, 34 tweets, 18 min read Read on Twitter
1. So, everybody’s been reading @Peter_Wehner’s article “The Deepening Crisis in Christianity” in @TheAtlantic, and quite a few people have asked for my take. Taking it easy in Spokane the last couple of days I’ve been able to give it some thought.

#SundayThoughts #EmptyThePews
2. The article itself is eloquent and worth reading, though I share neither Wehner’s remaining deference to evangelicals (he finds their persecution complex to some degree justified) nor his concern for “the Church.” Also I pretty much hate St. Augustine.

3. But it’s interesting to me that, in what is essentially yet another critique of conservative/white evangelical hypocrisy, Wehner emphasizes the damage to “the Church” and to evangelicalism itself in terms of people leaving Christianity, which he apparently finds a BAD THING.
4. That’s @TheAtlantic’s general line on religion—it’s a social good, evidence to the contrary be damned. Thus, even evangelicalism, a destructive form of modern U.S. Christian fundamentalism, must be portrayed as somehow good. Hence the magazine’s love affair with evangelicals.
5. With that in mind, my snarky side would like to suggest that a better title for Wehner’s July 5 article would be “The Deepening Crisis of The Atlantic.” I imagine he and Peter Beinart and Emma Green are feeling like jilted lovers as they’re forced to face evangelical fascism.
6. And thus @TheAtlantic has led the charge to try to shame evangelicals into behaving better, a tactic that any #exvangelical could tell you will never work. They have no shame in their ends-justify-the-means toxic Christianity. But Wehner has hit on one thing they’re afraid of.
7. Evangelicals are afraid of declining church attendance and of losing the youth. Unfortunately, Wehner seems to also be afraid on their behalf. But this basic fact is how I originally came up with the hashtag #EmptyThePews:

8. Wehner’s approach will never revolve the “evangelical problem.” (It muddles my metaphors, but someone please ironically strike up “How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?”)

Wehner and friends are essentially begging evangelicals to be the “good Christians they know them to be”
9. The truth is, religion is not always or inherently benign. There is “good” religion; there is “bad” religion, and both are “real” or authentic versions. Sometimes religion really is all about power and control.


#SundayMorning #EmptyThePews
10. And honestly, if you celebrate Augustinianism, why would you expect religion to be about *anything* other than paranoia, power, and social control? Perhaps @TheAtlantic’s lovers of evangelicals are really just afraid that people can’t be good without religion. #EmptyThePews
11. Aside - Someone please, please, please write a Freudian analysis of the invocation of Augustine in the pages of @TheAtlantic.

@laureneoneal, any ideas about who could be cajoled into doung this? 😈
12. So, if Wehner’s approach is never going to solve the “evangelical problem”—on which see this excellent argument by @crddouglas: rewire.news/religion-dispa… —what can we do about it? Let’s start by examining Wehner’s implicit biases. Let’s ask: What’s missing from his analysis?
13. As @AntheaButler pointed out in a reply upthread, race is absent from Wehner’s approach to evangelicalism. This is broadly true of @TheAtlantic on evangelicals, so that’s definitely an elephant in the room these “civil” centrists prefer not to mention

13-a. For some discussion of this general issue, see my “The Last Temptation of American Journalism, or, Michael Gerson is Not a Hero”

14. I’d like to suggest some further reading material that speaks to Wehner’s and @TheAtlantic’s sins of omission, the absent factors that we must address if we want to figure out how to confront the Christian Right. One such factor is exvangelical voices

14-a. Taking a break as a four-year-old is begging me to read to her. More soon.
15. Okay, time to finish this up. So, by excluding ex-evangelical perspectives and refusing to address evangelical racism, anti-LGBTQ animus, and misogyny in a robust way, @TheAtlantic’s “civility” toward white evangelicals makes their critique impotent.

16. White evangelicals change very slowly and within limits. Even when some of the youth and faculty in evangelical colleges want their schools to become more inclusive, major changes are impossible:


#EmptyThePews #SundayMotivation
17. As @cindy_w_brandt recently observed, white evangelicals do, eventually, respond to external pressure in some areas, but internal efforts at change generally fail, and evangelicals can only change at all so long as they can still believe they are better than some other groups
18. Here is some further commentary from me about why evangelical institutions are so resistant to changes that would make them more inclusive:

The corollary to this, of course, is that white evangelicals have long since been primed to go fascist.
19. No one should be surprised at evangelical fascism, but that so many commentators remain so speaks to the urgent need for exvangelical perspectives to be covered in major outlets. The only solution to America’s “evangelical problem” is to defeat evangelicals politically.
20. To defeat evangelicals politically required a significant shift in mainstream public opinion about evangelicals. This is why the #EmptyThePews campaign may succeed where Wehner and his friends at @TheAtlantic and @washingtonpost will fail. Exvie stories are powerful.
21. So, what can you do? You can elevate ex-evangelical perspectives with retweets, sharing our articles and blog posts, etc. You can also demand that the news outlets you read give us space. You can tweet this link at @Peter_Wehner:


In addition, you can consume our content to get informed and can support our initiatives financially if you have the ability (or point others to our Patreons if you don’t). I am deeply grateful to my patrons, who make my work possible:


23. Today I’d also like to highlight @ToriGlass’s White Homework project, which will help white people like me do better on race. Please join me in supporting her Patreon:

Tori has a valuable perspective as a Black woman raised in white evangelicalism.
24. Fundamentally, what needs to happen is for the American public to face the fact that white evangelical subculture is pervasively authoritarian, and that as such it represents the single greatest threat to democracy and human rights in this country today.

25. Exvies know, and have long since known, that this is the case. And we can explain the phenomenon. See for example this excellent thread by @johnastoehr:

#EmptyThePews #SundayMotivation #Resist
26. I’ll end with some more shameless self-promotion. If you’re on board with the #EmptyThePews protest against the Christian Right and want to take it offline, you can do so with gear from my @CafePress store, Not Your Mission Field:


27. My co-edited anthology with @laureneoneal, Empty the Pews: Stories of Leaving the Church, is available for pre-order, and features a diverse group of exvie, ex-LDS, and ex-Catholic contributors including @gayrodcon, @julianadlopera and @KillerMartinis

28. Thanks for reading. End thread.

Addendum on Augustine for the people who want details on why I despise him:

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