The Loneliness Epidemic in the United States. When it Comes to Friendship Is Evangelical Culture Contributing to the Problem?

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.

Aristotle 

Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor:

Ecclesiastes 4:9 NIV

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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.

  1. Please Read This First Before You Start Reading Wondering Eagle.”
  2. Of all the Scandals Written About at The Wondering Eagle, Bryan Loritts is the Most Disturbing. Here’s Why.
  3. 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.

  1. 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. 
  2. 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. 
  3. 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. 
  4. 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”” 
  5. 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. 
  6. 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. 
  7. 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. 
  8. 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. 

10 thoughts on “The Loneliness Epidemic in the United States. When it Comes to Friendship Is Evangelical Culture Contributing to the Problem?

  1. 1) Years ago, songs like this one probably would have struck me as blasphemous, because of how Evangelicalism “trained” me: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ijwj1xOLYY Nowadays, after almost two decades of doubt and disillusion combined with stubborn refusal to give up on God, I can truly appreciate that Gary Numan is the Gothic Job. (He’s an atheist, BTW.) Every now and then, I get obsessed with this song; here we go again. 🙂 It helps a lot that Orthodoxy and Catholicism actually let you have doubts and the dark night of the soul. In Evangelicalism, I felt like I wasn’t supposed to have doubts (“ye of little faith”) or question the moral values the elders passed down (“you just want to sin”). And that made me harder on others than I should’ve been.

    2) My church has usually been a fairly safe place, with both Republicans and Democrats. I come back to church after getting vaccinated, and after church a newcomer is yelling at the church president and a couple others because everybody’s wearing “carnival masks.” A few weeks ago, she wondered about a necklace I was wearing (I wear Gothy jewelry; this piece was based on Poe’s “Raven”) and said, “I thought, it couldn’t be Harry Potter!” It’s put my spidey senses on alert: Is it a Trumper? Is she like the Evangelicals I used to go to church with? Around that time, we’re told that TWO members of the board have submitted resignations, and I wonder what’s going on behind the scenes.

    3) My narcissist ex-friend, at least according to the stories he told me and others, was once a promising up-and-coming preacher in Foursquare, packing churches. Some TV celeb wanted to get him on TV. Yet he told me that secretly, he didn’t believe any of it, and whenever he spoke in “tongues,” it was just a bunch of gibberish he made up. Unlike the other preacher celebs, though, he finally got disgusted and walked away.

    4) The messaging on lust doesn’t just destroy young men. In college, I was in a friends-with-benefits “relationship” that never actually went “all the way.” It was with an Evangelical; I was Fundie, influenced by Evangelicals. For that reason, it was full of so much lust and guilt and blame that it almost destroyed me. I had normal feelings and desires, which he did his best to stir up, but he made me feel like a slut who was driving him away from God. And I thought demons were tempting me, and poured it out to my prayer partner. I told the guy what was going on, hoping for his help–and he turned around and treated me like an evil temptress he had to avoid like the plague.

    5) I was raised in the 80s, when nobody around me said opposite-sex friendships were somehow bad. Both in the church and out, it was expected and normal that people, both single and married, would have whatever friends they like. I didn’t encounter this part of purity culture until my friendship with that narc ex-friend in #3, during the naughts. The wife was very controlling and believed it was her prerogative to tell him who to be friends with, whether male or female. She decided I was a threat.

    Apparently the purity culture affected Orthodoxy through converts, because I confided in some converts online and they treated me like *I* was the problem for wanting to have a close friendship with a man! It shocked me. For years I wrote about it on my website/blog, seeking out articles proving that I wasn’t some kind of deviant and that it isn’t right to tell your spouse who to be friends with. And yes, I still maintain various friendships with men! One is in my own church, which is mostly “cradle” Orthodox, and nobody has ever so much as given me a side-eye for being close friends with him.

    In recent years I finally found out this attitude was coming from Evangelical purity culture. Samantha Field, who is bisexual, would hear this and think, “Samantha, you can’t have any friends.”

    Liked by 1 person

    • Apparently the purity culture affected Orthodoxy through converts, because I confided in some converts online and they treated me like *I* was the problem for wanting to have a close friendship with a man!

      Fundamentaiism is a state of mind that can transfer from one belief system to another. In the words of the prophet Charllie Schulz:

      CHARLIE BROWN: What are you going to be when you grow up, Linus?
      LINUS: A fanatic!
      CHARLIE BROWN: Uhh… Have you decided what you’re going to be fanatical about?
      LINUS: No… I guess I’ll be a wishy-washy fanatic.

      This is probably also responsible for Net Orthodox. You know the type. Calvary Chapel on bath salts except instead of “SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE! SCRIPTURE!” it’s “ORTHODOXY! ORTHODOXY! ORTHODOXY!” Traded in Chick Tracts and Hal Lindsay for Icons, Great Lent Super-Fasting, and hyper-elaborate Liturgy (in Greek). But under the Orthodox coat of paint nothing’s changed. Still Virtue-Signalling how RIGHTeous they are (and more important, that You’re NOT!)

      Liked by 1 person

      • Russian Peasant Cosplay?

        I thought the Orthodox way to flake out (according to Fr Orthocuban) was the “Monk-a-bee”, dressing in monk’s robes, growing a ZZ Top beard, taking self-written vows more strict than actual monks, becoming more ascetic than any actual monk, all without ever placing themselves under that authority of an abbot or bishop like an actual monk. (Very hard on their spouse.)

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Pingback: Friendship, Lust, Doubt, Evangelicalism: Response To Wondering Eagle - Nyssa's Hobbit Hole

  3. I am very sorry for what you encountered with your long-time friend, that is discouraging. When someone reaches out to ask “how am I doing,” I would think they are open to hearing, um, well, how I am doing. You sent those blog posts as being representative of where you are at right now and what issues you are concerned with. I am sorry that the response was to essentially shut down the conversation. And I agree with you that it is puzzling that someone in the missionary field would be so uncomfortable dealing with thoughts and words that are questioning faith and expressing doubts and concerns about faith. I mean, isn’t that the target audience for a missionary?

    Like

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