by William Trollinger
It’s hard to imagine that anyone outside the Christian Right bubble is unaware of the fact that white evangelicalism in the United States is an absolute mess.
See, for example, yesterday’s Houston Chronicle article, which details how for decades in the Southern Baptist Convention “survivors and others who reported [sexual] abuse were ignored, disbelieved, or met with the constant refrain that the SBC could take no action . . . even if it meant convicted molesters continued in ministry.”
And for another example, see the recent New York Times article about a conservative pastor in Fort Smith, Arkansas who was pushed out of his pulpit because he used the acronym “BLM” in his blog, and because he refused to head down the QAnon rabbit hole with his congregants.
One of the best sources on scandal-a-minute evangelicalism is the Roys Report. Established by investigative journalist Julie Roys, the Report “is a Christian media outlet, reporting the unvarnished truth about what’s happening in the Christian community so the church can be reformed and restored.” Determined to expose the seamy side of what she refers to as the “evangelical industrial complex,” the intrepid, persistent, and apparently fearless Roys has done remarkable work in exposing appalling truths about evangelical luminaries and institutions such as Mark Driscoll, Ravi Zacharias, Hillsong, Jerry Falwell Jr. and Liberty University, James MacDonald and Harvest Bible Chapel, Matt Chandler and Acts 29, and Thomas White and Cedarville University (about which we also have written a great deal – here’s one example).
But near the top of Roys’ investigative hit parade is John MacArthur, pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, California, and chancellor emeritus of The Master’s University and Seminary (TMUS). In the past 27 months, Roys has written (I think I have the count right) 47 posts on MacArthur and his institutions (not to mention additional podcasts). In these articles she has detailed MacArthur’s claims that there is no pandemic (it’s a Satanic deception, which would be news to the families of the over 1 million Americans who have died from COVID) and his church’s and schools’ failure to report COVID cases; she has highlighted MacArthur’s huge salaries and wealth, blatant nepotism, and determination to keep financial details of his institutions a secret; and, she has reported accusations of plagiarism against the chancellor emeritus.
This spring, Roys has focused on how MacArthur and his minions, taking a page out of the Southern Baptist Convention playbook, have a history of minimizing and covering up sexual abuse. Here a few examples:
- MacArthur shamed, excommunicated woman for refusing to stay with child abusing husband (March 08)
- MacArthur’s church actively supported convicted pedophile while shunning his wife (March 17)
- MacArthur employees defend child abuser, dismiss “screeching” from survivors (March 24)
- MacArthur covered up pastor’s sexual abuse of daughter (April 19)
And there is more. And all of this is in keeping with what John Street, chair of the graduate program in biblical counseling at TMUS, has taught his students:
- A Christian wife should endure abuse by a non-Christian husband in the same way that missionaries endure persecution.
- By enduring abuse a wife may win her husband to Christ.
- When both spouses are Christian, the wife should rely on church processes, as government authorities must be the absolute last resort.
- Domestic violence shelters are terrible places, as they teach women to be assertive.
- The only grounds for divorce are unrepentant adultery and abandonment.
As awful as this is, it seems par for the course in evangelical patriarchy. John MacArthur’s fellow patriarchs certainly do not seem fazed. For example, just last week Ken Ham – who has had precious little (maybe nothing) to say about spousal and sexual abuse in evangelical families, churches, and institutions – bragged about hosting John MacArthur’s “Truth Matters!” conference – yes, there are so many obvious jokes one could make about this title – at Ark Encounter (which, of course, is dedicated to commemorating the righteous divine genocide of up to 20 billion human beings).
According to Ham, at the conference there was “great teaching on the inerrant Word.”
Is that the inerrant Word that commands female submission, even to abuse?
I heartily applaud Julie Roys’ determination to “report the unvarnished truth about what’s happening in the Christian community,” and I hope she continues her good work.
That said, we remain a long ways from a “reformed and restored” evangelicalism, particularly when it comes to patriarchy.