A recent New York Times article looked at the Christian nationalism of Jason Mulder, Micah and Caryn Schoutens, Rob Driesens and others in Sioux Center, Iowa. Some attend the United Reformed Church in Sioux Center while others may go elsewhere. This newspaper article reveals why evangelicalism is warped and lost. It also helps me to understand why I washed out of evangelicalism. I thought faith was a spiritual movement when in reality the Gospel is a political gospel.
“Ignorance, the root and stem of all evil.”
“Ignorance deprives people of freedom because they do not know what alternatives there are. It is impossible to choose to do what one has never heard of.“
Ralph B Perry
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you to live in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— 7 which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. 8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse! 9 As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!
Galatians 1:6-9 NIV
On August 10, 2020 this blog wrote briefly about a major New York Times article that was published which looked at evangelical support for Donald Trump. The article is called, “‘Christianity Will Have Power’” and you can read the post I wrote about it in, “Recommended Read in the New York Times: ‘Christianity Will Have Power.’ A Look at Christian Nationalism, Donald Trump and White Evangelicals.” For me this article helped show me why I washed out of white evangelicalism, more on that below. When the historians review the Trump era I think there will be two articles written by the American press that will come up for review and discussion that future history classes will see in historical supplements which can accompany text books in a college level classes. One article will be that New York Times article that is being written about today. The second one was published in the Washington Post in July of 2018 and is called, “Judgment days.” In that article you learned about a small Southern Baptist Church in Laverne, Alabama that is led by Clay Crum. In that Post article one began to understand why many in a small Southern Baptist Church strongly support Donald Trump and you learn about the congregation as well. For example in the article one learns that Donald Trump represents many Christian values and that evangelicals believe he is being persecuted like Jesus was. Likewise many evangelicals believe they are going to be annihilated and how some defended Trump’s shithole comments as they pointed out Nazareth is a shithole. In a discussion with one Southern Baptist it was even asked, why was slavery so bad for African-Americans, after all they got housing and health care? Also covered is how morality is subjective and how the only issue that matters is abortion. One also learned about how another Baptist thought that Obama is a Sunni Muslim. I was shocked when I read this article two years ago and even a quick glance of the newspaper story stuns me today. For me what the article revealed that a lot of white evangelicals live in an alternative universe. A world of alternative facts and they choose to stick their hand in the sand. When confronted with facts they double down and stick their head in the sand even harder. These two articles in two separate newspapers at two different times will be the defining articles of the Trump era when describing evangelical support for Donald Trump.
But let’s do a deep dive looking at the issues raised in the New York Times article. In this article you learn about personalities such as Jason Mulder, Rob and Cheryl Driesen and Micah and Caryn Schouten. Below are the takeaways when it comes to morals and lessons of white evangelicals.
Christianity Under Siege?
In the article by Elisabeth Dias one learns that white evangelicals believe they are under siege. That they live in fear – even when they are in their own bubble and cut off from the world. For me as a former evangelical I can’t quite get the siege mentality and how they think they are being persecuted. In my experience many evangelical fears have not born out and often imagined. They aren’t real and to watch this unfold is troubling but at the same time not surprising. I recall being a part of different evangelical churches where I heard comments about fears of being persecuted by gays, atheists and secular organizations. Some explained to me that home schooling or evangelical schooling is a way to keep their kids away from science or the secular world. If they were controlled then the faith could continue. For me I don’t get the persecution element. Its dishonoring to those Christians who are actually suffering and losing their lives for their faith in nations such as North Korea, Syria, Iran, China and elsewhere. Has an evangelical church been broken up in Sioux Center, Iowa just as that has occurred in a house church in China? Are radical Islamists going into evangelical households in Sioxu County, Iowa and abducting them as that is happening in the Middle East? A firm and resounding no is the answer. The reality is that evangelicals are not being persecuted in the United States.
White Evangelicals Are Bullies and Thugs
Jesus allowed himself to be arrested. He also allowed to be whipped, spit on and then crucified. He carried his cross to Calvary. At any moment he could have stopped his death or even called down legions of angels to his defense but he did not. In using and writing about Christian theology Jesus was the suffering servant who allowed himself to be killed. Contrast that with what comes out of the New York Times article. White evangelicals like Trump because he is a fighter. He represents them. The bullying, the pussy grabbing, the condescending approach tells us the following. White evangelicals are bullies. You praise Jesus while you are kicking someone in the balls simultaneously. Some faith system. In the process I might also add that many white evangelicals have tipped their hand and reveal that they really don’t believe in Jesus’s teachings. Whereas Jesus told his followers to turn the other check, what that really means is that you beat the shit out of someone who poses a “threat” to your practice of faith. The take away for me is that white evangelicals are bullies and thugs. According to that New York Times article Trump is admired because he represents them. If you really want to know someone’s character watch how they respond when they have power or when they are not doing well. This article reveals volumes on evangelicalism and how sick many of them are.
White Evangelical Christians Are Snowflakes
Here is another aspect to white evangelicals that I learned in the New York Times article. White evangelicals are snowflakes. Maybe, perhaps the biggest, on record. They can’t deal with different points of view. Nor can they take criticism. Their feelings might get hurt. Waaaaaaaawww!!!! Oh white evangelicals have it so hard here in the United States. They suffer and live most of their life not being able to avoid people they disagree with. They detest science because of evolution and the scientific theory. What do you do? Pull your kid out and home school or put them in private school. Have problems with competing faiths and nervous about how to engage them? Pull yourself into a bubble in Sioux Center, Iowa. In the end what has been created is someone who can’t deal with different points of view. Their world view is limited and as such white evangelicals should be remembered for being snowflakes.
People on the Coasts Being Out of Touch
In the article Jason Mulder says the following about people in the United States who live on the West or East coast. “I feel like on the coasts, in some of the cities and stuff, they look down on us in rural America. You know, we are a bunch of hicks, and don’t know anything. They don’t understand us the same way we don’t understand them. So we don’t want them telling us how to live our lives.” He criticizes generalizations while engaging in generalization. Being included in that description is most troubling. My background includes living in California, Montana, Wisconsin and Washington, D.C. I have lived in urban and rural areas over the years. Do you want to know what this “elitist” was planning on doing before the COVID-19 pandemic hit? I was planning on purchasing a plane ticket to travel out to Kansas City and further west into rural Kansas. I was planning on visiting a friend on a family farm and spending a few days with his family. I also was going to visit someone in a small town in Missouri about 45 minutes north of Kansas City. Does that sound like someone who looks down on people in the Midwest as being hicks? If I didn’t want to see people in the Midwest why would I take the time to shell out $300.00 on a plane ticket and take that kind of effort?
One of the things that really disgusts me is the stereotypes that exist today. Growing up in the San Joaquin Valley of California I heard the San Francisco Bay Area attacked for “elitists” and liberals. The stereotyping worked until my Dad developed a massive brain tumor which was operated, and cared by Stanford for the last seven years of his life. The care, treatment, and love shown my family by Stanford was amazing. My Mom realized she was wrong in what she thought about Stanford. Last fall for the first time in my life I traveled to New York City. In both Lower Manhattan and Times Square I got lost and went into a couple of bagel/coffee shops and asked for directions. In the largest city of the United States I was responded to with warmth and kindness. I was surprised because people talk about how rude New Yorkers are and how they have an attitude, are mean and condescending. My experience didn’t align with that at all. Afterward I spoke with someone who traveled to New York and he affirmed my experience and told me that New Yorkers are nice people. Now I am the type of guy who can be happy in places like New York City, Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., San Francisco or small places like rural Kansas, Wisconsin, or Missouri. I don’t view this topic in the context of either/or. My advice to Jason is that he travel some more and explore the United States. I think he would be surprised. Of course it would require some humility on his part and after what comes out in the Times story I don’t know if that is possible.
The United States Was Not Founded as a Christian Nation
One of the issues that emerges is that people believe that the United States was founded as a Christian nation. Now there were Christians involved in government and here in the United States. But the United States was not founded as a Christian government or theocracy. Deism which is a “religion of nature” in the 17th and 18th centuries influenced several individuals in the United States. Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson were probably the most well known deists. John Adams was Unitarian Universalist, George Washington who was a freemason also would have been considered as a liberal Christian. The view that the United States was founded by born again Christians is a view that is rooted in Christian nationalism and is not reflective of history. The real tragedy of this train of thought as I know many will reject what I am saying. Instead of fighting this imaginary view of history think of what they could do for their faith if they could accept the fact that the United States was founded secular? Think of how they could be living their faith and be the church. The real tragedy is that for some people this is the hill to die on. It also shows how many people do not know history and are indeed ignorant of it. How many know the history of Baptist faith in Europe? If you learned what the Baptists fled then you could understand why they reached out to Thomas Jefferson in the famed Danbury letter expressing a worry that the government stay out of religion. You can read more in, “Remembering Thomas Jefferson’s Letter to the Danbury Baptists in January of 1802.” In regards to the United States government being established in a secular method so that religious freedom will flourish you can read more here, here, and here.
Why Caryn Schouten Lacks Faith
In the New York Times article Caryn Schouton the wife of Micah Schouten says the following. “We have life very easy, it is laid back, it is like-minded people. And it’s just, I like the bubble.” So Caryn’s faith lives in a bubble. That is how it operates and the only way it can survive. It has to be reinforced by her family, friends in Sioux Center, Iowa. And it has to be reinforced by United Reformed Church as led by Jon Bushnell. The only way Caryn’s faith can survive is to be in a tight, wrapped up bubble cut off from the world and divorced from everyone who thinks differently. This blog has to say the following…Caryn Schouten leads a sad and pathetic life and is a failure as a Christian. And as such she has also failed as a Mother and a wife by how her faith has failed her. This is something that I would think her pastor Jon Bushnell would mourn. Her faith can’t survive on the outside. It won’t thrive, soar, grow or go deeper. She can’t do anything without being in the presence of yes men and yes women. This, in my book is an example of a wasted life. This should be a subject of a John Piper in a sermon one day. Is this how Jon Bushnell wants his congregation to go out into the world? The Great Commission by Jesus commands people to go out into the world and make disciples in all nations. That is how the Book of Matthew ends at 28:16. And how does Caryn respond to Jesus’s teaching? Not to go into the world but to withdraw and go into a bubble. This blog would love to have seen how Caryn’s faith would have held up in the days of Ancient Rome. If this is how she is living in Sioux County, Iowa then how would she have held up in the days of Emperor Nero? Why are denominations like the Southern Baptists, the Evangelical Free and more concerned with sending missionaries abroad when you have Christians like Caryn in Sioux Center? Hell do you I need to pull out my 4 Spiritual Laws track from my days of Campus Crusade and teach her the Gospel? And there is this other aspect to her faith as well. Since we are dealing with a Calvinist church has her lack of faith and a failure as a Christian be pre-determined by God? Caryn must not part of the elect. That comes through as well. So however you look at this each side looks awful. Why is Evangelical Christianity so cancerous or toxic? Look no further than Caryn Schouten.
Do the Micah and Caryn Schoutens or the Rob Driesens Realize They Are Being Used?
Here is another question that I would like to ask. Do all the white evangelicals in the New York Times article…the Mulder’s, the Schoutens and the Driesens realize that they are being used by Trump? In the end how are they any different than porn star Stormy Daniels? There is one key difference this blog would propose. When Stormy Daniels goes onto a porn set and lies on the bed and has sex and reaches to the sky and moans God’s name she is probably showing more reverence and faith to God than any of the white evangelicals mentioned in this article. Actually let me take this a step further, when she goes on a pornographic set and is fucked she is showing more faith then anyone mentioned in this article who walks into United Reformed Church and sings hymns like the Doxology, How Great Thou Art, or Be Thou My Vision. Why? Because her motives and her approach to life has more integrity and honesty. Stormy Daniels won’t allow herself to be used. The Schoutens, Driesens, Mulders and others from the United Reformed Church are allowing themself to be used. This is a transnational situation. In the end the porn star has a better grasp on life and reality than the people inside United Reformed Church and other white evangelicals that I read about in that Times article. Pastor Jon Bushnell has a lot overtime ahead of him. You can better understand why Jesus hung out with the sinner and condemned the religious.
Another Reason Why I Washed Out of White Evangelicalism. I Didn’t Belong in a Political Gospel
This blog has written about the dark side of evangelicalism for the last five plus years now. I have written about my experience with spiritual abuse in, “Unless You Experience Spiritual Abuse Then You Won’t Understand How Painful it is.” Then I have written about why I decided to reject evangelicalism in, “Reflecting on My Decision to Reject Evangelical Christianity. Its Too Corrupt, Political and Intellectually Shallow.” Each day I have tried to figure out what happened. I tried to make faith work so much. And at different stages in my life I poured it out into different churches, ministries like Campus Crusade for Christ, Bible studies and more. Instead this New York Times article and members and attenders of Jon Bushnell’s United Reformed Church have clarified for me why I rejected evangelicalism. This period of American history has helped clarify many aspects for me. Many people who claim to worship God in United Reformed Church and other white evangelical churches in Sioux Center, Iowa have not read books such as Romans, 1st Corinthians, 1st Peter, 1st Thessalonians, etc.. If they did what would come forward would be very different faith. Paul is said to have written a letter to the Galatians about how easily they abandoned their faith and how they were deceived. Maybe this blog post is a letter in the same nature to the people of United Reformed Church in Sioux Center, Iowa. However, after reading about the fruits of the Mulders, Schoutens, and Driesens I can now better understand why I washed out of evangelicalism.
My mistake is thinking of the Gospel in spiritual terms. I thought I had to accept my sinfulness and relieve that Jesus died for me. That the Bible from Genesis to Revelation was a long, consistent effort to reach lost people like myself. And that Jesus died at Calvary so that people like myself could go to Heaven if we accepted him as our Lord and Savior. That is how I approached church and my time as a student leader in Campus Crusade for Christ. Instead, I was wrong. The Gospel is political. The Gospel is about acquiring and holding onto power and building up your Kingdom in this world – NOT heaven. In the end the Bible is about the efforts of Christians to control the American government and to nominate and control justice on the the Supreme Court. That is what faith is all about. Nothing more. My rejection of all this and evangelical faith makes sense, Its crystal clear. I can and will say this. I would never step into a place like the United Reformed Church to hear a sermon or listen to the Gospel message. I would not allow others of this background to preach or teach to me. They have no credibility and are frauds. The worst mistake in modern evangelicalism in my view has been the fusion of politics and faith. For this clusterfuck we have Jerry Falwell Sr to thank. But reading about the faith of people like the Mulders, Schoutens, and Driesens helped me to realize why it is broken and why I am not heading back. This blog is grateful for the journalist expertise of Elisabeth Dias.