Like you, I’ve heard countless stories of people walking away from their faith. So Katie and I checked this out ourselves. This one was different. After I listened, I was gut-punched too by what happened with YouTubers Rhett and Link.
Social media makes faith deconstruction very personal.
When you listen to a regular podcast, you feel as if you get to know people on an intimate level. This mode of communication has transformed our culture. In the past, we may have seen people like Rhett and Link for half an hour a week on TV. Now they’re with us everywhere: Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Netflix, and hundreds of on-demand podcast episodes. On Twitter we see our post right next to theirs. And when they joke and banter, we feel as if we’re sipping coffee alongside them.
In past generations, when media personalities deconstructed from their faith, although grievous, this may have lacked personal resonance or emotional impact. But now, when your child’s favorite influencer shares a major decision, it has significant impact on how she thinks, processes, and acts. If she’s not sharing this, you may never know what’s happening in her heart and mind. She’s sitting beside you each day and, unbeknown to you, is developing an entirely different worldview. You’re together but she’s alone.
Let’s think about the impact of this situation with YouTubers Rhett and Link. They have more than 16 million subscribers on their primary YouTube channel alone. Their influence is far reaching. And a big part of their brand has been this “we-grew-up-as-Christians-kids-just-like-you.”
Katie and I wonder how many Christian young people will now grapple with “How in the world did these guys—who are just like me, who I’ve come to love so well—just abandon their faith? Maybe I should too?”
Out of curiosity, I read through comments on the Ear Biscuits podcast and was struck that well over 90 percent were affirming of their decision to leave the evangelical Christian faith. Many commented on how they’ve shared similar struggles and were relieved to know they’re not alone. Other teens are asking, “Are Rhett and Link Christians still?” They want to know the religion of YouTubers Rhett and Link, whether the “Bentley Brothers” are missionaries, whether they’re Mormon, and whether their songs are really Christian. In short, they’re confused.
What can youth leaders learn from YouTubers Rhett and Link?
I have far more questions than answers. But as I’ve processed, these thoughts have emerged.
1. Lead with love.
YouTubers Rhett and Link are so talented, friendly and funny! If I could share coffee with them, I’d share how much laughter they bring into our home and how talented we think they are. They’re oh so loved, and we’re thankful for them. Do the kids in our youth ministry feel gratitude and love from our church community? Do they feel a sense of belonging where they can trust you with their pain and doubts?