Fox News is discipling many white evangelicals

In January, Donald Trump launched “Evangelicals for Trump” at a Miami megachurch. After that event I wrote in USA Today:

At one point in his speech, Trump rattled off the names of the Fox News personalities who carry his water on cable television. The crowd roared as the president read this laundry list of conservative media pundits. 

This rhetorical flourish was all very appropriate on such an occasion because Fox News, more than anything else, including the Bible and the spiritual disciplines, has formed and shaped the values of so many people in the sanctuary. Trump’s staff knows this. Why else would they put such a roll call in the speech?

At times, it seemed like Trump was putting a new spin on the heroes of the faith described in the New Testament book of Hebrews. Instead of Abel, Enoch, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Sarah, Joseph, Moses, David and Samuel, we got Sean (Hannity), Laura (Ingraham), Tucker (Carlson) and the hosts of “Fox and Friends.”

Read the entire piece here.

In April 2019, I wrote in The Washington Post:

Many white evangelical churchgoers now see the fight to overturn Roe v. Wade as equivalent to their call to share the Gospel with unbelievers. They subscribe to the message that the only way to live out evangelical faith in public is to vote for the candidates who will most effectively execute the 40-year-old Christian right playbook.

The movement’s message is so strong that even when pastors oppose the politicization of their religion, the message is not likely to persuade congregants. Indeed, many white evangelical pastors do not preach politics from their pulpit. Some speak boldly against the idolatrous propensity of their congregations to seek political saviors.

But these pastors cannot control the messaging their flocks imbibe after they leave church on Sunday. And a massive Christian right messaging machine targets these Americans with precision. Ministries and nonprofit organizations, driven by conservative political agendas, bombard the mailboxes, inboxes and social media feeds of ordinary evangelicals. Many of these organizations appeal to long-standing evangelical fears about cultural decline or provide selective historical evidence that the United States was founded as, and continues to be, a “Christian nation,” even though this never was true.

Evangelicals filter what they hear during weekly sermons through Fox News and conservative talk radio, producing an approach to political engagement that looks more like the Republican Party than the Kingdom of God.

Read the entire piece here.

In both of these pieces, I tried to suggest that Fox News is shaping the religious lives of many white evangelicals today. Ed Stetzer of Wheaton College makes a similar case at Christianity Today. Here is a taste:

In an interview on immigration with Steve Inskeep on NPR’s Morning Edition, I concluded by talking about discipleship. It was a bit tricky because I was a little unsure about mentioning the idea of “discipling” in that context.

Inskeep specifically asked me whether evangelicals were hitching their wagon to the wrong horses. I explained, cautiously using the term “discipleship” on NPR’s flagship program:

“Well, it’s a fair question. The challenge is a lot of people are being discipled—or spiritually shaped—by their cable news choices. I think ultimately evangelicals need to be known for what they are for rather than what they’re against; and, showing and sharing the love of Jesus seems like a better thing to hitch ourselves to over the long term as evangelical Christians.”

I may have been unsure at first, but I am glad that I could use the word “disciple” in that context. Discipleship highlights a fundamental issue for followers of Jesus right now: there are certain things that are in us and need to be discipled out of us and other things that need to be discipled in us and aren’t there currently.

Some things need to be discipled out of believers.

The first is fear. In John 20:19, we read how the disciples were hiding behind closed doors because of fear. Two thousand years later, a lot of people are hiding behind closed doors because of fear. We not only fear the coronavirus; we are also fearful of the future.

Today, people hiding behind closed doors because of fear have something that humanity didn’t always have: The Internet. We’re hiding behind closed doors, fearful for ourselves and others, and spreading that fear to other people online. Fear needs to be discipled out of all of us.

Read the entire piece here.