This is Part 1 of a 3-part article. Here I will introduce the YouTube phenomena known as Rhett and Link’s Christian deconstruction. In Part 2, I will discuss their reasons for leaving the faith. In Part 3, I will offer my response to those reasons. I also have a video posted on my YouTube Channel.
Who are Rhett and Link?
Most of those familiar with internet personalities know of Rhett McLaughlin and Charles Lincoln “Link” Neal. Rhett and Link currently co-host the Good Mythical Morning show on their “Ear Biscuits” YouTube channel (which is only one of several in the “Mythical” brand).
Now, Rhett and Link got their start as a Christian comedy duo when they lived in North Carolina. However, as their brand grew, they got rich, moved to Los Angeles, became liberals (of course), and left the faith.
At least that’s the story many Evangelicals are telling.
It’s a simple narrative that fits the sub-culture’s expectations – but according to Rhett and Link, it isn’t true.
What is Deconstruction?
To help clear things up, they released a series of videos that veered away from zany comedic antics, and focused not onto telling their story(ies). In these “Spiritual Deconstruction” videos, the title refers to the dismantling of their faith (but “deconstruction” sounds so much more hip).
First, they told of their past lives as Evangelical missionaries in the “Lost Years” series. Then each one did a episode of their own “deconstruction” stories. Random videos on topics related to their revelation (pun intended!) followed.
Citing mean and/or dismissive tweets, Rhett and Link state that the Evangelical response has been pretty rough. (Having “converted” from Evangelicalism to Catholicism myself, I can relate.) Evangelical apologists have also taken the opportunity to respond to Rhett and Link’s stories, and it is toward both of these that I wish to throw my two cents.
It might seem like kind of a waste of time for theologians and apologists to focus on a couple of guys whose mission statement (Another pun! I’m on fire!) is to “butter your brain with pop-culture commentary, personal stories, and offbeat anecdotes.” That was certainly my initial reaction when I found out some colleagues were devoting a whole video to them. I have since been convinced otherwise.
The reason Rhett and Link’s deconstruction is so important is precisely because they are not scholars and neither are most members of their audience – which is no longer limited to Christians looking for wholesome entertainment. (And they do have an audience – their personal channel alone has nearly 5 million followers. Their “Good Mythical Morning” show has over 16 million) Because of these factors, Rhett and Link’s Christian pedigree and skeptical arguments take on a mantle of authority they would not normally possess.
(People are suckers for conversion stories – I should know.)
Thus, while Rhett and Link may be unimportant within the scholarly Christian community, they have now become important to it – because non-specialists are particularly vulnerable to this kind of deconversion testimony. (Admittedly, the opposite is also the case – hence the popularity of many of the apologists mentioned in the videos.)
I probably still would have not taken much notice, but I found myself drawn into the conversation. Although their audience demographic gives them safe space for unsupported rants or false claims, Rhett and Link actually put together a compelling and (considering their background) well-researched presentation. As I will discuss in Part 2, they are familiar with the kinds of resources Evangelicals often put forward as good defenses of the faith – as well as legitimate skeptical sources. Moreover, they’re just super likeable guys.*
So between Rhett’s story (which was more intellectual) and Link’s (which was more experiential), they managed to deliver a respectable one-two punch to their former faith.
*Rhett and Link – I’d love to hang with you sometime! (Of course you’ll have to fly me out to L.A. because I haven’t gotten rich selling out to THE WORLD like SOME people. Oh Burn!!! Juuuuust kidding. 😉 *blows kiss*
To Be Continued…
Rhett and Link have told their story and the Evangelical community is responding. As one who has spent a considerable amount of time on the Agnostic, Evangelical, and Catholic side of this issue, I have a few things to contribute (some of which may be surprising). I don’t want to risk TLDR, however – so as I said above, in Part 2 I will discuss Rhett and Link’s reasons for leaving the faith, and in Part 3 I will offer my response.
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