Another Issue in American Evangelicalism. When the Picture Perfect Façade Comes Crashing Down

White American evangelicals like to project a façade of a Christ-like and centered family. Godly is often used to manipulate people in this scenario. In the case of evangelicals they often project an image of the perfect marriage and family. Yet while doing that behind the scenes there are often issues. I saw this with someone I knew from a former Sovereign Grace church and also in the tragic Paige Hilkin suicide. Who also suffers? Those who come to evangelicalism who foolishly think the church is an actual hospital for the broken.

“Sometimes that mantle is hard to adjust to wearing but we are at a stage that we are comfortable with it and we recognize how we are perceived and how the real core individual that each one of us has apart from the facade that the public believes that we are.”

James Young 

“Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.

Matthew 11:28 NIV

 

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When it comes to American evangelicalism the brand is often about projecting an image of a Christ Centered identity that seems to be perfect. That brand often comes with strong images of a nuclear family, an obedient and dotting wife, and perfect kids who are Godly. Also what tends to be included is a perfect and nice home which comes from being blessed by following God. This has happened fairly regularly in the view of this blog. And its toxic and stressful to people. And what often happens is that later on people often realize or learn that it is not true. This is usually realized by people who are driven away by the said culture. 

 

A Story From Sovereign Grace and a Picture Perfect Marriage With Alleged Fighting About Sex Behind the Scenes

This blog was born years ago from the attempts by a member of a Sovereign Grace Church, Redeemer Arlington here in the Washington, D.C. area to recruit me to his church. Andrew White was an Air Force Captain at the time. He often spoke with me about being transformed and Christ-like. What did that mean? Well he showed me one day, when he invited me over to his D.C. area condo that he shared with his wife Jillian. What did being Christ-like mean? And what was the image he wanted to present? Well I was shocked. It meant having all music properly labeled and assigned a place in the living room. It meant a pristine kitchen without a dirty dish in the sink. Being Christ-like was also much more intimate. Andrew took me into his closet and showed me what a transformed life looks like. It included properly folded t-shirts, pants, and having his underwear pressed and stacked a certain way. Andrew explained to me what a Christ-centered and transformed world looked like. And it meant being white, upper middle class and having that image. 

I was baffled by this and we continued to have clashes as he tried to get me into his former Sovereign Grace. Before the false accusation which was psychologically traumatic that revealed how toxic Andrew was as a person, there was another crack in the image he was trying to project. Andrew in a conversation slipped and told me that he and his wife allegedly fought behind the scenes about being more intimate. Translation this healthy image that he liked to project, that image of the picture perfect family had a married couple that were fighting about sex behind the scenes. That take away helped me realize that Andrew’s world was a façade. It was not grounded in reality and it was toxic in the end. 

 

Paige Hilken and North Coast Church 

This blog wants to be careful in saying this and it also still expresses sympathy over Paige’s suicide. However, in studying Paige’s social media over the last few weeks there was something I also noticed as well. Similar to what I saw projected here in Sovereign Grace in Washington, D.C. a projected image of a healthy, Christ centered family. All of the pictures that I saw posted by Paige expressed the picture of the perfect marriage. The dotting wife, multiple pregnancies, holding kids, and being pregnant. And all this in a beautiful house in an area that is quite expensive. Don’t get me wrong I love Southern California and am familiar with it. But its cost of living and financial demands make it  deeply stressful. Before writing this post I spent about 15 minutes looking at the prices of homes in Vista County, California. Layering on the evangelical culture on top of the stresses of living in the area this blog would like to ask, how much did that contribute to the tragedy that took place with Paige Hilken? Keep in mind that North Coast Church is a highly influential church in the EFCA. What does this situation mean for the culture of the EFCA? 

 

Closing Thoughts and Another Toxic Side to American Evangelicalism

In the view of this blog American evangelicalism is not grounded in reality and can not be sustained. Up above I looked at two examples of the projected evangelical image. And in both cases they both had sad and tragic issues that were going on behind the scenes. So what does this do for others? Well this toxic formula also has another component. Think of the people who come to church who foolishly believe that the church is a hospital for the broken. And they come and they share their problems of alcoholism, that affair that haunts them, being in a bind in their job because they looked at porn at work, or their kids are doing drugs. So they come into this environment with another set of intentions. Then they hit this wall of culture that expects them to be perfect and you have all these families and people who the church holds up as being Godly or transformed. In the end those who are the liars in evangelicalism are protected and elevated. And the honest individuals are the ones the system comes down on and punishes. They are the ones driven away and who realize that evangelicalism is not the system they believe it is. Across the United States this tragedy happens frequently. And its yet one more reason why evangelical faith is broken and can not be redeemed or resolved. 

10 thoughts on “Another Issue in American Evangelicalism. When the Picture Perfect Façade Comes Crashing Down

  1. So David, if you walk into work Monday morning and announce to your co-workers you’re both a cocaine addict and serial womanizer, how’s that going to play out in the bureacracy in which you work? Are they going to pat you on the back and yell “You Da Man?” and “keep it up” Do people show up at work on a regular basis and announce they just beat their spouse?
    *
    I’m thinking at work, just like at any church [ it doesn’t have to be an Evangelical Church ] people daily put on their best face and don’t go about publically highlighting their sins and stupidities. At work, if you ask for help, they’ll try to help. The same goes for the living church who see’s ultimate help as come from God. You tell them you have problems, they will try to help.
    *
    BTW, in the last couple of decades a big movement among Evangelical Church has been the CELEBRATE RECOVERY movement where churches have established 12 step type programs that specifically look towards the Triune God as the true source of help and change.
    *
    It appears you have made Paige and Andrew the face of Evangelicalism. I’m not sure they are.
    CONFESSION: My sock and underwear drawer is a mess; always has been, always will be. If Andrew saw my closet he might well “tut tut.”
    *
    Final thought DB, Andrew isn’t your problem with God. You are my friend. He calls, you resist to your detriment. Come back; rejoin the highly dysfunctional family we call the church where the Only Lasting Hope can be found.

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    • senecagriggs,

      How interesting that you can hear your God calling DB, but, apparently, DB is unable to hear. If DB isn’t listening, your God must surely be aware of this, and, thus, should be capable of re-evaluating its methods of communication in order to successfully reach the objective. After all, we humans are capable of the same reassessment….

      On the other hand, if your God’s call is as non-compelling as something like this — “Hi, I’m the Only Lasting Hope of a highly dysfunctional family, would you care to join us?” — perhaps DB has heard the call and has responded with a sensible and reasonable “Nope, not interested.”

      An example of really effective communication comes from that well known Jesus-knocking-at-the-door meme:

      Jesus – “Knock, knock.”
      Unseen resident from the inside of the door – “Who’s there?”
      Jesus – “It’s Jesus, let me in.”
      Resident – “Why?”
      Jesus – “So I can save you.”
      Resident – “From what?”
      Jesus – “From what I’m going to do to you if you don’t let me it.”

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      • Benny – if I make ask, what do you believe about God?

        Translation:
        “MATTHEW DUUMMOND – ATHEIST!!!!!!!!!
        Inherit the Wind

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      • Jesus – “Knock, knock.”
        Unseen resident from the inside of the door – “Who’s there?”
        Jesus – “It’s Jesus, let me in.”
        Resident – “Why?”
        Jesus – “So I can save you.”
        Resident – “From what?”
        Jesus – “From what I’m going to do to you if you don’t let me in.”

        That is EXACTLY the vibe I got from Witnessing(TM) during my time in-country, hyped up with lurid descriptions from The Book of Revelation According to Hal Lindsay. And the Wretched Urgency of the Christians doing the Witnessing, like God had a gun to the back of their heads – SAVE SOULS OR ELSE!

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  2. Ken I might be different than other people but when I run into people who think differently than me, I like to actually hear what they think and believe. I find it very educational so when I ask Benny what he believes/thinks, I’m actually interested. It’s not a “gotcha” question; it’s a true request for an honest interaction. You ought to try it sometime Ken.

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  3. Regarding the Hilkens, there was no facade there. They have done numerous Q&As within the church and high school ministry where they talk about their struggles and fights, and, since it seems you’ve gone through Paige’s social media, she expressed her struggles ALL THE TIME for the purpose of being transparent. If you did your research, you would know.
    The Hilkens used to live in an apartment in Oceanside (I assume you’re tyring to judge how perfect of a house they lived in) to save money then finally bought a house in Bonsall. Even with a little digging you could see they lived in Bonsall. Please do better and not use a person you know nothing about as an example for your preconceived notions.

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  4. When the Picture Perfect Facade Comes Crashing Down

    Like in one of the Father Brown Mysteries, “Three Tools of Death”, where a jolly old philanthropist is found dead — defenstrated from an upper-floor window of his mansion. The deceased was an always cheerful happy-clappy Santa Claus type, yet someone threw him out a window. From a room which had a ready pistol, knife, and noose — the titular Three Tools of Death, any of which would be easier than manhandling him out the window.

    Fr Brown’s reveal at the end was that it was not Murder but Suicide, and the prime suspect (the other man in the room) was actually trying to prevent the suicide of Mr Happy Clappy Joy Joy. With the observation that “Hell has no torment worse than Constant Forced Cheerfulness.”

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  5. Another layer to the sad story of PH is that she was sucked into a “healthy lifestyle” MLM which is cult-like in its following. Her identity was all things natural health which was “tainted” when she had to rely on modern, western medicine for diagnosis and healing. She was so proud to not have to rely on western medicine for so long and was very outspoken about it so when the cards fell, her identity was in need of a new definition. It is really, truly sad. I understand the post-partum depression/anxiety because I’ve been through it multiple times, but this was much much more than that.

    I hope you find your in with North Coast. I do live in the area, but do not attend. I know enough about it that it isn’t a place my family needs to be.

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