Evangelical Apathy

You might think that the people who annoy me the most are those who hold views I strongly disagree with. Actually, though, it’s the people who don’t really care one way or the other, and–this is the important part–who insist on inserting themselves into every single political debate to yell at us for having opinions.

I call these people evangelical apathists, because they feel the need to spread their apathy like evangelicals.

Typical mating calls of evangelical apathists include:

  • “I mean, I get that [politician/policy/status quo] really sucks, but why do you have to make such a big deal about it?”
  • “Complaining about it won’t change anything.”
  • “Things will just get better on their own, anyway.”
  • “Well, I’m a [insert group/identity here], and I’m not offended.”
  • “Honestly, both sides are equally bad.”
  • “Don’t you have more important things to worry about?”
  • “It’s just a joke, stop being so sensitive.”

I’ve found that in my personal life, I tend to have a much harder time getting along with these people than I do with conservatives. With the latter, while we disagree, we can have a good time debating each other or at least bond over our mutual concern for what’s going on in the world. But with evangelical apathists, the very fact that I care about stuff seems like a thorn in their side.

These are the people who whine about “too many” political posts on Facebook. These are the people who loudly proclaim that politics is “boring.” These are the people who don’t vote–and not out of protest against the two-party system, but because they just can’t be bothered.

For example, during the Markwell controversy at my school last spring, the loudest voices–aside, of course, from the moronic anti-religious trolls who made the rest of us atheists look bad–were the people shouting “But why do you guys care if they proselytize?” without bothering to listen to our answer. (The reason we care, by the way, is because proselytism is condescending, insensitive, and annoying, and because Campus Crusade for Christ is an offensive reference to an act of Christian barbarity.)

The same thing happens with controversies like Chick-Fil-A and Daniel Tosh. There are those who defend them, there are those who criticize them, and then there are those making apathetic noises in our general direction and proclaiming how above these petty arguments they apparently are.

Except, of course, it’s ironic–if you really don’t care, why bother commenting?

I’d blame evangelical apathy on several causes. First of all, the internet does lower substantially the barriers to expressing your opinions, however inane they might be. It takes all of five seconds to leave a comment saying “hurrr I don’t see what the big deal is why do you guys even care lol.” This is much easier to do online than in person, because thankfully, it’s still considered rude to interrupt two people having a conversation to tell them that you find their conversational topic to be uninteresting. Online, on the other hand, this is par for the course. (For what it’s worth, though, I still think the internet is absolutely awesome and a wonderful medium for expressing opinions.)

Second, apathy is our cultural default. Apathy is cool, mature, “appropriate.” Passion is uncool, immature, and “inappropriate.” This is why apathy is something that so many people are so desperate to show off. In proudly displaying yourself as someone “above” such petty issues as racial slurs, rape jokes, and LGBT rights, you are tapping into our cultural ideal.

Third–and this is the one I can somewhat sympathize with–our political climate is toxic. People attack each other rather than ideas, and facts (what are “facts” nowadays?) are basically unobtainable. It’s all too easy to get burned out, throw up your hands, and declare neutrality.

And that’s the part I don’t begrudge anyone. If you’ve had enough, you’ve had enough. Get out and keep your sanity.

But respect the choices of those of us who are staying in the ring. If our political debates annoy you, don’t read our blogs and Facebook statuses. Don’t make us defend our decision to give a fuck. Don’t evangelize your apathy.

Get out of our way.

8 thoughts on “Evangelical Apathy

  1. I think the thing that gets tangled up with this issue is that there’s a really fine line between being annoyed with the tone of political discourse and being annoyed that political discourse exists. I actually had a conversation with a couple of people where I had to work to pull them over to the more reasonable side of that line. Like, I get that the vitriol clogging up your news feed gets annoying, but there’s a difference between “Don’t be a dick” and “STOP TALKING ABOUT POLITICS”

    • That’s a really good point. I think that sometimes those two sentiments overlap (as in, people get tired of hearing about politics specifically because they get tired of the nasty discourse). Other times, though, it’s more that they genuinely don’t understand why anyone would care and insist on repeating that sentiment over and over.

  2. I think the thing that turns me off of political rants (which are much different than debates or opinions), is the muchness of them all; the viciousness of political candidates confusing opinion with fact, and their truth, which is often word juggling of facts to make the other guy look like it’s HIS fault. And that is where I back off.
    I dislike being drawn into ‘political” discourses with people I know, since all of them seem to have their own agenda and I want no part of it at this stage. I don’t object to the reality of political discourse, only the delivery system.

    There’s really not a lot of difference between politics and religion, when you get to it; We all have our own ideas, opinions, and beliefs. Your shouting will not change my stance, and my whinging won’t move you one bit to the right or left. Agree to disagree and let’s have more cake.

  3. Exactly right. I often have the suspicion that these loudly apathetic people are not truly neutral, otherwise they would stay quiet. Instead, they secretly just are in favour of the status quo and they want nothing to change, for fear it could get worse for them. In my experience, this reaction is especially typical for people who have an advantage in life that they are afraid to lose. I see them as hidden conservatives. If they tell you you are oversensitive, or that something is no big deal, they just say: Please leave everything as it was, because things are quite good for me now.

  4. This.

    I just deleted someone off my friends’ list on facebook from a conversation that started because of an evangelical apathetic status. It was along the lines of “Politics sucks and both sides are just as bad so stop talking about it, be grateful for what you have–go outside and do something.” The conversation descended into something ugly and hateful when I commented saying that, erm, actually, I care because there’s a lot at stake here, no, the two sides aren’t the same, and please to not be telling me to be grateful for what I have, thanks.

    I was struck by just how politically conservative the comments sounded–like zinemin pointed out above–there was a lot of “stop whining, everyone has a sob story” and “I bet I work harder than you, you’re having a hard time because all you do is sit around and whine instead of WORK.”

    It was much more maddening than the posts my conservative friends have posted.

  5. I think the part of the problem that gets me the most is that evangelical apathists (great name, will probably steal it) generally are pretty low-information. This is not to say that they’re stupid, but they don’t seem to understand the full context of a situation before they come in with platitudes that they think is mature in a Middle Ground Fallacy sort of way. For example, I have an acquaintance who is FB friends with an ex-boyfriend of mine who is a little left of center, politically. He’s also a Catholic who is getting sick of being told by his church that they respect him, but he’s a dirty sinner who will be punished forever if he continues being attracted to guys. He mentioned this in a FB status, along with his disappointment in the Republican party that he belongs to (I really don’t understand this boy at all, let me tell you) doing the same thing. The acquaintance pointed out there are gay Republican groups like Log Cabin Republicans and GOProud.

    I wanted to rip my hair out. In trying to forge a middle way, they pointed to two groups that do nothing but tone troll actual LGBT rights groups and say that equal rights under the law isn’t nearly as important as making queer people more money through Capitalist Magic. They meant well, but they minimized his concerns by pointing to the set dressing and saying, “See? No problem.You don’t need to be upset.”

    The thing is, there are issues and there are divisions and being part of the conversation is a lot more important than cute cat pictures, as much as I adore cute cat pictures. This sort of apathy is laziness given voice, a demonstration that a person hasn’t bothered to be educated about a topic, and would really appreciate it if everybody would help them keep it that way, thank you.

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