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For a little backstory on this post, Emma and I were conversing over at Violet’s place a while back on Violet’s  post called, “Love as Game-Lurking in the manosphere.” Here’s a link to the entire conversation, because I wish to deliberately take it a bit out of context and make a few specific points.

Emma says: “Your criticisms of the hub of the misogynist sociopathy known as the manosphere are well deserved and usually on point, IB. However, you do not go far enough in them, missing the spherians’ fundamental pathology and sometimes explicitly agreeing with it. One of the reasons for it is your adherence to beliefs that are very much in line with those of manospherians…..”

“…You are critiquing one cult from the point of view of another, without noticing that your own cult is not that very different in its core beliefs. Sure, it tempers them with admonitions about love, kindness, and other good-sounding ideals, but those admonitions do not change the fact that the core beliefs of your cult are also similarly rotten. Dressing them up in the language of love does not make them any more palatable. Slavery under the yoke of “kinder, gentler” slave drivers is still slavery.”

I said: “Those people are a fringe group, one I am particularly concerned about because of the deceptive and seductive nature of what they are selling. And in the process of selling that deceptive product, they give our host and others like her, easy reasons to justify non belief.”

Emma says, “What these guys are selling is as “seductive” to thinking people as the stomach flu. I suspect that our host and “others like her” are non believers for reasons far greater and more fundamental that the existence of Christian (and not) misogynists online. That said, the misogyny espoused by this fringe is very much in line with the misogyny of the Christian (and not only) church, which your stated beliefs confirm. It certainly does not endear people to religious belief and practice, but it is just one of many reasons, and not always the central one (although it is a biggie).”

Ever since I can remember I have been having conversations like this with non believers who tell me Christianity is this horrible, misogynistic, belief system, full of arrogant and prideful men who perceive themselves as demi-gods and demean women.

Something I find astoundingly funny, but it took me nearly 50 years to find a genuine example of such foolish men. I kid you not. I have encountered broken, wounded, and lost men of all kinds, but not one who ever espoused anything hateful towards women and used Christ’s name or scripture to attempt to justify it. In fact, the precise opposite. Most men, even in the midst of their own distress, have a great love for women, even reflecting Christ’s love for women.

However, as blessed as I have been, apparently there really are some of these men (and women) walking about in the real world. I have encountered them, at least on the internet. Why do I persist in calling them out over and over again? Because they claim to represent Jesus Christ, but they represent Him so poorly, they actually do drive people away from faith. They are hate filled, prideful, they mangle scripture, they show no mercy, they bear false witness, they engage in outright racism, and they advocate abuse of both women and children.

In my posts about the evangelical brand, here and here I upset a few people because I portrayed Christians in a seemingly negative light. I can’t apologize for that, I have now experienced some Christians behaving in a negative light. That is the truth! I can understand why some people would recoil in horror and reject anything perceived as Christian. I’m not saying it’s right, but I certainly can empathize. Walking in their shoes, I may well have done the same darn thing. However, people confuse Jesus Christ with the behavior of some of His followers.

I live in an area with the second highest number of non believers in the country. The only place more secular than us is Portland, Oregon. I grew up within militant atheism and while the reason based arguments against the existence of God are one thing, I realized very young that these are not reason based arguments I was hearing at all, but emotional and rhetorical responses to wounding, to spiritual trauma.

Love your enemies. So how do you go about doing that? By trying to understand where they are coming from. To empathize. I know that the antagonism I sometimes encounter as a Christian is not about me at all, nor is it about the majority of other Christians, it is about people’s negative experiences, sometimes from childhood, sometimes from the culture they grew up in, sometimes from things they have been told.

How does someone meet an accusation like Emma’s, this idea that, “the misogyny espoused by this fringe is very much in line with the misogyny of the Christian  church, which your stated beliefs confirm?” See, I get to bear the consequences of those who claim Jesus Christ’s name and have deliberately harmed others. I live with the collateral damage this harm has caused.

People like Emma cannot see the subtle differences between following Jesus Christ and the garbage being put forth by some in the ‘sphere. And oh yes, it is very different! From a Christian perspective it is even worse than that, people’s souls suffer the consequences of having been driven away from faith. Their very souls! We are supposed to be in the business of attempted healing, reconciliation, restoration, at least to the best of our ability.

It grieves me that so many people are outside the church, do not know Jesus Christ, that children today are now growing up without Him. I can’t just say, oh well, everyone is just in rebellion, they’re all antagonistic, they all just have a false perception of Christians, they’re all outside the brand. Instead I have to ask the question over and over again, where does this come from and how do we deal with it?

So, instead I try to empathize, to understand where the hostility is coming from, to correct some misconceptions, and to speak of Christ’s love. Much of the conflict is political, much of it stems from Christianity being practiced as a brand, not as a personal relationship with Christ, not as individuals loving one another, but as a set of political ideologies and beliefs.

Emma says, “…your own cult is not that very different in its core beliefs. Sure, it tempers them with admonitions about love, kindness, and other good-sounding ideals, but those admonitions do not change the fact that the core beliefs of your cult are also similarly rotten.”

The core beliefs are not rotten at all, they are actually remarkably beautiful, but the key there is love. The Truth spoken without love really is rotten. The absence of grace, the absence of mercy, the inability to include love, kindness, and other “good sounding ideals,” really does give rise to something quite ugly, something that drives people away from faith and leaves collateral damage strewn about.

“That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love.” Ephesians 4:14-16