The Art of Anti-Evangelism

People leave the faith for many reasons.  Sometimes it’s a result of their own inquiries but sometimes they are helped along, their assent into skepticism and unbelief unwittingly mid-wifed by believers themselves. Psychologist Valerie Tarico, author of “Trusting Doubt: A Former Evangelical Looks at Old Beliefs in a New Light,” outlines how believers do just that in her article,”8 Ways Christian Fundamentalists Make People Convert — to Agnosticism or Atheism.”

The eight ways she suggests “church leaders or members do things that either trigger the deconversion process or help it along […], push people out the Church door or shove secret skeptics out of the closet,” are listed below. In the full article she offers much more detail on each, examples of how they show up, and why and how they have the negative impacts they have.  I can imagine even many believers might agree with her, especially those of the “Lord, save me from your followers!” persuasion. I think it goes deeper than that.  This is not a list for extremists, but also for the rank and file:

1) Gay-Baiting
2) Prooftexting
3) Misogyny
4) Hypocrisy
5) Disgusting and Immoral Behavior
6) Science Denial
7) Political Meddling
8) Intrusion

Now, this is not intended as an anti-Christian polemic.  Believers can read her article and disagree as much as they want.  It seems to me though this is something along the lines of “I am breaking up with you, and now I would like to tell you why.” Anyone who cares about their relationships might want to take heed, at least listen and consider what’s being offered, but I imagine there are those who will just blow it off as so much religion-bashing yet again.  That would be a missed opportunity and unfortunate for us all.  Note, for example, that none of these 8 have anything to do with Christianity’s core beliefs!  Valerie’s blog is here, for those who would like to follow her or do a little more poking around.

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8 thoughts on “The Art of Anti-Evangelism

  1. Thanks for a great read, Joe. Fantastic article. I may have to get the book. I was definitely pushed over the edge by numbers 2, 3 and 4. There were lingering doubts at the back of my mind the whole time I was a believer. I was successful at keeping them at bay until I the level of misogyny, hypocrisy and prooftexting got to be too much. Even what were considered “progressive” churches like Calvary Chapel taught this crap. There’s only so much cognitive dissonance an honest person can take!!!

  2. This is really interesting. I’ve been thinking myself about how often it’s the approach of Christians which pushes people away. It occurred to me that the church wants greater influence, but in trying to gain that by telling people what and how to think, and meddling in politics, the opposite is achieved, as people who were on their side become increasingly alienated and leave.

  3. A fantastic article that Christians should be thankful for, not be upset about. It says nothing about the core beliefs of Christianity, instead espousing principles – the rejection of hypocrisy, loving acceptance – more consistent with how I interpret Christianity’s true meaning than what happens at many churches. It is this very list of wrongs that drives people away from the church – what has driven me away from the church at least – and I think the very type of activity that led Jesus to be so critical of the Temple himself. Those actions Ms. Tarico highlights are not the values of love and service that actually form the basis of Christianity, but how those teachings have been co-opted and corrupted by an all too common focus on exclusion and hatred within large sections of the church.

    I met recently with a group of church leaders dominated by pentecostal, evangelical churches in the developing country where I now live, but including more traditional segments and even the local Muslim association. One of the topics I raised was the treatment of LGBT persons in the country – a significant problem. The response was, across the board, doctrinal and legalistic. It was not compassionate or loving, nor did it value respectful treatment of others. It certainly did not reflect a value for open discussion. When I followed that question with a question with one about the community service projects their churches performed, the response was blank stares. These are not churches I can support – buried in words and strict interpretation of millennia-old text while ignoring the needs of those around them. I then asked them what their churches believed – and stopped listening when I got answers so wrapped in doctrine and loaded vocabulary that they couldn’t see the suffering before their eyes. I don’t give a fuck if you believe if you believe in transubstantiation (well, actually, that is crazy . .. )

    But where I differ from Ms. Tarico, and from you also Ojo, is that I’m not willing to call what these churches are doing Christianity and reject Christianity because of it. Christianity IS lovism, it is selfless service. It is just that the business of it, the politics of it, the use of it for personal gain, the loss of loving outreach and respectful treatment of others, getting buried in doctrine – those things have perverted how people see and practice Christianity. But I won’t cede those core beliefs, nor will I reject them, because they have been corrupted by much of the church. Nor will I give up using the name Christian because I’ve given up on legalism, on strict construction, on the politics of exclusion. I won’t let the church define Christianity for me.

    Thank you for the post, and for your willingness to challenge and engage both us and the church. When the Emperor has no clothes, someone needs to say so.

  4. An interesting counter-parallel article is “My Failed Atheism” by Mark Bauerlein in the May 2012 issue of First Things. Unfortunately it is not available for free on the internet.

  5. Hello Joey!
    Maybe this is not the right forum for contacting you, but I get a try by relating to the subject for discussion. Any way the discussion seems to be down for the moment so maybe I could put a little fire on it. The background for me visiting this site at all is that I met you in LA 26 years ago and you made a great impression on me in a period of personal crisis. I have many times been thinking of how to give you feedback regarding your impact on my choices in life. You influanced me in many ways by your personality and your honesty in your faith. Maybe you remember me, I was travelling with Soren, Anickas brother. First of all I am not a Christian so my contribution to the subject for discussion is not a answer to if it is possible or not to prove the existense of God or if the scientific laws also is the laws of God. In my one way of beliving I think that if there is a higher level of conciousness it will include everything existing in the universe (even the dark force often called the devil in religions) I think this dichotomy and antagonism between good and bad is the real problem in the world becouse it give you the right to destroy your enemy, when compassion and the possibilty to change your point of view could be the answer.
    I have been working as a psychologist now for 18 years (your influence Joey!) and I met a lot of antagonism between many psychological theories under my education time. But I am still beliving that there is no theory that is more true than the other, it is only different point of wiews and they all together make it possible to understand the human mind in a better way. The problem here is the same when followers for one theory claim that they have the truth and that the others are wrong.
    So my contribution will be to turn the discussion up side down from why not Christianity to Why Christianity?
    Best regards!
    Hans (from Sweden)

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