Erick Erickson’s reason for caring
Conservative blogger, author, and talk-show host talks about keeping the faith in secular culture
Blogger Erick Erickson edited RedState and now edits The Resurgent. He is co-author of a new book, You Will Be Made to Care: The War on Faith, Family, and Your Freedom to Believe. I had this conversation with him last month at the Western Conservative Summit in Denver.
What do you mean by the title of your book, You Will Be Made to Care? The reason I said, “You will be made to care,” comes from someone when I was at RedState who put up a piece and said, “I don’t care about gay marriage. It doesn’t affect me. It doesn’t affect my marriage. It doesn’t affect my job. I don’t care about it.” I replied to him, “You’re going to be made to care. They’re going to, at some point, force you to take a side and say which side you care for. If you care for the wrong side, you’re going to be punished.”
We’ve already seen some episodes where that’s happened. You listed them one after another near the front of the book. It made me realize that these are not isolated incidents; they’re becoming pervasive. They are, and it’s not just in blue states. It’s in red states, as well. You have problems in Georgia, problems in Kentucky, problems across the board. It’s not just the very progressive, secularized states.
Are Christian colleges included? Yes. It’s the ongoing march. First, they will move into Christian colleges, and then they’ll move into Christian private schools. Ultimately, they’ll come for the tax exemption of the churches, and you’ll see which churches are really churches and which are just posing.
You devote the last third of your book to behavior that both individuals and the church can engage in to bring about a resurgence of Christian community. What should a resurgent believer say and do? Make sure you know what you believe, and then reconnect with the past. … Then, you do need to figure out how your faith applies to cultural issues. For example, if I watched Game of Thrones, is there a way to reconcile watching Game of Thrones with my faith given the contents of it? How do you do this? How do you reach out to someone who is a secularist? How does an orthodox, evangelical Christian connect to someone who’s gay? These are all things you need to be able to work through because society is coming for you whether you want it to or not.
One of the other aspects of this is you’ve also got to build community and surround yourself with fellow believers. I know from my own life and experience, we spend a lot more time dealing with our kids in their baseball camp or their art camp and their parents. What about our church friends and surrounding our kids with likeminded believers? When the world comes to them and says, “Your parents are just outmoded bigots,” your kids can see that in fact, no, there are lots of people who agree with us, and they’re the people within our faith culture.
What else comes to mind for how resurgent Christians should act? Rosaria Butterfield, who was a lesbian, has become a Christian. She made this great point that the gay and lesbian community has a much better sense of community these days than Christians do. They don’t care if their house is clean because it’s one step away from suicide or the bottle. With Christians, we’re all, “There’s cat hair on the couch. We can’t have people come over tonight.” You build excuses to keep you from having community. Christians need to get back to that sense of community that they had in the early church.
Tell me about your Christian pilgrimage. I have so many friends who have these amazing stories of conversion, and I don’t. I can remember as a kid sitting on my grandmother’s lap with the Golden Book Story Bible. I remember the most distinctive story that she read was Daniel in the lions’ den, and the distinctive painting that they had in the book. There have certainly been times growing up that I’ve strayed from the faith and haven’t been a regular churchgoer, then come back to it.
Now, I find, as so many of my friends do, that you have kids and realize, particularly in this day and age, it’s important for them to get their faith strong and to be in church. Then, randomly, I started on radio, even when I was at RedState, now The Resurgent, writing about faith and culture issues, and started getting so many invitations to give sermons on Sunday in Georgia. I felt really, really awkward because I’ve never been to seminary, so decided I probably had to go to seminary if I’m going to start accepting these invitations. Then, once I started seminary, I stopped getting the invitations.
You were raised though on what flavor of church? I grew up Southern Baptist. We lived in Dubai, United Arab Emirates, for 10 years from when I was 5 to 15. There was an interdenominational church with an itinerant Methodist preacher, and I hated to go. It was on Sunday nights, and school, of course, in the Middle East was Sunday to Thursday. The Sabbath was Friday and Saturday, so you got homework. I didn’t like it. But I would come home in the summer to my grandmother’s church, a great Southern Baptist church. A reformed preacher, Joe Nesom, actually had taught Russell Moore from the ERLC at New Orleans Seminary, and he was … He’s the pastor. He’s phenomenal.
Then, when I moved off to Georgia, I went to Mercer University, purportedly a Baptist university. The first Sunday there, having gone from population 1,000 in Jackson, La., to Macon, Ga., population, 110,000, I thought, “Well, I went to First Baptist Church in Jackson. I will go to the First Baptist Church in Macon.” The woman in the pulpit that Sunday preached a sermon on how we needed to be more sacred and less scriptural, that we were spending too much time in the Bible. I called Brother Joe like, “What do I do?” He says, “You need to go find a church that has the letters ‘PCA’ after it.”
Just for the record, PCA stands for Presbyterian Church in America, which is the conservative branch of the Presbyterian church. You mentioned seminary. You’re working on a graduate degree at Reformed Theological Seminary. I decided not to do the [master of divinity] just because I don’t really want to do the Greek and Hebrew, so I’m doing a master’s in biblical studies at Reformed Theological Seminary, their Atlanta campus. I’m only taking a class a semester, so it’s going to be several years before I’m done, but working two full-time jobs with the family makes it somewhat impossible to do more than that.
What’s changed about your thinking because of your recent theological training? The overriding sense there are many more important things than the day-to-day politics. The struggle between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a temporary struggle, and there are bigger issues. It has also opened my eyes to the fact that a lot of my Christian brothers and sisters worship the United States as much, if not more, than they worship God. To listeners of my program, I regularly talk about that. Are we actually worshiping the Jesus of the Bible or the American-flag-waving, apple-pie-eating Jesus?
Things like that have really been driven home to me. There’s more to life than politics. Not everything is political, and there’s a bigger struggle out there than the day-to-day politics of life. Again, one of the main reasons I went to seminary is I found myself talking about these issues, the cultural issues, more and more. Why is it that a Westernized, well-off twenty-something will pack up and go overseas and join ISIS? I think they’re more theological issues than they are political issues or socioeconomic issues.
Given all of that, a final question. What do you want people to remember you for when you’re gone? On my tombstone: “Here lies Erick Erickson who said what needed to be said even when people didn’t like it.”
Listen to Warren Smith’s complete conversation with Erick Erickson on the July 15, 2015, episode of Listening In.
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