The Evangelical Dark Web has been so-named by on-lookers of the Christian cultural climate, who see a small but extremely influential group of conservative thinkers who are changing the evangelical landscape. The term was used this week by a Government Intelligence Analyst and counterterrorism expert, who gave progressive Christians bullet-points to oppose their work.
The term, Evangelical Dark Web, is a spin-off of the Intellectual Dark Web, a term coined by a New York Times columnist in 2018. Bari Weiss, writing for the Times, used the term to refer to libertarian-leaning idealogues who had divergent views on politics, but who valued conversation, dialogue, and critical thinking. Weiss named Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, Ben Shapiro, and Joe Rogan as some of its members.
This week, Brian Auten referred to a group of influential evangelicals as the Evangelical Dark Web and listed among its members the evangelical activists behind For the Christian Intellectual, Pulpit and Pen, Sovereign Nations, Enemies Within the Church, and Capstone Report.
In the preface to Auten’s article, Jake Meador writes:
The movement is a self-proclaimed insurgency meant to combat perceived liberalism in other evangelical organizations and denominations. While it’s own positions are broadly in keeping with the political beliefs of the old guard Religious Right, it’s rhetorical positioning is more in keeping with a neo-fundamentalist stream of evangelicalism.
I’m not a government intelligence analyst, but I would suggest other names be added to this hodgepodge group including Sam Jones, AD Robles, Tommy Littleton, Jeff Maples, Jon Harris, and Jacob Brunton. Certainly, there are others.
My relationship with all of these men varies from “close” to “barely know them,” although admittedly, we seem to move in the same orbit.
What makes the Evangelical Dark Web dark is the same thing that makes the Intellectual Dark Web dark. Those who are said to belong in it are extremely influential but remain on the outside of major established institutions. Masses of people are going directly to the Evangelical Dark Web as their source of information, which is often years ahead of that offered by those on the professional evangelical lecture circuit.
Auten claimed the goals of the Evangelical Dark Web were as follows:
Its overall aim is institutional takeover. Its intermediate aim is intellectual capture of the “target population” (e.g. 18-30 year old conservative evangelicals, particularly males).
Its strategy is multi-form and typical for insurgencies:
*embarrass the regime in power
*make it [the regime] appear weak and corrupt
*create (online) zones of counter-control
*tempt the regime in power to over-respond in a heavy-handed and/or inept manner
*through expansion of its captured target population over time, overwhelm the regime.
Its primary tactic: the rhetorical hammer.
I can speak for no one but myself, however, I don’t feel that Auten’s claims are far-fetched, even though they are insufficient to characterize the movement.
There are a few similarities between most of the aforementioned members of the ‘Evangelical Dark Web.’
- As previously mentioned, members of the Evangelical Dark Web (EDW) are not ‘insiders’ of evangelical institutions. This provides them the freedom of thought and freedom of expression.
- The EDW is extremely influential with young people, seminary students, and developing ministers.
- The EDW is the source of most information shared by conservative-leaning individuals who are attached to established institutions, seminaries, or the evangelical lecture circuit.
- People are often afraid to admit they receive their information from the EDW, or that their beliefs are shaped or formulated by their influence. Listening to their podcasts, sharing their social media posts, or re-posting their blog articles is not popular, but people are consuming the EDW’s material at a dizzying speed.
- The EDW is well-connected, stretching with influence across almost every level of evangelicalism.
- The EDW is not clandestine, but it is confidential. Information they have and communications they share are kept close to the chest, because their ideological opponents are many and their opponents are ruthless.
- The EDW is privately supported by a significant number of prominent conservative evangelical leaders, who provide assistance and encouragement to the influencers, in spite of never acknowledging their work in public. It is, for lack of a better phrase, a “dirty little secret” that the EDW has much support from the “inside of the Evangelical Machine.”
- The EDW was pivotal for the information and intelligence required to oppose the Social Justice Movement thus far and they were consulted in the crafting of the Dallas Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel. They have provided the intelligence for more well-known leaders to expose the liberal creep in evangelicalism, and most of what has been done thus far in the “Contra Movement” would have been impossible without them.
- The EDW has grown increasingly concerned that many of The Dallas Statement signers have grown soft in their opposition, were intimidated into retreating, have gone silent in their protest, or perhaps never understood the extent of the danger of Social Justice to begin with. After all, the opposition to the Social Justice Movement did not originate with the initial signatories of The Dallas Statement, but within the EDW.
The appeal of the Evangelical Dark Web is that traditional institutions and parachurch ministries don’t know how to combat their ideas or oppose their thoughts. The usual brow-beating, institutional ultimatums, and threats of punitive actions simply do not work with the EDW because they are outside the system.
Most members of the EDW I know have been contacted with job offers or promises of lucrative careers by “Big Eva” or the Evangelical Intelligentsia in exchange for silence and ceasing their opposition or activism. And most members of the EDW have refused the bribe. They seem to me to be largely independent thinkers, who consider paid-silence to be treason against Christ and their Cause.
It brings me no trepidation to acknowledge that Brian Auten is right in some of his assessments about the Evangelical Dark Web. We are here. We are active. We are being effective. And almost everybody, at this point, knows it. At this point I’m sharing no secrets.
It does bring me a certain amount of trepidation that an entrenched Evangelical Deep State operative like Auten, an intelligence analyst, is giving advice for how to defeat us.
While some evangelical insiders scoff at those within the Evangelical Dark Web, rest assured that our opponents do not. They are frightened.
They should be. Christ’s soldiers do not shrink back and do not cower in the face of giants.
Ultimately, Truth will win in this ideological and theological battle for the Gospel.
[Contributed by JD Hall. PS, I don’t speak for anyone named in Auten’s list of Evangelical Dark Web members except myself. I’m sure they would say the same]
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