That’s a whole word, isn’t it?
That’s such a loaded word that even the people who are Evangelicals can’t agree on what is or isn’t Evangelical. Is it a religious philosophy? Or a political identifier?
I am not a religious scholar. I am not an academic on any level… you’ll find out why later. And so I want to be clear about some things before we really get rolling here. Everything in these pages is my opinion. It’s a fact that this is all my opinion. And sometimes my opinion will contain facts, and sometimes I’ll be giving my opinion about facts. But this project is mostly focused on my opinion. My thoughts. My philosophy. So take everything I say with that in mind.
I do not claim to be an expert on anything other than my own experience. And even then my expertise is dubious… at best.
That’s such a loaded word for anyone remotely in the proximity and orbit of the white evangelical experience.
It’s a word I’m gonna use constantly. In reality, this entire project is my battle against everything this word represents. It’s a personal battle. And if you stick with me you’ll understand it. Maybe even agree or respect my position. But in the end this is all my opinion about something that I’m not technically an expert in.
The way a tornado victim is not an expert in meteorology but knows better than a meteorologist what a tornado feels like.
I don’t know how to define this word.
But we must.
Because this entire series is Dave Griffin vs. Evangelicals.
Dave vs. You The Evangelical
Like, that’s the plot.
It’s a system I’m angry at. How do you battle a system? How do you grab fog? Hold the vapors of a scent in your hand? Can you touch light? It exists. It’s in front of you. Its properties illuminate and fill the room. But can you hold light?
And so when I talk about Evangelical… the word… the subject… the religion…. the people… the voters… the corporate marketplace of the White Jesus Industrial Complex… it has so many meanings in our culture and in the specific home of the larger Evangelical faith.
But let’s set terms.
1. When I say/write Evangelical I am referring to the specific American White Evangelical Industrial Complex.
There are many other variations of evangelicals. Other demographics and ethnic groups identify as evangelicals.
But what my fight is against is primarily the White Evangelical form of Evangelical.. ism… ianity?
This is what I was raised in. I know this crowd. And my form of practicing “Evangelical christianity” may vary or differ from yours. Mine was pretty vanilla. Basic Southern Baptist affiliated churches and private schools. We never got into charismatic or four square or the prophetic churches… I was a product of 80’s Southern Baptist homogeny.
Private schools. Church every Sunday without fail. VBS during summer. Media restricted. I was allowed to consume as much “christian” content as I wanted. And my folks were not nearly as strict as some. One of my parents was not involved in churchianity at all. My siblings and I had it better than many of my comrades in youth group. Still, it was a VERY sheltered and controlled life.
I say this so the reader will understand that when I use the word Evangelical… that’s not snark. I’m not being disrespectful or condescending. I WAS an Evangelical. I was a devout and passionate one. I respect those who walk that path because I understand the level of commitment and dedication to that philosophy and lifestyle.
I am not here to mock.
I am not here to belittle.
When I use the term Evangelical I’m speaking about it on a number of different levels at any given time based on the context. Sometimes I’m talking about a belief. Other times I’m talking about The System. Other times I’m referring to the Evangelical Industrial Complex. Other times the Evangelical voters. So, this will have flexible meaning as we progress, but please understand– please trust…
That I am not here to harm you… Evangelical reader.
I’m one of you. I know this world.
Take a breath.
This is a safe space for Evangelicals.
I mean this from the bottom of my heart.
The word fuck is going to appear in and around and near the word Evangelical a LOT in this series. Fucking Evangelicals. Just say it with me one time. It’s healthy. Trust me.
Felt weird, didn’t it? Kinda good, too, right? Yeah. That’s how this is gonna be.
If what I do on these pages works– if my artistic goals are achieved that is– many of you should at times feel a certain defensiveness to the material presented ahead. We protect the things we love in life, don’t we? It’s a natural response. You should feel defensive when something attacks you. Defames you. Gives an opinion you believe to be inflammatory or rude. These are natural and predictable responses to uncomfortable stimuli. You may find yourself thinking, “NOT ALL EVANGELICALS ARE LIKE THAT”… you may feel, “Well I don’t do that!!!”… and I encourage you to feel these things during this process. All I ask is that you feel them and then during or after you are feeling these emotional responses you take a moment to ask yourself why that response was so greatly provoked in you?
It’s such a massive concept that has hung over my entire life. Such a huge word. How do you define millions of people with one word. And what about the entire spectrum of Evangelicalism? Like, you have really lefty version of it with the Vineyard thing and then you got the right wingy Calvary Chapel thing and things up North with offshoots like congregationalists and then the Southern Baptists and then Mennonites and Holiness Movements and then the non-affiliated churches with names like Riverstone for the waspy wealthy crowd and then some faux janky one called Vergetastic for the under 30 crowd with tattoos and I didn’t mention the fundamentalists and snake handlers and patriarchy movement and then there’s the people that never even attend any church at all who grew up in a church and left and then still identify as … fucking Evangelicals.
One question: God couldn’t have made it just a little bit clearer which version was correct?
No? And we’re okay with that? Alright then. Continue.
My first concert was Michael W. Smith with opening act D.C. Talk at the Irvine amphitheater in 1991 when I was 13 with my two best friends from my private christian middle school. I was awash in the 80’s-90’s white christian utopia. Her Royal Highness Amy Grant. Petra. For fucks sake Stryper. WHY WOULD ANYONE DO THAT TO A CHILD?!?
I was there when an effort was made in 1987 to create a radio show for kids in the newly coalescing White Evangelical Christian Marketplace.
I was a rather unique figure in it, albeit maddeningly and persistently uncredited.
But I was there during the rise of the Evangelical publishing empire. Up to my neck in it. As a consumer. As a performer.
I once did a special segment for an interview Kirk Cameron was giving about divorce to some AM talk radio show. I was the cutaway dramatization of a kid dealing with divorce. I sang on albums. I was the Evangelical golden goose for a minute there.
The Evangelicals created a separate media ecosystem*. And I had a front row seat– hell I was on the stage– when it started. A unique close-up view. I remember being 11? 12? And being taken to lunch at the old Pomona Focus on the Family facility and being told that Chik-fil-A had just signed a deal to give out episodes of Adventures in Odyssey in the kids meals and one of my episodes would be featured. (This will come into play later in my life)
It was an organized, advancing, purpose-filled, corporate/non-profit Evangelical world I was a party to for the first 20 years of my life.
Please remember that when I use the word Evangelical.
I’m not picking on fucking Evangelicals.
*Lefties. This is for you. This the part of the story you need to understand about the Evangelical multiverse. This is the part the entire Democratic Party is asleep at the wheel on.