This newsletter from Erick Erickson is worth keeping. It begins in the realm of politics, but shifts to the realm of the church by the end. Yet, the themes he addresses are universal, even as the examples he sites are rooted in the moment. I will address the theme of betrayal in a subsequent post.
If you want to learn more about Erick Erickson, you can find podcasts of his daily radio show on any major platform. Even Spotify. If you want to read more of his writings, check him out on Substack.
Here is Mr. Erickson.
__On Betrayal and Screedalism
In the Spring of 2016, three men showed up on my front porch. I had written that I would not support Donald Trump for President in 2016. I’d go third party. They were angry with me and their anger led them to my front porch.
Their faces were mean. Their voices were tense. But they were there for my sake. They wanted me to know if I didn’t support Trump, they’d get me fired from radio. I needed to think about my family. I needed to think about my health insurance. I needed to think about my income. I needed to think about my future.
I did. I doubled down.
My children were chased through a store by a man yelling at them that their father was destroying the country. A woman at our church told my wife, after my wife announced she had cancer, that the woman wanted to hit me. I got accosted going from our Sunday School class into church one day. My kids got bullied at school and lost their friends. My son got shoved into the dirt. The school was no help. We wound up having to move our kids to a new school.
More than once, I got yelled at in the airport while peeing. I’m not making that up. I use the stall now. It’s one of the reasons I covet private jets. On multiple occasions, men followed me into the airport to lecture me while I was peeing. Once, at a Chick-fil-A in north Atlanta, an old man came in and did that too. Each of these were by people who vehemently disagreed with me about stuff, mostly Trump, and thought they could correct me. I had a woman come up to me in a restaurant with friends and start berating me for having ridiculed Trump’s “Mexico will pay for it” claim on the border wall.
I had betrayed the fans.
Now, the silver lining here is that it forced me to be a better radio show host. My ratings not only went up, but for the last two radio quarters on my flagship station, they have actually been higher than Rush’s ratings at the height of the 2020 presidential election.
But to this day, I get angry hatemail and email and Facebook comments from people who were once diehard fans who felt a great sense of betrayal. I had been their boy. Now I am a traitor.
We’re in an Age of Betrayal.
We know fewer people personally. We connect to people online. We become “friends” with the person on Instagram and obsess about their lives. All we know is what they show us on social media. When it turns out they have views diametrically opposed to ours, we hate them. They betray us. We’ve created our connection, to a degree, in our heads by extrapolating ancillary information to what is presented. When they provide the actual ancillary information and it does not match that which we conjured in our heads, we feel betrayed.
Celebrity culture, even in the church, can do that. In politics, we spend time in battles with people fighting alongside us. Then one day we find ourselves on opposite sides and feel betrayed. More often than not, we cannot agree to disagree. We must be aggrieved and launch subtweets.
It’s why the left is so angry at Dave Chappelle and Joe Rogan.
Chappelle hasn’t been saying anything different about transgendered people. He’s been making these jokes for a while. Back in 2019, he got the Mark Twain award and they showed a clip of one of his trans jokes and everybody laughed.
But now…now some wonder if he really is on their side as he says or does he not like them. They’re hyper-sensitive to begin with and they feel betrayed. They have to attack because they laughed with him and now they think he was actually getting them to laugh at themselves. They are not just betrayed, but the butt of jokes they laughed about. He must pay.
Joe Rogan is a pot-smoking, pro-gay rights, Bernie Sanders supporter. But Rogan frequently dares to have conversations with people with whom he disagrees. He is not combative. He is not disagreeable. In an age of COVID where progressives are Henny Penny expecting the sky to fall, Rogan interviewing people who don’t believe the sky is falling is a great betrayal. This is the comedian, MMA guy, Fear Factor guy who just talks to people. It’s a betrayal now that he talks to people the left already thinks are betraying them, their lives, and their world view. Rogan must pay.
Betrayal is hard because it is premised on a goodbye we did not control or agree to. The root of betrayal translates to “thoroughly handed over” or “thoroughly traded away.”
When one is thoroughly handed over, that person is separated from us painfully largely because they thoroughly handed themselves over. That pain manifests itself in showing up at a house to issue threats or heading to the New York Times to give the tell-all expose on the sins of those you left behind.
It ends in cancellation.
We live in an Age of Betrayal. We don’t have to know our immediate neighbors. We construct communities of like-minded people on social media who we don’t really know. When one then turns out to not be who we presumed or utters heterodox opinions, we thoroughly hand them over to our opponents. We don’t exercise grace or give room to disagree.
I like Beth Moore a lot. We don’t always agree on stuff. But I like her tremendously. I’ve gotten to hang out with her a bit once. She’s sent encouraging Biblical materials to my daughter. She has, through her writings, ministered to my wife. You will note please that Beth Moore, though mentioned in the David Brooks piece in the New York Times that has nursed everybody’s senses of betrayal, did not participate in it.
I get more angry text messages from friends for defending Beth Moore and Tim Keller than any other topic these days. I can openly disagree or praise any politician and might get one or two text messages. If I say anything at all nice about or defend Moore or Keller, I might as well turn off my phone.
People who once loved them feel betrayed by them. Frankly, Beth Moore has way more reason to feel betrayed by people than people have reason to feel betrayed by her. But you don’t see her out there on the attack. People expect grace and don’t want to show it and for reasons, mostly political, it turns out Beth Moore is not who they imagined in their head. Honestly, though, she’s way cooler.
Tim Keller is another one. There is an entire cottage industry on Twitter to nitpick Keller’s tweets, mostly by people who crave his prominence and will never have it. Keller is largely above it all. He has bigger battles to fight these days. But there’s a concerted effort to write him out of evangelicalism instead of recognizing Jesus had twelve Apostles and all of them approached the gospel differently. Only one of them betrayed the gospel. And if you think Keller is Judas, you might need to repent.
But you feel betrayed.
I got a lot of stern emails about my piece last week on envagelicals needing to cool it. One person told me I came across as inauthentic. The person doesn’t know me at all so has no way to calibrate my authenticity to determine the inauthenticity. Another said I didn’t want to give up some perceived insider status so straddled the fence.
No, I made it pretty clear what I thought. You just didn’t like it. I’m not one of those people who thinks if I piss off every side I must be doing it right. Sometimes, when you do that, you’re just a jackass. But here, I just happen to think the people who are friends who feel the need to fix evangelicalism by ratting it out to the New York Times are doing more harm than good. And aligning with the Jesus and John Wayne lady, who is openly hostile to Biblical orthodoxy, not just evangelicalism, is a big way of saying you don’t want to fix things, but burn things down.
But I also think a lot of friends who feel betrayed by these friends of mine don’t appreciate how betrayed those friends feel from their treatment for daring to think differently mostly about politics. In other words, I have a lot of friends who feel betrayed by each other and expect them all to feel betrayed by me for not picking a side.
Betrayal is in us these days. The only way out is to work to not thoroughly hand over those we love to those we hate. It requires making an effort to get to know one another far better than we can know them on social media and when that’s impossible, to simply offer them more grace than we think they’d ever offer us. In environments where we create friendships now online, it requires more effort to maintain those friendships and make them real instead of binary.
Everybody wants to be a victim these days. Everyone wants to complain about someone hurting their soul. Christians on social media want to be Screedal Christians, writing screeds to denounce the ones thoroughly handed over to something, they’re not quite sure what, but they know it is bad.
If I’m betraying you for saying all of this, I’m sorry.
But y’all, I’ve been lectured while peeing by people who feel betrayed. I know what I’m talking about and I’ve just learned to move on and not burn bridges recklessly. It’s okay to disagree without feeling betrayed. And often, when you think you’re the butt of the joke, you just lack a sense of humor.