I am thankful for the right to participate in how we are governed and by whom we are governed; as small as my voice is in the process, it is still a voice and I do not take it for granted. I also have my thoughts on the best means of governance but, at the end of the day, the words of Derek Webb provide much wisdom: “We’ll never have a Savior on Capitol Hill.”

    “Pray. Vote. Then Pray again. Then go live like a disciple of Jesus.”

    Yes, yes, yes, yes!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      …at the end of the day, the words of Derek Webb provide much wisdom: “We’ll never have a Savior on Capitol Hill.”

      Tell that to all the Activists.
      You’ll need a mallet first to get their attention.

  8. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    Is it just me, or has GOD’s Anointed Next President(TM) gotten sketchier and sketchier each election since 1992?

    • That Other Jean says:

      It’s not just you. God’s fine–it’s a certain stripe of his followers that have gotten increasingly frightened as the country they thought they owned became increasingly diverse and more obviously beyond their control.

    • Richard Hershberger says:

      1992? Go back a few years, to 1980 when GOD anointed a divorced man of little or no discernible religion, favoring him over a devout Sunday school teacher (who has gone on to devote his life to furthering God’s work, to the disdain of many Real True Christians).

    • Oh my goodness, yes, HUG!!!
      GOD’s Anointed Next President(TM) started out having to have a moral center, but now, all he or she has to do is sign on to the stated platform. Actually having demonstrated any fealty to that platform in his or her life is fluff and not necessary.

  9. I was speaking to Bob just last night, an elderly gentleman who has lived in the neighbourhood the past forty years and seen churches close down with mosques and sikh temples erected in their place. His world has changed dramatically.

    As a kid who grew up the seculariest of environments, I have no expectations for a ‘Christian’ culture, and as far as I’m concerned, Bob is missing the point. But how do I speak to Bob? How do I redirect his focus? I am a sapling, rootless, looking to serve Christ and like Christ, but without the sense of loss and alienation that Bob is experiencing.

    Good luck with the thing today, Americans. God bless 🙂

    • That Other Jean says:

      Thank you. We need all the luck, and blessings, that we can get.

    • “But how do I speak to Bob? ”

      I don’t know, Osti. I’m inclined to just nod my head as if in agreement while telling myself, “No, I’m not nodding in assent but just to signify my understanding of their position.” Of course, “Bob” doesn’t know that and so, while it helps to keep the peace, it does nothing to address Bob missing the point.

      I’ve come to believe my silent assent is disingenuous and have been making an effort to be more honest, not refuting or confronting their misgivings but instead gently reminding the Bobs I encounter that our faith doesn’t reside in whoever wins the election but our faith resides in Jesus Christ and God is still on His throne.

    • I know a lot of Bobs, male and female, and I would like to know how to respond to them, too. They don’t seem to be very good listeners. When I try my “let’s see things from their perspective” speech, I get a lot of blank stares. I don’t know how to address the underlying fear, except to note the false Christian message that others here have mentioned. Sadly, unfollowing them on social media — for my own peace of mind– has been the only step I’ve taken.

      • Great question Osti and one I have been wrestling with a lot… in the past I’ve done what Scott has done, to keep the peace… but then Bob just going through life without any push-back that might jolt him out of his ditch… still not sure what to do because I’m just naturally non-confrontational…

  10. I have this growing sense that this year will be looked back on as a watershed moment, not just in politics but within the life of the Chruch. I suspect that there will be a greater separation between the Christian cultural warriors and the people who, like me (and many of us here), believe they are living in exile, in a political landscape that is not theirs, yet not their enemy. So we neither pose war from the outside nor the inside, but like the early Christians living in a corrupt and polytheistic Roman world, we become like a benevolent parasite, eating the host from the inside out through love, peace, patience and honestly. Not “THE TRUTH” which is an abused term, but honest living. Living in reality. Letting our love be defined by differences. The more different the others are from us, the move we love them. That’s the hope for a changed world.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Between the Pharisees and the Zealots and those who are just living their lives.

    • Good words Michael. I just wish we could find another term with which to identify ourselves. The usual ones – ‘Christian’, ‘believer’, etc. – have so much baggage that you’re immediately identified as ‘one of them’ (and their political alliances).

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        Good words Michael. I just wish we could find another term with which to identify ourselves.

        Not gonna work. The “one of THEMs” will just hijack that word to mean themselves and that’s two words which mean “one of THEM”. Saw this happen multiple times in Furry Fandom.

        • Mike Jones says:

          You are probably right. Maybe we should be like Prince and use a symbol . . . hey, maybe a cross? That would be unique. I find myself ashamed to say I am a Christian, not because I am ashamed of the Gospel,but because I instantly get pigeon-ed-holed as one of them.

          • I was thinking a better symbol for us Christians would be something that merges a cross with an empty tomb. Not sure how you’d pull that off, but I like that concept!

          • I find myself often saying (at least to myself) that I am not ashamed of Christ but I am often ashamed of Christians. I live about 1 notch east of the buckle of the Bible belt.

            • Side topic…

              What is there even to be ashamed about with Christ? I know we say that often, quote the verse, etc…but what even is there to be ashamed of? Or would be ashamed of? Especially in a 21st century context?

              What does this mean?

              • My thoughts…
                Jesus’ teachings and life run so counter to human nature and ego-driven self that to live that way could be “shameful.” Let’s face it, what would people think if you let your enemy strike your other cheek, too, and if you gave the thief your tunic in addition to your cloak?

                I think what it’s getting at is that to live as Christ enters into shameful territory. I mean, what King allows himself to be hung on a cross?

                We are not to be ashamed of Christ’s utter giving up of self and the appearance of defeat.

      • Adam Tauno Williams says:

        I recommend giving up on the label thing and identity oneself my saying “me”. Ultimately that is the only person I can speak for anyway. “Hi, I’m me, and I’m your neighbor.”

  11. Here is a thought.

    The British went through this process some years ago, after World War II. Consider this – at one time the sun never set on the British Empire. It stretched around the world.
    British Christians brought Christianity wherever they went, a large missionary movement that included the Salvation Army, The Anglican Church and Methodism. The Anglicans are still the third largest denomination after Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox.

    And then World War I came and bankrupted their upper class. World War II came and bankrupted the country. By 1980 they had lost most of their empire.
    Then in the 50’s and 60’s Christianity lost its place in a secular society. In both Britain and Canada Christians have had to give up the position of influence in the government and go back to winning the lost, a person at a time. And it produced people like CS Lewis, John Stott, J.I. Packer and many others. None of them had strident voices. Even today, British Evangelicals are exemplary in their humility. The arrogance is gone-wiped out when the lost Empire.

    If I didn’t know better I would say its happening in USA.

    • “If I didn’t know better I would say its happening in USA.” And I think that is a good thing.

    • I just hope the pricetag in blood and treasure won’t be as high for us… but we Americans are a damned stubborn lot.

    • Wow. Excellent analysis!

    • Burro [Mule] says:

      When I was in the UK in the early 80s, The only place I saw many Evangelicals was in N. Ireland, They were conspicuous by their absence. There was a kind of ‘evangelical afterglow’ in a lot of middle-class households, but real church-going, Bible-reading, daily-prayer-having faith was pretty sparse on the ground.

      The exception to the rule were the Calvinists. I swear there couldn’t be more than 12,000 of them in the whole country, Scotland included, but they made a lot of noise, way out of proportion to their numbers.

      I wonder if I didn’t take a trip to our future then.

  12. Patrick Kyle says:

    ‘Shut up and don’t be angry because it is unChristianTM’ Good luck with that. The anger hasn’t even begun to come yet…

  13. Dana Ames says:

    … and more on the media:

    Out here in California, the polls are still open for another couple of hours, and the networks are once again predicting winners with 1-13% of votes tallied (higher percentages in a very few states). ONE to THIRTEEN PERCENT. This sort of prognostication should be outlawed.

    On another note, in my rural county (the numbers from which which will not affect state results, but it’s the principle of the thing) the votes will not even start to be COUNTED until Friday, with final certification probably in about 3 weeks. That’s because our County Clerk wants a paper trail – God bless her! It’s a hassle, but I know my vote is not going to be swallowed or changed by sketchy voting machines manufactured by the gambling industry.

    Dana

    • You can have paper ballots and get the results an hour or two after the polls close. It just requires the intelligent use of tech. Not the crazy touch screen nonsense many have adopted.

      We have such in Wake County NC. Works great. And not waiting forever for a count.

  14. From 538…

    “Evangelical voters are potentially among the strongest demographic groups for Trump, and they help explain why he is doing unexpectedly well tonight. Trump’s margin among evangelical white Christians is 81-16 percent, according to exit poll results. That appears to be the widest margin for a Republican presidential candidate among evangelicals since 2004.”

    Yep. There’s a lot of Bobs out there.

    And it looks like they won this round.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Bob is no longer angry but REJOICING.

    • What may be the saddest thing (besides the candidate himself) is this all, especially the House/Senate wins as well, just delays the needed evangelical reckoning with their subservience to right-wing politics… The lilly white suburban evangelicals I had church breakfast with this morning were tepid about Trump leading up to this, but they seemed to be in pretty good spirits this morning… joking about all those african americans on welfare in Philly who’d gotten their comeuppance, laughing about the inept media and pundits and pollsters, etc. It was my hope this constituency in general would be gifted a soul-searching moment… but that opportunity seems to have passed. Onward to making america great again! (and keeping ones focus on the sin of everyone else but themselves…)

      • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

        I think a lot of the House/Senate wins were intended as insurance in case Hillary (as predicted by all those polls) got elected.

        As for sticking it to “those blacks on welfare in Philly”, that’s a common attitude outside of the cities. Just where I am it’s “Mexicans on welfare” instead of blacks. Lot of resentment out there that’s been growing (and poo-poohed) for a long time, and this election it just boiled over.

        As for “laughing about the inept media and pundits and pollsters”, well, they DID really screw the pooch on this one. Don’t know if it was bad polling, wishful thinking, or what, but it was like one of those viral videos: “It was at this moment that [insert name of poll] realized: He’d F’ed Up.”

      • I agree and have seen the same. I’ve been done with evangelicalism for a few years, wandering in the wilderness, but still have a lot of friends there. Lots of gloating and disparagement going along with the win. There won’t be soul-searching any time soon.

        But demographics are not in their favor. It may take 10 more years, but change is coming. The only question is how much of its soul will evangelicalism have sold to the idol of right wing power and politics before that happens. My best guess is a lot.

        Also, they may have just well and truly lost any chance of attracting the younger generation.

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      Yep. There’s a lot of Bobs out there.

      Including Bob of the Church of the Sub-Genius?
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_the_SubGenius

      Bob, the main hero character in the CGI cartoon ReBoot?
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/ReBoot

      Sideshow Bob from The Simpsons?
      (not gonna go there)

  15. Headless Unicorn Guy says:

    There used to be a song on Dr Demento called “Bob” which I have never been able to find on YouTube. I only remember the end of one of the verses and the beginning of the chorus:

    “…
    And you know you can’t win
    ‘Cause your name is Bob —
    It’s short for Robert!
    Bob!
    …”