Author Eric Metaxas, who recently claimed he would pretend-die in a fictional war on behalf of his Lord and Savior Donald Trump, isn’t an anomaly for white evangelicals over the past several years. He’s replaced any advocacy for Jesus with endorsements for corruption, bigotry, and lying in the name of the Republican Party, no matter how many bodies pile up in that wake.
You could say that it shift began around the formation of the “Moral Majority” during Ronald Reagan‘s era, but it undoubtedly snowballed over the past four years. Now, writing for Religion News Service, Robert K. Vischer says Metaxas is a symbol for something else: The loss of the evangelical mind.
How should Christians committed to thoughtful cultural engagement respond? When QAnon followers populate our church pews, how do we avoid losing hope for the Christian principle of integrating faith and reason?
Evangelicals’ complicated relationship with conspiracy theories is probably not reducible to a single explanation, but reasons suggest themselves. A generation of evangelicals has been influenced by the wildly popular “Left Behind” series — end-times novels that used news headlines to fantasize about shady global networks. Conspiracy theories may appeal to white evangelicals as a way to make sense of a country that is less like them: less white, less rural, less old and less socially conservative.
When the world sees Christians as gullible, naïve and unwilling to do the hard work of critically evaluating information, we lose credibility on everything — including our assertions about the historical veracity of the gospel. When we post a meme about Dr. Anthony Fauci or Bill Gates plotting to distribute the mark of the beast through a vaccine, our following post about eyewitness testimony regarding the life of Jesus will get the same response as the first: This person is not trustworthy on questions that matter.
These are all good points, and it’s refreshing to see a kind of self-awareness from the dean of the University of St. Thomas Law School, a religious school, throughout this piece. TL;DR: If Christians won’t accept basic facts and live in the same reality as the rest of us, then how can anyone take their faith seriously? How will anyone listen to them about Jesus and, say, the resurrection — both of which require faith — when they can’t accept the simple facts that shaped an election?
Granted, atheists aren’t inclined to accept anything about a dead man coming back to life, but they certainly can respect the values Christians live by even if they don’t believe in the source of those values. That’s a bare minimum for civil discourse, and Christians aren’t helping their collective witness by endorsing conspiracy theories.