Mentionables: How a Few Internet Apologists Became a Grassroots Movement
A Christian Apologist is a person who uses scholarship, science and philosophy in order to show that Christianity is a true and sensible worldview.
Apologetics was traditionally a curious subset of theology that remained a slight novelty tucked away in the glossary if seminary textbooks. However, all of that changed about 20 years ago.
At that time, radical acts of terrorism had the world re-thinking the concept of religion, and the dangers that blind adherence to a belief-system might entail. So severe was the reaction, that there was an international call to do away with religion entirely - especially Christianity.
With every aspect of Christianity being called into question, suddenly the practice of defending the sense of this religion sprang to the forefront of theology, and the long-dormant practice of Apologetics was revived.
The call to dismantle and destroy Christianity, with its traditional morals and counter-cultural attitudes rolled into the street and was picked up by the everyman. And as a result, the everyman Christian became an everyman Apologist.
Now Apologists were no longer stodgy seminarians - more and more they became young men and women whose beliefs were assaulted daily in the school, the street and social networks. This next generation of Apologists began to self-educate with the vast amount of resources pouring out in the form of books, websites and podcasts. And soon these new Apologists were producing their own books, websites and podcasts.
The Joke that Wouldn't Stop Growing
In August of 2017, a few lay apologists - consisting mostly of bloggers and podcasters - began a conversation on Facebook when one of them wrote the following:
So I have this fantasy of starting a nation-wide apologetics tour and conference featuring all of the talented and devoted Apologists that I know who don't receive as much attention as I feel they deserve. I would call it "The Mentionables".
These bloggers and podcasters began joking and discussing the idea. The conversation kept going for days, and became too long for one thread. So one of them decided to create a Facebook group devoted to the discussion.
Instead of creating a group, however, the man accidentally created a page - a front for an organization. Without meaning to, he had created a front for a group that didn't yet exist.
On this team that had begun as a joke was a graphic artist. He created a logo and began to create marques for the group. There was a web-designer who created a very professional looking web page for the group. There was also among the team a professional voice and recording artist. He quickly suggested and then began hosting a team podcast.
Unlike most podcasts, this wasn't a regular panel of members discussing subjects or interviewing guests: this podcast featured a rotation of team members, each bringing their expertise to the table.
A Diverse Team
The members that came to the team represented a lot of diverse talents, specialities and backgrounds.
Among the team were a former atheist, with a great deal of insight into that mindset; an urban apologist who ministered on the subject of race as it related to Christianity and a man with Asperger's syndrome who raised disability awareness in the church.
These men had a range of expertise that included psychology, philosophy and scholarship, among other fields.
One member notes,
"It feels like one of those movies where a bunch of people who don't know each other are hanging around somewhere, then discover that each of them has a special skill, and someone says 'we should team up!' and they do. That's basically what happened with The Mentionables."
Once the team was more or less cemented and a podcast was in the works one of the members chatted with a friend about the excitement he had for this project. Unbeknownst to him, the friend approached his large church and organized a conference for the team. Now this group, spread across the nation, was going to come together at a single point. After working together remotely for almost a year, the group would finally meet one another face-to-face, and share a stage as they found the platform the group had been formed to provide.
Always on the search for projects to do, the team, of course, started the podcast, but they also began to publish articles. Then, by pure happenstance, someone submitted a question to the group.
What approach to take? The group could choose one member to answer the question, or they could all answer it. They all answered it. Multiple answers gave a much more rounded perspective, and this quickly became a popular format. More questions were submitted, specifically because people liked to get several answers to their question.
The team took this format and ran with it in a project wherein they took a list of atheist questions and each member gave an answer to each question. What was generated was a book-length document that became the group's signature project.
The Grassroots Movement
As the Mentionables gained momentum, more small-time apologists clamoured to join ranks. With the movement growing too large to be a simple speaking team, they began, instead, to construct a network - a catalog of talented unknowns around the country - each of whom brought something to the table.
The catalog continues to grow, with the hopes that they all become a resource to one another and to the larger Christian community.
In this writer's interview with the members of this team, they all seemed uncertain about the future of this project they accidentally started.
One member, Neil Hess, sums it up this way:
I've found that we sync up very well. While I realize that making speaking “my job” is very unlikely, I am happy to serve the body and meet other believers. It is really helpful to find people who have carefully thought about the same questions as you. When you realize you aren’t the only one asking them, it can have a huge impact on your life. Studying scripture and realizing the reality that Jesus is who He said he is, that God is real, that heaven and hell are real and that the bible is reliable changed my life more than anything else. I want to give that same hope to others out there along their journey and to lovingly, but firmly, challenge those who oppose it.