Western Chauvinism

I’m about to use the term “big tent” a lot.

I don’t know if that’s a common term that people still use so I’ll explain it, please forgive the over explaining nature of this description. But everything I’m about to write depends on knowing what I mean by that praise.

The idea is that within a social or political movement you have to construct a space for movement.

The metaphor of the tent being that you’ve created a specific space under a tent.

The smaller your tent, the smaller and less diverse the group that fits under it.

A bigger tent just means you’ve created more room for your intended group, making it more diverse and potentially more influential as a result.

I see a lot of people talk about “White Supremacy” and I think we’re making a mistake to think that way.

A great into to the topic is the Proud Boys.

They self described as Western Chauvinists. This is actually a perfect way to understand how they are creating a bigger tent.

The general design of the ideology is nested. It starts with:

(Western Chauvinism)

that then has other ideologies nested within it.

Next we find:

(Western (nationalism) Chauvinism)

Often then we move to:

((Christian) Nationalism)

Then to:

(((Eurocentric) Christian) Nationalism)

In this case the “Euro” is about the specific cultural aspects of European society and history, including religion and colonialism and imperialism and so on.

This attracts many racist ideologies for sure:

((((White) Eurocentric) Christian) Nationalism)

But the movement in the US has been widening the tent to move past those racist ideologies. This is very notable in many Evangelical circles.

As a result you’ll find any number of variations nested within the movement of Western Chauvinism

In the minds of many Americans it doesn’t go much deeper than:

((Christian) Nationalism)

leaving behind the Eurocentrism for a much more generic western-centric ideology. Again, particularly attractive to Evangelicals of any ethnicity.

In many Evangelical circles the focus on Western or European culture is too broad and they have a much more specific:

(((USA-centric) Christian) Nationalism).

In both these cases the ancestral component is much weaker or less influential. This entices more people from every ethnicity.

The development of Evangelical ideologies that American exists in some kind of covenantal relationship with God similar to historical Israel are particularly strong and have made pervasive inroads into Latin, Asian, and African groups (both African immigrant communities and historical communities of the descendants of American slaves). In many cases those groups are the fastest demographics of the American Evangelicals.

But you’ll also find the same big tent outreach with the religious elements. In some cases you can replace the religious affiliation:

(((Eurocentric) Pagan) Nationalism)

Or

(((Eurocentric) Areligious) Nationalism)

This attempt at big tent proselytizing has been quite successful for a number of reasons.

The result of the expansion of Evangelicalism across every ethnic demographic.

The result of appeals to some construct of traditional masculinity.

The result of red-scaring tactics in communities with pervasive issues trusting government institutions.

They’ve even started spreading the ideology outside the US in parts of Africa and Latin American.

“White Supremacy” is not the right term.

The tent is getting bigger.

You can find evidence here.

And here.

And here.

Ignoring the expansion of the tent is dangerous.

Barack Obama frequently gets criticized for his criticisms of those he generally tends to agree with.

I imagine that’s the general reaction I’ll get.

But he does it for the same reason I am.

Being precise with our language matters

All that is Right & Beautiful

There is a house I walk by frequently that is owned by Calvin University.

Calvin is one of the major higher learning institutions owned and supported by the Christian Reformed Church in North America or CRC.

CRC is a major Evangelical and Calvinist denomination in the USA with influence and missions abroad. The CRC could even be used as an archetypal example of American Evangelical Protestantism in many respects.

As such the student body and academic structure of Calvin University is usually assumed to tilt strongly toward the American political right.

The university has even produced several high profile political figures on the right like Betsy DeVos, Bill Huizenga, and Dave Agema.

Yet, as I made one of my frequent passes by the house owned by this school I’ve noticed a curious thing.

In the window I notice a Black Lives Matter sticker.

The decal is one of the standard emblems of BLM with the raised first AKA the forceful salute.

Now I’ve watched any number of figures on the right lambast BLM with any number of accusations.

I’ve heard BLM called socialist, communist, anarchist, satanist, or feminist. And any number of extrapolations or combinations.

So what is that decal doing in the window of a house owned by an Evangelical institution?

The house is called Nizhoni House. Nizhoni being a Navajo word for beautiful and in this case used as a broader sense of “good”, lining up with the mission of the house. That mission is the University’s attempt to show commitment to the neighborhood as they try to spread the Good News amongst its residents.

And it should be noted that Calvin University also has strong ties to Calvin Seminary which is an educational institution for producing professionals trained in theological, scholarly, and leadership for the CRC.

(And to be fair, Evangelicals in general)

But this hasn’t cleared anything up yet. Why would the students living in this house, presumably on a path to some form of Evangelical leadership, have a BLM decal up?

Aren’t Evangelicals the very ones condemning BLM?

Aren’t Evangelicals the very ones denouncing communism? feminism? anarchism?

Here though is where you can find the divide, if you look hard enough.

Evangelicalism in the US is multifaceted to be sure but there is an element that is nearly universal: the centrality of the Bible.

The Bible is the authority.

The Truth with a capital “T” is found in the Bible and the Bible only.

All other authority is insignificant.

But at the institutional level, the academic and scholarly and expert theological level, there is far more nuisance to the concept of Biblical authority than the oversimplifications I’ve written out above.

You can dive deep into the Chicago Statement on Biblical Inerrancy to see what I mean. And that’s just a start. You can then move on to other statements like the Nashville Statement from the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood.

These are complex and intricate statements that are meant to define the correct belief for Evangelicals in America and their international networks of Evangelical mission churches.

If you take the time to dig you’ll come across the Resolution On Racial Reconciliation from The Southern Baptist Convention.

And more pertinent to this house I walk by, the CRC Office of Race Relations.

Because the leadership of these a Evangelical bodies DOES acknowledge the reality of racism and the need for reconciliation. They have for several decades.

But their congregants do not.

Why not?

Because Evangelicals have been told NOT to trust authorities. NOT to listen to experts and academics. They’ve been ignorant of the fact that those tenets they’ve been following were developed by experts.

Experts in theology, exegesis, hermeneutics, and so on.

And slowly but surely a chasm has developed between the congregants and their institutions of leadership.

They’ve been told (by academics) that they shouldn’t trust academics.

They’ve been told (by experts) not to trust experts.

And now the experts have lost control. Those who imagined themselves to be leaders have lost any semblance of broader authority.

Their attempts to purge any reliance on scholarly analysis worked too well and when they try to exert influence on changes in ethnic reconciliation it is not working.

It’s the same with several other topics.

Immigration.

QAnon.

Identity Politics.

Religious Freedom.

That’s why the BLM decal in that window seems befuddling. The CRC leaders in training at their University recognize and believe in the need for racial reconciliation. But their congregants don’t care what they think.

Their congregants are forging their own socio-political culture and identity that despised expertise and study through higher learning institutions.

This is their reckoning; the reckoning of authority condemning authority without emphasizing that their authority should be the exception.

Those pundits denouncing BLM are the academics working on theology and religious scholarship. They are political figures, people with power on the mind. Not trained to lead as experts.

And therefore much more effective at leading their congregants.

Populist figures rather than institutional leaders.

A sort of logic

Many of the things we believe come down to our assumptions. We might look at someone else and think their beliefs don’t make sense, that they are irrational.

Sometimes true.

But frequently we are missing something. We are missing the set of assumptions they are relying on.

For example, think about climate change.

Then assume that the world is ending. Not that you think it might be ending or could be ending. Assume that you are 100% positive the world will come to an end in the next decade or two.

Not just a generic eschatology either. Assume one of the more common and ostensibly orthodox western evangelical Protestant Christian eschatologies: the world is about to be utterly destroyed by a supreme deity that will then bring into being a new, perfected creation.

Assume that you know for sure that those events are about to play out. Or that they have already begun.

If so, why would climate change matter?

Why would mass extinctions and biodiversity loss matter?

Why would overpopulation and population sustainability matter?

If that assumption is true then none of those things matter.

I know that it is easy to shrug this topic off. Easy to say to ourselves: no one really believes that eschatological stuff.

But they do. Some believe it fervently and it informs their every decision and defines their entire thought process.

Many have a more dynamic thought process influenced by a host of other assumptions. But this end times belief is still one of their foundational assumptions about the world. It still informs and shapes their beliefs and actions. Even if they don’t think about eschatology with any regularity it still has an influence on all their cognitive processes.

Expectations

It’s never good when we expect a person to accomplish something that they never set out to accomplish

Them judge them by their inability to complete the unattempted task

It’s deliberately misleading to say that someone failed at a task they never undertook

My brother is writing a novel, so I shouldn’t expect that book to be a detailed factual history

My cousin writes music, so I shouldn’t expect those songs to be methodical genealogies

Even when there is some overlap, when a person tries to use another subject to better accomplish their task

The original task is still the standard we should judge by

A piece of fiction about a historical event is still fiction

A song about genealogy is still a song

I should hold these works to the standard of what they were trying to achieve:

An entertaining tale

An engrossing tune

Meant to make us think and stimulate us in specific ways

The same for the Bible

The Bible is meant to make us think and stimulate us in specific ways

It’s books were composed intentionally

It’s authors had specific goals in mind

To expect the Bible to accomplish tasks it’s authors never set out to accomplish sets it up for failure

When the Bible fails at such tasks, it hasn’t really failed at all

We have chosen to read it incorrectly

We have expected it to do something it was never meant to do

Not just by its human authors, but by God as well

If you believe in God

And you believe that God delivered the Bible to us deliberately

In it’s current form

Then approach the Bible with the assumption that we are meant to read it as it is delivered

If God wanted the Bible to be something other than a collection of books written by different authors over long periods of time

Then it wouldn’t be what it is today

The Bible is a library meant to help you know God better

The Bible does what a library does: illuminate truth by viewing the world from multiple perspectives

That is the task it is meant to accomplish

There is plenty of room for nuance here. For me, I may try to accomplish a specific task but it’s clear that I should have approached it from a different angle. In that case I failed to accomplish something that I wasn’t trying to accomplish, but probably should have. Many more examples I’m sure but I still stick by the purpose of this post; it’s important to approach the Bible for what it is trying to do.

Not what we wish it to do.

Also, just a side note, the picture of books that I used in this post is the Nag Hammadi Library. Which is not part of the Bible. But come on, those leathery tomes are cool looking 😎

Cultures

Biology is the story that nature tells us about ourselves

Culture is the story that we tell about ourselves

True that we often attribute our cultural story to some other force

A deity
Or deities
Sometimes our ansestors

But ultimately we ourselves are the ones who pass on those stories

That’s why they’re so variable from group to group

Even groups like Christians who have a book that records their story can’t agree on how to tell the story

And as a result you get versions of the story so different that it becomes difficult or even impossible to see them as one

We tell our story
We create our culture and renew it
We tell ourselves who we are

I want to make sure I am proud of the story I tell myself
I want to make sure the story I tell others about myself is a story in which I actually want to be a character

As a Christian
As a man
As an American

And not only the story of who I am
But also the story of who I want to be
The story of who I strive to be

Be sure to tell your story well

Who WOULD believe in Hell?

I can’t imagine wanting hell to be real.

Because I believe in a God of compassion, self sacrifice, and forgiveness
Because I accept an omnibenevolent God as truth

For those reasons I find the concept of eternal suffering distasteful at best.
Maybe downright gruesome.

Of course I do believe in hell.

Without a doubt

Even though I don’t like the idea

I’ve come to realize that many things I find to be distasteful are none the less true.

I don’t pretend to know who goes to hell

I don’t have a whole lot to say about it in general

A few broad strokes

And to be honest, a silly movie I’ve loved since I was a teenager sums it up best:

“Do you know what hell is..? It’s not lakes of burning oil or chains of ice. It’s being removed from God’s sight”

-The Prophecy

Amen

I know Christians grapple with this all the time

What gets you a spot in heaven vs hell?

Do you earn it?
Earn God’s favor?
Earn God’s condemnation?

I’m a Protestant for sure, so that’s not what I think

But I’m a Baptist too
And as a more extreme one, I believe in total free will

So I guess you’d say I’m a weird mashup

I say God didn’t pre-condemn certain individuals to hell. God’s omnibenevolence pre-condemns to hell those that choose to hate, subjugate, & degrade

Those that walk the road of life and upon seeing someone robbed and ravaged, walk over to the other side of the road

These are the people that find themselves removed from God’s sight.

No one’s perfect of course

And God doesn’t expect perfect omnibenevolence from anyone but himself.

This is where we’d get into talk about justification and sanctification

But I don’t want to bore you to death.

You can investigate those technical arguments in the links if you want

For now, I’m just going to explain my take

I say it’s not about earning God’s favor. The message of Jesus is that our imperfections are already forgiven in him

And maybe they always have been

This is where our gift of free will intersects with God’s sacrifice for us:

We have to chose forgiveness

We have to chose the omnibenevolent God

Just as he has chosen us

We have to accept that redemption is real and let it work it’s way into the nooks of our person.

We have to love the God that is omnibenevolent

When we do, we have to also love our neighbors

For love of God and love of neighbor are entwined
Intimately
Permanently

They are part of one great commandment

The greatest commandment

Love of the omnibenevolent God will lead to love for our neighbors

I do understand that some Christians find it hard to believe that a God who loves us all could condemn us to hell

I think that to a degree those Christians are influenced by one of the many traditions that spurns the idea of true free will

But I also think more liberal thinking Christians have rejected the idea of hell because they couldn’t believe that there are people who truly reject the idea of loving their neighbors

Even if they believed that some actively reject the idea of an omnibenevolent God

They relied on this quite beautiful idea:

“Speaking of younger people today, some really are unbelieving: that is they have recognized that the God of Jesus, this God of tenderness actually exists – and they refuse Him.

Others are not really unbelievers as such since they have rejected only the picture of God they have seen portrayed through certain Christians now or in history.

If you are running away from a wrong picture of God, does that take you further away from Him or closer to Him?”

Celtic Book of Prayer Celtic Daily Prayer: Prayers and Readings From the Northumbria Community

I do agree with this
On many levels

But I believe some focus so much on the second part of this sentiment that they ignore the first

The mistake some Christians have made is believing that all who reject God are doing it because they are running from the wrong picture of God

And forget that some see the right picture

The omnibenevolent God

And they choose to hate it

In light of some recent events, I think those liberal Christians may be changing their minds about what people are capable of choosing

In the public sphere many have been emboldened to say with pride:

I do not love the stranger bleeding on the side of the road

And I’m not just crossing to the other side. I’m also building a fence so they can’t crawl near to me

Even if they had one last breath to gather their strength and try

I don’t want to give them the opportunity

Now I don’t want you to misunderstand you who might read this

Just as I know that God has given us enormous power by creating us in his likeness

Creating us with the power to choose

As omnipotent as God may be, he is restrained by his omnibenevolence

God cannot do what is wrong

Because God is Love, he can only chose love

He can’t save those that choose to hate
Because they don’t let him

It seems weird I know

We like to think God can do anything

We’re told that all the time

But God cannot performa an evil act

To be clear,

God still loves those that choose hate
He loves them with all his being
He loves them without reservation

And by their hateful choice he weeps
As Jesus wept on the cross for those who choose hate
He knows that hate is always born of ignorance
Those who chose it can’t see past it, they can’t see what they are doing to others
And what it does to them
They are blind in their hate

They remove themselves from God’s sight
It’s cold, dark, and empty

And they stay there

So why give us a choice? If God is omnibenevolent, why not make us incapable?

The answer is one of the core attributes of love that we do often fail to define.

Love means sacrifice
Love means putting someone’s needs before your own
Love means choosing that self sacrifice
Just as God chose to sacrifice himself in Jesus

Sacrifice requires pain and hardship that is knowingly embraced

Parents do this for their children
Children do this for their parents
Spouse for spouse
Sister for sister
Friend for friend
Even stranger for stranger

That’s why evil comes into the world, because we selfishly reject our neighbors

Because we hate and abuse and abandon them for our own comfort

Our own decadence

Even in modern politics we see this in nationalism.

When someone loves only those that look like them

If I were to only love those that

Look like me

Dress like me

Talk like me

Then I’m not truly loving others, I’m loving myself. I’m worshipping the image of myself.

And as much as we hate the idea, some take the opportunity for self sacrifice and instead chose themselves

Choosing Selfishness
Viciousness
Malice
Hate for the “others”

For sacrifice to mean anything, then there must be forces that cause pain and suffering

They give us the reason to sacrifice
The impetus to put ourselves in danger

Recognizing self sacrifice can be difficult though
It’s not always clear to those outside the situation

To be clear I don’t think I get to judge who goes to hell

It’s like loving God
No one can ever truly know if you love God
Despite all external signs, love is internal and impossible to observe with certainty. Our motivations can never be discerned without ambiguity.
Same thing with love for your neighbors
It’s looks different for each person
Different for each context

Even our actions can be hard to discern

Sometimes the action itself is so small in our own eyes, yet enormous and unfathomable for those whose lives are touched by it

Only God knows

Although, if you look deeply at yourself
You may see both

Both the motive

And the action it should lead to

At least, you’ll see enough to know:

Am I choosing love?
Or hate?

Sacrifice?
Or selfishness?

THOSE people are destroying society

Whoever they are. I’m not sure who it’s supposed to be anymore that’s unstitching society. Uprooting our morals, our standards for what is acceptable. I really don’t know because so many of the arguments are silly

And so many don’t care to make an argument at all. They just care to identify a scapegoat

It’s

The Gays
The Jews
The Rednecks
The Latinos
The Blacks
The Scientists
The Atheists
The Catholics
The Mormons
The Millenials
The Capitalists
The Socialists
Hillary Clinton

THOSE people

Whatever

I don’t care about the scapegoating and labeling that obviously has nothing to do with what’s actually driving our society into darker and darker places

I did come across a great example of what’s destroying our society that has nothing to do with a scapegoat

The example is an incident that distills popular sentiments into a simple act

This young man knocked on a door for assistance and was met

With a gun

That my friends, is what’s destroying our society

I was a stranger and you welcomed me
– Matthew 25:35c NRSVCE

the most direct offense against the Truth

I am definitely not a Roman Catholic but I do find that faith very intriguing.

I especially enjoy the faith and history of the Maronite Catholic Church, which is in the full communion with the Pope and the Roman Church.

But today I have a particular excerpt from their Catechism on my mind:

Lying is the most direct offense against the truth. To lie is to speak or act against the truth in order to lead someone into error. By injuring man’s relation to truth and to his neighbor, a lie offends against the fundamental relation of man and of his word to the Lord

-Catechism of the Catholic Church 2483

In today’s world, in our media forms and practices, I feel this is particularly applicable.

I am increasingly concerned about the modern practice of following news sources that we identify with ideologically and ignoring all others.

As well as searching out online resources we already agree with. Then accepting everything that source says as fact.
If you don’t double check those claims and they turn out to be false, you’ve been lied to.

And I’ve started to wonder if failing at our own due diligence in regard to the information we accept and spread falls under the same category as the lies described in the Catholic Catechism.

Doesn’t the spread of information we don’t know to be true or false count as a direct offense against the truth?

Doesn’t it injure our relation to truth and to our neighbors?

I believe that spreading information without verifying its accuracy is equivalent with gossip.

The Catechism denounces that as well:

Respect for the reputation of persons forbids every attitude and word likely to cause them unjust injury

-Catechism of the Catholic Church 2477

And even if the Catechism means nothing to you, turning to the Bible brings the condemnation to another level.

In this👇text the level of evil associated with gossip is unambiguous.
Because wow, I don’t see many protesters with signs that say “God Hates Gossip”

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind and to things that should not be done. They were filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, covetousness, malice. Full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, craftiness, they are gossips, slanderers, God–haters, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, rebellious toward parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. They know God’s decree, that those who practice such things deserve to die—yet they not only do them but even applaud others who practice them.

Romans 1:28-32 NRSVCE

Some would say this👆passage is about the consequences of being homosexual. But after running through that list, I recommend having a long think about the thoughts and actions being condemned here. I’m sure you’ll agree that those traits are common everywhere across all demographics

I believe that spreading unverified information on the internet is clearly a form of gossip. And if you believe that what the Bible says is true, have a think about what it means to gossip.

What a person’s insides are like if they are willing to spread gossip.

Agree or don’t; think on it.

The Evangelical Ethnicity

(Links in Blue)

Usually ethnicity is used as an overly complicated term that is very difficult to pin down

So I’m going to make it simple;
Ethnicity is a combination of ancestry and culture.

How that plays out looks different from group to group

but there it is.

And that’s what Evangelicalism has become.

It’s not a denominational distinction,

as in

“That’s an Evangelical Church over there, and that one over there is not!”

Evangelicalism has become a way of identifying yourself as part of a broader cultural identity

(The Last Temptation)

Identity centered on a culture of Biblical Literalism, Appeal to Tradition, Hostility to Science, and Political Conservativism

(👆Just to name a few)

There are Evangelical Catholics now, Evangelical United Methodists, PC(USA) Evangelicals. Doesn’t matter the denomination, the culture is everywhere, including the Mainline Churches!

…but now an ugly serpent is slowly uncoiling itself, slithering from the base of Evangelicalism.

Till now it’s been hidden.

It’s always been there, but for years it’s been lurking in the background.

Now it’s come into the light.

It’s the other aspect of ethnicity:

Ancestry

For decades the Evangelical identity has been growing in influence and exposure, coming to define Christianity in the public square

And the whole time it’s leadership has maintained that ancestry isn’t a component!

We’re not racist!
Everyone’s welcome!
We’re all brothers in Christ!

I guess it’s possible those leaders meant it.

(Demanding Change)

But their congregants did NOT all believe it

Ancestry is clearly woven into the Evangelical identity.
Intimately
Irrevocably

The cries are clear:
We’re losing “our country”!
We have to take “our country” back!

It’s not subtle; the “our” part is ancestry.

(Taking “Our Religion” back too)

Call it race if you want (a ridiculously unscientific fiction)

But it’s been revealed as a cornerstone of Evangelical identity.

Some that have come from the “Evangelical Denominations” have now realized they can’t call themselves Evangelical anymore.

(Just listen to The Liturgists podcast)

(The Liturgists)

These former Evangelicals are the few who actually believed that ancestry wasn’t a part of the identity.

Now they see it and it’s undeniable.

(I could no longer ignore)

It shouldn’t surprise them.

Some stay. Trying to battle this rise in ancestry as central to the identity

(Trying to Fight)

Not surprisingly the most vocal opponents are the leaders who recognize the change in demographics (and don’t want to lose their new base)

(Fighting for the groups that we need to take “Our Country” back from)

Still

The truth plain; Evangelicalism is in the process of fully transforming into Evangelical Ethnic Identity

And the contingent that has conjured that identity around European Ancestry

is LOUD