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Theory of Change Podcast With Matthew Sheffield
Theory of Change #076: Tim Whitaker on 'The New Evangelicals'
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Theory of Change #076: Tim Whitaker on 'The New Evangelicals'

Episode Summary

Across America, and across the world, radical movements of far-right Christians are trying desperately to seize the levers of political power to force their religious opinions onto everyone else. And in many cases, particularly the 2016 election of Donald Trump, they have succeeded.

Seeing the rise of reactionary Christianity has made some non-religious people recoil in horror to the idea that religion itself is the problem. But that’s not going to work, because not only is religion not going anywhere, religion is also like philosophy or politics. They’re tools that can be used for great evil, but also for great good as well. Just ask the thousands of Christian activists who have been mobilizing for racial justice and to end gun violence right now. Or ask the Christians who worked to mobilize to end slavery in the United States and Great Britain and other countries.

The reality is that whatever your viewpoints are about religion or theology, it’s past time for people who oppose the fascistic politics that is emerging in the United States and elsewhere to come together in a shared purpose, not just to preserve democracy, but to expand it as well.

I was pleased to talk about what that means with Tim Whitaker. He is a podcaster and founder of a non-profit organization called The New Evangelicals which works tirelessly to promote inclusive and affirming Christianity.

Video

Transcript

MATTHEW SHEFFIELD: I’m glad to have you here today, Tim.

TIM WHITAKER: Hello, Matthew. Thank you for having me. It’s awesome to talk to you again. We’ve been chatting for a while behind the scenes, so glad to have a conversation.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Alright, well, so, for people who haven’t listened to your podcast, just give us an overview of what is it, and how often does it come out, and what are you doing on it?

WHITAKER: Yeah, sure. The podcast is called the New Evangelicals Podcast. It comes out at least once a week, sometimes twice, depending on what’s happening in current events.

Most of it is me interviewing all different kinds of guests coming from some kind of like Christian perspective, but usually more liberal or progressive or scholars who are focusing on certain like focuses like Christian nationalism and just trying to unpack that for our audience. Most of the people that listen to us are people who have a history of growing up in Evangelical fundamentalist spaces. So, someone like John MacArthur might’ve been a leader that they were exposed to. That’s who I was exposed to as a kid. So as we kind of walked away from that, we still want to follow Jesus, but we’re not really sure how.

So our [00:04:00] podcast helps introduce people to scholars and theologians and people like that who are thinking about and living in ways that are different than how we were brought up to think about the Christian tradition but are still faithful to Jesus.

So that’s like the main crux of it. But we also do episodes where I’ll bring on someone who disagrees with me, like an actual Christian nationalist, or my podcast producer Noah will come on sometimes and we’ll just have a conversation.

So it’s a pretty wide podcast, but usually it’s in some kind of interview form.

SHEFFIELD: And how did you get into doing it or why did you decide to do it?

WHITAKER: Well, I started it because I started the New Evangelicals on Instagram first. It was an Instagram page, and when that kind of exploded almost three years ago now I said to myself, I already have a podcast that wasn’t part of this work I was doing.

And I said, I think I have to switch over and make a new podcast called the New Evangelicals podcast to have these more long-form conversations because this stuff is so complicated. So that’s why we started it, trying to get people a more long-form content than just Instagram stories or short posts or reels, because again, theology or social issues are really complicated and take a lot of nuance to unpack.

So that was kind of the motivation behind it to give people something more long form than just that short 60 second hot take or, short tweet.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, and of course you can’t even make a freaking link on Instagram.

WHITAKER: Yeah, exactly. Exactly. I mean, you would have to post it in the stories as a link and it’s a whole thing, but exactly right.

So, so we just knew that long term, I wanted to have conversation with people. I mean, I like conversations. I like discovering different ways of thinking. And so it’s been really cool. We’re about 144 episodes in now, and we’ve had all kinds of amazing guests on the podcast, and it’s been really cool to be a part of it.

SHEFFIELD: And all right. What’s so tell us about your background. You grew up Evangelical, obviously, but tell us.

WHITAKER: Oh, yes. I grew up in the belly of the beast. So I did grow up in New Jersey, which people think is liberal, which overall it [00:06:00] is, but there’s still very many pockets of conservative, fundamentalist Christianity.

And I grew up in one of them. I was homeschooled for nine years. Like I said earlier, John MacArthur’s style of teaching, he’s someone who would be considered very conservative and reformed. So the belief that God is predestining people to go to heaven or hell. The Bible’s absolutely inherently God’s objective truth. Just read it, that kind of perspective.

That’s how I grew up my entire life. And I was committed to being a Christian in that worldview, because that’s all I knew. I was serving in church at age eight, handing out bulletins as an usher. So I’m someone who was fully inoculated in Evangelical culture, both in the church level and that like subculture level of just the Evangelical ethos, of the music, of the merch, of the conferences of the parachurch ministries. So organizations that did missions work in their local towns.

I was someone who was part of all of that all the way in. So that’s kind of my background. And then over time, what I tell people is I took my faith seriously, like my leaders told me to do, they would often tell me, ‘Hey, don’t take my word for it. Read the Bible for yourself. Hey, don’t take this person’s word for it. See what the scriptures say.’

So I did. They told me to follow Jesus wherever Jesus would take me. So I did. And it took me, long story short, out eventually of what I called the basement of Evangelical fundamentalism and into the broader tradition of Christian thought.

So there’s a lot there obviously, but that’s the short form version.

SHEFFIELD: Huh. And what was the, what’s been the reaction from some of the people that you’ve That you knew?

WHITAKER: Well, I mean my church kicked me out when I started new Evangelicals, they–

SHEFFIELD: Cancel culture.

WHITAKER: You said it not me. But yeah, I mean they pretty much gave me an ultimatum, stop serving quote unquote, which means volunteering as a worship drummer.

That’s what I was doing. I was playing drums in the church. I could either stop doing that and just attend services, which is [00:08:00] pretty much a death sentence because all of my relationships were built around music and being part of that team. Or I could stop doing the work I was doing online. So, I had to leave.

So overall the reaction by a lot of people has not been great. I did lose a lot of friendships. A few of them still stuck around, and they’re great friends to this day, and they’ve made room for me. I made room for them, but I think overall, the general view– and it’s hard to know because people that I know don’t message me telling me this, but the perception I have is, Tim has just gone liberal. He’s just gone. He’s just not a real Christian anymore because A, B, C, D, and E. He’s changed his views on these things, or he can’t, he’s not going to vote for Trump in 2016 or 2020.

Those kinds of things that I bucked against, I think, for those people were signs that I was giving, I was being handed over to the world, so to speak.

SHEFFIELD: You began actually taking the faith seriously and reading it. Tell us more about that process, how it worked for you.

WHITAKER: Yeah. I mean, so one example of this would be 2016, right? So I am someone who, again, like I grew up and believed that being a Christian was the quote unquote, best way to live. And I wanted to follow Jesus and my church tradition.

I’ve been part of more conservative reform churches. I’ve been part of more charismatic spaces. So I’ve kind of been involved in all different flavors of the Evangelical tradition and there are some consistent themes, hey, Christians have integrity, and Christians don’t compromise, and Christians have this particular sexual ethic where essentially, you’re told don’t touch yourself or anyone else until you’re married. Right?

So I’m like 21 like, okay, I believe this. I mean, I want to have integrity. I don’t want to compromise my faith. I don’t want to move closer to where the world is. I want the world to move closer to where I was. That’s kind of the perspective that you’re taught.

And in 2016, when Trump comes on the scene, I’m like, okay, this is strange. And then when I see more and more Evangelical support and I’m still serving, I’m still conservative. Pretty much at this [00:10:00] point, I’m still serving at my Evangelical church. I’m still all in. I’m like, I don’t get it. This isn’t making a lot of sense.

And then those “Access Hollywood” tapes came out. And I thought to myself, ‘Oh, this is a slam dunk full rejection of Trump by Evangelicals.’

Because I knew how serious they took sexual ethics, let alone bragging on a hot mic crassly, by the way, about sexually assaulting women. So I, for a minute, I almost got giddy.

I’m like, well, I know people can’t vote for Hillary. I wasn’t going to vote for Hillary. So maybe a third party, maybe like a legitimate Christian third party way is going to be birthed out of this because Trump is obviously so bad.

And to hear so many people, both that I knew personally, or that I saw on the public stage say: ‘Oh, well, this is just locker room talk. We just need a commander in chief, not a pastor in chief.’

And then seeing them mad at me for calling this out. I was like, guys, you taught me, you taught me these core values that apparently God was objectively resolute on, right? Like this is God’s objective truth. And all of a sudden, you’re throwing that out because this guy might give you more political power.

And so that’s, that was for me the moment when I said, ‘Something, I don’t know what it is, but something is way wrong here.’ I didn’t have categories for a lot of what I know now. I just knew that something stunk to high heaven, and it made no sense to me because I wanted to be a Jesus follower.

So that’s one example of like, I felt like I was forced to choose between compromising the way of Jesus, right? Compromising a way that advocates for honesty and truth and goodness.

And the fruits of the spirit for your audience who knows that, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, all those things.

I had to throw those away and say, yeah, Trump is sticking it to the media. Yeah. Trump’s our Goliath.

And I’m like, I just can’t do that. So that was one out of many, a series of things that happened that made me say, I got to find better paths forward [00:12:00] here than whatever I’m a part of, because it’s no longer making sense anymore to call myself a Christian, but also be part of a culture that is increasingly advocating for more and more dehumanizing, cruel positions on the political spectrum.

SHEFFIELD: Mm hmm. And what about the idea which is kind of articulated a bunch of times in the New Testament that Jesus’s kingdom is not of this world. Was that something that you thought of as well in that process?

WHITAKER: Yeah, I think I definitely did. I think there’s a tension for me at least of I think it’s a fool’s errand to think that somehow, we can bring God’s quote unquote kingdom to earth necessarily a hundred percent at the same time.

I do think that humans have a responsibility and have the ability to create heaven on earth or hell on earth. And I feel like Christians are, should be part of that conversation, trying to promote human flourishing, and empowering perspectives that lead to human flourishing.

So I was always in this spot of like: ‘Hey guys, I don’t think that we have to become the empire. In fact, I think that’s a really bad idea, but we should be advocating for policies and for positions that hopefully help out all of our neighbors, not just the White Evangelicals.’

So I kind of live in that tension of, yeah, I don’t think that I’m bringing quote unquote God’s kingdom to earth, but I still believe that as a representative of Jesus, I have a responsibility to advocate for things and for ways forward that, that give glimpses of a better world that’s possible.

SHEFFIELD: What’s some of the pushback that you get from kind of the more right-wing Evangelicals? Like, what do they say?

WHITAKER: Oh, well, I mean,

SHEFFIELD: To the extent they make arguments at all. And I mean the actual argument, because, yeah, I’m sure they’re just triggered by you.

WHITAKER: I mean, and we definitely take some, we definitely take shots on Twitter at them.

I mean, we don’t believe in dehumanization, so we don’t name call. We don’t call people idiots. So we definitely kind of point out some of these blatant contradictions in their [00:14:00] own theology.

I think one of the biggest themes I see is that it’s very evident to me that, for Evangelicals in particular, anything that can even be minutely interpreted as liberal is automatically a sign that you’re a godless Marxist who wants to destroy the country.

And what is frustrating to me is that some of these things, I don’t know why they’re so devout. I don’t know why they’re so polarized. Like the fact that I would say anywhere: ‘Hey, as Christians, if we believe that God has given us the charge to steward the earth, we should be concerned about pollution and global warming.

I mean, that should be a very, it’s a very easy connection, okay, for Christians to make. For Christians to make. For them to say like, Oh, that’s just liberalism. That’s just government control. That’s just a hoax. It’s like, where is this coming from? Because it’s not coming from the scriptures. It’s not coming from any kind of Christian ethic.

Where is this coming from? So oftentimes I’m usually met with just rhetoric that is, I think, programmed into them by the people that disciple them, which is really far right media pundits. I mean, I grew up on Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh my entire life.

I know, I know how damaging 3 hours, 6 hours a day of talk radio can be on the human mind, okay? But I do think that it seems to me that a lot of the arguments are very weak. They rely on rhetoric that has a hard stop.

And then what it does is it loops itself, right? So like it doesn’t matter how much data you share with someone about global warming with that kind of like circular logic.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, I mean, basically it is an intellectual framework which is anti-intellectual.

WHITAKER: Yes.

SHEFFIELD: And that’s how it’s able to be self-sustaining, because basically they’re telling people that we have created this idea set for you. And any other idea, any other ideas that are outside of it are false and you can know they’re false because we told you.

WHITAKER: Right.

SHEFFIELD: And they can’t prove it. That’s the thing that [00:16:00] these guys don’t get, is that they are actually destroying Christianity with their dogmatism, with their political activism. Most people who are religious, they want to go to church and feel uplifted, and they want to think about doctrines in their lives and how to improve themselves.

That’s what they’re there for. Emotionally, from an emotional standpoint. They’re not there to try to become a political pawn for somebody. That’s not what, they didn’t sign up for that.

WHITAKER: Yeah, and I think what’s so frustrating is that I think that inherently politics and religion, they are always kind of intermingling in some way, shape, or form.

And that’s not necessarily a bad thing. I mean, I think about the civil rights movement, Martin Luther King, his faith was a main fuel that motivated him to push for the civil rights that so many Black Americans deserve, but never got. So we can see really healthy expressions of how faith can be used to push things in a better direction.

What is frustrating to me is watching my own tradition do the complete opposite, right? I mean, they’re using faith as a weapon to bludgeon everyone else into submission of their way or the highway, which I believe is inherently antichrist in nature.

It’s definitely Christian. You can trace this stream of thought all throughout Christian history. So I don’t want to pretend that these people aren’t real Christians. I think that absolves people like me from responsibility.

But what they’re advocating for, it’s not Christ-like. It’s not advocating for a world that is more inclusive. It’s advocating for a world that’s more exclusive and White Evangelicalism is at the center of that world.

And that’s not democratic. That’s not pluralistic. That doesn’t love all of our neighbors. It doesn’t do any of those things. So I think for a lot of us, it’s not so much that we’re afraid of being quote unquote political. We’re seeing a right-wing tradition that is totally in allegiance to a particular political party and political leader named Donald Trump.

Most progressives that I know, and I tend to shy away from using that label for myself or for our [00:18:00] organization, because I’m not always a fan of progressive people. I think sometimes they can be incredibly cruel.

But for sake of this conversation, I don’t really see a sycophantic nature of like Joe Biden and the progressives, right? I’m never going to have a Joe Biden flag on my front yard. I’m not sure about you, Matthew, right? And the fact that Joe Biden’s running again, I’m not exactly enthused.

I’m kind of pissed off, actually. I’m like, are you kidding me? 300 million Americans and we get Joe Biden again as a nominee. That’s frustrating to me, right?

But that’s a very different position for those of us who might vote for Joe Biden, then like people who would vote for Trump, where Trump is draining the swamp, Trump is our savior. Trump is the person who’s going to make America great again.

It’s a totally different perspective. And I think a lot of us look at that and we go, wow. I mean, it’s complete idolatry. And it’s really unhealthy for our nation.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and one of the other kind of interesting aspects about it is that it’s almost like Christianity outside of the south, the deep south got colonized by Confederate Christianity, because like you look at the history of the Baptist theology, like the theological group Baptists, it basically kind of invented religious freedom and pluralism in the United States.

I mean, Rhode Island was founded on that principle that everyone should have the right to worship or not worship whatever they want. No religious tests for office, no trying to force Christian ideas in the law.

These were the core tenets of Baptist theology in the beginning, and now you’ve got tons of people who call themselves Baptists who are literally 180 opposed to all of that.

WHITAKER: Yes.

SHEFFIELD: And John MacArthur explicitly has said himself, ‘I reject religious freedom.’

WHITAKER: Totally.

SHEFFIELD: I mean, it’s just amazing, but people don’t seem to know their own history it seems like.

WHITAKER: Well, I think Evangelicalism is intentionally ahistorical, right? I mean, you’re looking at someone, you’re talking to someone who was all the way in that world, [00:20:00] and I didn’t know who people like James Cone were. That’s the founder of Black liberation theology.

I didn’t even know he existed until like three years ago. I didn’t even know until three years ago that the Moral Majority was founded over really school segregation not abortion rights. So when you’re in that bubble, and you don’t understand the movement that you’re a part of and how its structures were built, you’re told a myth.

You’re told that Evangelicals have always fought for a prolife position, and that’s why the Moral Majority got started. You’re taught that Evangelicals are the ones who are fighting for true freedom. I mean you’re just told this like almost Lost Cause type of narrative through a theological paradigm.

And I think a lot of people like myself, when we start actually reading outside of the bubble that we’re given, and we start reading actual history from actual historians, we start realizing like, oh, the tradition we’re a part of actually has some pretty ugly skeletons in its closet.

And the world that I was a part of never was willing to reckon with them and acknowledge them. And that is an issue.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, and also that things that they constantly proclaim to be eternal truths were basically cooked up in the 20th century by some Americans.

WHITAKER: Right! No, I mean that’s a fantastic point to make. Because a lot of us are just taught this is all there is, and these are timeless objective realities for all time.

And you’re right, when you start reading the history of American Evangelicalism, you start seeing how some of these ideas are pretty new, some of these ideas are actually more a product of a colonial, capitalist society more than they are a biblical reality. So I totally agree with you there.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. The ahistorical nature as you were saying, which I think is a good description of it, that, it’s so flagrantly at odds with the facts that so many people are looking at this, they’re taking their faith seriously, they’re reading the books that people told them to read, like [00:22:00] C. S. Lewis or something, who was not an Evangelical– if you actually read his stuff, like parts of it are very anti Evangelical– but they never read his stuff, actually.

But if you actually take it seriously, you actually read the books, you read about the, the origins of, the different aspects, the names of God and the different traditions in the Hebrew Bible, like, you start looking at all that stuff and you, I think if you took it seriously, then you start to come to the conclusion that it’s almost inevitable.

I think that, well, these are, there’s something more than just this story here and it’s more than what these people have told me. And then, but these churches, they’ve created this system where you can’t ask questions. You can’t question authority. You can’t talk to anybody, and so basically, and it is the case now that, the Southern Baptist Convention has been losing members for, pretty much 15 years straight, if I remember right and it’s not just them.

There, so people are either going to the mainline churches, which are now actually growing or they’re going to, kind of the ultra-fundamentalist route, the Pentecostal type churches, or they’re leaving. And, like, when you look at people under 30, like it’s now the case that it’s like one fourth, I believe, of young people under 30 say I’m not religious at all.

WHITAKER: Yeah.

SHEFFIELD: And a lot of that’s the fault of these intolerant Evangelicals.

WHITAKER: Oh, I mean, a thousand percent. And listen, the Evangelicals had the ear of most Americans at one point. Okay. I mean, statistically from the Barna group, there’s a book called Unchristian that they wrote maybe 15 years ago now. And they say that roughly in their polling, 75% of Americans say that they’ve made a profession of faith to Jesus that still means something to them today.

So Evangelicals and the church had what they wanted. They had people flooding in their doors.

Why do they lose almost all of those people? And why are their institutions sinking? [00:24:00] One of the things, and I can kind of give a maybe a more lighthearted example of this is you’re kind of taught in these spaces to jettison, like your reason and logic, and I think that sets people up to disbelieve actual reality.

So let me give you an example of how this might work. In my tradition, I was taught that Genesis 1 and 2 were a literal account of how the world was formed physically. So literal six days, the earth was formed in six literal days. It’s a young earth and Adam and Eve were the first two people ever on earth.

And we’ve all descended from Adam and Eve. I was like 13, 15 and I go to my church leader. Hey, I have a question. If Adam and Eve were the first two humans, does that mean that like they were sleeping with their kids or like their kids were sleeping with each other? I mean, a very logical question, right?

And we all know today, obviously that incest is a very bad thing. Like I don’t, I’m not aware of anyone or most– overwhelming majority of society that would say incest is bad. Like, yes. And so whenever you talk to people and I asked my pastor that, the response is some crazy made up, like, well, sin wasn’t really as developed back then. So it was okay. Or God made an exception or all.

And I’ve heard so many answers to this. Because this is a question I ask people today, and the answers are so lacking. But you’re told just to kind of suspend your reason. Well, just accept it, okay?

So I found that I was allowed to ask questions as long as I arrived at the predetermined answers, right? Like, sure, Tim, let’s talk about this, but here’s the answer. And you can’t disagree.

Well, when you’re eight years old and you’re, or you’re five years old and your neuron pathways are being formed, I think it sets the stage for people to disbelieve actual reality, when like, I don’t know, our election wasn’t stolen, but someone says that it was.

Like you could imagine the connection between, well, if I [00:26:00] believe that a serpent literally talked, and Adam and Eve populated the entire Earth with their kids, and that was fine, certainly I can believe that the election was stolen, that vaccines are horrible.

SHEFFIELD: And that the Earth is 6, 000 years old, and humans did not evolve.

WHITAKER: Exactly. Right. So, so you can see how this kind of connects. So it’s just very interesting to me to watch people who love, especially on social media. I know you see this Matthew, right? God’s objective standard on biblical sexuality. God’s objective truth on biblical sexuality. They’re oftentimes the same people who have no problem admitting that, yes, the kids from Adam and Eve probably had to sleep with each other to populate the earth, but it was okay then, it’s not okay now.

They completely jettisoned their own standard of quote unquote objective truth. And so when you bring this up, all they can rely on is their dogma. Or they just ignore it.

So I do think that these systems have helped create a lot of people who are trying to trust themselves and their intuition again, for the first time, because we’ve been told to suspend it for so long.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Yeah. Well, and it’s also a departure from what these stories were meant to be.

WHITAKER: Yes.

SHEFFIELD: They were not created to be the absolute truth. Because the people of the ancient world, most of them didn’t travel very far, but some of them did. And the reality is, they were picking up gods from like the Greeks were picking up gods from Egypt and bringing them over and like they had contact with other peoples’ origin story ideas.

At the very least from the neighboring tribes, right? The Canaanites, and like, there was a bunch of this mish mashing around, and they knew that these things were, this is just what we think happened. It wasn’t something that was meant to be taken literally.

This idea that the Bible is literally true, it was invented after the invention of science. People were like, ‘ Well, I’m discovering biology, I’m discovering astronomy, oh, and I’m going to have a science of the Bible, and everything in the Bible is literally true, and I’m going to calculate the exact year that the Earth [00:28:00] was created.’

WHITAKER: Right, right.

SHEFFIELD: And they did it, and they did it.

WHITAKER: They did. I mean, this is the fundamentalist modernist controversy, which ironically fundamentalism draws from modernism. That’s what it’s doing, right? It’s taking those categories and saying Great. The Bible can also be the subjective truth thing in all ways.

And that’s not fair to the Bible because the Bible isn’t claiming that, right? So you’re actually, I would argue treating the Bible less than what it was originally designed to function as. And once we do that, we actually have a pretty low view of the Bible where some, for some reason, the Bible has to fit into our nice, neat black and white categories, or else it can’t be the Bible.

That’s very unfair to a book whose authors had no category for a modernist worldview. And that’s totally fine. I think that there’s so much wisdom in the Bible. There’s a lot of examples of what not to do as a human and also ways of going forward that really can be helpful for human flourishing, but it’s complicated.

And when we start taking stories that were meant to point to a deeper truth literally, we get in a lot of trouble.

I mean, no one, no one takes Lord of the Rings as a literal truth, meaning, oh yes, the orcs that existed a thousand years ago in the land of Mordor, that was a real place.

It’s like, no, no, no, no. You’re missing the whole point, right? There are amazing truths in Lord of the Rings. I mean, amazing realities of power and in the human quest for it.

But no one takes it as a literal objective. This actually happened. And that’s okay. Same thing with many of the stories in the Bible.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Have people contacted you as a result, have people decided that I didn’t like you at first, but I kept listening. Has anything like that happened, tell me.

WHITAKER: Yeah, I think, we get a lot of DMs on Instagram because a lot of our work is on, is there.

And we definitely got some DMs from people like, hey, at first, I was kind of on the fence or I wasn’t really a fan, but over time, you helped me see things differently.

We make room for folks to disagree with us. I don’t think everyone has to have the view that I have on every single issue ever, and I have friends of mine who are way [00:30:00] more fundamentalist, so to speak, in their view of the Bible. But they can make room, right?

And it’s like, hey, I can work with that. You and I can exist as good friends and have a different view on Genesis 1. Like I’m fine with that. So I definitely think that there are people who I’ve heard from who have kind of a story like that of, hey your stuff has really been helpful. It’s been helpful to think about things more broadly than what my Evangelical tradition taught me. So thank you.

So yeah, I would say that that’s definitely the case. I’m not sure how often that happens, but it’s definitely happened.

SHEFFIELD: Well, and I guess, one of the other things that I think is important about what you’re doing is that you’re showing people who are not Christians that not everybody thinks like these reactionary fundamentalists.

WHITAKER: It’s funny, even when I was a conservative Evangelical, someone who was not affirming, which means I thought that homosexuality was sinful, even back then, I saw pretty early on how the church is treating people, groups, especially queer folks, is pretty bad.

I mean, yeah, maybe we disagree on what the Bible says about this, but it seems like it’s a pretty big focus and I don’t know why. So I’ve always kind of been in that role of trying to disprove people’s rightful perception that Evangelical Christians are hateful.

But I do think now more than ever, the word Evangelical means good news, I don’t think Evangelicals are bringing much of good news at all today.

And so I think we’re just trying to bring some good news back that, Hey, you know what, there are Christians out there who want to work with other people of other faiths and in other ways of seeing the world to work together to find better paths forward for all of us, right?

Like certainly we can all coexist, and we can make room for each other. Unfortunately, American Evangelicalism seems not to be the group who wants to play nice all the time, and we’re trying to change that.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. Well, you’re obviously aware of kind of the spread of southern flavored Evangelicalism taking over the other traditions.

I mean, is that something that you’ve seen other people complain about? Like they feel like that their local religious flavor has been sort of homogenized by this [00:32:00] corporate Evangelical southern stuff?

WHITAKER: Yeah, I mean, there’s a reason why organizations like mine are reaching the people that they’re reaching, right?

There’s a reason why we’re a nonprofit and people donate to this work, because a lot of folks have experienced this kind of like fundamentalist takeover, especially politically. I mean, a lot of people we meet were like, ‘Hey, I was on staff at a church for 10 years. I posted Black Lives Matter during the George Floyd protests and I was fired the next day.’

And you’re like, what? I mean, those are, that’s a real story. That’s not an exaggeration. Or ‘Hey I’m a woman who was on staff at a church and I’ve tried to push for more equity, and I got kicked out.’

I mean, so people see these stories, they’ve been part of these stories. They’ve been casualties of these stories.

So yeah, I mean, like you said, Matthew, there’s a reason why the SBC just reported its largest ever decline ever in a year, right? Because a lot of us who were birthed by these institutions realize how absolutely corrupt they are.

And we can’t mince words. The SBC covered up decades of sexual abuse. It took survivors years of pushing and even still, the results aren’t super great. I mean, in particular, Johnny Hunt, he’s a pastor who was named in the Southern Baptist Convention report for sexually assaulting another pastor’s wife. He’s back preaching at the pulpit at certain churches and is now suing the SBC for defamation.

I mean, what world are we living in? This is the Christian ethic?

So I think a lot of us see this and we go, ‘Yeah, I want out.’

And then we find out, by the way, right, we start reading history and we go: ‘Wait. The SBC was founded over trying to maintain slavery? What?! I know I’m really happy here.’

So I think a lot of people are waking up to that reality, but they’re not having a crisis of faith. They’re having a crisis of theology.

I think that’s important. Some people they quote unquote deconstruct; they leave all faith behind. I respect it. I get it. I understand it. I have [00:34:00] many friends who are atheists. We have great conversations.

I mean, I’m not here to convert people back to anything, but there are a lot of people who, like me, I can’t give up on this way of Jesus idea. I can’t give up on this resurrected Jesus. There’s something beautiful about that.

So how do I now renegotiate it? How I relate to my faith in light of these shocking revelations of how corrupt these systems are. I think a lot of us are kind of more in that headspace right now.

SHEFFIELD: Mm hmm. Yeah, and no, and I remember how when the Catholic Church, when they first had some of their pedophilia scandals emerged, that there were so many Evangelicals who responded to that as: ‘Ah, this is proof these guys are satanic. I told you they got the false theology. Then this is what you get. This is the fruits of their tree.’

And, now that, yeah, kind of quiet now,

WHITAKER: And not just quiet there. Some of them are loudly defending these people. And I think that that’s what makes me the most nauseous is to see, and not to go on a tangent, but you know, we see so much of this right-wing media, which really is a product of Evangelicalism so focused on quote unquote groomers, right? Which is code for trans people and drag queens.

And they’re all concerned about how these people are coming after the kids despite the fire hose of stories of pastors in the same spaces they occupy molesting kids, being arrested for having pictures of child sex abuse on their phones.

You don’t hear any of that, right? There’s no fire alarm happening in these spaces internally.

It’s only an alarm happening externally about some perceived threat out there that might affect them inside. It’s incredibly backwards. It’s incredibly not true, right?

The idea that drag queens are grooming children at drag queen story hour is literal propaganda.

And then when we actually have real stories of actual faith leaders who are arrested, or who are found guilty of doing horrific, hell on earth [00:36:00] things to other people, the response is silence. And frankly, a lot of us were fed up with that nonsense, and that’s why we’re pushing so hard against it.

SHEFFIELD: Well, and one other aspect of that is that so some of the theological roots you were talking about is that the QAnon conspiracy theory, it’s taking over SO many Evangelical churches. Like I’ve read so many stories of pastors saying: ‘I had a normal congregation, and then over a six-month span, they all came to love QAnon and wanted me to preach QAnon stuff from the pulpit. And I couldn’t do it because that was fucked up, and I’m not going to do that.’

WHITAKER: Yeah. I mean, data wise, White Evangelicals are, or at least were, I’m not sure how much QAnon’s still in the system, but when it was at its real peak, I think it was like, the poll was like 35% or 30% of White Evangelicals were QAnon people on some level, which is the highest out of any group.

So yeah, it is very frustrating to know that again, my faith tradition was behind such a nonsensical conspiracy. And by the way, I’ve read Q and I had their book. They wrote a book together called Where We Go One, We Go All.

And I read like 20 pages. I couldn’t do it anymore. Too many spelling errors. It was just copy and paste from like their bulletin things on 4chan.

But I look into this stuff before we critique it, and it is very frustrating to see that White Evangelicals, again, were some of the biggest proponents of pushing a lie while claiming that they’re standing on God’s objective truth.

That is what is so difficult for me to reckon with. It’s like the language is so baffling, but they really believe it, and that’s difficult.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, well, and it has an appeal with, I mean, it is just another reincarnation of this idea of Bible codes, secret prophecies that if you look at the first word of each verse, the first letter, it will spell out what the future of X, Y, Z.

And it’s totally bogus nonsense, but if you had created this world for yourself in which nothing else is [00:38:00] true, and the Bible doesn’t say anything about America, or Joe Biden, any of these people, so they’re just desperate to look for any possible source of information in a book that’s not intended to be that, and wasn’t written for that at all.

WHITAKER: No, a thousand percent. Yeah, I agree.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, so have you seen or encountered people either directly or indirectly that had kind of gotten sucked into some of this stuff?

WHITAKER: Oh, yeah, I’ve had friends. I mean, I’ve lost friendships over this for sure. I mean when the election fraud narrative came out, I had friends that I actually lost who were sending me legitimately photoshopped pictures of newspaper articles.

I’m like, dude. Here’s the original. Here’s your Photoshop that you sent me. This isn’t true.

And I end up losing those friendships. So yeah, I mean I have experienced it firsthand. And listen, I don’t want to, I think in this conversation, you can easily sound elitist unintentionally. And so what I’m not trying to say is, Oh, like, I’m just so much smarter than my friends.

But at the same time, what’s hard for me is it’s almost seems like a brain virus kind of comes over people, and you’re like, I don’t get it, dude. Like I’m giving you data over what you’re saying, and you just can’t seem to turn the corner on trusting the data over whatever your preconceived notion is of this situation.

And so it’s very difficult to have conversations with folks who, again, I mean, dude, Donald Trump at that town hall meeting the other day still said that the election was stolen, right? He would not concede the election.

How do you move forward in a society where the former sitting president after all the data by his own people in his own administration. Trump people saying, yeah, we knew it’s not stolen. Rudy Giuliani lost his license over this, right? Dominion voting machines essentially won the lawsuit with Fox News by making them admit, yes, we pushed fake news out there. Trump [00:40:00] gets on stage, says, I’m not conceding the election wasn’t stolen.

Charlie Kirk that next day, 2020 election was rigged. How do you move forward in a society where we’re almost arguing a flat earth? We’re almost at that level, right?

We’re like a good chunk of society believes that the earth is flat. And no matter how much data and stuff you show them, they just tend to cover their, their eyes and close your eyes, cover their ears and say, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah, nah. I’m not going to listen to you.

I don’t know how to move forward when we’re in that position right now as a country.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. I mean, it’s a difficult question for sure, but one thing that is kind of interesting about it is that people have done polling about these perceptions. So like for instance how is the economy doing?

And when you ask a Republican how the economy is doing and a Democrat is president, they will always say it’s doing terrible. Regardless of what the GDP growth rate is or the unemployment rate, they will say it’s terrible no matter what. Like 80%.

And then when a Republican takes over, even if it’s the exact same numbers. They’ll say that it’s great. It’s going fantastic and it doesn’t matter even if the economy is terrible.

So in some sense, and I’ll put a link in the show notes to this article, but basically there is some sense that people don’t actually believe these things, but they’re doing it for a couple of reasons.

One is that their leaders are repeating these things. That’s number one.

WHITAKER: Yes. Yeah.

SHEFFIELD: And then number two is that they think that it’s kind of a tribal marker for themselves to say these things, which are not true.

WHITAKER: Right.

SHEFFIELD: Because the leader says it, so then therefore everybody else says it, so if I don’t say it, then I will be cancelled.

WHITAKER: Yes.

SHEFFIELD: And that fear of, at least for me when I was in Mormonism as a fundamentalist Mormon, Mormons they tell each other constantly you should not ever read anything that is critical of the church. Even if it’s written by church [00:42:00] members, you should not read it. It’s worse than pornography to read anything like this. It’s anti Mormon.

And it doesn’t matter even if it’s true. Like one of their leaders literally said you shouldn’t criticize church leaders, even if the criticism is true.

WHITAKER: Wow.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah.

WHITAKER: Wow.

SHEFFIELD: That’s, I mean, it’s stunning, but that’s the mindset that we’re dealing with here.

WHITAKER: I mean, the debt ceiling conversation is a great indication of this, right? There was no, as for, unless I’m wrong, I don’t think I am, more than I would, I don’t think when Trump was in office, Republicans ever made the debt ceiling this hostage situation. But now that Biden is in office, all of a sudden, the debt ceiling is a big deal. And spending is a big deal.

I think statistically Trump spent just as much, if not more than any other president before him. I don’t think he was fiscal at all in that sense. And by the way, Democrats have no problem spending a lot of money on the war machine that we have, so I’m not a big fan of how Democrats always choose to spend things either.

I think that there’s plenty of critiques to be made for that side of things, but on this topic, it’s interesting to always see the same issues come up whenever a certain party is in office and how they spin these narratives to make it seem like, well, things are worse than ever under this administration.

And then once the Republicans, and you’re right, numbers be damned, we’re always going to spin a positive.

This is your brain on talk radio, people. I don’t think people understand that talk radio laid the foundation and laid the groundwork for the fruit that we’re reaping now with far-right media.

I mean Sean Hannity, Rush Limbaugh, Bob Grant, Mark Levin, Michael Savage. I know all of them because I grew up on them.

And I remember thinking when I was like 16 or 17, I had this moment when Glenn Beck was on the radio. Again I’m conservative, right? All I know is that Republicans good, Democrats bad.

I was cheering at like age eight for Bill Clinton to lose the election in 1996 because that’s what my parents were doing. Okay. I’m listening to Glenn Beck on the [00:44:00] radio. He’s literally crying legitimate tears because Obama just got elected. And he says, we’re not going to be a country in four years from now. Our country is going to be gone. It’s physically going to not exist.

So I’m like, wow, I guess that Obama is really a radical Marxist. Like he just wants to destroy the country.

And then here we are. The country is still here and during his reelection, when Obama got reelected, Glenn Beck was trying the blues again, and I started waking up and saying, these people never give Democrats a fair shake ever.

Like, obviously at the time I wasn’t an Obama person. I mean, I was 17. What did I know? But I wasn’t some, I did not grow up in a household that was pro- Obama. And I remember thinking Obama has to do something good considering that we’re all still here. He is a family man. He seems to have a really stable marriage, loves his kids. He has this father initiative. That’s great.

But no, talk radio was always spinning things in the worst possible way. And that was the beginning of me being like, I don’t think these guys are really being honest. I think they’re just being more partisan intentionally to make one side always good and one side always bad.

So when you have that foundation and people have 20, 30, 40 years of that in their head, it makes sense why we have far right media now creating an entirely different reality based on a completely different foundation, not of like data or facts, but on propaganda and rhetoric.

So it makes sense why we have it, but we also see the consequences of that.

SHEFFIELD: Oh, I agree, a hundred percent. And what’s very frustrating about this though, is that this reality has been out there for a long time. The movie Jesus Camp came out. People have been trying to get the left-wing elites, Democratic elites, to pay attention to this stuff, and to say look, tens of millions of people are being brainwashed daily by political activists who are filling them their heads with lies 12 hours every day. Do something [00:46:00] about it, please. Please do something about it.

And they did nothing. They did nothing about it. And basically the reaction typically has been, well, we’ll run some advertisements on TV and tell them that Donald Trump is bad.

And it’s like even if people did believe what they saw in advertisements, which they don’t, even if they did, those have no bearing whatsoever.

WHITAKER: No.

SHEFFIELD: A two-minute advertisement saying Donald Trump is bad is nothing compared to 12 hours of talk radio saying he’s great, he’s God’s servant, he’s Cyrus the Great.

WHITAKER: Well, not only that, let’s take it a step further and that talk radio is telling people that Democrats want to ruin the country, and then the drive by media is state run media, and you can’t trust the media, right?

So like they were chiseling away at any trust in any kind of mainstream news organization for decades. And for some reason, those organizations did not realize what was happening to them.

And by the time they realized that, it was too late, right? Because Trump, I think, it was a final kick that just toppled the whole thing over. Because I mean, dude, did you see the poll that came out regarding how Democrats and Republicans trust their news sources?

And it turns out that right wing people trust Alex Jones more than NPR. Now, there, it’s they, on the scale of positive to negative, NPR and Alex Jones are still on the overall negative, but it’s farther on the negative scale for NPR than it is for Alex Jones! Alex Jones, the guy who was found liable of slandering dead kids! Kids who were dead, who were killed during the Sandy Hook Massacre, who caused the parents an untold amount of emotional pain.

That Alex Jones, who was then slandering the judge on the air the same day he was on trial.

SHEFFIELD: He also admitted that he was lying and that he was wrong. He admitted it!

WHITAKER: Right! So you have to you know, we’re not in a conversation of, oh [00:48:00] if we could just get people more data and facts, we’ll convince them.

We have to think about different ways. There has to be, I’m sure there’s some psychologists out there who’s like, oh, you’re missing the psychological aspect. Okay. Help us understand because I’m convinced more than ever, we have to find better paths forward that include bringing people who think Alex Jones is a truth teller.

We have to find ways to flip them because they’re not going to go anywhere. They’re going to exist in the country. We have to figure out how we’re going to move forward here.

But my God, like it is only, I would argue it’s worse than ever. It’s not better.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And like, when you look at the newspaper columns or the books that are read by these left leaning non-profits, or voter turnout organizations, or donors, they constantly fixate on, we’ve got to get the right message. The message is what matters. If we just take a bajillion polls, we can come up with a one sentence message, and it will be perfect, and it will work forever.

And it’s like, guys the medium matters more than the message.

WHITAKER: Totally.

SHEFFIELD: If you only say the message, in some TV ads or you get a story in the New York Times, you get an op ed in the Washington Post. Your job is not done at all. No one saw those things.

WHITAKER: Right, you’re preaching to the choir in those spaces.

SHEFFIELD: That’s right. And so, like, you could even have, like, and I had to learn this firsthand myself because, my deconversion from right wing media came as I started writing a book about here’s how Republicans can do better in politics. And I was a secular conservative at that point, and so one of the points of my book was to say look guys, this Christian nationalism thing, nobody wants it. Just let’s get over it, please.

And I wrote, I had a publisher for it. I had like 60, 000 words written, and I got to the point where I realized I have the right message, but they think that they’re God’s servants and so I can give them all the facts. I can give them all the figures. I can give [00:50:00] them all the philosophy. I can give them all the history. And it won’t matter.

It won’t matter because I don’t have any sort of power over them, so they won’t accept it.

WHITAKER: Right. That’s why I’m convinced, I’ve been thinking about this for a while, and I don’t have anything concrete yet, but people like myself, and maybe you as well, Matthew, who come from worlds like this, we have to figure out ways to re-flood the social media market with actual information, but also in language that people can hear it.

Like I can communicate why we should take care of the planet in a very Evangelical way that probably won’t trigger a whole lot of people, but I can say it in a way that will kind of get us to start thinking a little bit deeply, more deeply about this.

So I feel like people like myself and others who were birthed in this world have an obligation to now start talking to those people in their own language, to start planting those seeds, because listen, I changed, you changed, change as possible.

I believe that people can change. I believe that people can find better paths forward, but you have to plant those seeds in ways that is not super combative or that won’t set off one of their trip wires that had been set in their brain by Tucker Carlson.

So I really believe that now is the time more than ever to get coalitions of people to re flood the social media space of Twitter, of YouTube, Instagram, TikTok with actual stuff that is invitations to better paths forward, as opposed to ‘You stupid Evangelical Christian nationalists,’ which by the way, for the record, I haven’t said that bluntly, but I’m pretty hard on Christian nationalism, okay.

I’m not saying you have to treat it kindly, but if you’re trying to persuade people, you have to be able to put things in languages that they can hear, and that can kind of take root somewhere in their psyche that makes them start watering that when you’re no longer in front of them. Does that make sense?

SHEFFIELD: Oh yeah. It absolutely does. And I think that does bring another thing that I’ve thought about a lot, which is that when you look demographically, people who are not religious tend to be more on the political left. And a lot of them, these [00:52:00] sort of left wing non-religious people, they really think that what we just have to do is get rid of religion and then all our problems will be solved.

WHITAKER: Yeah.

SHEFFIELD: And it’s like, number one, you’re not going to get rid of it.

WHITAKER: Right. Right. , that’s never going to happen.

SHEFFIELD: And number two, there are plenty of moronic atheists out there as well. I mean, Elon Musk. Elon Musk, the way he talks about politics. So, Elon Musk is an atheist. But the way that he talks about the woke mind virus and, all these conspiracies about China, this, well, actually he didn’t say China because he loves China, but no, like, the border and all this stuff.

Elon Musk sounds like an exact standard issue White Evangelical. And he’s an atheist.

WHITAKER: James Lindsay’s another one, right?

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, yeah, exactly. So you’re not going to get rid of this reactionary mind virus by getting rid of religion. You’re not. And in fact, some people, if you take away their religious world view, they actually become more right wing.

WHITAKER: Yes.

SHEFFIELD: So like, what you have to do is do what the right has done, which is that the right wing is a coalition of atheist libertarians who hate the government and want to have sort of dictatorship control of the private sector running everything.

And they’ve allied with Christian fundamentalists. And because the Christian fundamentalists hate the current system, and the atheist libertarians hate the current system. So, hey, that’s the thing they have in common, and they work together. And people who are against this stuff need to realize, look, hey, we have more in common than we have against each other.

WHITAKER: Yeah, I mean, listen, to the people out there who are like religion is the problem. I mean, religion can be a tool used for liberation or for oppression. It’s way more complicated than just it being all good or all bad. Just like how you can look at specific atheists, right?

I’ve met atheists who are fundamentalist atheists who will tell me things that are just really harmful. And just really like not good.

And it’s like, hey, as long as people exist, [00:54:00] we’re going to have fundamentalists. This doesn’t matter what they necessarily believe. However, I understand why for a lot of people in our current political moment, we look at Evangelicalism and go, man, Christianity is just so corrupt.

Yes, this expression definitely is, but there are a lot of Christians who are pushing against it. You might not see them, but they exist. I mean, I was just at a rally in Tennessee with over 400 actual clergy and a thousand something protesters who marched to the state Capitol to protest gun legislation, so there definitely are people of faith who see what we’re seeing and want to push things forward.

But we need the funding. We need to organize; we have to get mobilized. We need some of those billionaire donors, if you’re out there listening, to fund some of these things.

Because it’s very much an uphill battle, no doubt about it, but yeah, I mean, we’re not going to get rid of religion. I don’t think we should get rid of religion.

And listen, we only have so much time on this earth. I don’t want to spend 30 years of my life trying to eradicate something that will never be eradicated. We’re a long way into the idea of God, and deity, and belief to think that somehow, we’re going to make major inroads to eradicate that again.

I don’t think that we even should be. I think it’s a fool’s errand. I think we’re much better off, our time is better off spent trying to mobilize to do whatever we can now to push people in a healthier direction that advocates for human flourishing. That to me seems a much better use of our time.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, I agree. And even if let’s say you’re not religious and you’re like, well, it’s just dumb and you’re making people vulnerable to this stuff to fundamentalism. I mean, I think that’s true on a certain level that you might that some people might come into contact with these ideas that they wouldn’t otherwise.

But it’s also the case that, you know, if you look at the history of racism and race, that was a thing that came because of science, it came after science, because people started thinking that, well, these Black people that are in Africa, they’re monkeys, they’re a lower form of life on the evolutionary tree than we are, and so therefore, we can do [00:56:00] whatever we want to them.

That was an outgrowth of science. So, religion is, you could think of it as a form of politics. You can’t get rid of politics. And in the same way, you can’t get rid of religion. Because both of these things can be horrible. They can be good.

But they also are useful to a lot of people. They derive community from it. They derive a sense of self from it. And they actually get real tangible benefits. A lot of people get real benefits from this stuff.

So you don’t even have to believe it totally. The reality is that it’s useful for people. Like if you have a shitty job and you have to work 14 hours a day as a carpenter for six days a week, but you get one day off and you go to church, and you hear some great music, and you have a good time, and people tell you that they love you.

You’re going to take that away from people? You’re going to tell them, what a waste of time, man. Stop wasting your time with that, it’s all b******t. That’s the one thing this guy has to look forward to in the week. And you’re going to tell him, that’s b******t.

WHITAKER: Yeah, I mean, for the record, first, yeah, I agree.

People have a right to worship, but people have a right not to worship. And I want, I’m not sure the makeup of your audience, religiously, how they break down, but just to make it very emphatic from my perspective, as a Christian, I do not want the Ten Commandments in a classroom. I don’t want the Ten Commandments in our courthouses.

I believe that people who don’t believe like I do have a right to be free from my religious beliefs in the public square. And there are a lot of Christians, the Baptist Joint Committee I think is one of them.

And there’s a lot of Christians who see that and go, yeah, we don’t want Christianity plastered all over our public institutions or people who maybe are atheist, or agnostic, or we’re Muslim, or a Buddhist, right? We want them free from religion as well from our religion.

So I want to, I just want to be very clear about that, to your audience. I’m not advocating for a Christian society. I think that as a Christian, I can find common agreement for, I don’t know, affordable healthcare with people all across the religious spectrum.

We can all agree we have a mandate to love other people [00:58:00] and affordable healthcare could be a great way of doing that. So these are not, I’m not advocating for exclusive Christian claims to be upheld by everyone else. Like the resurrection of Jesus or the Trinity.

But I do think that ethically we can find common ground to push for systems and policy changes and individual perspective shifts that advocate for human flourishing for all of our neighbors.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. And that it doesn’t matter what your reason for agreeing with something is.

WHITAKER: Totally.

SHEFFIELD: It’s a good idea. And, and at the same time, but as long as you supporting the fundamental principle, which is we need to take away a lot of these disagreements out of the public space and let people have them in their private houses, in their churches, or let these be private sector debates if you want to have them.

You don’t even have to have them. I mean you look in the world of academic philosophy, most academic philosophers, they don’t care about whether God exists or not, they don’t write about it. It is a question that they’re like, you know what, I don’t think religions are true, or whatever, I think a religion is true, but it doesn’t matter, ultimately, what matters more is this other stuff to me.

WHITAKER: Right. Right. Live and let live, man.

SHEFFIELD: That’s right, yeah. All right, maybe last question is, so one thing I do feel like is that there are a lot of Christians out there who, they think, ‘Oh, well, it’s not that big of a deal. I don’t see it in my church. My friends don’t have those beliefs. These are just some stupid people. No one cares what they say.’

Have you run into that attitude?

WHITAKER: That’s my most frustrating person to run into. Out of all the people that I run into that I might disagree with, that is the most frustrating person I run into.

It’s the person who really thinks, it’s not a big deal, these people are fringe. I’m like, are you kidding me? Trump and the mob he incited with Jesus banners almost overthrew our entire democracy. I don’t want to hear about fringe. Even if they are statistically fringe, they’re incredibly powerful.

So yes, I [01:00:00] absolutely I loathe the people who I would argue are just plain old ignorant. They don’t look at the data. They’re not aware of the power dynamics at play. They’re not aware. They can’t even answer the question, well, why would Matt Walsh have 1. 4 million Twitter followers if he was fringe?

I mean, that’s not fringe, dude. That’s mainstream. 1. 4 million. And this guy gets hundreds of thousands of views on Twitter. Every single time he posts, he trends all the time for right or for wrong.

So yeah, I get that view, and I tell people, I say, listen, you need to wake up, man. Like, you just need to wake up and you have to understand what’s actually happening inside your spaces.

Look at what Charlie Kirk is doing with Turning Point USA Faith. Look at the recent PRRI data on Christian nationalism and how three quarters of Christian nationalists come from the White Evangelical space. Okay? Like you need to understand what White Evangelicalism is breeding inside of its ranks.

So yes, I absolutely get that perspective, and it is by far the most frustrating one that I have to deal with.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah. They definitely got to wake up. All right. Well, so where can people find your stuff, Tim?

WHITAKER: Anywhere that The New Evangelicals are is where I am. So podcast, Instagram, TikTok, we have a private Facebook community. We have a website, thenewEvangelicals.com. We are on Twitter shooting out hot takes all the time. So, we’re on YouTube. So yeah, we’re pretty much anywhere.

SHEFFIELD: Okay, cool. All right. Well, thanks for being here, Tim Whitaker.

WHITAKER: Thanks for the time, Matthew. It was great talking to you again.

SHEFFIELD: Yeah, absolutely.



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