The Lies We Love
How to Believe the Preacher’s Story
Let us now name this category of lie: The Preacher’s Story.
We’ve all been here: sitting in church or a political meeting or even in class. The preacher/politician/professor behind the lectern tells a story that illustrates her or his point perfectly.
Too perfectly. And we think:
Wait-that sounds almost too good to be true. So then it must be… false. But who cares? I agree with the point and I’m in agreement with that way of looking at the world. I’ll just check the “true” box for that story.
The Preacher’s Story is a quasi-factual tale the congregation wants to believe and will believe. The point of the story isn’t whether or not it is true, but whether the story advances our cause. We’ve gathered to stoke our fires and that semi-truthy story works just fine for that purpose.
I’m putting most Trump talk in the category of “The Preacher’s Story”: though demonstrably false, still believed because it stokes the tribe’s purposes. Trump’s not alone in this, of course, his preacher’s stories are just the most recent potent poison.
Writers continue to try to make sense of evangelical support for Trump. The last few days have produced several articles citing similarities between the current batch of authoritarian presidential candidates and the authoritarian leadership style many megachurch pastors exhibit (for instance, Katelyn Beaty’s opinion piece from The New York Times). Authoritarian leaders depend on the willing to turn off their fact-meters as they absorb the preacher’s stories. Evangelicals are possibly more willing because of close familiarity with this rhetorical tool.
Can we now name the downside of “The Preacher’s Story”? It appears we’ve been groomed to be gullible.
Image credit: Kirk Livingston
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