The Words We Speak: Evangelicals “Speak” To Our Culture

Dec 3rd, 2022 | By | Category: Culture & Wordview, Featured Issues

The mission of Issues in Perspective is to provide thoughtful, historical and biblically-centered perspectives on current ethical and cultural issues.

James, the brother of Jesus, explains that “the tongue is a fire, a world of unrighteousness.  The tongue is set among our members, staining the whole body, setting on fire the entire course of life, and set on fire by hell.”  Later in the same chapter he declares that “if you have bitter jealousy and selfish ambition in your hearts, do not boast and be false to the truth.”  [ESV]

This Perspective gives focus to what some evangelicals say, declare and write. I am not focusing on what non-Christians say or what Democratic or Republican Party officials say or write.  My focus is on what people who claim to know and represent Jesus Christ are saying or writing.  The examples I cite must be set alongside what James writes in the New Testament.  Such pronouncements are embarrassing and shameful.  They have no place and should play no part in genuine, biblical Christianity.

The context:  In early November, a man, David DePape, with a history of following conspiracy theories—including 2020 election denial—broke into the San Francisco home of Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, with a hammer and zip ties, severely beating the Speaker’s husband;  Paul Pelosi needed several surgeries for a fractured skull and other injuries.  Police reported that the man went through the house, yelling “Where’s Nancy?” The language is a direct echo of screams from insurrectionists on January 6, who swarmed outside the Speaker’s office after attacking and ransacking the Capitol.   Within hours of the Pelosi attack, the typical internet mobs spread lies and conspiracy theories about the event, “some of them too vile and obviously fabricated to even mention here.”

Here are a few examples of my point:

  • “The image was of a pair of underwear with a hammer, and the caption said, ‘Get it now: Paul Pelosi Halloween costume.’”  Within an hour or so, Donald Trump Jr. posted the same image with a similar message.  Russell Moore writes that “it was the first one that left me angry—because it was posted by someone who claims to be a follower of Jesus Christ . . . But that’s the point. This is not an isolated incident from one sad, angry, and ‘extremely online’ guy. It reflects an increasing trend among some Christians.”
  • Also take the example of Charlie Kirk, who responded to the Pelosi attack by saying, “If some amazing patriot out there in San Francisco or the Bay Area wants to really be a midterm hero, someone should go and bail this guy out . . .  Bail him out and then ask him some questions.” That’s the same Kirk who claims to be a born-again Christian and whose name was merged with that of Jerry Falwell Jr. into the “Falkirk Center” at Liberty University, the nation’s largest Christian university.


Russell Moore is certainly correct in asking:  “All of this would be bad enough if it were simply happening in the ‘fog of disinformation.’ But even after the official Department of Justice affidavit was released with details from the police officers’ interview with the alleged assailant—who admits to breaking into the Pelosi home to harm the Speaker—where are the apologies for spreading the lies? Where is the shame at delighting in what could easily have turned into murder?”

Among some within broader evangelical Christianity there is increasing talk of the necessity for violence.  Witness Christians who were involved in the January 6th insurrection, crying out, “Where’s Nancy,” or “Hang Mike Pence.”  “Where does much of this violence or the threat of it come from? Lies. The idea that the election was stolen by a vast conspiracy of liberals is a lie. That elected officials are part of a secret cabal to drink the blood of babies is a lie [from QAnon conspirators]. That Jews are pulling the strings of the ‘globalist’ order is a lie. That the federal government designed COVID-19 as a hoax is a lie. That your pastor is a ‘cultural Marxist’ for preaching what the Bible teaches on race and justice is a lie.  What’s worse, many of the people spreading such lies know them to be lies.”

Moore reminds us that “God is a God of truth, and he commands against both the bearing of false witness and the taking of human life. Jesus himself said the devil ‘was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies’ (John 8:44).  The apostle Paul, too, points to the connection between lies and murder when he speaks of people under the power of sin as those whose ‘tongues practice deceit’ and whose ‘feet are swift to shed blood’ (Rom. 3:13–15).

We live in a precarious and dangerous time, and what’s worse, we’ve become more accustomed to all of it.  Is this really the sort of society in which we want to live? Is this really the United States of America we want to leave to our children? And, more importantly, is this the witness of the church we want to display?  I could not agree more with Moore’s empathic declaration “That’s why we must say to those who spread lies and who fuel violence, ‘You will not do this in our name, and you will definitely not do this in the name of Jesus Christ ’. . .  We should be people of the truth.”

Evangelical Christians who are so easily taken in by Internet conspiracy theories or those on cable networks such as Fox news, especially those advocated by Christian spokespersons, need a strong dose of what the Bible calls discernment.  Chuck Swindoll wisely counsels: “’Stop believing everything you hear.  Quit being so easily convinced.  Be selective. Think. Discern!’ Undiscerning love spawns and invites more heresy than any of us are ready to believe.  One of the tactics of survival when facing ‘the flaming arrows of the evil one’ [Ephesians 6:16] is to make certain we have cinched up the belt of truth rather tightly around ourselves . . . A Christian without discernment is like a submarine in a harbor plowing full speed ahead without radar or periscope.”  Swindoll offers this description of discernment:  “Skill and accuracy in reading character.  The ability to detect and identify real truth. To see beneath the surface and correctly ‘size up’ the situation.  To read between the lines of the visible.”  Evangelical Christians today need an adequate measure of discernment.  Once they attain discernment, then they are ready to open their mouths and speak or write or forward some ditty on the Internet.  May God grant His church this much needed skill of discernment.

See Russell Moore in Moore to the Point (3 November 2022) and Charles R. Swindoll, Come Before Winter, pp. 20-21.

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