Yes, America has a groomer problem — millions of fanatically dedicated persons looking to recruit others, even young children, to their beliefs and lifestyle.
If a child’s parents raise them to think or live differently from the groomers, the groomers will aggressively seek to turn the child away from the values with which they were raised.
They will try and get the child to transition from what they were before to what the groomer wants them to be.
They have no shame.
I am speaking, of course, of evangelical Christians.
These are people who think it’s acceptable — indeed, necessary — to proselytize everywhere and to everyone, no matter how young.
They think it’s OK to drag their own kids to church long before they can understand the concept of God and teach them that anyone who doesn’t believe as the parents do is going to hell.
They are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually grooming their own children and have no compunction about doing the same to yours.
Understood properly, and not merely as a sexual thing, Franklin Graham is a groomer. So was his daddy, who groomed him.
And Pat Robertson is a groomer so committed to his craft that even though he’s roughly 137 years old and looks like he died a decade ago, he’d rather stay on Earth grooming than go and actually meet Jesus.
These guys are definitely groomers (again, in the spiritual sense). Oh, and creepy as hell.
Those folks in that recent viral video who thought it was cool to sing about Jesus to a captive audience on a commercial flight at 30,000 feet?
Oh, and people who should be on the no-fly list for the next forever years.
Here’s another guy from a different flight, dispensing with the guitar and cheesy sing-a-long and just getting right to the altar call. Because expert groomers don’t need accompaniment.
While the small-minded and sexually-insecure scream about Drag Queen Story Time at the library — as if the queens were teaching little boys how to tuck — evangelicals are going to bookstores, surrounding people like
and insisting they’ll go to hell for reading philosophy books.
What are these folks, if not groomers?
What else can we call people who shamelessly recruit for their beliefs and lifestyle, using threats of eternal damnation for those who don’t buy what they’re selling?
Spiritual terrorists, perhaps?
Sure, those too.
But mostly, they’re just groomers doing what groomers do — using emotional manipulation to sway the minds of impressionable people.
. . .
Think about it.
No parent would let their 8-year-old read a book or watch a movie in which the main character — the hero, in fact — burned people in a lake of fire because of their beliefs.
But millions of parents think nothing of introducing precisely that plotline to their kids in Sunday School classes and in the religious instruction they provide at home.
That is a key part of the story they believe is central to their existence, and they want you to feel the same way.
Because they’re groomers who think scaring their children (and yours) into faith is worth it, no matter how terrifying the story they have to tell them.
After all, what if a child dies young before they can “accept Jesus?”
What would happen to them?
Why they, too, would go to hell, naturally.
You might think such an image of God — a being so sadistic and petty as to torture people forever because they failed to believe a certain thing — would cause the groomers to rethink their devotion to him.
But no. Despite how hateful and grotesque such a God would be, the groomers persist, recruiting more members to their cult of the perpetually-abusive father.
Because they think God instructed them to do this — to evangelize the world as part of the so-called “Great Commission.”
Of course, the Bible also instructs them that praying in public and making a spectacle of their faith is what hypocrites do.
It’s the signature move of people more interested in performative piety than righteousness.
And so, in the book of Matthew (Chapter 6, verses 5–6), believers are told to pray in their closets.
But Christian groomers don’t like to be in the closet.
They insist on coming out of the closet, despite God’s clearly stated preferences.
. . .
My middle school principal was a groomer, as were most of the teachers there.
When that principal forced all the students into the auditorium for a mandatory Young Life meeting, he was grooming us and delivering us into the hands of still more groomers who spent a half-hour testifying about the Lord.
In a public school.
The only reason he didn’t do it again was because, sensing the evangelical stranger danger, I walked out and threatened to sue him.
I was 12. But even then, I was groomer-proof.
My parents had made sure of that. As a Jewish kid in the Nashville public schools of the 1970s and early ‘80s, I had the ACLU number memorized.
Later, my high school psychology teacher distributed pamphlets in class explaining the Biblical case against abortion. He then insisted it was OK for husbands to force sex on their wives because “the Bible says the marriage bed is not defiled.”
And so, once again, I was forced to explain the Constitution (and how incredibly easy it is to lose one’s job) to an adult.
He stopped with the pamphlets and the “Jesus-is-cool-with-wife-rape” stuff.
At least for a while.
But after I graduated, he was back to his old ways because evangelical groomers have a hard time breaking free from their compulsions.
As the basketball and golf coach, he was now trying to force anyone who played a team sport to join the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
Again, this was a public school.
But groomers don’t care about the rules.
They are unable to resist the lure of new recruits.
They are insatiable.
Their soul lust is all-consuming.
So yet another family had to threaten him. This time, he learned his lesson and how to keep his faith hole zipped up from 7–2, Mondays through Fridays.
As he should have been forced to do from the start.
I’m guessing my description here of evangelical Christians will make many readers uncomfortable.
Perhaps you’re worried that my words besmirch the larger body of Christendom.
But nothing could be further from the truth.
Most Christians are not like this. My wife, a Christian, is not. My mother, a Christian, is not. My best friend, a Christian, is not.
Even among evangelicals, there are some who are not as I’ve described here.
Jim Wallis, a moral giant of the modern era, is an evangelical, and I revere him. Because the only grooming he’s doing involves recruiting people to live and act as Jesus did.
He doesn’t spend his time getting people to profess his particular faith and threatening those who don’t with fire and brimstone. He speaks against injustice and in favor of love.
He is evangelical, but an evangelical of deeds, not words — of brave example, not cowardly ultimatums.
Sadly, we have too few Jim Wallises and too many groomers.
And if what I’ve said here makes you squirm, ask yourself, why?
Is it because it challenges beliefs that you were groomed to accept?
Is it because you’re afraid that if you laugh at the funny parts or agree with any portion of it, you might anger God, who will strike you down for your apostasy?
Is it because you think that if the lake of fire and Jesus-is-the-only-way stuff aren’t true, there is no purpose to human existence?
If the answer to any of these is yes, perhaps it’s time to accept the truth: evangelical Christian groomers have abused you, damaged us all, and made our country and the world less pluralistic and accepting.
And if my words make you uncomfortable because, as an evangelical, you find them offensive, well…
This post was previously published on Tim Wise’s blog.
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