If you’re new to American Jesus Madness, you might find yourself wondering, “What sort of insane dystopian tournament I have wandered into?”
But fear not!
Well, maybe fear a little.
I mean, the tournament may be imaginary, but the combatants are sadly all too real.
Anywho, for newcomers and veterans alike, I like to offer a breakdown of the bracket every year to explain what’s going on in each matchup so you have a better idea on what you’re voting on and why in case you have no clue who the people/things/ideas involved are or why they’re matched up against each other.
In the breakdown I’ll weigh in from time to time on who I think has the edge, but like any bracket breakdown it’s entirely my opinion. I have absolutely no control over who wins and who loses. So, most of the time my opinion is nothing more than wishful thinking…or depressing acceptance.
So, use this breakdown as a voting guide or just laugh at how badly I get it all wrong.
Totally up to you.
And then get ready start voting Monday morning at 8AM.
Without further ado, here is your 2018 American Jesus Madness Bracket Breakdown….
Thoughts & Prayers vs. Actually Doing Something
Thoughts & Prayers may be the entry to beat this year. They’ve become the go-to defense of politicians and religious leaders who want to feign compassion during a tragedy, but aren’t particularly interested in Actually Doing Something or really anything at all to prevent that tragedy from happening again. And, like they say, defense wins championships. Plus we all know Actually Doing Something never happens. So even if Thoughts & Prayers don’t go all the way, this should be an easy victory…because it always is.
Loving Guns vs. Loving Children
It would be really nice if this was just an imaginary battle. But yesterday’s National Walkout Day shows the uphill battle Loving Children faces. I mean think about: teenagers across the country walked out of class because they’re terrified of being murdered in those classrooms one day and the anti-gun control mob was there to attack them as ignorant, Tide Pod eating crisis actors. Because the anti-gun control mob is nothing if not classy. I would love to see Loving Children finally win the day, but this is America and it’s hard to see Loving Guns lose at anything.
James Comey Bible Tweets vs. Marco Rubio Tweets
Since being fired by Donald Trump, James Comey has found a second career passive aggressively tweeting out Bible verses on the internet. Not to be outdone, Marco Rubio is also a prolific Bible tweeter because you’ve gotta let the folks at home you’re a Christian when so much of what you do in Washington says otherwise. Comey is the fiery newcomer in this battle, Rubio the grizzled veteran. They both play the same game, but Comey’s got style. So my money’s on Comey advancing to the next round.
Jen Hatmaker vs. Lifeway Bookstores
Watching the iconic (at least in Nashville) Lifeway building implode on live TV had to bring a certain level of satisfaction to many folks out there, no small number of them female authors (most recently Jen Hatmaker) who have had their books banned from the shelves of Lifeway’s bookstores for having the audacity to do things terrible things like question the sanctification of patriarchy or, worse, love gay people. I don’t know one way or another how Jen Hatmaker felt about Lifeway’s implosion or if she even cares at all (she probably doesn’t), but I do know that while Lifeway was literally imploding, Hatmaker’s career has been exploding, what with her best selling books and successful Moxie Matters tour. If I had to wager a bet, which obviously I wouldn’t do because Jesus, I would bet that the Lifeway’s implosion was a metaphor for their chances in this matchup.
Donald Trump vs. Being A Decent Human Being
Donald Trump. There’s no avoiding him these days, even here. I wish I could pretend like he doesn’t exist and has no bearing on American Christianity, but we both know neither of those things are true. He’s become Pope to a legion of Trumpvangelicals who apparently care nothing about him even pretending to be a decent human being because “God anointed him for such a time as this” or some other blasphemous nonsense like that. Anyway, I really hope Being A Decent Human pulls off the upset here, but I hoped, nay knew Donald Trump would never be President and look how that turned out.
#ChurchToo vs. Applauding Abusers
The #MeToo movement has been a time of reckoning in America. It’s been a long time coming and it finally made it’s way into the #ChurchToo. Well, kinda. You see when it was revealed that the pastor of a megachurch in Memphis had sexually assaulted a teenager when he was a youth pastor, the congregation didn’t exactly have a #MeToo moment. And by “not exactly” I mean they literally stood up and gave him a standing ovation. Seriously. But this is American Christianity we’re talking about. We love us some cheap grace. Applauding Abusers will probably just be forgiven and move on to the next ground faster than you can say, “Mark Driscoll is still a pastor??”
Evangelical Advisory Council’s Silence vs. Evangelical Advisory Council’s Complicity
When Donald Trump came out in support of the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, VA, excuse me, I mean “some very fine people” in Charlottesville, VA, his Evangelical Advisory Council took a bold and prophetic stand, calling Trump out for his egregious racism. LOLOLOL. Just kidding. They didn’t say anything. But they have spoken out about the Stormy Daniels affair…saying it’s no biggie. Which is why I’ve got Complicity triumphing over Silence in this round…and for as long as Donald Trump is president.
Jerry Falwell Jr. vs. Shane Claiborne
If you’ve got nothing going on April 6-7, you can head over to Lynchburg, VA and see this matchup play out in real life. For reals. Shane Claiborne will be hosting a 2 day revival in defiance of the grossly unchristian support Jerry Falwell and the rest of Trumpvangelicalism has given to Donald Trump. Which is what makes this rematch of Elijah and the prophets of Baal all the more exciting: it’s happening for real! As for who wins the imaginary matchup, well that’s entirely up to you.
Trumpvangelicals vs. Integrity
“Trumpvangelicals” – if they don’t copyright that name soon and open up their own for-profit denomination, Donald Trump will. And they should. I mean, they’ve got to seed money. I don’t know what 30 pieces of silver translates to in American dollars, but it if you’re willing to sell your soul for it, it must be pretty invaluable. All that to say, I’d love to see Integrity win here, but nothing in the couple of years makes me think it stands a chance.
Evangelical Lady Bloggers vs. Evangelical Authorities
The ladies have gotten out of control. At least that was the sentiment behind at least one prominent think-piece that make it clear that the women bloggers need to keep their opinions to themselves or at least submit those opinions in writing to the proper
male authorities who can then determine whether or not they should be shared with the world. Being friends with many of the bloggers in question, I know that ain’t gonna happen, nor will Evangelical Authorities win the day here. Evangelical Lady Bloggers all the way.
500th Anniversary Of The Reformation vs. Feeling Like Trump Has Been President For 500 Years
Can you believe it’s been 500 years since Martin Luther sparked the Protestant Reformation? You can, right? I mean, he wore funny clothes and the printing press had just been invented and well, it just feels like a long time ago. But can you believe it hasn’t been 500 years since Donald Trump was elected president? If you can’t, it’s probably because it feels much longer than that. Knocking that feeling out in the first round won’t make it go away completely, but it can’t hurt, right?
Museum Of The Bible vs. Ethics
I was a little worried about this matchup. I was worried that folks had already forgotten about the icky way the folks behind the Museum of the Bible had gone about putting their collection together. But thankfully, they didn’t let me down. After a recent article was published exposing how they were skirting some of their own pledges to present the Bible in a neutral, strictly educational way, they went about scrubbing the evidence. Which means Ethics doesn’t stand a chance of advancing to the next round.
Taking A Knee vs. White Privilege
Lots of folks were none too happy with NFL players taking a knee during the national anthem this year. And by “lots of folks” I mean lots of white folks. Their fragile nature just couldn’t handle being confronted for even 2 minutes with the thought that injustice and racism still exist in the world. They had a football game to watch! Plus, if injustice and racism do still exist, then why haven’t they experienced them, huh?? Personally, I’d love to see Taking A Knee go all the way so I can send a copy of the bracket to Donald Trump (or I would if he hadn’t blocked me on Twitter), but I think we all know the power of White Privilege.
Eugene Peterson Flip-Flop vs. Nashville Statement
You know Eugene Peterson as the man behind The Message, but did you also know he supports same-sex marriage? Well, he did. At least for a few hours. But then folks came knocking on his door asking if he really meant what he clearly said in an interview he gave and suddenly he wasn’t so affirming anymore. That wasn’t the case for the folks behind the Nashville Statement, however. They’re super proud of their condemnation of the LGBT community, so much so that they published a totally unnecessary statement letting the world know for the billionth time how much they don’t like the LGBT community. I mean, they totally love them, they just think they’re all going to hell. Hard to tell who’s gonna win this one, but if Eugene Peterson can rewrite the Bible, I’m betting he can also write his own ticket to the next round.
Michael Pence Rule vs. Donald Trump Mulligans
The Billy Graham Rule got reborn and renamed the Michael Pence Rule when it came out in the press that the Vice President, like Billy Graham, refuses to be alone with a woman. Which sounds virtuous…as long as you don’t think about it for more than 5 seconds. While Pence was pretending to be a man of virtue, Donald Trump was being Donald Trump. When news broke about yet another insistence of Trump being Trump, in this case having an affair with a porn star right after his wife gave birth and then paying hush money to said porn star to cover it all up, Trump’s evangelical supporters condemned his sinful ways publicly and demanded he adhere to the Michael Pence Rule too. LOLOLOL. You believed me for a second didn’t you? Naw, you’re too smart for that. You already knew they gave him a mulligan. My guess is taking that mullingan with him to the second round.
Robert Jeffress vs. Franklin Graham
This is a battle of the sycophants. Two preachers who seem to be in a daily battle to out-apologize for and out-sanctify the sins of Donald Trump. It would be hilarious if it wasn’t so pathetically gross. Still, an SNL skit featuring these two going head to head, maybe in a game show, trying to top the other in justifying increasingly insane Trump scenarios would be most welcomed. As for who moves on to the second round? It doesn’t matter. Whether Jeffress wins or Graham wins, they’re both here to stay in real life, which means we all lose.