Wintery Knight has a great post excoriating The Gospel Coalition for their stupid advice during the 2016 election. This is a great example, I think, of Loser Christianity. In a previous post, I indicated that I might write something longer on the “Loser Christian” and here it is.
By “Loser Christianity”, I don’t mean Christians who have lost something, from their liberty to their property to their family to their lives. I’m not talking about losing, which can happen to the most faithful of men and women, but about an attitude that wants to lose. I want to be clear because, as GK Chesterton put it, there’s nothing more glorious than fighting a losing battle and then winning. I think the decision against Roe v Wade was exactly that sort of thing. Only a miracle can bring that sort of victory about. It’s a victory preceded by mounting losses, and I don’t want to suggest that those losses are somehow worthy of our contempt. Far from it.
The Loser Christian is someone who avoids conflict as much as possible, but when forced to participate, looks for the swiftest, most straightforward path to defeat. After losing, the Loser Christian has a mix of self-righteousness (e.g. “I care more about other people than I do about winning”) and whining (e.g. “Isn’t the world such a dark place? I can’t wait for Christ to return and make all things right, because we’ve already lost.”)
What the Loser Christian intends to lose is spiritual warfare. He thinks defeat in battles over ethics, values, religion, law, etc are all signs of his deep piety. To win in those battles, he believes, is to be arrogant or mean.
This post is far from a scholarly treatise on the subject. There are likely some historical roots for Loser Christianity (maybe in pietism), but I haven’t studied the subject academically, though my interest is growing. Instead, I want to look at some of the motivations I see in Loser Christianity, then briefly talk about what this leads to.
Why Become a Loser?
Misreading the Bible
Much of the weight of Loser Christianity is based on a poor reading of Scripture.
“The last shall be first”, Jesus taught in a parable. Does being “last” mean being a loser? The parable is from the 20th chapter of the Gospel of Matthew. Jesus describes a master who hires servants to tend his vineyard. Throughout the day he hires more and they all agree on the wages. At the end of the day, the servants who worked more grumble because they were paid less for the same work. He then pays them last to first. I’m not going to expound on the meaning of the parable, but one meaning it certainly doesn’t teach is that we should lose or want to lose. There’s nothing in the passage at all about losing.
There are other passages like this that when examined, reveal that the teaching isn’t about trying to lose in order to win, but about godly character or about God not being partial. There is no passage that praises losing moral or spiritual battles.
Jesus was “pierced for our transgressions, he was crushed for our iniquities; the punishment that brought us peace was upon him, and by his wounds we are healed. We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.”
Jesus, God in flesh, was born in absolute humility in a stable. He grew up as a man, had his ministry, and then was put through the horrors of crucifixion and the even greater horror of being separated from God the Father for the first and only time in all eternity.
And then, three days later, He rose from the dead, defeating death and sin and saving the world. This is the ultimate example of what I mentioned earlier: a losing battle that ends in victory.
The Loser Christian sees Jesus on the cross the same way hell does and the same way a casual observer does; He is broken and defeated and his followers are scattered. He’s a loser. But we know better, and Jesus did, too. He wasn’t losing on the cross; He was working to seal the fate of death and sin. His losses were strategic victories.
Culture War vs Gospel Niceness
Loser Christians often look back at the “culture war” era of the 1960’s – 1990’s and shudder with embarrassment. The culture warriors certainly got some things wrong, but many things right. Their predictions about the coming sexual anarchy were right on target.
The Loser Christian sees conflict as intrinsically bad. Simultaneously they see proclaiming the Gospel primarily in terms of building friendships and then “preaching the Gospel, and if necessary, using words”. It’s all about being nicer than other people.
This division between the Gospel and the Culture war, however, is an invention in their own minds. I prefer different terms here though. I think the real conflict for the Loser Christian is between private piety and living faith in public. The Great Commission is:
All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.Matthew 28:18-20 (ESV)
“Go and make disciples and baptize them”; that’s the preaching of the Gospel; it’s the more private part of the faith. “Teach them to observe all that I have commanded”; that’s the culture war; it’s living faith out in public, observing Christ’s commands for us.
If the Gospel really does change us, then it really does change our families. And our towns. And our countries.
The idea of a secular public square is rooted in a Christian truth: we can’t compel people to believe rightly. The problem is that this Christian truth is unmoored in secularism. Why can’t we compel belief? Because God doesn’t compel belief and He instructs us on how to share the truth. But on secularism, you can’t appeal to God. You can’t appeal to the Bible. We’re left with a remnant of Christianity without the foundation it was built on.
You need something else on which to set this idea, and that has turned out to be the myth of neutrality. The idea is that there is a neutral public square where no one’s ideas are superior to anyone else’s. We see this manifest in our 501c3 laws, which prohibit political action by religious organizations. The public square can’t be tainted by religion, the thinking goes.
The dirty secret is that there is no neutral.
The Loser Christian thinks this neutrality is real, and that secularism is based on it, rather than on Scripture. He thinks the public square should be “value free”, and that Christians should merely “share their stories” in the cacophony. He doesn’t realize, or doesn’t care, that he’s syncretized his faith with something built specifically to replace it. The Loser Christian doesn’t understand or doesn’t care that just because we can’t force people to believe, that doesn’t mean no religion will guide public policy and public life. Some religion must do that. The Loser Christian doesn’t want it to be Christianity because he can’t distinguish between compelled religious beliefs and laws based on religious beliefs – and all laws are based on religious beliefs.
We’re Supposed to Lose
I wrote an entire article on the subject of whether or not the church itself is supposed to win or lose.
The answer, in short, is “no”. We should try and win, even if we know that ultimately Jesus will win the final victory.
What happens when Christians want to lose?
In politics, you get the Total State, as Auron MacIntyre describes it. Without Christians standing up to wicked political leaders, the state becomes a surrogate for fathers, including God Himself. You end up with evil lockdowns for new cold viruses, drag queens stripping in front of children in government buildings, and a vast welfare state that encourages excess and broken families. The Loser Christian responds to all of this like David French, praising Sodom because “liberty” in the secular sense is one of the ultimate virtues for these types.
In ethics and law, you get depravity. While it’s impossible to prohibit all bad acts, and we shouldn’t even want to do this, it’s also impossible to have a good society without laws in place to stop the most destructive forms of evil. The more good the people, the fewer laws you need, but as things tilt toward the abyss, you need barriers. This unfortunately means that right as we need these defenses most, they are the hardest to build, and Loser Christians do everything they can to get in the way. On baby murder in particular, you get people who claim to hate baby murder and yet can’t offer a single critique of baby murder that isn’t preceded and followed by far harsher critiques on the “sin” of being harsh toward baby murderers. You get The Gospel Coalition suggesting that on the subject of baby murder a vote for the demon Hillary Clinton is preferable to the man that actually defeated Roe v Wade through his appointments. (Reading The Gospel Coalition for edification is like drinking bleach to lose weight)
You get broken families and the only answer is “don’t judge” and “don’t hate”. As if the children in broken homes can thrive on those sentiments.
You get broken schools that can’t even teach basic subjects and have to remove testing as a result. Instead, they teach debasement.
You get corporations dedicated to new political religions like ESG and DIE. There will always be a religion, but Loser Christians have decided its best that no one follow Christianity.
The list is endless.
Loser Christians think defeat in all of these areas is, at worst, lamentable and at best, a blessing for us. They see the church as a vehicle for constant defeat until Jesus saves us. Ironically, the longer a Loser Christian holds this view, the fewer things Jesus is really going to save us from. David French surely doesn’t think cross-dressing is an abominable sin or that scandalizing the innocence of children is a sin that Jesus died on the cross to forgive if we repent. He thinks instead these are blessings of liberty. And he’s not alone.
This might be too bold, and I don’t mean it as all-encompassing, but many Loser Christians simply aren’t Christians at all. They hate Christ. They hate obedience to Christ. They’re antinomian. And they hate, hate, HATE when Christians win anything at all. They are wolves.
A Better Way
In my article on the church winning, I concluded with what I called “mere dominion”. I stand by what I wrote there and think it’s far, far better theologically and practically than Loser Christianity. I’ve reposted it below for convenience. Rather than trying to lose and thinking ourselves holy for it:
- We should await Christ’s return with hope, knowing the world will eventually get very dark after the harvest.
- We should not expect to win the whole world to Christ, but we should fight like we can. Optimism rather than triumphalism.
- We should win what we can and build what we can.
- We should take the transformation of culture toward godliness as the clearest sign that the Gospel really has gone out and been received, and we should take the opposite as a sign that we are failing in our charge.
- We should reject secularism and neutrality. They are myths that come from a confused understanding of history. Christianity provided freedom of conscience. We should embrace true liberty because it flows out of Christianity.
- We should reject antinomianism as a heresy. We should expect Christians to grow in the faith.
- We should see Christianity applying to all aspects of life. Sharing our faith is the bedrock, not the totality. Reducing the faith to “sharing the Gospel” is a shallow, anemic religion.
- We should reject Gnosticism. Material blessing and mundane work is good and holy, and not merely because we can “share our faith” with our coworkers. Building things and taking dominion is very good. It’s what we were made for.
Thank you for sharing! This is very encouraging. God is faithful. Some of my biggest storms in life have brought me the most intimacy with God. I think Christians sometimes forget “It came to pass”. Our storms will pass, but we will not pass away.
Some of this “loser” doctrine is taken from Matthew 5 where Jesus tells folks to “turn the other cheek” to the bully when you’ve been smacked on only one side of your face. However then it says, “Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.” That’s not even possible. And earlier in the chapter it recommended ripping your eyes out or cutting your hands off to keep from sinning. None of the apostles ever did that.
Jesus was using far fetched examples to point out the futility of trying to live righteously enough to be as good as God. Jesus was preparing the hearts of the people to realize that they could not earn salvation by keeping all the law like the Pharisees thought they could, but that they would, of necessity, need a redeemer.
Does God intend for us to turn the other cheek to be struck on the other side also? I suggest about as much as he literally intended for us to pluck out an eye, or cut off our hand, and be as sinless and self-sacrificing as God.
My Mennonite ancestors derived a whole doctrine of pacifism from taking that verse entirely literally. Yet none of them plucked out their eyes, cut off their hands, or claimed they were going to be as perfect as God. Somehow they realized that Jesus didn’t really expect people to pluck out there eyes, but failed to realize that enabling your own beatdown still wouldn’t make you sinless like God.
However, refusing to fight against evil is in fact enabling and emboldening evil. I don’t think Jesus literally expected us to participate in facilitating our own facial injury, any more than he intended us to do the other described acts of self-harm against our bodies, which are the temple of the Holy Spirit. Jesus was making the point that it is hopeless for us to imagine that we could be sinless enough to never need redemption. Because many of the Pharisees at that time imagined that they were blameless before God because they felt they “kept all the law”.
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Thank you very much for this; it’s a very good analysis.
I agree that much of this idea is taken from those hyper-literal interpretations applied to carefully selected passages.
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Christian Civilization used to build stunning architecture:
This is one sign that dominion had slipped away. Those who decry beautiful buildings as “White-washed tombs” need to remember what Jesus also said before that:
“26Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, so that the outside may become clean as well. ”
Which goes to show that a purified heart will manifest in a purified beautiful incarnation as in our glorious resurrection bodies. Of the Heavenly pattern on earth. As God demonstrated via the Tabernacle, Temple of Solomon and Finally in the New Jerusalem.
Even the Heavenly Throne of God in the Book of Revelation is a stunning Beautiful place.
All of them manifestations of God’s Craftsmanship, Majesty and Glory.
Churches and rest of the buildings don’t need to be Gaudy. But they really do need to be well done in terms of craftsmanship. And money isn’t so important as that. Even a humble dwelling should be done with skill and made magnificent in whatever way is possible.
Then our God said:
“27Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside, but on the inside are full of dead men’s bones and every kind of impurity”.
Just because there are whitewashed tombs. Doesn’t justify throwing out the baby with the bathwater.
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