I coined a term for myself in the early 2000’s, maybe around 2003. It’s unoriginal, but it fit perfectly with what I was trying to come to grips with at that time. The term is evangelical arrogance.
It was a very difficult time in my adult life. I was separated from my wife, living in an apartment, unemployed, and badly disillusioned. All of that occurred, as usual, very suddenly. I went from prosperous married father, prominent church member, and a prison ministry volunteer, to an off track, un-anchored semi-juvenile man in his early 40’s. But I didn’t manage to totally eliminate God’s influence on me.
So, one evening I was standing around the apartment swimming pool area and heard some guys discussing church. There was an older fellow there; dressed in creased polyester pants and heavily starched shirt, wearing cowboy boots, and he and some others were discussing church. I was drawn into the conversation mainly because I had not been to church in a few months and wanted to be a part of that impromptu discussion. But something was off about the guy.
He was saying all the right things. I mean ALL and ONLY the right things. Like a machine. He was a natural alpha in the Duck Dynasty sense, and had some of that type of charisma. So, many of those attending the conversation were trying to seek his favor. They would attempt to repeat back the man’s own words, maybe adding a thought, and no matter what they would say he would spiritually trump them, make their words insufficient. He would knock them down. I walked away and something congealed in my mind.
The prison ministry I had been a part of right up until my separation was populated with men such as this. It was impossible to have a conversation with the majority of them because if you were weak minded, you would be made to feel even weaker. There was even one inmate in the prison who had adopted this persona. They called him “Shi-light”. He would always “greet us with a holy kiss” to the cheek. He had lots of small things like that that he would do to keep people on their heels. Rather than let these guys get to me (my reaction was anger or irritation, not a desire to please them) I avoided them and did my teaching in the prison class rooms. They sought sycophants. Sycophants are not good followers. They are not profitable.
It’s interesting that one of the most pressing problems in the church is neutered leadership, wimps behind the pulpit. It’s also interesting and conformational that somehow men like the ones I am describing seem to attract a following of spiritual masochists. They tend to state and restate absolutes and never allow the notion of working out one’s salvation with fear and trembling, or running a race, or any work in progress type of Bible references creep into their vernacular. I hate to use the expression, but they spew sanctimony, they discourage Christians (meaning Christians, not churchians) and they do no worldly good for God’s kingdom with this manner. I say it that way because I do not know what other works they do, those works may be many.
As an example I offer Bobbye who has been commenting at Dalrock. To be clear, I do not know him, and the behavior I am describing in others is identifiable only when seen and heard. Reading is not a sufficient indictment. But, he repeats and recycles true and absolute scriptural declaratives….full stop. He describes God’s Kingdom as ultimately will be manifest as an answer to the kingdom of the ruler of the air and the father or lies. It’s a kind of Christian utopianism, and a perfect-as-enemy-of-good dynamic.
I know how problematic that point is. It’s a fine line I tread because churchians use a form of the reasoning I am using to rationalize all the grace and mercy and encouragement first teaching they do. It’s also a fine line because I do not have things figured out either. But I am smart enough to know self-edification when I see it. It is indeed evangelical arrogance. It will attract weak men like any alpha leader will in any context. But it will not last. It’s on sand that is made of truth as contradictory as that sounds, especially with regards to the topical overlay of the manosphere. People do not need someone to ONLY remind them generally that sin is the problem with the world, or that we are “called to-(fill in the blank)” as a response to discussing human problems in the third person. It’s ok to talk about the world. It does not mean we are ill focused, necessarily.
The church may well be filled with weak willed wimps at the human helm. But men with a Duck Dynasty demeanor are no more going to wield lasting influence than those feminist pandering men are today. These grand characters could be replaced by a random word generator where the buttons call forth correct Christian proclamations. If I had only those two types to choose between, I’d go with the evangelical egoist. Don’t accuse me of not saying anything good.
The posing, even if unintentional, is only content-wise different than hard core game. It isn’t real. It is following a set of rules for some purpose that has to do with influencing others to follow you, not necessarily to theirs, yours, or mutual benefit. Today, I’ll coin another unoriginal term for myself. Evangelical Game.