There is an epidemic of loneliness in the United States. Changing society and culture have resulted in men having less friendships. David French writes about how its leading to further polarization in creating factional relationships. This is part of the reason why there is sharp political polarization. However, this blog wants to acknowledge about how evangelical culture contributes to the problem. Evangelical culture creates many obstacles and often divides friendships or prevents them from forming. This is what today’s post is about.
“My best friend is the man who in wishing me well wishes it for my sake.“
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:
Ecclesiastes 4:9 NIV
Recently I had a situation that was telling. I am going to share what happened but under certain conditions. I will not name the person, the evangelical organization he is from or even which church here in the D.C. area I met this individual. I’ve known him for years. It was an old friendship and we were in a Bible study together. There were times we got together and had dinner and just hung out and talked. I appreciated him in a lot of ways. When I had my faith crisis from 2009 until 2013 I lost many people but worked at building bridges with many people. When I started this blog or had a falling out with some due to Christian nationalism there were other guys I still kept in touch with. Then there was Al (Can you tell I grew up watching Married With Children? 😀 ) Al kept in touch and we still talked. A couple of years passed and due to many problems and issues with evangelicalism I pushed back the religion. Then several weeks ago Al popped up through social media. As he explains it he felt like he needed to reach out and pray for me. I learned that Al is now with a well known evangelical missionary organization and that he spent time overseas. So he says let’s stay in touch. I tell him nothing of where I am at spiritually or that I have pushed back from religion a few years ago.
So a couple of days later I debate the issue in my mind. Should I send Al the link to my blog? Can he handle it? Or would he get anxious and upset? Does he really want to know how I am doing and where my life is going? I go back and forth in my mind then think, “What the hell, what have I got to lose?”
Well in this case it could be a decade plus friendship to a now evangelical missionary.
So I sent Al three blog posts that I have done. The three I send him are as follows.
- “Please Read This First Before You Start Reading Wondering Eagle.”
- “Of all the Scandals Written About at The Wondering Eagle, Bryan Loritts is the Most Disturbing. Here’s Why.“
- “How White Evangelical Christianity in the United States is American Carnage.”
Several hours late Al contacts me through social media.
“Dave, why did you send me blog posts?”
“Al you wanted to know how I am doing and I thought I’d share more. I never told you this but I write a blog that is well read and writes about evangelical issues and modern evangelicalism as well as atheism and doubt. I do it as a part of the dones.”
“Dave, what are the dones?”
“Al the dones are the people who have pushed away from evangelicalism. Some are becoming nones and are nothing spiritually. Often they have had doubts, dealt with spiritual abuse or are disillusioned by modern evangelicalism.”
“Dave why are you telling me this? I just wanted to ask you how you are doing?”
It was at this point that I realized I made a mistake. I hit a sore spot with my missionary evangelical friend.
“Al I just thought I would share as you asked.”
“Dave please don’t send me any similar blog posts or communicate your doubts.”
And with that the conversation goes cold. I sat in my kitchen just thinking and asking myself. Did I lose a decade plus friendship to a friend because as a missionary he couldn’t talk about doubt? It felt surreal. It felt weird. And part of me wanted to cry as I thought, “There there is another friendship shot to hell….” But a missionary? A missionary who can’t handle such doubts and questions and he feels threatened? Sometimes when I lay in bed in a dark bedroom at night I ask myself if this blog is too sensational? If I exaggerate the problems with American evangelicalism? And then I continue to have these experiences even while outside evangelicalism that leave me shaking my head and asking myself ..is it just me?
David French On White Men Lacking Close Friendships Today
Recently David French wrote a column that was interesting. Its about how white males are losing or do not have close friendships and how its affecting society, communities and its leading to more radicalization as people replace it with politics or seek faction based friendships. Opioid addiction has increased among white males as well as suicide. Its a serious problem here in the United States. As society has changed it led to some aspects of upheaval an instability among men. French’s article is both important and troubling. You can access David’s article in, “Lost Friendships Break Hearts and Nations.” When I read French’s article I was thinking of what happened shortly beforehand with Al.
Then I thought of the other fractured relationships.
I thought of Andrew White who claimed he wanted to spiritual; help me and befriended me before turning around and triggering a false accusation that dealt with stalking. Its was the darkest thing I experienced. And I could never figure it out? How can you stalk someone when they are inviting you in your home, texting you or even asking you to change the password on their computer so they can not access porn?
I also thought of all the friendships I lost from evangelicalism because of Christian nationalism. My former pastor’s family, people from Campus Crusade, individuals from my charismatic and mega church in Wisconsin. Just because I was in the 18% who didn’t support Trump I was attacked, had my faith at the time questioned. I didn’t support Donald Trump…was I even saved? Was I even a Christian? I guess not.
Then I thought of all the other evangelical friendships lost due to doubt, asking questions or people getting anxious over the issues I was choosing to raise. One thing I learned is that the most toxic place for a person asking questions is an evangelical church.
Should the evangelical mega church be considered a spiritual Jabba the Hut? A place that is obtuse, belches, farts, and leaches off society? A place that has no benefit for the community that it “serves?”
Why American Evangelicals Can’t Maintain Friendships
There is a loneliness epidemic today. White men are more lonely and suicides are up. Its also leading to an increase in opioid addiction which I mentioned above. However in the view of this blog modern evangelical culture had made the problem much worse and contributed to the loneliness and friendship problem. How? Well let’s look at a few reasons why.
- The creation and pushing the megachurch model is flawed. The mega church invention has been as healthy for society as syphilis has been. People drown, get lost in the size and the system works against people. Both pastors and leadership is removed from the people. The people exist to pay the pastor and help supplement the pastor’s income by buying the celebrity’s pastor’s books. Mega churches also create cliques and you can avoid people much easier. Really want to feel lonely and be just another person in a crowd? Try a megachurch.
- The push to church plant from mega churches also affects friendships. It becomes empire building. They can’t manage what they have and the insist on growing. They use people to justify their claims but in reality they use them for power hungry moves. There is constant turnover and when another church is started people are split up and they are told to stick to their church plant. The success of the plant becomes everything and it overrides friendships and relationships.
- Politics in evangelicalism divides people. These last four years have been very polarizing. More polarizing than anything I experienced. One of the biggest mistakes with American evangelicalism is that it has become too political. For the person who desires a politics free church experience its hard because its a strong undercurrent inside evangelicalism.
- Evangelicals defending and putting on a platform narcissistic personalities. What is it with evangelicals and narcissists? They are like rats and scurry from church to church. There are so many evangelical churches that are full of tem. But look at some of the people that evangelicals promote: Mark Driscoll, James MacDonald, C.J. Mahaney, Robert Morris, etc… Many of these people have divided and torn churches apart. How many friendships have been divided by such people? In my own life I consider how needless dividing Mark Driscoll became. I wrote about this in detail several years back in, “How Celebrity Pastors Become Divisive: Mark Driscoll, Andrew White, Eagle and the Launch of Paul and Jonna Petry’s “Joyful Exiles””
- Accountability relationships destroy friendships also. The evangelical war on pornography and lust is kind of like the Afghanistan War. Its the forever war and there can be such pressure to have accountability it creates problems. I wrote about this in, “Learning to Hate Yourself. A Reflection on the Forever War Against Lust and Pornography Among Men in Evangelical Culture and the Destroyed Lives Left Behind.” In my life accountability destroyed one of my closest friendships in Milwaukee. And years later I still deeply regret that lost friendship. And I was doing what the evangelical church was telling me to do.
- Doubt and faith crisis destroy and divide friendships. American evangelicals are deeply insecure and shallow. You become a doubter its basically a death sentence. If you are a doubter you should be told. Evangelicals are going to drop you like a diseases infected person. You might as well wear a scarlet letter. I had people who went silent on me with my doubts and who feel threatened by them.
- Deny male friendship with females. This is a tragedy. And its unique to evangelicals. For all the talk of purity that they have evangelicals sexualize everything. A female is sexualized to the point you cant have cross gender friendships. You have to only have friendships with guys because that woman can cause you to stumble and fall into sin. Hang out with a female in five minutes you’ll be all over each other like uncontrollable animals. Its a shame that evangelicalism acts this way. Both males and females in my view are affected by not being able to be friends with each other.
- Make marriage an evangelical idol. That discourages many friendships. Married in evangelical culture are encouraged to know only married. They are also discouraged from knowing singles. Evangelicalism is a controlling entity that loves to control people. And in the process it also controls friendships in many ways.
These are some of the many examples as to how evangelicalism interferes and harms friendships. I learned the lesson the hard way. Years ago I would guess about 90 to 95% of the people I associated with and considered “friends.” Today its hardly any. Now that doesn’t mean I won’t talk to a few, but unlike the old days I seek out other people who I think are far healthier. But evangelicalism can be hard on friendships. Indeed it can harm and destroy them.
Response to David French and Closing Thoughts
David French appears to think Christianity and faith can solve the problem. The problems I wrote above are deep and systemic and just a part of evangelical culture. Evangelical culture can not be changed. To try and change it is like removing stripes from a zebra. But think of the white men who are falling into addition, and dealing with suicide. And evangelicals like they often are, are ignorant of the crisis and what happens around them. Bliss, ignorance and living in a bubble is what most evangelicals do. In order to survive long term you need to remove influences and challenges that are a problem for your skin deep faith. But we do have a crisis with white men. I don’t deny that at all. Instead of faith based maybe what needs to happen is the creation of secular organizations that can help connect people. What if there were modern day versions of the Civilian Conservation Corps, that help bond men together with others? David French even talks about his time in the military in that article. Maybe we should consider activating the draft again to help give people comradery and purpose. But the church has not helped friendships. To the contrary as written about above they have divided and torn people apart. And due to their culture they will not be a part of the solution.