The Exvangelical Community: The Unexpected Twitter Swarm

Introduction

My heart breaks when I think about people I personally know who once claimed to be Christians that have fallen away and swerved from the truth. People who used to sing songs next to me in children’s church that now reject Christ and have nothing to do with Him. You can probably think of people in your life that have fallen away from the faith or perhaps you have fallen away.

I have written several articles (here, here, and here) about the Ex-Evangelical phenomenon and have sought to explain how exactly we have gotten to where we are today with the mass exodus from churches and from orthodox Christianity. My short explanation is that this exodus is the result of bad theology and hypocrisy in the American Evangelical church over the past 60+ years.

This article explains how I discovered the Exvangelical Community on Twitter and how I became the target of the swarm.

The Background

I created a Twitter account back in 2013 but didn’t really understand how to use it. I stopped using it for several years but then I began to use it again in late November 2017. I was new to the Twitter world and I frequently engaged in Twitter debates. The Andy Savage scandal broke out in January 2018 and as it goes with every controversial news story, people (including myself) shared their opinions on Twitter.

My tweet:

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I think some clarification is needed for this tweet. Every time there is a story about a Christian (whether it is a pastor, leader, or a Christian radio DJ) committing a particularly heinous sin like sexual abuse or marital infidelity, there are people who use these cases as examples of why Christianity is wrong and why you can’t trust pastors. I’m not saying that you should just blindly follow pastors. What I am saying is that while there are bad “pastors” out there, there are also good pastors. There are pastors that don’t engage in sexual abuse that faithfully preach the Word and the gospel.

I also am not saying that we can’t ask questions to Christ about these kinds of atrocities. I find nothing wrong with asking God questions and seeking to understand how the existence of evil and suffering relates to God and His sovereignty. However, I believe that God gives us answers to these questions about suffering in His Word. We may or may not like the answers He gives us though. Also notice that I acknowledged the importance of holding pastors accountable. I repudiated these “Christian” men that take advantage of women (I would have included minors too if I had more characters). Men need to act like Christian men. There is no excuse for sexual abuse. It is a sin and it grieves God. These were the thoughts that were in my mind but I had a limited amount of characters to use to express them. I also didn’t know you could make tweet threads (don’t laugh…okay you can laugh, I don’t care).

The Irish Atheist

A Twitter user named The Irish Atheist saw my Andy Savage tweet and either commented on it or quote tweeted me. Quote tweeting is when someone retweets (shares) your tweet (a tweet is a post on Twitter) on their Twitter timeline. They have the option to comment on your tweet or simply share it directly to their followers. The Irish Atheist is the person who introduced me to the Ex-Evangelical Community. I didn’t know what I was getting myself into when I decided to engage him.

I have since learned that a primary tactic of Ex-Evangelicals on Twitter is to swarm people through the use of quote tweets. An Exvangelical will quote tweet your tweet to their followers. Then their followers respond to the quote tweet and they also respond to your original tweet. Then the followers of the original person who quote tweeted you quote tweet you and/or the quote tweet of your tweet to their followers. They sometimes tag other Ex-Evangelicals (that usually have a larger following) in response to your tweet or the quote tweet of your tweet. The quote tweet swarming continues until the Ex-Evangelicals eventually decide to move on to a different target or topic. This is usually after they’ve made their point by making a full mockery of you as well as letting everyone in the Ex-Evangelical Community have a chance at it. This is a very connected and united movement and they are able to get their ideas and tweets out to many of the Ex-Evangelicals very quickly through this process of retweeting and quote tweeting.

I am missing some of The Irish Atheist’s tweets but here are my interactions with him in chronological order:

1. The tweet below was my response to The Irish Atheist’s quote tweet of my Andy Savage tweet. I unfortunately did not save his tweet and I couldn’t find it when I searched for it.

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I use presuppositional apologetics as opposed to the more popular classical apologetics. Sye Ten Bruggencate is an apologist that influenced me and you can clearly see that showing in my tweets to the Irish Atheist.

2. The Irish Atheist quote tweeted my tweet but I didn’t save it and I can’t find it. This was my response to him:

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I used the Transcendental Argument in this tweet. For more information on that I recommend that you check out this site.

3.

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This is a great example of fallacious logic and unfortunately this fallacy is used on Twitter all the time. His tweet contains a faulty comparison. He makes a false comparison between the moral failing of specific Christians that covered up the sexual abuse and that gave Andy Savage the standing ovation to my epistemological claim that Atheists steal morality from Christians and makes it look like there is a contradiction. There is no contradiction. I would ask how The Irish Atheist could claim that abuse is objectively wrong without appealing to an objective standard of morality. It is simply his subjective opinion that abuse is morally wrong. Christians believe that abuse is wrong because the holy objective God declares abuse to be sin. God commands us to love our neighbors (Mark 12:31, Leviticus 19:18) and abuse is certainly a violation of that command.

4.

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I responded to the Irish Atheist with the basic gospel message. I gave the bad news and the good news. The bad news that we are sinners. The bad news that we deserve judgement and separation from God for our idolatry. Then I gave the good news that God showed us grace through Christ. (Ephesians 2:1-10, Titus 2:11-14, and Colossians 2:4-15).

5.

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I hope you realize that I was not calling for his actual execution and I realize that there are places today where Homosexuals are executed. That may have been a poor word choice on my part. The main point I wanted to emphasize was that we all deserve judgement for our sinful rebellion against God (Romans 1:18-32). Romans 8:7 says the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God.

6.

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The Irish Atheist quote tweeted this tweet and tagged (included) an Ex-Evangelical named Christopher Stroop.

Christopher Stroop

Christopher retweeted my tweet so naturally I thought I would respond to his statement. This was a trap. He (like many other Exvangelicals) quote tweets in order to hand you over to the Ex-Evangelical hornets. Here is our exchange:

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He makes the strawman statement “the negging pickup artist in the sky god of Evangelicalism and Catholicism”. Notice that his tweet got ten replies, nine retweets, and fifty-one likes. He also calls my tweet spiritual abuse which is completely ridiculous. Jesus Himself says that it is wrong to love family more than God (Luke 14:26). I am not advocating that people actually hate their families. I responded to him by quoting two bible verses because I wanted to let God speak rather than speak with my words.

2.

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Christopher accused me of having an authoritarian persecution complex and told me that I was sharing Bible verses with people who already knew them. I responded by genuinely asking him if he understood them and believed them and pointed him to Scripture.

3.

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This tweet is filled with assumptions. I share the gospel with people out of love for them not because of my supposed insecurity or because of my ego. I engaged Christopher because I had empathy for him (not pity, empathy). I grew up in Evangelical Christianity like him. I experienced many of the things that Ex-Evangelicals experienced. I don’t identify as an Evangelical. I think the label has become poisoned and that it needs to fade out. My story is not welcome in the Ex-Evangelical Community because I proselytize and because I still hold to orthodox Christianity.

4.

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He is right to say that I don’t get to determine whether or not he was religious in his childhood but that wasn’t my intention. I was not gaslighting him and I did not want to frame his story for him. I did not seek to invalidate his childhood experiences in Christianity. I was challenging the beliefs he holds now. He rejects Christ and I was trying to direct him to Scripture. God’s Word is the standard of truth not my word.

Ex-Evangelical Hornets

Here are some of the many responses I received as a result of the Irish Atheist quote tweeting me and take notice how most of them are logical fallacies:

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I tweeted this to someone and got a bunch of nasty replies:

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Here are some of the responses I received as a result of Christopher retweeting me:

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Conclusion

This all happened in January 2018 so why am I posting this now? My primary purpose in writing this article is to document my experience with the Exvangelical Community and to warn others so they don’t fall into the same trap. This Community is thriving and growing and not many people are aware that it exists.

 

The B-I-B-L-E and My Evangelical Upbringing

He is the image of the invisible God,
the firstborn over all creation.
For everything was created by him,
in heaven and on earth,
the visible and the invisible,
whether thrones or dominions
or rulers or authorities—
all things have been created through him and for him.
He is before all things,
and by him all things hold together.
He is also the head of the body, the church;
he is the beginning,
the firstborn from the dead,
so that he might come to have
first place in everything.
For God was pleased to have
all his fullness dwell in him,
and through him to reconcile
everything to himself,
whether things on earth or things in heaven,
by making peace
through his blood, shed on the cross.

Once you were alienated and hostile in your minds expressed in your evil actions. But now he has reconciled you by his physical body through his death, to present you holy, faultless, and blameless before him—if indeed you remain grounded and steadfast in the faith and are not shifted away from the hope of the gospel that you heard. This gospel has been proclaimed in all creation under heaven, and I, Paul, have become a servant of it. Colossians 1:15-23

Growing Up Evangelical

The B-I-B-L-E
Yes, that’s the book for me
I stand alone on the Word of God
The B-I-B-L-E

Did you ever sing this song? I remember singing it as a kid and it came to my mind as I’ve been thinking about my Christian upbringing. I love this song. It speaks a simple truth that kids can understand but adults have trouble grasping: the Bible is true and can be trusted. By the grace of God, I still stand alone on the Word of God.

I’m saddened as I think of people I know that have fallen away throughout the years and as I think of the many people I don’t know that have departed from the truth. People that now have come to reject the Bible and reject the authority of God. They memorized Bible verses with me at AWANA. They went to Vacation Bible School with me. They went to youth group with me. They went to church. They memorized Scripture. They sang the songs. What happened? They started out well…what went wrong? I explored this here. My purpose here is to describe and reflect on some of my experiences in Evangelicalism.

I was raised around the prosperity gospel and in Pentecostal churches as a young kid. My mom watched Joyce Meyer, Ken Copeland, John Hagee, CBN, and Charles Stanley during my childhood. When I was 8 my mom led me in a sinner’s prayer. My dad was kind, loving to me, and generous. However, he was not the spiritual leader of the home (I’m not intending to insult him but just sharing the reality). My mom taught me what she knew of God and the Bible. I wasn’t taught to be a Berean or a critical thinker. I wasn’t taught presuppositional apologetics. I wasn’t taught about doctrines and sound theology. I was taught the basics. I went to an independent baptist church from 8 years old all the way through high school and college.

I may have been saved since eight years old but I didn’t really own it for myself until after college. I had heard verses like John 3:16 and Romans 3:23 many times in my life. I had heard, memorized, and recited all of the great salvation verses. I prayed the sinner’s prayer. I went to released time at school, AWANA, and youth group. I went to Vacation Bible School. I sang songs like: “My God is so big”, “Jesus Loves Me”, and “The B-I-B-L-E”. I watched VeggieTales. You know, “God is bigger than the Boogeyman, He’s bigger than Godzilla or the monsters on TV.”

While I love that song still and it has some good intentions, it doesn’t say enough. The boogeyman isn’t real. Godzilla isn’t real. The monsters on TV are not real.

Death is real. Bullies in school are real. Sexual temptation is real. Abuse is real. Porn is real. Anger is real. Cutting is real. Contemplating suicide is real. Divorce is real. Murder is real. Infidelity is real. Doubts are real.

I’ve been thinking about these songs and looking back and reflecting on some of my personal experiences:

  • Is God bigger than my singleness?
  • Is God bigger than my feelings of mediocrity?
  • Is God bigger than a plane crashing into two skyscrapers that I saw on TV in 5th grade?
  • Is God bigger than my loser job at Mcdonalds working 3rd shift?
  • Is God bigger than my fear that I’ll never realize what God’s will for my life is?
  • Is God bigger than my failures?
  • Is God bigger than my depression, depersonalization, and derealization?
  • Is God bigger than my loneliness?

Yes He is…at least that is my answer now. It wasn’t always the answer. My answer was…God is bigger…if I just pray hard enough and do the right things and serve in the church. I said the prayer. I asked Jesus into my heart. But I don’t know if I was regenerated. I was moral and not holy.

You may have asked some of these questions in your life:

  • Is God bigger than losing my loved one?
  • Is God bigger than the bills that need paid when I’ve just lost my job?
  • Is God bigger than my alcoholism?
  • Is God bigger than my drug addiction?
  • Is God bigger than my shame?
  • Is God bigger than the regret I have over my past sins?
  • Is God bigger than my sickness?
  • Is God bigger than my ugliness?
  • Is God bigger than my breakups/divorce?
  • Is God bigger that my cancer diagnosis?
  • Is God bigger than my cheating spouse?
  • Is God bigger than parents going through a divorce?
  • Is God bigger than the sexual, physical, emotional abuse that I experienced in the church or from a relative (or any abuse scenario)?
  • Is God bigger than my attraction to the same sex that I’ve been praying and praying for Him to take away…but He hasn’t?
  • Is God bigger than two kids killing 13 people and themselves in a Colorado school on April 20, 1999?
  • Is God bigger than hurricanes?
  • Is God bigger than a Las Vegas shooting?
  • Is God bigger than a Texas church shooting?
  • Is God bigger than racism?
  • Is God bigger than someone killing 17 people in a Florida high school on February 14th, 2018?
  • Is God bigger than the wickedness and depravity of this world?

“God made you special and He loves you very much” right? “My God is so big, so strong, and so mighty there’s nothing my God cannot do!” right? I’m sure that many people would respond to the questions on that list by saying…”If God is so big, then why did He let X happen?” Many kids in American Fundamentalism (AF)/American Evangelicalism (AE) were taught about God’s love and about how important it was to trust in Jesus.

However, I believe they weren’t taught about the magnitude of depravity that exists in the world. They weren’t prepared to face these kinds of realities. Many were taught that we were saved as long as we prayed a prayer and we were truly sorry. We were taught “Jesus loves you” but not “all who seek to live a godly life will be persecuted”. We were taught how we should stand on the Bible but we weren’t taught how to study and interpret the Bible properly. I was taught 2 timothy 2:15 in AWANA. I recited this key verse many times. However, I never knew what it actually meant until I became more discerning in 2013. Bad theology has run rampant in the American Church over the past 50+ years. What AF/AE became in the 80s, 90s, and early 2000s was flawed and most AF/AE kids were set to fail.

The doctrine of regeneration is something I think many AF/AE kids missed out on. I have been in the church all my life but didn’t learn about regeneration until I began to study reformed theology over the past couple years. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard John 3:16 quoted and taught in my life. I can also say that as a kid and teen I had never read it in context with the verses that precede and the verses that follow verse 16. I also did not read it in the context of the whole chapter and in the context of the whole book of John or put it into to context with the entirety of Scripture. I didn’t even know about the importance of context. These concepts were absent from my childhood and teen years in the church.

Conclusion

There are many times in my life that I could have easily given up on God and walked away. Just read the news or go on social media and you will see the depravity of humanity on display. Why should anyone believe in God if He lets tragedies happen? Is it all just a big setup? Why did Got make us and put that tree in the garden if He knew what would happen? Does He arbitrarily damn some to Hell and choose others to be saved? If there is one thing I’ve learned throughout the years it’s this: don’t just believe what people say (especially strangers on the internet) but compare what they say to Scripture. The Bible has answers to these hard questions. You may not like the answers but they are there nonetheless.