If you’re involved with the strange, online world of evangelical Christianity, you may have noticed a trend over the last several years. Many websites, social media platforms, blogs, and podcasts have taken a page right out of the playbook of American politics. It’s a page straight out of the sewer, and the title of that page is “gotcha.”
Here’s how “gotcha” works in American politics. The vast majority of politicians in 2019 don’t care a thing about policy. They do care about power. To obtain power, they play “gotcha.” This is nothing more than a childish game of manipulation designed to advance one’s power and diminish the power of one’s opponents. Quotes, talking points, and sound bytes are ripped out of context to embarrass, manipulate, control, and destroy.
Politicians win some and lose some, but the media wins either way. More than anything else, FoxNews, CNN, MSNBC care about your attention because they care about advertising dollars. To get more dollars, they need more of your attention. To get and keep your attention, they’re willing to sensationalize every story and every non-story.
This is the intersection of “gotcha” and politics and cable news. Our politicians need a platform to bully and shame their political opponents. The cable news networks need an audience to bolster their ratings and revenue. You and I get sucked into the vortex of an endless cycle of scandals and breaking news stories.
Regrettably, this “gotcha” game has been adopted by many professing Christians. Some want to diminish their opponents and advance their own voice. Others are genuinely trying to stand for the gospel, but have uncritically adopted the methods of politicians and pundits.
There are many “Christian” voices clamoring for clicks, views, likes, and downloads. To that end, these personalities play the “gotcha” game with the all of the biggest names in evangelicalism – Russell Moore, Andy Stanley, JD Greear, Beth Moore – anyone who will get a reaction. Those who play the “gotcha” game within these celebrity Christians often demand retractions, call for renunciations, and insist on second-degree separation, just like our politicians and pundits.
To be clear, I’m not defending every statement made by any professing Christian – including msyself! However, I am tired of the “gotcha” game that is only out to demonize and destroy. In particular, I’m tired of the “discernment” experts who rush to judgment every time a prominent Christian says something that can be used to paint that person in a negative light … ie, to get clicks, views, likes, and downloads.
Much of this “gotcha” game goes against the plain teaching of the New Testament. James 1:19 says, “Let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” 1 Corinthians 13:6 says, “[Love] does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.”
These verses are not standard operating procedure for politicians and popular media outlets. More common is someone who refuses to hear, speaks loudly, gets angry in an instant, and rejoices when error has been uncovered. This inversion of biblical teaching isn’t just found among politicians and pundits. It’s also found among the “discernment” experts who claim to be protecting the sheep.
Let me be clear. I’m not calling for interfaith-ecumenical-kumbaya anything. I don’t want to shred our doctrinal statements. I’m not advocating theological live and let live.
When teaching is false, it needs to be exposed. When wrongs are ignored, they need to be brought to light. When action needs to be taken, there needs to be a call to action. When we need to take a stand for the gospel, by all means, let’s take a stand for the gospel.
There have been times on this blog where I’ve “called out” prominent evangelical leaders like Paige Patterson and Ed Young, Jr. However, the “gotcha” game needs to go. Believers can stand for the truth of the gospel and leave the gutter style attacks to the political left and right.