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Christian faithfulness and the “based mind virus”

Evangelicals must reject both far-left and far-right lies


iStock/Chalabala

Christian faithfulness and the “based mind virus”

Perhaps you’ve heard of the “woke mind virus.” This mindset makes one deeply doctrinaire, authoritarian, and tribal. There is no questioning the woke narrative, no matter how absurd, destructive, or contradictory it may be. As Marshall McLuhan warned, we sometimes drown in information and thus resort to pattern recognition, generally along tribal lines. Those on the woke side signal “right thinking” in increasingly absurd ways. It’s a social contagion, for sure.

The opposite side of this coin is what a colleague calls the “based mind virus.” Offending woke sensibilities can be exciting, and it can gain you plaudits from your own tribe. Of course, the question is how far you will go in this endeavor, and how honestly you engage the issues.

For many, they go too far into the realm of alt-right fascism and racism. What starts with ironic memes and edgelording becomes increasingly serious. Scoffing has always been easy, especially for young men. Riling people up is a cheap and easy way to get attention. What happens when this folly enters a context of Reddit and 4chan—a world marked by artificiality, alienation, and isolation that instills a craving for authenticity, belonging, identity, and significance? Men whose great-grandfathers stormed the beaches of Normandy toy with Nazi rhetoric, often behind the mask of anonymous social media accounts.

What do we do about this as Christians? How can we pull people (most of them are young men) out of this darkness and prevent our own fellow church members from succumbing to it? There are no sure-fire solutions, but we should consider several important prescriptions.

First off, believers do well to equip themselves with sound, truthful arguments and resources that dismantle ideological claims. Pearl-clutching and liberal boilerplate won’t convince someone playing around with these dangerous ideas. We need to debunk pseudo-science and discern moral wisdom from history, philosophy, and theology. In an American context, Thomas Sowell’s works on race, for example, can help pull someone away from the ledge. We should also familiarize ourselves with the falsehoods of eugenics.

Pearl-clutching and liberal boilerplate won’t convince someone playing around with these dangerous ideas.

Next, we must know when to cut ties with someone over vicious error. On the one hand, we hope to persuade someone of the truth and call them away from sin, and that can take a certain degree of patience. For example, people can be ignorant about coded language. Some inherit bad historiography from their backgrounds. Others simply need connection with and the stiff correction from a trustworthy friend, mentor, or pastor.

On the other hand, Ephesians 5:11 is clear. Paul insists that we are to have “no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them.” We cannot be party to racism. Those that embrace racism must repent or face church discipline. Friendships may end when someone stubbornly resists biblical correction. Tragically, the based mind virus usually arises when someone is alienated and isolated, and it can also ensure he or she remains that way.

Someone can rapidly transform from a “normie” to an extremist of any stripe. That can translate into marching in either a Pride parade or a neo-Nazi demonstration. But Christians work from God’s unchanging standard, which condemns both activities. For faithful Christians who knew the extremist beforehand, the response is similar: “What happened to them?” In either case, we cannot go down the path that person is traveling. We must part ways.

Finally, as others have noted, young men need to be affirmed in their manhood and personhood. They need worthwhile vocations like meaningful work, ministry, marriage, and child-rearing, and they often need practical advice on how to do that (not just angrily yelling at them to “man up!” as preachers of certain vintage seem to do). While pastors should not be self-help gurus, they do need to be able to offer authority and guidance alongside congregants who can offer friendship and mentorship. Older, spiritually mature, “unwoke” men with skills are a valuable asset. They can offer spiritual fatherhood to a generation plagued by fatherlessness. Works of mercy can also help a Very Online person touch the proverbial grass and instill both realism and compassion in his mind and heart.

Here’s the catch: Few of the salves for this social contagion will be found in churches that have committed themselves to unserious levity and work hard to appeal to hip progressives. Sadly, many congregations have positioned themselves to be chaplains to a generic egalitarian liberalism, effectively baptizing the preferences and consumer tastes of white-collar Americans. We can forget what a huge role aesthetics play in this cultural crisis in which we find ourselves, where young men struggle to find order, meaning, purpose, tradition, and a worthy cause. May the Lord raise up servants who can reach those caught in the darker recesses of the alt-right. And may we all resist the temptation to moral infidelity and short-sighted compromise, no matter the form.


Barton J. Gingerich

The Rev. Barton J. Gingerich is the rector of St. Jude’s Anglican Church (REC) in Richmond, Va. He holds a Bachelor of Arts in history from Patrick Henry College and a Master of Divinity with a concentration in historical theology from Reformed Episcopal Seminary.


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