Recalling My Formative Years Inside Evangelicalism in Wisconsin. Plus Deeply Embarrassing and Troubling Newspaper Articles About Dairy State Evangelical Christians Worshiping Donald Trump Over Jesus

Recently Evangelical Christians in Wisconsin have received some troubling press in the Boston Globe and the London Guardian. The publicity which is embarrassing discusses how white evangelicals in Wisconsin are worshiping Donald Trump over Jesus. I once called Wisconsin home and today stand horrified by what has developed. In addition the behavior of white evangelicals that I once knew from people like Steve Papez of Milwaukee Metro Crusade or Russell Schmaltz from Elmbrook further highlight these issues or of how some evangelicals are turning a blind eye. As I continue to push back from this stream of evangelicalism I have to grapple as to how the formative years of my life – my 20’s- were wasted in planting a Crusade chapter at Marquette University as well as being involved in churches like Wooded Hills and others. This blog entry is in part a post-mortem as to why I am pushing back from evangelicalism.

“Doublethink means the power of holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously and accepting both of them.” 

George Orwell 

“To see what is in front of one’s nose needs a constant struggle.”

George Orwell 

1 This is a record of the ancestors of Jesus the Messiah, a descendant of David and of Abraham[a]:

2 Abraham was the father of Isaac.
Isaac was the father of Jacob.
Jacob was the father of Judah and his brothers.
3 Judah was the father of Perez and Zerah (whose mother was Tamar).
Perez was the father of Hezron.
Hezron was the father of Ram.[b]
4 Ram was the father of Amminadab.
Amminadab was the father of Nahshon.
Nahshon was the father of Salmon.
5 Salmon was the father of Boaz (whose mother was Rahab).
Boaz was the father of Obed (whose mother was Ruth).
Obed was the father of Jesse.
6 Jesse was the father of King David.
David was the father of Solomon (whose mother was Bathsheba, the widow of Uriah).
7 Solomon was the father of Rehoboam.
Rehoboam was the father of Abijah.
Abijah was the father of Asa.[c]
8 Asa was the father of Jehoshaphat.
Jehoshaphat was the father of Jehoram.[d]
Jehoram was the father[e] of Uzziah.
9 Uzziah was the father of Jotham.
Jotham was the father of Ahaz.
Ahaz was the father of Hezekiah.
10 Hezekiah was the father of Manasseh.
Manasseh was the father of Amon.[f]
Amon was the father of Josiah.
11 Josiah was the father of Jehoiachin[g] and his brothers (born at the time of the exile to Babylon).
12 After the Babylonian exile:
Jehoiachin was the father of Shealtiel.
Shealtiel was the father of Zerubbabel.
13 Zerubbabel was the father of Abiud.
Abiud was the father of Eliakim.
Eliakim was the father of Azor.
14 Azor was the father of Zadok.
Zadok was the father of Akim.
Akim was the father of Eliud.
15 Eliud was the father of Eleazar.
Eleazar was the father of Matthan.
Matthan was the father of Jacob.
16 Jacob was the father of Joseph, the husband of Mary.
Mary gave birth to Jesus, who is called the Messiah.

Matthew 1:1-16 NLT on the spiritual lineage of Donald Trump. 

Milwaukee 

There has been a number of newspaper articles about evangelicals and Wisconsin that I want to write about. The Washington Post already wrote about Elmbrook Church which I addressed in, “Preserving The Washington Post Article by Amy Wang That Discussed Elmbrook Church in Milwaukee and the Christianity Today Editorial” and “Elmbrook Makes The Washington Post and Deep Disappointment in My Former Church as My Journey Away From Evangelicalism Continues.” For the other two I will compile them into this post and address the evangelical Christian culture and the current political situation which feeds it. But before I get into two articles in the London Guardian and the Boston Globe let me reflect on five years of evangelicalism in Wisconsin. 

 

Reflecting on Life and Evangelicalism in Wisconsin From 2000 Until 2005

I arrived in Milwaukee in August of 2000 after a long drive from California to attend grad school at Marquette University. It was quite a transition coming from the West Coast to the Upper Midwest. The first Sunday in town I attended Redeemer Evangelical Free in South Milwaukee. Being new to Milwaukee and having a history with Campus Crusade in California I eagerly got involved. Marquette didn’t have a Crusade Chapter so I worked with Jen Hight, Kendra Jordanby, and a couple of others to launch a chapter. I was the only guy in the Marquette chapter at the time. We worked primarily with Steve Papez who led Milwaukee Metro Crusade at the time. If I recall correctly Erick Lettner also with Crusade arrived on the scene as well. In Crusade I also came to know those in the across town University of Wisconsin – Milwaukee Crusade chapter as well. Here I got to know Jason Norum and his girlfriend Katie, Kyle Nelson, Greg Marshall, Dave Schneider in time and many others. We had regular retreats in different locations – Lake Geneva, and Lodi, Wisconsin. The first fall retreat was shared with the young adults program at Garfield Baptist Church in Pewaukee which is now Spring Creek Church as led by Chip Bernhard. The first year I was in Wisconsin we also had a Crusade event up near LaCrosse. What was memorable was when I “accidentally” capsized the canoe off a tributary from the Mississippi River. It was fun until the waterlogged electronic key chain wouldn’t work on my Honda. Also during this time Amy and Joe Simon were involved in Milwaukee Metro Crusade and Scott Reid a chemistry professor worked with people from Marquette and I had breakfast with him a few times. At one of the Crusade fund-raising banquets as a leader of Marquette Crusade I was once asked to give my testimony to support fundraising efforts and did so. 

There were plenty of retreats like l said and Christmas conferences in Minneapolis. I recall Greg Marshall rapping during one such Christmas conference. I participated in two conferences in Minneapolis and one in San Diego, California. Dan Parman also hosted Harvest parties in the fall which were also fun. As I lived in Milwaukee I eventually got involved in Wooded Hills Bible Church which was led by Joe Jenkins. The Jenkins family of Ruth, Josiah, Jared and Josh were dominant. Other people at Wooded Hills included Trish Stern, Kevin Byrum, Kay Bong, Bryan and Laura Hebeth and more. This church had some serious issues but as the time I was deeply naive. At Wooded Hills Joe Jenkins led the Rick Warren Purpose Driven Life campaign. We had regular worship events called “Winds of Worship” and in time I became a member. I was in Jeff and Gayle Barnard’s Bible study and did a couple of spiritual retreats as well with Bob Hennis and Rich Reinke leading up one to the Northern Michigan Peninsula. There were the two times Joe and Ruth Jenkins invited me over to their home for Thanksgiving. While in the summer time there was also Lifest up in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. There was fellowship, concerts by Michael W Smith, Newsboys, DC Talk, Avalon and so many more. Lifest became a tradition when I lived in Wisconsin. Despite being involved in Wooded Hills they didn’t have a program for young adults, those in their 20’s so I got involved in the 20 Something Program at Elmbrook which at the time was led by Brian Sonderman. It was there that I was in a Bible study with Denny Yunk and Mark “Rooster” Saeger. There was also other fellowship through Dan Hayden and Russell Schmaltz. Knowing how difficult it was to move I helped Russel Schmaltz try and adjust the Milwaukee area when he was new on the scene. Also at Elmbrook was the “No Regrets” Men’s Conference which I did regularly. 

Even after graduation from Marquette I still volunteered and helped at Crusade because I wanted the organization to thrive and succeed. At the time I worked to disciple and give some rides to church. In the process I interacted with people like Elijah LeClair and more. And then there was the time that Jen Hight planned the toilet papering of Erick and Ellissa Lettner’s house in New Berlin. She called it “Operation LTP.” My participation was to get the people from UW – M Crusade involved. But when I called Wisconsin home I dived deep into the Wisconsin evangelical scene and appreciated it. I remember when I had to move from Milwaukee to the Washington, D.C. area in the first week of March of 2005 it was hard. The truth was that I did not want to leave. Wooded Hills prayed for me on the last Sunday I was there, and with great sadness I embarked on a new journey in life. I had lived in Wisconsin for five years and had fallen deeply in love with it. Even after moving I worked hard to maintain many of the relationships that grew out of my time there. At the time I thought Wisconsin was spiritually healthy. But as time moved on I began to realize that the evangelical scene in Wisconsin was far from that description. But before I get into some of my experiences with those in ministry and churches in the Milwaukee area let’s reflect on some recent press on evangelicals in Wisconsin. 

 

 

London Guardian Article About Wisconsin Evangelicals Worshiping Donald Trump Over Jesus

On January 15, 2020 The London Guardian published an article that looked at evangelicals worshiping Donald Trump over Jesus. The article looks at an evangelical congregation called Praise Community Chapel Church in Crandon, Wisconsin. Crandon is in Northern Wisconsin. The article interviews the pastor Franz Gerber who has been the lead pastor since January 1, 2017. In the Guardian Gerber talks about how his congregation is worshiping Trump over Jesus. In the article Gerber says the following. “It seems like there are many evangelical Christians that are willing to die on the hill of supporting the Republican president, supporting Donald J Trump. And to me, that hill is not worth dying on. No matter who the candidate is, no matter who the individual is,” he said. “To put all your hope into that individual is a dangerous road. Scripture would warn us against that.” The pastor is concerned with the strained and broken friendships and relationships that have been torn because of Trump. In the article Gerber says that Christians are not called to dedicate themself to a political party. “Many evangelical Christians feel like they have to now fight for the way things used to be or they need to fight for what they feel is biblically true. My concern is that sometimes when we get so busy fighting for certain causes we get lost in spraying fire at other people with our words to the point we lose track of what we’re called to do,he said.Ultimately, our allegiance is to God, not to a political party, not to a figure within that political party.” In the article you get the sense that the pastor is afraid to address the topic because of how his congregation would react. You can read the Guardian article in, “Where Christian evangelicals worship Trump more than Jesus – key voters stay loyal to president.” 

 

Boston Globe Article About Evangelicals in Wisconsin and Double Standards 

On November 30, 2019 the Boston Globe wrote an in depth article that looked at white evangelicals in Wisconsin. This story takes place outside Green Bay and goes toward Appleton and as far south as Cedarburg,  and then West Allis, Wisconsin. This story deals with Victory Church in New London, Wisconsin. Victory Church’s campus pastor is Jim Curtis. There is another pastor over him as l study the website. The Globe article follows an evangelical, Chris Martinson, who has merged his politics and faith into one unit. This is an evangelical who shows up to church wearing Trump attire. In the Boston Globe article the one issue that stands out as the paper looks at the evangelical scene in Wisconsin is the imagined persecution white evangelicals face. Its also talks about how white evangelicals chose to overlook the double standards and issues with Trump. All that matters it appears is either abortion and the culture wars or support of Israel. For Chris Martinson the cross that he wears is not to remember Jesus and his crucifixion. But instead its to spark conversations with other Trump supporters. The cross is a political symbol much like the GOP elephant or Democrat donkey.  This is how Martinson describes Trump. “We’re hiring a president, we’re not hiring the pastor of a church. . .We’re hiring someone to lead our country in a tough battle. It’s not always going to be pretty.” If you would like to read the article in the Boston Globe in more detail you can do so in, “Trump’s evangelical support mystifies his critics, but in Wisconsin, it looks stronger than ever.” 

 

The Newspaper Stories Echo Experiences I had With Individuals from Former Churches or Ministries in Wisconsin 

Both articles describe a culture of people who are imagining persecution and who have married their faith and politics. They are incapable of divorcing them at all. My roots in Wisconsin ran deep and after 2016 many of those roots began to fray over this one issue. I was a Rubio supporter and became a part of the 17 to 18% who rejected Trump. But after the election I learned the dark side of Christian nationalism from places I once called home. The first situation happened shortly after the election when on Facebook, Josiah Jenkins, the son of my former senior pastor Joe Jenkins screamed at me to fuck off. It really was the first time in my life someone who came from a ministry family said something so profane directly to me. Then shortly thereafter Bob Hennis, who if I remember correctly faced a false accusation in a bitter divorce from his wife, on social media said goodbye and ended a relationship since I did not support Trump. Despite being a Rubio supporter he called me an “Obama liberal.” As relationships unraveled and as Trump did more outrageous and disturbing behavior, evangelicals then stepped up and defended him more. Or they excused the issue and looked the other way.

Another relationship that was lost was Russell Schmaltz. Years ago even in a faith crisis I traveled to St. Louis for his wedding. After what would happen I would later regret traveling for his wedding. When Neo-Nazis rioted in Charlottesvile, Virginia and a female was run down and killed; Russell was upset in my pointing out the anti-Semitic behavior of Trump. Russell told me that Trump wouldn’t say anything anti-Semitic not with a Jewish son-in-law.  And then he turned around and made the issue me. After this relationship was  lost I remember thinking of the previous Dietrich Bonhoeffer Bible studies I did where some of the evangelicals I knew talked about how when injustice was present they would speak out. After what happened in Charlottesville what happened was reinforced by evangelical silence on the issue. The way some evangelicals acted reminded me of another dark situation in history. Many Christians in Germany stayed silent when being Jewish became a crime. Why did Christians act like that? Well they approved of the Nazis outlawing pornography, abortion, and risky cabarets in the dying Weimar Republic.  Many Christians accepted the Holocaust and round up of the Jews because they got what they wanted from the Nazis. 

I could list a few others but I will focus on my former Campus Crusade for Christ director Steve Papez. Steve when I was involved in Crusade spent a great deal of time speaking out about how Milwaukee was a segregated city. He also talked about how sinful it was and how the Gospel was important.  The Milwaukee Metro Crusade leader also pushed a Milwaukee Metro Campus Crusade project at the University of Wisconsin Parkside to reach black college students. Steve, who is involved in Fox River Christian Church in Waukesha also spoke quite a bit about adopting a child from Africa as well when I was at Marquette. In the Trump era Steve Papez slowly began to troll me on social media. I had some other people who watched and observed the behavior of a ministry leader, and ask me “who is this guy trolling you?” I had to explain to a couple that it was my former Campus Crusade director.  When Donald Trump called Haiti and African nations shitholes and said that he preferred immigrants from Scandinavia, who defended the racist behavior of Trump? It was my former Milwaukee Campus Crusade leader. Before I finally blocked him on social media I couldn’t believe that he could not connect the dots. The last question that I asked Steve Papez is if Africa is a shithole as Trump describes then what about what comes out of Africa? Does that mean that your African-American daughter which was adopted out of Africa is a piece of shit? The Crusade leader became upset at me. It was a classic case of cognitive dissonance of be angry at the messenger and defend the person who originated the message.  All this talk over the years about the sin of racism was worthless. Steve Papez like much of white evangelicalism affirms that what Mark Noll taught about the scandal of the evangelical mind very much exists. And my former Crusade director taught me that the “Gospel” is a political party instead. 

 

With All the Problems of Spiritual and Sexual Abuse in Evangelicalism Why Christian Nationalism in Addition? 

Evangelical Christianity is an abusive faith system that is mired in corruption and one that has systemically failed. Let me re-visit some of churches and issues that taught me that perspective over the years. Elmbrook had a youth minister who sexually abused 10 minors in 1999 who then fled and committed suicide in Wisconsin Dells. I saw the church struggle with the pain of sexual abuse after l got involved. Elmbrook taught me why Evangelical Christianity struggles with sexual abuse. You can read the story in, “How I Learned Evangelical Christianity is Struggling with Child Sex Abuse: An Incident at Milwaukee’s Elmbrook Church in 1999.” Wooded Hills struggled with how to have healthy boundaries with a sex offender. In addition the church’s third wave charismatic theology was quite toxic and problematic. When the answer to every ill in life is that its spiritual warfare and demonic where does personal responsibility fit it? Plus their obsession with end times theology and how same were excited about war in Iraq in 2003 as a way to usher in the rapture was categorically sick. You can read more in, “How Healthy was Wooded Hills Church? A Personal Reflection on the Issues which Existed; Plus Concerns about the Influence of Mike Bickle’s Kansas City International House of Prayer” and “Iraqi Freedom and Wooded Hills Bible. When You Blindly Lust For War in the Middle East Hoping to Usher In the End Times.” The problems continued in the Washington, D.C. area and Virginia. When I was un-successfully recruited to Redeemer Arlington which was a part of Sovereign Grace Ministries I was appalled by all the sexual abuse allegations and claims that it was a cult. I was deeply bothered by what I was being invited to and it led to a lot of conflict. Subsequently I had to deal with a false accusation from a United States Air Force officer who boasted of how strong his faith was because of all the John Piper, Mark Driscoll and Matt Chandler he listened to. It became the darkest season of my life. The end result is that I learned why rape and sexual assault is a problem in the military. You can read more in, “How I Managed a False Accusation Given Birth to by a USAF Captain and Care Group Leader from Redeemer Arlington for 408 Days” and “Is Eric Simmons’ Redeemer Arlington a Rape Culture Like the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs?” Then as I tried to assemble the pieces of my life at Fairfax Community Church I stumbled into information that the church had employed a violent sex offender who had a history of abuse and then concealed that from the congregation of a mega church. At this point l was tired of the corruption and wanted a place to call home. Yet recalling what happened at Elmbrook years prior put me in the unenviable position of being a whistle blower in a mega church. That was a stressful and difficult spot to be in. You can read more in, “Why Does Fairfax Community Church have a Care Director on the Commonwealth of Virginia’s Sex Offender Registry?” and “The Stress of Being a Whistle Blower in a Washington, D.C. Mega Church. Plus How Did Fairfax Community Church Bully a TV Station Not to Report a Scandal? Was Loretta Rogers Cooper Responsible for that Action?” And the one aspect of evangelicalism that was healthy for me was an Evangelical Free in Fresno, California years prior. What changed with that church? Well it was when they gave the pulpit to Bryan Loritts, a man who was involved in the cover up of his brother-in-law’s voyeurism and manufacturing of child pornography inside an Acts 29 church in Memphis, Tennessee. While the daily newspaper the Memphis Commercial Appeal broke part of the story I worked with former members and a sex crime victim to tell the rest of the narrative. Why my former Evangelical Free church would put someone before their congregation who was involved in a deviant cover-up of sex crimes still baffles me. You can read more in, “Rick Trotter is Sentenced for Illegally Recording “UpSkirt” Videos at Richard Rieves Downtown Church and Goes on the Tennessee Sex Offender List; Plus Bryan Loritts Speaking Commitments Including my Former Church in California, The Bridge Fresno” and “The Memphis Commercial Appeal Asks If Memphis Police Mishandled the Rick Trotter Situation? Plus The Bridge Fresno Advertises and Prepares for Bryan Loritts to Speak on July 8, 2018

So this blog argues from experience that Evangelical Christianity is a faith system that is both abusive and untenable. It can not be sustained in its current form. As these problems exist now we also are dealing with the rise of Christian nationalism as well. Christian nationalism which I thought was noxious to the message of scripture. The idea that many white evangelicals cling to about “classical family values” in the 1950’s United States is a myth. Plus American evangelicals who have transformed the Gospel to make it political also posses bad theology. There never was a covenant between God and the United States like there was with Israel. Plus when you look at the history of evangelicals and race the question must be asked, are white evangelicals returning to their roots? For example the Southern Baptists were founded in 1845 on the belief that slavery was Biblical. Then in the 1970’s evangelicals got involved in the culture wars because some schools like Bob Jones University in South Carolina were still practicing racial segregation and they wanted to preserve segregation. They felt pressured by changes in the Carter administration. You can learn the history of that in the following Politico article called,The Real Origins of the Religious Right.Have evangelicals embraced someone so brazenly racist that they want to return to the days of segregation? Is that their Gospel? So why Christian nationalism and why now? Who decided to kick Jesus in the ass and shove him aside so the Christian faith system can worship a man who has boasted of grabbing pussy and fucking porn stars and then bribing  them to be silent? Philip Yancey who is one of the only Christian authors who I respect has repeatedly and frequently written about the problems of evangelicals embracing politics. He warns that when people embrace politics it is the Christian faith that takes the hit and suffers. Plus he also warns of the problems of Christian nationalism. InSoul Survivor” Yancey writes about how a white segregationist church in Atlanta that he grew up in warped his view of faith and how it converted his brother into atheism who wants nothing to do with church. Is that what white evangelicals want to go back to? The last point in this section that I want to make is if white evangelicals in New London, Crandon, Cedarburg, Milwaukee and Waukesha think they are persecuted in the United States they should speak with Christians from China. Recently this blog wrote about Early Rain Covenant Church in Chengdu, China. As you read the following article that depicts a house church in China and what They have endured from the Chinese government. Have white evangelicals been persecuted in Wisconsin? The answer is no. You can read more in,As White Evangelicals Believe They are Being Persecuted in the United States, a Story About Evangelical Christians and a House Church in Chengdu, China Reveals What Persecution Really Is.”

 

I Thought I Knew People in Wisconsin, I was Wrong

The past three years have been a sobering lesson. I thought I knew people in the church well. In the end I didn’t. I was wrong. Today when I think of my former Crusade leadership, people I knew from Elmbrook or Wooded Hills I came to the painful realization that I didn’t know them at all. This fracture and destruction of relationships has largely been unique to Evangelical Christianity. I still maintain friendships from high school, college, grad school and more who are secular. Most of the relationships that have been lost in the past three years have been white Evangelical Christians. When I thought of my Crusade leadership, or people like Russell Schmaltz, or others I never would have imagined such a thing would have happened. If you would have told me years ago that this would happen I would not believe it. For me the division and loss has been a sobering lesson and taught in many ways how much of the traditional evangelical side is both fraudulent and lost. Principle and integrity means absolutely nothing to many white Evangelical Christians. 

 

Should White Evangelical Christians in Wisconsin be Considered an Un-reached Peoples Group? And Why Going to Hell Would be a Blessing 

In late 2019 there was a dire warning by the Chief Missiologist of the North American Missions Board of the Southern Baptist Convention. His concern was about Christian nationalism affecting Christian missionary efforts abroad. Because of how white Evangelical Christians had embraced Trump while he lashed out at Africa, Asia and elsewhere people in those countries were pushing back from Southern Baptist missionary efforts. Plus Southern Baptist emissaries ran into difficulty due to interacting with local nationals. That Chief Missiologist Jeff Christopherson wrote about this issue and I analyzed the situation. You can read more in, “When Evangelicals Rejected Bethlehem and How I Walked out of a Christmas Eve Service. Plus is Christian Nationalism Derailing Southern Baptist Missionary Work?” Maybe what can happen is that in this upcoming Easter season some of the churches I spoke to can put on a play that could look like the following. In telling of the Messiah you can have a small kid wearing a business suit and a red tie stand on stage, and another small kid representing John the Baptist can then proclaim and eagerly point, “Look there is Donald Trump, the Lamb of God who has come to take away the sins of the world.” That would be a cute church scene in Fox River Christian Church, Wooded Hills Church or Victory Chapel. 

The question that needs to be asked is if white evangelicals in Wisconsin should be considered an un-reached peoples group? Instead of sending missionaries to Africa or Asia should they be instead be sent to Jim Curtis Victory Church or Theo Williams Wooded Hills Church or Guy Conn of Fox River Christian Church? Should missionaries go forth into those churches and preach the name of Jesus and tell them what the good news of the Gospel is? Will it be the first time they have heard it? For myself as someone who has experienced abuse when I read about what the Chris Martinson believes and functions all it does is tell me that Victory Church is not a harbor for the broken. For someone who painfully learned why rape and sexual assault is a problem in the military why would I or any other abuse victim want to walk through the doors and call Victory Church home? The same applies to Wooded Hills and Fox River Christian Church. Why would a rape, sexual abuse victim or more want to attend such a place and seek out the Gospel? Does Chris Martinson or any others know how traumatic it is to see the church embrace someone who boasts of sexual assault and then simultaneously  proclaim a message that says “all those who are weary and heavy burdened come to me and I will give you rest” How does a person supporting an abuser do so in the context of verses like Matthew 11:28? Or better asked how does one compartmentalize sexual assault? 

If I were a pastor in any one of those churches written above or any others I would weep over the damage that is being done if l actually cared. My rejection of Evangelical Christianity in this context is because I don’t see if as a faith system. Instead its a political party. Jesus died not for the sins of the world but for a Supreme Court seat. In all of the churches written above I would never set foot in those places to learn and hear the message. Those like me who have seen church abuse know that we are not welcome and that it is not a place to call home. I would actually take it a step further in what I am about to say. If this behavior by white evangelicals in Wisconsin is what faith is about, then I am looking forward to an eternity in hell as I reject it. At 44 as I reflect back on my spiritual life what I actually see is what John Piper would call a wasted life. This blog is often critical of the Neo-Calvinists, all you have to do is read the following, “John Piper on When God Loves You Enough to Take Your Life. According to John is a Brain Tumor a Sign of God Disciplining Someone?” In John Piper’s “Don’t Waste Your Life” he starts out by talking about a wasted life. In this post I have a confession to make as I confess my wasted life. It was a waste of my life to establish a Campus Crusade chapter at Marquette University. It was a waste of my life to be involved and a church member of Wooded Hills Bible Church. It was a waste of my life to do retreats, attend Crusade’s Twin City’s Experience and  more. It was a waste of my life to get involved in the evangelical scene. The hubris of my life which comes from a long involvement in evangelicalism now stands as a warning as to why you stay away. Its hard enough to deal with an evangelical theology stream that is abusive. Now to deal with Christian nationalism in addition makes it even more toxic. I have to state with authority that my formative years in my 20’s were wasted being involved in evangelicalism. For myself those who thought that Gospel was a-political don’t belong in this system. And if that is what the Gospel is about based upon what I have read and my own experiences then why would I want to spend an eternity with people like Chris Martinson,  Steve Papez or others? If they are what will make up heaven then I will gladly embrace hell. And with that I will close this difficult post. This is something that needed to be said as I address the issue of Christian nationalism. 

15 thoughts on “Recalling My Formative Years Inside Evangelicalism in Wisconsin. Plus Deeply Embarrassing and Troubling Newspaper Articles About Dairy State Evangelical Christians Worshiping Donald Trump Over Jesus

    • I remember thinking to myself and asking how could Christians be silent during the Holocaust? How could they ignore the abuses of power or the rounding up of the Jews? It was simple…the Nazis gave the conservative Christians what they wanted. They were irate at the “immoral” behavior of Weimar. They didn’t like the risque night clubs, didn’t like some Germans accepting homosexuality, didn’t like the porn that was legal in Germany at the time. That is why they embraced the Nazis. The Nazis gave them what they wanted. What did it mean to be a Christian in Nazi, Germany? 6 million dead but hey the Nazis outlawed porn. Quite a tradeoff.

      Liked by 2 people

      • I remember a documentary in the Eighties that mentioned in passing that before their 1933 Coup-from-Within (when they still had to appeal to voters), the Nazis positioned themselves as Guardians and Restorers of Traditional German Family Values. This was connected with “Blood and Soil”, which the Nazis did NOT invent. Blood & Soil was an existing nostalgia genre for a simpler rural time — sort of a German “Little House on the Prairie”, a retreat into a better time in the aftermath of WW1.

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      • Yep, I read about that in “The Sanctity of Rural Life: Nobility, Protestantism and Nazism in Weimar Prussia” (Shelley Baranowski). Conservative Christians had a lot of the same complaints as now–including that God had been taken out of the schools and they couldn’t pray there anymore. Then there were the issues with Catholic Poles coming across the border to work, and “spreading Catholicism” in Protestant areas….

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      • 6 million dead but hey the Nazis outlawed porn.

        Don’t forget how they also outlawed TEH FAGS(TM).
        All you need to add is Prayer in Schools and the Nazis won the Christian Culture War across the board.

        During my time in-country I noticed the Christianese obsession with “GAWD H8S FAGS”, i.e. the Ultimate Evil, the Ultimate Other, the Ultimate Them-NOT-Us. (It took me over 20 years to detox.) I remember radio preacher after radio preacher (possibly including “Focus on the Family”) claiming from SCRIPTURE(TM) how Acceptance of Homosexuality WAS THE POINT OF NO RETURN when it came to God’s Wrath. And (from other radio preachers invoking SCRIPTURE(TM) about God using Babylon to Punish Israel’s Sins) “GOD’S PUNISHMENT FOR AMERICA SITS READY AND WAITING IN THE NUCLEAR MISSILE SILOS OF THE SOVIET UNION!”

        Put the two together and If We Don’t Crush TEH FAGS, GOD WILL PUNISH US With Nuclear War (and Jack Chick’s Great White Throne Scene after the nuclear harvest). Another Wretched Urgency, with God pressing his Hell-gun to the back of your head with one up the spout, hammer back, and safety off. CRUSH TEH FAGS OR ELSE!

        I’m reminded of the line of the Polish concentration camp castration doctor in Leon Uris’ QB VII: “If I don’t take your balls, the SS will have mine.”

        This can really make you desperate. Desperate enough that you’d do (or back) anything to keep God’s Wrath away from you and yours.

        Liked by 1 person

      • 6 million??? That is the estimated numbers of only one group! That doesn’t include about the same number of Russians, plus homosexuals, atheists, …
        Looks like you need much more research?

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  1. And Bonhoeffer’s analysis of the German Christians is just as chilling and prescient…

    “One can protest against evil; it can be unmasked and, if need be, prevented by force. Evil always carries the seeds of its own destruction, as it makes people, at the least, uncomfortable. Against folly we have no defense. Neither protests nor force can touch it; reasoning is no use; facts that contradict personal prejudices can simply be disbelieved — indeed, the fool can counter by criticizing them, and if they are undeniable, they can just be pushed aside as trivial exceptions. So the fool, as distinct from the scoundrel, is completely self-satisfied, in fact, they can easily become dangerous, as it does not take much to make them aggressive. A fool must therefore be treated more cautiously than a scoundrel; we shall never again try to convince a fool by reason, for it is both useless and dangerous.

    If we are to deal adequately with folly, we must understand its nature. This much is certain, that it is a moral rather than an intellectual defect. There are people who are mentally agile but foolish, and people who are mentally slow but very far from foolish — a discovery that we make to our surprise as a result of particular situations. We thus get the impression that folly is likely to be, not a congenital defect, but one that is acquired in certain circumstances where people make fools of themselves or allow others to make fools of them. We notice further that this defect is less common in the unsociable and solitary than in individuals or groups that are inclined or condemned to sociability. It seems, then, that folly is a sociological rather than a psychological problem, and that it is a special form of the operation of historical circumstances: on people, a psychological by-product of definite external factors.

    If we look more closely, we see that any violent display of power, whether political or religious, produces an outburst of folly in a large part of humanity; indeed, this seems actually to be a psychological and sociological law: the power of some needs the folly of the others. It is not that certain human capacities, intellectual capacities for instance, become stunted or destroyed, but rather that the upsurge of power makes such an overwhelming impression that people are deprived of their independent judgment, and — more or less unconsciously — give up trying to assess the new state of affairs for themselves. The fact that the fool is often stubborn must not mislead us into thinking that they are independent. One feels in fact, when talking to them, that one is dealing, not with the person themselves, but with slogans, catchwords, and the like, which have taken hold of them. They are under a spell, they are blinded, their very nature is being misused and exploited. Having thus become a passive instrument, the fool will be capable of any evil and at the same time incapable of seeing that it is evil. Here lies the danger of diabolical exploitation that can do irreparable damage to human beings.

    But at this point it is quite clear, too, that folly can be overcome, not by instruction, but only by an act of liberation; and so we have come to terms with the fact that in the great majority of cases inward liberation must be preceded by outward liberation, and that until that has taken place, we may as well abandon all attempts to convince the fool. In this state of affairs we have to realize why it is no use our trying to find out what “the people” really think, and why the question is so superfluous for the person who thinks and acts responsibly — but always given these particular circumstances. The Bible’s words that “the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom” (Psalm 111:10) tell us that a person’s inward liberation to live a responsible life before God is the only real cure for folly.

    But there is some consolation in these thoughts on folly: they in no way justify us in thinking that most people are fools in all circumstances. What will really matter is whether those in power expect more from people’s folly than from their wisdom and independence of mind.”

    – 1943 essay “After Ten Years,” which is included in Bonhoeffer’s *Letters and Papers From Prison*.

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  2. I am still trying to work from within evangelicalism because of my theological beliefs, but I confess I am having difficulty doing so, and so I understand your frustration and feeling like so much of your time and efforts was a waste.

    Too much of evangelicalism is now consumed by politics and by cultural warfaring. Not all of it, but it is increasingly hard to find areas where it is not. It is disorienting, disconcerting, and discouraging.

    I certainly don’t believe Christians need to be apolitical, especially in a free country in which everyone is supposed to be part of the political process. But Christians must not elevate party and political tribalism above following Christ, and Christians should view politics through the lens of faith and not vice versa. For far, far too many, Christian faith has become merely synonymous with the decrees and positions of an earthly political party, and ultimate allegiance is pledged to politicians rather than to Christ. This has been decades in the making, with the process constantly accelerating, to bring us to this point. I have grown increasingly concerned that there is no longer any place in evangelicalism for someone like me.

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  3. I grew up in the Southeast corner of Wisconsin (town of Racine).
    Racism, hatred of the ‘other’, tribal warfare, it’s always been there, just as it’s always been with any people in any locale.
    Trump only gave it an outlet, which before his rise, stayed submerged.

    Like

    • Yeah, I saw racism growing up in an integrated neighborhood in Indiana, then came to Wisconsin and saw the different kind of racism of people who aren’t used to seeing anyone of color…. Just a few years ago, the newspaper published articles on people in my current town having racist statues and wallpaper and yelling out racist comments to black people who moved in. It caused an uproar because “What? racist? us?” and “Anyone with issues over statues must have mental problems.” People may not be Archie Bunkers as openly these days, but the racism in this country never went away. Trump just made it more “acceptable” to be racist.

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  4. Pingback: Politics and the Evangelical Church in 2020. A Look at the Just Gospel Conference at Del Rey Baptist On March 5 – 7, 2020 | Wondering Eagle

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