In the second part of our interview with Rob Schenck, a former Washington insider and heavy hitter in the evangelical pro-life lobbying industry, we discuss gun culture among American Christians and how asking questions about it ultimately cost him the organization he built and led for decades and led to him being ostracized by longtime friends and colleagues. Why are so many Christians so obsessed with guns to the point that they're unwilling to even question their centrality in their lives or their consistency with their stated pro-life convictions? Why are they seemingly unconcerned about the dangers guns pose or opposed to sensible gun legislation? How should we understand the soundbites that often get bandied about in these conversations? Rob patiently and powerfully takes us through his experience with these issues. We also discuss a bit of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's influence on Rob's trajectory.
The beverage featured in this episode is Bowmore 18. Jump to 3:51 to skip the tasting.
You can find the transcript for this episode here.
Content note: This episode contains discussion of gun violence.
Want to support us?
The best way is to subscribe to our Patreon. Annual memberships are available for a 10% discount.
If you'd rather make a one-time donation, you can contribute through our PayPal.
Other important info:
NOTE: This transcript was auto-generated by an artificial intelligence and has not been reviewed by a human. Please forgive and disregard any inaccuracies, misattributions, or misspellings.
I'm Randy, the pastor half of the podcast, and my friend Kyle is a philosopher. This podcast hosts conversations at the intersection of philosophy, theology, and spirituality.
We also invite experts to join us, making public space that we've often enjoyed off-air around the proverbial table with a good drink in the back corner of a dark pub.
Thanks for joining us, and welcome to A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. So around here we do tastings of delicious alcoholic beverages because we're A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar.. So Kyle, tell us what we're drinking today.
Yeah, so this was a gift to my wife after the birth of our first child. And I got her permission to share it with you. So she loves her favorite kind of whiskey is Isla Scotch heavily picked, the more heavily peated the better the more smoke, get, the better she loves it. And so there's a place a little town called Bowmore that has a distillery called Bowmore right on the seeds gorgeous. You can stay there, you can tour we did all that it was fantastic. And this is their 18 year offering. Little bit special, and I think delicious, but you got to like the Pete. So do that. I'd like to spring that on you every now and then.
Yeah, it's so smoky. I have trouble separating that much smoke from the idea of smoked meats like that. It's just, it's just the association. Like you don't smell that much smoke normally without being attached to some meat.
It's smoke. It's so much leather.
Yeah, this is a good one for discerning the difference between smoke and peat though because the smoke is definitely present. But I get more of that seaweed kind of smell.
Yeah, it's it's briny is the same time. It's got the savory component to it. Wow.
But it's got enough age on it. Oh, barrels, you know, so there's going to be darker. Maybe some chocolate on the palate. We'll see.
Yeah, chocolate rings true. Can we just be an 18 year Scott tasting podcast?
Yeah. 18 is like eight scenes. Maybe 15 is the number I don't know, like past which it becomes really interesting.
This is interesting. I mean, it's way more subtle. It's less of a punch in the face than I was expecting is what I'm trying to say. It's it's almost like it seems like a lower cut to me. which I like because that peatiness almost needs a little something to lay back on. It's like you get that smoky, briny. See thing at the beginning, but then it just mellows out into a really good glass of whiskey.
Yeah. 43%. So it's powerful, but not in the ethanol sense. It's just powerful and flavor.
No, there is a little bit of a creosote like it's it's got a little bit of a burnt taste, and which I know is just the mean. That's the PDS but it's really good.
Yeah, it's great. It's hitting me right. They very generously when I was doing their tasting at the distillery, the person leading it pulled out there, I think 25 year which normally they don't do, but we asked they were kind of bottle we couldn't have afforded one of the best scotches as I said, while we were there.
Yeah, this is just i I'm trying to get used to the pizza. Like I'm not gonna lie and tell you that I absolutely love it. But I appreciate it. Because it's so different than bourbon. Right? Like you can you can drink Highland Scotch is it this is an Iowa Yeah, so I let I love it. And then what was the Highland would be a good contrast, which not so PD, but it still has a lot of bit bourbon II flavors to it. This isn't just a completely different product, in my opinion. Yeah. And I appreciate that. Yeah. So one more time, what is this? This is Bowmore 18 year. Cheers. Thanks for sharing.
So, on this episode of Pastor philosopher, welcome to the bar, we are continuing our conversation with Rob shank. This is part two, if you have not heard part one, stop this. Go back in our feed. Find part one. Listen to that first.
Yeah, I mean, Rob, was part of the evangelical conservative political machine. I mean, not even part of he was one of the movers and shakers, he moved that conversation forward, he had a spot at the table. And as a result of that, and a result of his repentance of his turning around and walking in a different direction, and in walking towards what I would say is a more Christ like way, we get some really incredible insights into that movement, and what it's all about, in this really, really fascinating conversation.
Yeah. It reminded me in some ways of our conversation with Frank Schaeffer. Yes. Although be less angry. Yeah. Much less angry, and also coming from someone who's still identifies as an evangelical Yes. Right, who is still very much committed to Jesus and to even a kind of evangelical understanding of Jesus, somebody who is currently committed to the ideals but has seen through how the deals were applied, and is now trying to apply them for real.
Yep. Yeah. So I had no, no context, like coming into the conversation didn't know what, who we were talking to that didn't recognize the name. Now, though, the level of respect that I have for Rob is, I would hope to be somebody who when confronted with new information and the ways that he was, could change my life and turn and so to lose everything dramatic chapter markings to his life, like most people don't get to have that. Because there's so embedded that the sunk cost is too great. They can't make the change. It's just too much work. And there's something about him that where he seems a bit immune, or at least or he's done the work,
tons of integrity, read a lot of Bonhoeffer, this is what happens when you read theology and philosophy. Take it seriously do right changes your life. Yeah. Okay. So here's part two with Rob shank.
Abigail Disney comes to you and says, Why are you Christian, so obsessed with guns tell us about you. So you're on the mountaintop, you're in the room, pet Robinson, his 80th birthday. That's the tip of the iceberg as far as the mountaintop that you were on. And then you come crashing down very quickly. Tell us about that. Descent it or maybe ascent out of that, that world.
Yeah, it was kind of both simultaneously. And what had happened was I took a leave a kind of leave of absence from my work in 2009. I enrolled in a Doctorate of ministry program out at my alma mater, Faith evangelical Seminary in Tacoma, Washington. And it gave me a little distance from what I was doing. And in my work, I wanted to look at what happened to the churches in Germany in the lead up to Nazism, and the catastrophe that was at all Tipler. And in my research work, is was late in life, I was 50. Something when I enrolled in that program, and you know, it was a little late, but it but it wasn't too late. And I, as I was looking at what's commonly called the German church struggle, which was its own identity crisis in the shadow of Nazism, and the Co optation of the church in Germany. And, and I remind people that the largest body of Christians in Germany were known as the Yvonne Ganesha character, the Evangelical Church of Germany. And they would eventually fully embrace Adolf Hitler, Nazism, and genocide. And so I was looking at all of that, and drawing parallels between what I saw happening in my evangelical world in the United States. And what happened back then, in 1920s, and 1930s, Germany, and it was shocking. And it was deeply disturbing. And it was unsettling. And so I came back east a few times during that period, and eventually, to that party of pats. And all of this indicated to me, we're in very, very big trouble. And then when Abigail Disney, who by the way, she's a great filmmaker, but she is, you know, like to tell people she is not a Disney princess. Yes, she is the grand niece of Walt Disney. She's the granddaughter of Roy Disney, who built the Disney empire. But she is hardly a child of an on conscious privilege. She knows where she is in the world. And she uses her wealth and her name to do a lot of good. She gives away most of her wealth in philanthropic ways. And one of the things she has done is she has made these award winning documentaries. And in this case she wanted to she had traveled the country. She talked with evangelical leaders all over the country asking them if they would simply take a critical look at why white American evangelicals were the religious sub group in the population, most likely to own a firearm to defend unfettered Second Amendment gun rights. and to believe that using lethal force was, was a God given that was a God directed mandate. So she said, I found a lot of people who question that, but they would not go on camera. Because they were so afraid of a backlash from their financial contributors from their constituencies from their allies and friends. And she dared me, she said, You're the last person I'm talking to. And if I don't get them, I'm gonna go a completely different direction with the film. If you say no. And I took a very long time to get her Yes. And I finally did with all kinds of caveats telling her I wanted out if this went wrong, or that went wrong. But once I got into the project, and I discovered friends, Pastor, friends that I had had for decades, who were now armed in their pulpits, I remember a longtime friend of mine who I preached for a routine way as an itinerant evangelist. And he said, Rob, I never go into the pulpit without my nine millimeter. I always have it on me. And I said, David, what, what are you talking about? Why are you doing that? And he said, I'm telling you, somebody comes into my church stands up in the pew and makes a noise, I don't understand I'm going to take him right out from the sacred desk. And I said already that by that time, I had been through firearms training for the film, because I had to get an orientation to my subject. So I had been trained by a professional, US Marine Corps firearms instructor. And I said, David, you know, that the chances are nine to one, you will not hit your target. And that's why you have to fire every round in your magazine, because nine out of 10 shots are not going to land where you want them to, which means you're going to kill grandma, or her granddaughter in one of your seats in your sanctuary, how will you ever recover from that? And he said, That's the price of freedom, brother. When I heard those things, I realized were in exactly the same place that the Christians of Germany were in, in the late 1920s, into the 1930s, and would ultimately lead the evangelical church in Germany to declare Adolf Hitler and I quote, this is a statement that was read from the pulpits of the evangelical churches in Germany, when Adolf Hitler rose to the chancellorship in Germany. And it was proclaimed that Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party were gifts and miracles from God sent to return Germany to greatness. So when I saw how we were embracing violence as the Christians of Germany did, I said, we're no different. And that's why I fully invested myself in that project, which you guys have obviously seen in the film, the armor of light, and I'm very grateful to Abby Disney for challenging me to do that.
So, I mean, all of this is just jaw dropping stuff. But could you give us some numbers as to what happened? How many What was your budget before the film and you came out anti gun? And what was it after? What was how many followers you had? And how what was it after? I mean, those are startling numbers.
Yeah. Well, you know, at that time, I had 50,000 Financial donors spread all across the United States. We've had hundreds of churches that supported us, we had a large number of what we call mega donors who are giving us and billions of dollars you know, in those years, I had raised 20 $30 million we had a headquarters building right on Capitol Hill I had a stab I'm I'm ashamed to even say this but you know, when he at times I was tooling around the city in a Cadillac Escalade, you know, executive car service at you know, $600 a day and everybody was flashing their cobalt cards nevermind platinum American Express that was that was the cheap card. You had to have a cobalt card and the cobalt card you could buy a yacht with or or a jet aircraft with, so people would flash their cobalt cards and you know, I was flying on Gulfstream jets and all the rest after that, probably I checked, everything started scaling down very rapidly, people were very angry for me taking on the questioning their God given right to defend themselves. And that's what a question because the question that Abigail Disney, the producer and director of this film had put to me early on was how can you claim to be pro life and pro gun. Now I wasn't a big gun aficionado. But I, I, you know, I accepted it as part of a package that part of freedom. I bought the line that if you can't defend yourself, you can't defend your family, you can't defend your community, you can't defend your God given constitutionally protected rights. I was suspicious of the federal government and I bought the line that you needed an armed citizenry in order to check the powers of an over reaching federal government and all the rest of it. So I just kind of accepted it as part of the package. I was never a gun owner. I was never a shooter. But obviously the people around me work. And I saw I it got me thinking deeply. Because I had been with national pro life leaders who kept ar 15 rifles in their trucks and Glock nine millimeter semi automatic handguns in their glove compartments. And one National Christian leader told me I've trained my children to be marksman. If a federal agent comes up my driveway, one of my kids will take him out at 30 yards. There's a problem with that. Call it a keen sense of the obvious. But the more I heard this, and I heard worse once we took on the film project and traveled the country and sat with pastors of rural churches, to leaders of multinational organizations, and heard the same thing that the Second Amendment was a God given, right, and a moral obligation that Christians had a moral duty to arm themselves. I saw it as the ultimate spiritual, moral and ethical crisis. And I said so and I was punished. I was punished for that I was I was basically exiled and eventually I would have to leave that entire organization that I had built over those 30 years. One financial supporter with me $100 A month donor, traveled with you.
All the best that's in cribs ready
to do to me what they wanted to do to Mike Pence rang me. And they said, so.
Wow, there's a scene in that movie where I knew this was not going to end well for you after the movie. And that was you were sitting around a table in a coffee shop or something with three other men who ostensibly I guess were your friends. That's how it was presented. Anyway, people you had known for a long time fellow pastors, ministers of some kind, and just very respectfully and civilly and even hesitantly raised the question to them. How can we? Is there anything Christian about this gun thing? How can we love Jesus and also love the guns helped me understand that, and it quickly spiraled out of control, especially for one of the dudes sitting across from you. If you had if you had that conversation to do over again, would you approach it any differently? Was there any fallout from that? It didn't, I kept hoping for some kind of resolution towards the end of the documentary and it never came.
I wouldn't do it any differently. That the the main, I guess, protagonist or antagonist, however, you want to look at that scene. And by the way, that was a real you know, real life unrehearsed first time discussion. No part of that was coached or prompted. It was organic and emerged out of our time together around a table in a restaurant. And the film crew that add the Disney, you know, brought to this project. They were just constantly professionals. We were unconscious of, of a film crew being in the room. They were so good at their craft, and that was raw, honest, exchange exchanges between us. Oddly, I'm an Italian that the friendship with the main guy Troy Newman, who is the head of Operation Rescue of anti abortion movement in the country, the guy who quoted the NRA, the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. And you remember in the film, he says, and these are not scripted lines, this just came out of him, you know, he said, an armed society is a polite society. Because you're not going to get in my face, if you know. Basically, we know, if I'm going to kill you, if I'm going to draw my weapon and fire a bullet into your forehead, you're not going to get in my face. So we're going to treat each other more politely if we know the other is armed. That friendship, survived. It's a strange friendship. But we still communicate, we still talk. I think he's supremely wrong. I think what he's promoting is not just damaging, but it's actually responsible for the taking of human life. And that's where it becomes a complete contradiction of a pro life ethic when you claim that you're saving lives on one side of the street, but you're prepared to take them on the other one thing that my my Marine Corps firearms instructor said to me, when I took on this training with weapons, he said, unless you can get yourself to a place where you are ready to kill another human being doesn't matter who they are even a family member, because the greatest threats in a domestic situation are usually family members. So you have to be ready to kill in an instant without a second thought. Because the moment you hesitate with your weapon, it's going to be taken from you in a violent struggle, it's going to be used to kill you, and it's going to go on to kill others. So you have to be ready, the moment you strap the weapon on your body, you are ready to kill. Which means my friends, ordained ministers of the gospel, were getting up in the morning, putting a weapon on their belt, ready to kill even their own family members every day of their lives at church, in the pulpit, in the Sunday school room, in the youth group meeting, at the grocery store, in their living room in their bedroom, they were ready to kill. So all of this, you know, was part of kind of what was coming to the fore. And you kind of see the crux of it right there at that table in that in that heated exchange that we had. And I put it to many, many of my fellows. How can we claim to protect life, when in fact, so many of us get up in the morning and prepare to take life. It's a it's an oxymoron. It's it's an internal conflict and crisis. And it has demoralized American evangelicalism to a place where frankly, I think we are moribund. I think we're on our way to spiritual and social and communal collapse. But I think we're frankly doing more damage now than we are good. And that's a terrible, terrible place for us to arrive at. It took that film for me to really see it and feel it. Yeah.
Can I ask a follow up to what you were just talking about? Yeah. So I remember I had a similar brief but similar firearms training experience with a military professional, who trained SWAT teams after his military career and got pretty much the same speech, which makes me think it's standard amongst you know, actual firearms training experts, which is that you don't wear this, you don't hold this until you have made the decision that anything you pointed out will be destroyed. There are no shooting to wound, there's no warning shot, you're trained to shoot center mass, because that's what you're most likely to hit and empty the magazine and you don't call it a clip, and you don't hold it like the stupid people in the films. It's everything is about stability, and accuracy so that you can maximize the chances of destroying your target. And if you're not willing to do that you shouldn't own a firearm. And there's this this thing that a lot of people who are you know, supposedly in favor of responsible quote unquote responsible gun ownership don't realize is that there is a kind of psychological baggage that comes along with that because most people would agree the people at the table in that scene agreed that responsible gun ownership includes training. And yet the training comes along with this psychological stance, which is I think you would agree inherently anti Christian. It's the willingness to get as our one of our previous guests, Stanley Hauerwas would put it. There is a, there's an element of embracing nationalized violence, or in this case, personalized violence, I guess, that forces you to sacrifice part of your humanity just by being willing to approach other people in that in that way. So I really appreciate you highlighting that aspect that a lot of people don't understand. And so it's, it's really easy to say there's all these sound bites all these aphorisms about, you know, ways of deflecting the question of why guns are so bad. But to become a responsible owner and user of one, you have to do some damage to your soul. And I'm saying this as someone who just got rid of my handgun a couple of months. Wow. Okay. Just a couple of months ago. Yeah. Yeah. So I lived with that tension for a long time. Yeah.
Wow, we need to have conversation.
Yeah. And mostly, mostly because I just kind of put it in the basement and forgot about it. And my wife continually reminded me, but finally, you know, I'd been past this for a long time before I was like, I need to actually get rid of this thing.
Yeah. And, you know, you see part of a message I preached on all of us in the film. And in that message, I warned that, you know, we have to be careful that in respecting the Second Amendment, we have to be careful that we don't violate the second commandment. And the second commandment I was thinking of was the second of the 10, you know, he was shall not make for yourself a graven image, or to bow down to it or to worship it. And I will tell you, how, you know, I became a admirer of really nice engineering and tooling of firearms, especially some of the hand guns that are really lovely pieces of engineering and machinery, and even aesthetically very pleasing with the look of them, the feel of them, they're almost a piece of art. And how strange that, you know, I mean, they are literally graven by human hands. And they become an idol because they become a false source of security, and safety. And even, you know, when you carry, you know, this feeling, I felt it myself. During those days of training, you know, when you put a six hour or 226, on your belt, you're the most powerful person in the equation, especially if you have an extended magazine, you're instantly the most powerful person in the room in the collection. And so it gives people a false feeling of domination, of superiority of power over others. The power to vanquish somebody, if you feel they're a threat, or you don't like them, and all the rest of that. So when you talk about diminishing our humanity, I think it also includes diminishing, our soul, our, our, our spirit. It most certainly, and I use this word with all the intentional pun. It militates against our, our faith, our relationship with God. Certainly, you know, living out the virtues of the sermon on the mount that Jesus gave us. It's all wrong. It's all contrary. But it has taken over the American church like a fever, I went out to Utah to preach at a church that I was in to three times a year for 25 years. And the pastor said to me, after the film, after Armor of Light was released, he said to me, just before I went into the pulpit to preach, and it was a large church, one of the largest evangelical churches in the state of Utah, and he said, Don't say a word about guns this morning. And he knew the film was out. It was my subject. And he said, Don't Don't even mention it. And I said, Mike, are you kidding? He said, No, I'm not kidding. I said, Why are you saying that? He said, because I've got 50 People in the first few rows who are heavily armed. And if they don't like what you're saying, I can't guarantee you what they may or may not do. I don't want the trouble. Don't mention the subject. Well, I wish I could tell you about that I was abundant offered, you know, brave guy, and I wasn't I just left it out of my sermon I didn't want. I didn't want a firefight to break out in his sanctuary. So this is this is a an enormous problem for the church, and enormous problem for Christians an enormous problem for anyone who claims to follow Jesus Christ. And so well, I, I get what you're saying, and you're an authority in a way I never had, but because you know exactly what that what that feeling is.
In in, let's be clear, this is an enormous problem for American Christians. I was interviewed by a conservative Christian in the UK a couple of weeks ago, and he asked me the question, If you could change policy, if you were president in Congress for a day, what would you do? And I was like, easy, I would, you know, outlaw, all sorts of guns, and, you know, enact gun control policies. And he, again, is a conservative evangelical in the UK, and he just looked at computer screen was like, Yeah, we don't know what you guys are doing over there. That's craziness to us. So that being as it is, every time which is almost every day, now, literally weekly, daily, we have mass shootings in our country, we become totally unnecessary just to it. We just totally business as usual. And then every time a big shooting happens, you have this outcry. And then you have the same just back and forth, we need gun control. And then the other party saying we need prayer. And and we need, you know, the NRA is buying these votes. Do you have you you are friends with these some of these people who are still in power in Congress, you are friends with some of these people who are on the Supreme Courts? You're I mean, there's no better insight or perspective than Europe. Do you have any hope that any meaningful gun control regulation is going to be put forth and signed into law in this country in the next decade?
You know, I never want to give up any kind of hope. And you know, there are often so many beautiful things that surprise us. And I want to hold out for that. I will say there's no evidence that there will be any meaningful gun policy, not even sensible conversation on a government level about it. Until there's a revolutionary pardon the pun, a radical shift in the kinds of people elected to the national legislature of the House and the Senate. I think about the two Justin's of Tennessee, these two, you know, amazing souls. Who, you know, the Tennessee legislature attempted to eject because of their, you know, cry for reasonable gun policy in their state. And after a mass shooting? Yeah, yeah. After the mass shootings. Exactly. And I'm hoping both of them come to Congress someday, in the not too distant future. There have been some really good people elected, you know, just even in the last election. So could it hit a tipping point? In the next 10 years? Yes, there's a possibility of that. But I think it will require a prophetic force in our in our society, and it will come as much I hope from the church as it has from young people. But it's going to take something tectonic to change that.
And last question for me about gun control stuff. Are you does that pessimism because I share the pessimism? I mean, any thinking person who's watching what's happening in Washington, in our national conversation can can has right to be pessimistic about the current situation of that conversation. Is that pessimism more because of the money that the NRA throws around DC? Or is it because of the ideological stronghold within conservatives about their love for guns and you know, whatever.
I think it's both one feeds the other. It's me monsterous symbiotic relationship, the NR a not only raises an enormous amount of money, they are very, very good at organizing, at least on the state and primary levels. They're not so great. In fact, they, they really fail on the national campaigns, but on the below Golden State and the primaries, they are very, very good at what they do. And they create an illusion, they create fear. And I go into this in the film, you see this over and over again, we return to the theme of fear as a controlling force, which I think again, is, is contradictory to the gospel to the model ministry, the message of Jesus Christ. But the NRA uses fear magnificently, exquisitely both to put national lawmakers in fear that they're going to be turned out of, of, you know, their, their offices in the next election. They use fear to control their own constituents and their own donors. By telling them you know, the next time you go fill up at the gas station, you're gonna be carjacked, probably by a person with dark skin. And you better be armed and ready. And of course, that fuels the manufacturers that make these guns and export them to other countries. And they make a big windfall of money, and they reward the NRA, with with that money, and they reward law candidates with their money. So it all kind of feeds itself. It's a it's a grotesque and deadly incestuous predatory symbiosis that goes on?
Yeah. So what I want to do is just give you a few sound bites that are super common that I've heard heard a lot of them in that documentary about guns, and just get your kind of off the cuff reaction. What do you think is a reasonable response to this sort of thing? Okay, these are all things you've heard many times before. So the first one is very well known. The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. What's your response to that?
If your vision is people shooting at each other, over each other's heads, and killing children who get in the way? If that's the world you want, you know, that's what you'll have. Yeah.
Number two guns don't kill people, people kill people
take the gun out of a person's hands, if you have somebody who's in a maniacal rage, which would you rather hand them a baseball bat, or a semi automatic weapon with an extended magazine full of bullets.
Number three, we have a right and a duty to protect our families and the vulnerable,
you're far more likely statistically, to injure or kill a family member with a firearm in the home than you ever will be protecting them.
Number four, I don't trust the government to protect me, I've got to do it myself.
The government is of the people, for the people by the people, you send the people into government, and nobody else does.
Lastly, the people in Washington want to take away our guns.
I was in Washington for 35 years, I never heard that never saw that. There was zero indication of it. Those are the fundraisers mainly who come up with those lines, because they ring the bell every time and they get you to send in your 1025 and $50.
Yeah, I appreciate you going through that exercise with me because I think it highlights what you're just talking about, which is sowing seeds of fear that are rooted in nothing deeper than that, like, all of these sound bites are super easy to dismantle with a moment's thought. And yet they seem including amongst your friends who you're speaking with in that video, including amongst my family members and friends who I've spoken with about they seem like deep seated convictions when they're spoken. And it's almost an often spoken by intelligent people who would be able to think more critically than that in other contexts, and yet, it's like a cloud comes over them when this issue was brought up. And the soundbite is all they have and if you question it, it's just flight or fight and, or fright in this case, which is super ironic, because one of the people in that scene accused you of being afraid, which just seemed like so much projection to me.
Yeah, you know, I tell some of the folks who repeat those things to me, you know, first of all, I'm you know, I'm about to turn 65 I've lived in, you know, rural, suburban, very urban settings. I spent the formative years of my ministry experience living with 15, recovering heroin addicts, in a home, in what most people would describe as the ghetto. I've been to 44 countries, some of them at war. I've never felt ever, the need to strap a lethal weapon on my body to survive. Why do you feel that way? Some of these people don't leave their communities, they they never leave what is essentially their neighborhood. And yet, they're terribly afraid. And this is what I tell them with great pain. With with there's no other way to describe it was shame. I carry shame, and regret and pain about this. But for 25 years, I sat with fundraisers who sent out millions of pieces of communication for me for my organization, billions for all the National Christian organizations that they were contracted with and made hundreds of millions of dollars in profit from. And I would sit at a table and they would say things like this to me. Listen, I need, you know what I need from you. I need fear. And I need to anger. The matter I make your people, the more terrified I make them, the bigger the donation they're gonna make to your organization, you understand that? You give me a little fear. And I'll raise a little money for you. You give me a lot of fear. And I'll raise a bundle of money for you. I had one guy who said to me, you give me a little, you know, you make people a little upset, a little angry, I'll raise $100,000 for you. You make them mad as hell. And I'll raise a million dollars for you. Now that goes on every day, in the boardrooms of some of the biggest Christian organizations in this country constantly. Because they know the magic. They know what loosens people's hold on their money. And they create a fantasy and imaginary world. Where first, if you'll send me your $50 I'll make the world safe. Ultimately, not immediately. But someday I'll make it safe for your grandchild. Do we have time for me to tell you a little more of a story about this? Okay, yes. So in one of those sit downs, one of my big fundraiser said, I want you to think of Helen. Helen lives on a rural route in Kansas. Her nearest neighbor is three miles away. She's a widow. She hasn't seen her kids or her grandkids in a year. And she lives in terror that the world her grandchildren are going to inherit will be a country where they can't they they can't live their lives without looking over their necks because somebody's going to get them. The biggest event in that woman's life is when she reads your letter or your email. And I want you to tell her that the world is as bad as she imagines it. But if she will get behind you and your organization, you can finally change that for her grandchild, but not until she sends her next $100. That was a real conversation I had that I heard that. And I resisted it at first. But over the years, I got it. I understood this is how you do it. And I shamefully acquiesced to it. And that company sent out 3 million letters that year for my organization. There were 3 million Helens who got those letters. And those companies that live off these national organizations, sometimes the ratio is eight to two, two, for every $10 they raise, they keep eight of it, and they make themselves extremely wealthy. And $2 goes to the organization they're raising the money for it. It's an enormous ethical crisis. Since in our country, and it's feeding all of us, it's feeding this catastrophe. So it's something we have to expose, lay it out, help people to see that. Very sadly, they're being played for fools in the most dangerously corruptive way.
And this is not talking about our politicians are corrupt government. This is talking about the evangelical church movers and shakers not the not the crazy ones in the corner. These are prominent front and center evangelicals, creating a Ponzi scheme to take money to have power in using fear and manipulation. And in order to do it, I dare you to listen to what Rob saying. And think Oh, evangelicalism isn't as bad as I thought it was. It's just kind of the those are the outliers. We're talking about the power brokers within evangelicalism, this is how they fund their, their whole world. Who I want, we're gonna need to take a bath after this.
Did you ever get a straight answer to the question? How can you be pro life? And also so pro gun?
No, no, you know, there are certain things that the movement I was a part of, for so long, refuses to answer or to look at critically. And that's a problem in evangelical culture, period. And I speak only about evangelicals, because that's my area of expertise. It's where I've spent my entire adult life. It's where I've been trained. It's where I served. It's the people I know. So you know, one of the biggest problems I think, with any, the evangelical subculture is our lack of critical thinking. We don't investigate, we don't interrogate we don't ask the hard questions, and we most certainly don't answer those hard questions.
Yeah, so this is my last question. It's a perfect segue. My favorite line from the film was when you said simple answers can be like heroin in your veins. Can you expand on that? Yeah.
Well, you know, it gives you momentary euphoria. You feel like, that was a good thing. You know, that's a great feeling. God said it, I believe it. And that's good enough for me. And that sound great. Makes me feel good. If I say to a woman in crisis pregnancy, you don't need to kill your child. There's somebody out there who wants your child who will love your child who will love you and take care of you that feels really good in the moment. It makes me feel justified. It makes me feel that I'm doing God's work that I'm, I'm doing the right thing. I'm good here. I'm right. I'm okay. I'm, I got it all together. I feel good. But it's really not doing any good at all. And in fact, it's, it's hurting others. It's it's injuring myself, because I'm detached from reality. And it's hurting others because I'm denying them the same privileges I enjoy. So it's like an addiction. It's like a chemical addiction. It feels great. It gives momentary relief, but over the course of time, it does great. And continuous harm.
Rob, we've heard words come out of your mouth about your past of words like regret, shame, embarrassment, you know, horrified. And I would just want to tell you, Rob, genuinely, you are an inspiration, you give me for found sense of hope that people in high places with millions of dollars at their disposal, and the most powerful people at their beck and call can change that human beings who have dedicated their life to something can actually look at and say, I think I've gotten this all wrong, and they can transform that, to me, is possibly the most beautiful thing a human being can do. So I want to just give you just so much credit, and to say you're an inspiration for so many of us to say, truth is there beauty is there. Goodness is there. And when you find it when you're confronted by it, that's the moment when when the true human comes out. So thank you for your work. Rob. Again, I'm inspired by you and I really, really am grateful for your voice. Very
humbling. Randy, thank you.
I would love to talk to you on a separate occasion just about Bonhoeffer because I had so Many questions about him and we didn't get to any of them. So if you want to speak to us again in the future, let's
Cheryl always kicks me under the table when I talked about been hot for too much because she says, Honey,
that's not a thing for us. Literally half our podcast is false, right? So we can go hard if I want to. I don't think he gets enough respect as a philosopher. And so I would love to talk somebody who knows a lot more about his thought.
Absolutely. Rob, I was excited to talk to you and it didn't disappoint. Thank you so much for your time to staying up late with us. It was really really a pleasure thoroughly
enjoyed being with you guys. So less all the good work that you're doing.
Well, that's it for this episode of A Pastor and a Philosopher Walk into a Bar. We hope you're enjoying the show as much as we are. Help us continue to create compelling content and reach a wider audience by supporting us at patreon.com/apastorandaphilosopher, where you can get bonus content, extra perks, and a general feeling of being a good person.
Also, please rate and review the show on Apple Podcasts, iTunes, and Spotify. These help new people discover the show, and we may even read your review in a future episode. If it's good enough.
If anything we said really pissed you off or if you just have a question you'd like us to answer, or if you'd just like to send us booze, send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Catch all of our hot takes on Twitter at @PPWBPodcast, @RandyKnie, and @robertkwhitaker, and find transcripts and links to all of our episodes at pastorandphilosopher.buzzsprout.com. See you next time.