Micheal Gerson on Evangelicals Provokes David French: A Conversation with Greg Horton

Rick Saccone sensed a closer than expected 18th Congressional District race in Pennsylvania’s Special Election. “They hate America. They hate God.” 


Rather than touting his vision, goals and plans the moment he realized he might lose where President Trump won by more than 20 percentage points, Rick Saccone responded with phrases intended to stir up voters. Given the current political climate it would be hard to question that he aimed to jolt conservatives, Christians, likely Evangelicals, to get out and vote for him since Democrats, Liberals, hate god.

Evangelicals (Always) In the Spotlight

Well, Evangelicals have not always been in the spotlight. There was a day when Jerry Falwell Sr. eschewed political engagement. Pick up a copy of The Book of Jerry Falwell. People change their minds. By the late 1970’s Falwell, among others, had turned their attention to political influence. Evangelicals looked to enter the spotlight. Today, Jerry Falwell Jr., Robert Jeffress and Franklin Graham represent Evangelicals in the spotlight, almost always.

It can’t be helped. The 2016 Election made it clear Evangelicals will (always) be in the spotlight.

Since that moment the voting pattern revealed strong Evangelical support for President Trump pundits, analysts, sociologists and religion observers have been mining data and anecdotes to answer the Why question.

Enter Michael Gerson and his recent article in The Atlantic

Gerson Avoids the Montoya Moment

Michael Gerson recently wrote, The Last Temptation: How evangelicals, once culturally confident became an anxious minority seeking political protection from the least traditional religious president in living memory. Consider the Interwebs provoked.

The Last Temptation.

Anxious Minority.

Political Protection.

Least Religious President.

Take your pick. But, if these words prompt a knee-jerk for you, then rather than think you know the argument from the title and subtitle, give it a read. There is plenty more to get you excited.

Gerson avoids the Inigo Montoya moment – You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means. When Gerson uses Evangelical, he understands what it means. His is a long look. As an Evangelical, trained at an Evangelical institution, Gerson assesses the current situation from inside.

Gerson may have avoided the Montoya moment, but he did not escape The Provoked.

The Information Age, the online world, provides for an almost immediate response. Gerson writes. National Review publishes David French’s response. Forbes publishes Chris Ladd’s assessment of Evangelicals then it would seem those provoked by his piece exerted enough pressure that it was pulled. Ladd responds to Gerson. Given the nature of the Web there are surely more responses and counter-responses.

Horton Hears a Who

The Ex-Reverend is back on the podcast. Greg Horton joins me to discuss how he assesses Gerson’s article as a religion writer, a religion reporter, as a religion instructor at a metro University. He and I have discussed the way Evangelical gets used, often confused with Fundamentalist. For some, it may be a tortuous exercise to get it right. But, according to Horton, it is lazy to do otherwise.

Horton is not interested in protecting Evangelicals like the Dr. Seuss character. He is concerned that words matter. They matter for how we talk about others. And, they matter when people choose an identity marker.

Greg asserts, “Most people don’t have time to parse life and faith.” Put another way; people will choose an identity marker without any idea of its meaning and then expect both their reception and actions to be beyond scrutiny. Ever the provocateur, Horton assails both clergy and laity for the problem.

Give it a listen.

How are you provoked?

*UPDATE: In the original post I used *triggered* and *triggers*. My friend Rob pointed out those words serve an important purpose in the mental health field. In an effort not to offend, I have replaced those words in this piece. Words matter. If I have offended you, my sincerest apologies.

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About the Author
Husband to Patty. Daddy to Kimberly and Tommie. Grandpa Doc to Cohen, Max, Fox, and Marlee. Pastor to Snow Hill Baptist Church. Graduate of Oklahoma Baptist University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. Reading. Photography. Golf. Colorado. Jeeping. Friend. The views and opinions expressed here are my own and should not be construed as representing the corporate views of the church I pastor.

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