The Ego and the Evangelical

On July 28, 2016, Wayne Grudem declared his unequivocal support for Donald Trump.  In doing so, he argued that anyone who disagrees with him is a sinner rejecting the only true, moral Christian choice.  This post was both logically bankrupt and laughably self-serving, yet for obvious reasons it cannot simply be ignored.

The reality is, there is a dangerous undercurrent within the Evangelical movement, a cultural mileau which Grudem taps into for this post.  That is to say, despite the claims of a number of prominent Evangelical figures, Grudem’s rhetoric is utterly Evangelical in its nature.

Allow me to explain.

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Method

Donald Trump is a deeply divisive figure within the Evangelical ranks.  It is important to recognize that a number of highly influential Christian leaders have declared that they cannot, in good conscience, vote for Donald Trump under any circumstance.  Of course, there are also those influential Evangelicals who have – like Grudem – declared Donald Trump to be the only moral choice, God’s chosen candidate for ushering the US into a new era of “greatness.”[1]

Likewise, polls repeatedly show that Donald Trump carries the much coveted evangelical vote, with one poll suggesting a whopping 7 in 10 white Evangelicals are decided and unwavering in their commitment to Trump.  This, of course, has been met by criticisms from others declaring these polls flawed and claiming they don’t actually represent the “real” Evangelicals.

To be clear, I am not claiming that no Evangelical can object to a Trump Presidency.  Such a claim would be absurd.  Neither am I arguing that Trump is the only morally consistent choice for Evangelicals.  This, likewise, would be a reductive and ignorant argument.  Evangelicalism is most certainly not an easily simplified monolith, a set in stone list of commandments and doctrines to which all who profess the title will unquestioningly assent.

However, I do wish to argue that, on at least one point, Grudem is right: there is nothing within the wider Evangelical culture that would morally disqualify Donald Trump from the office of President of the United States.  Or, to word this differently, an Evangelical Christian need not abandon the ethical underpinnings of the Evangelical faith in order to justify voting for Trump.

Further, I will argue that, whether or not a particular Evangelical leader supports Trump, one can easily trace certain ethical trends within their teachings and actions which are entirely consistent with the actions, words, and political platform of Donald Trump.

This can be demonstrated by considering several of the categories Grudem himself discusses.

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A Good Candidate with Flaws

Grudem boldly declares Trump to be a “good candidate with flaws.”  This seems an odd declaration, however, as Grudem describes Trump thus:

  • Egotistical
  • Brash
  • Bombastic
  • Prone to making offensive and untrue statements
  • Insulting
  • Vindictive
  • Courts offensive and hateful supporters
  • Serial adulterer

This is an astounding list of characteristics for a man being endorsed by a leading evangelical theologian as the only acceptable person for any true Christian to vote for.  It is even more astounding when one considers this same man’s words against Bill Clinton when it was revealed he had taken sexual advantage of Monica Lewinsky.[2]

In fact, it is quite notable that in 1998, Grudem was one of 150 signatories who issued a statement regarding Bill Clinton, part of which reads:

We are aware that certain moral qualities are central to the survival of our political system, among which are truthfulness, integrity, respect for the law, respect for the dignity of others, adherence to the constitutional process, and a willingness to avoid the abuse of power. We reject the premise that violations of these ethical standards should be excused so long as a leader remains loyal to a particular political agenda and the nation is blessed by a strong economy. Elected leaders are accountable to the Constitution and to the people who elected them. By his own admission the President has departed from ethical standards by abusing his presidential office, by his ill use of women, and by his knowing manipulation of truth for indefensible ends. We are particularly troubled about the debasing of the language of public discourse with the aim of avoiding responsibility for one’s actions.

It seems both hypocritical and self-serving then for Grudem – who openly opposed Trump during the Republican primaries – to declare him the “moral” and “Christian” choice because, in his own words, “Now that Trump has won the GOP nomination, I think voting for Trump is a morally good choice.”

In fact, Grudem goes on to say that, despite Trump’s many “flaws,” he thinks that he is a better candidate because he will promote policies “that will do the most good for the nation.”

Even without moving forward, the degree of myopic hypocrisy within Grudem’s rhetoric is purely astounding.  The levels of cognitive dissonance required ought to be an embarrassment to any public figure, even more so for Grudem because he is a well-respected scholar, teacher, and church leader within Evangelical Christianity.

Sadly, however, the question here is not whether Grudem is a consistent or gifted thinker – anyone who has critically engaged his Systematic Theology knows he is not.  The question at hand in this work is instead: In what ways are the rhetorical strategies Grudem employs endemic to the cultural trends of the Evangelical Christian movement?

In order to answer this question, some examples are in order.

  1. Time and again, Denny Burk – newly elect President of CBMW, an organization long associated with Wayne Grudem himself – has criticized Rob Bell. In these critiques, he has (among many other things) called Bell:

While Burk’s critiques of Bell are myriad, the majority (as with those listed above) seem to be related to two specific issues: Rob Bell’s endorsement of “universalism”[3] and his support of same-sex marriage.  Because of these two “flaws” in Bell’s theology, Burk believes that he is leading people to hell by abandoning the very heart of the Christian ethic, denying the “inerrancy” of Scripture and endorsing “sexual sin.”

But this stands in stark contrast to his response to serious and damning allegations of pastoral abuse and conspiracy to cover up child sex abuse that have been leveled against CJ Mahaney.  In fact, despite the fact that his former protégé and brother-in-law have admitted to the conspiracy, Mahaney has insisted the accusations are entirely false and remains unrepentant.

Yet, despite the seemingly insurmountable evidence against Mahaney, in spite of the fact that Mahaney has been accused of abusive micromanagement of his staff, and in utter disregard for Mahaney’s profound lack of humility and/or accountability, Burk has offered nothing but unwavering support for both Mahaney and his ministry, especially his biannual conference Together for the Gospel.

Burk has even endorsed the official statement of T4G leadership, a statement containing demonstrably false statements and a disturbing disregard for the multiple child sex abuse victims who suffered under Mahaney’s leadership at Covenant Life Church and Sovereign Grace Ministries.  It is quickly apparent that Burk will target any perceived fault in those deemed “outside” his camp, but quickly moves to circle the wagons when his friends and theological movement are involved.

Burk has no issues participating in a conspiracy among his Neo-Calvinist peers to silence child sex abuse victims; yet he has worked to openly shun a fellow pastor for theological disagreement.

  1. I have written previously about Steve Brown’s involvement in covering up the clergy sex abuse perpetrated against multiple congregants by Tullian Tchividjian. Brown, a prominent evangelical radio host and founder of Key Life ministries, has admitted that he knew of both of the affairs Tchividjian was caught in in 2014 and 2015, respectively. But, despite this knowledge, Brown said nothing when Tchividjian publicly gas-lighted his ex-wife, blaming her for having an affair first.

Instead, despite the fact that he personally took Tchividjian’s confession, in 2015 Brown claimed that he knew nothing of Tchividjian’s actions.  Then, when his complicity became well-known in 2016, Brown claimed that he remained silent – even as Tchividjian lied publicly – because he believes in the sanctity of confession.

Yet, despite these events, it is notable that Brown serves on the Board of Directors for Harvest USA, and organization which insists it proclaims the word of God to the “sexually broken.”  Among the beliefs of Harvest USA, is the ardent insistence that it is a sin to be attracted to a person of the opposite sex.  Further they claim that all sex outside of a traditional heterosexual marriage is a sign of the fallenness of creation.

Steve Brown is so sure of this mission, he claims it is based entirely in the clear and undeniable teaching of Scripture.

Further Brown was one of the 148 of signatories of the Manhattan Declaration (a document also signed by Wayne Grudem).  This declaration seeks to defend a traditionalist view of marriage, claiming that legislation supporting gay marriage undermines the sanctity of marriage and threatens the religious liberties of conservative Christians.

Given Brown’s public stance on “sexual immorality” and the threat “homosexuality” poses to a biblical Christian ethic, it is strange that his actions seem to suggest he did not take the clergy sex abuse committed by his close friend seriously.

He did not follow up when Tchividjian continued as head pastor of Corral Ridge Presbyterian after being caught in an affair in 2014.  He said nothing when Tchividjian resorted to blatant falsehood, scapegoating his wife after being caught in a second affair in 2015.

Oddly, while Brown has worked to police the borders of Christianity, insisting that “same-sex attraction” is a sin and inconsistent with “identity in Christ,” he appears to practice decidedly less stringent judgment for his personal friends.  In fact, despite Tchividjian’s clear lack of repentance after his 2014 affair, Brown appeared as a speaker at Tchividjian’s Liberate Conference in February of 2015.

It seems an odd juxtaposition to consider enabling a pastor to sexually abuse his congregants, but refuse to recognize an openly gay Christian as a brother in Christ.

  1. Perhaps the most obvious parallel between Grudem’s rhetoric and Evangelical Christian culture lies in the August 7, 2016, grand opening of Mark Driscoll’s new church, The Trinity Church, of Scottsdale, Arizona.

Like Trump, Driscoll has a history of inflammatory comments about women.  Driscoll has referred to women as penis homes and insisted women have a biblical imperative to give their husbands oral sex whenever they want it..

Like Trump, Driscoll is known for being brash and “rough around the edges.” He uses the word “pussy” to insult “non-biblical” men, secular culture, and even insults certain people’s Christology, calling their version of Jesus “limp-wristed.”  He has been accused of pastoral abuses, in fact the toxicity of his leadership destroyed the entire Mars Hill church network. When confronted for his many sins and offered a path to reconciliation to his congregation, Driscoll refused to submit to an accountability and instead left Mars Hill church to pursue other forms of public ministry.

Like Trump, Driscoll is known for his dishonesty.  In fact, Driscoll has been accused of racketeering.  Because of allegations of misappropriating church funds and using false narratives to garner donations, Driscoll has faced a lawsuit from former church members.

And yet, despite these and so many more public sins, and despite the fact that Driscoll has demonstrated no fruit of repentance, the launch of his church has been publicly endorsed by a number of prominent Evangelical Christian leaders.

A quick look at his list of supporters will bring to mind numerous ways in which these influential Evangelicals have repeatedly condemned the evils of “secular” culture.  Many have gone so far as to declare other Christians as the church, enemies of the Christian faith.  Yet, with no apparent sense of irony, they continue to empower a blatantly abusive, egomaniacal, and abusive pastor without reserve.

It seems to me that the faulty logic and moral double-speak that marks Grudem’s endorsement of Trump are not isolated occurrences, but represent deeply troubling trends endemic to the very cultural commitments of Evangelicalism.  These clear hypocrisies operate systemically, from the top down, driving forward the Evangelical industrial complex.

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Racism

 It is hardly surprising that Grudem – a highly influential, white, cis/het evangelical male – is entirely incapable of identifying racism when it is directly in front of his face.  The reality is that Evangelicalism as it exists in the United States has become so deeply entrenched in the language and culture of white supremacy that, as a movement, it cannot possibly begin to actually speak to any racist institution without first entirely dismantling its own ethnocentric concept of Christian identity.

So it matters not that Donald Trump has resorted to blatant lies, claiming that most immigrants are “rapists” and “criminals.”  Nor does it matter that he has previously launched a racist smear campaign against a federal judge.  It doesn’t even matter that he has falsely labeled the Filipino people a “terrorist nation.”  And the reason why is simple.  On any given day, one can find scores of evangelicals saying precisely the same things.

Nowhere does this become more readily apparent than on The Gospel Coalition’s blog page.  As perhaps the largest and most influential group of Christian pastors and thinkers in the United States, one would expect an organization such as TGC to practice great care when discussing race.  Yet, time and again, they have demonstrated just how deep their own prejudices run, and precisely how blind they are to the racism which operates daily in their midst.

Three examples, all of which occurred in the last three months, will prove rather enlightening.

  1. The most glaring issue of racism facing The Gospel Coalition today occurs with John Piper’s repeated endorsement of white Southern nationalist Doug Wilson. Despite Wilson’s connections to the League of the South, a white nationalist hate group, Piper has repeatedly allowed Wilson to publish materials on the Desiring God website despite the fact that Wilson’s history of inflammatory racist comments has been well documented.

Here is just a small sampling of Wilson’s shocking comments on race:

  • Slavery as it existed in the South was not an adversarial relationship with pervasive racial animosity. Because of its dominantly patriarchal character, it was a relationship based upon mutual affection and confidence. There has never been a multi-racial society which has existed with such mutual intimacy and harmony in the history of the world. The credit for this must go to the predominance of Christianity. The gospel enabled men who were distinct in nearly every way, to live and work together, to be friends and often intimates. This happened to such an extent that moderns indoctrinated on “civil rights” propaganda would be thunderstruck to know the half of it. – Southern Slavery: As it Was (source)
  • I believe that the constitutional implications of the War and the Reconstruction amendments paved the way (in the realm of constitutional interpretation) for Roe v. Wade, and has resulted in a far greater evil being perpetrated on blacks in the 21st century than slavery ever was in the 19th. While it is good to be correct about idols toppled long ago, it is far better to be right about the idols that are currently demanding the blood of innocents, including many millions of black innocents. Our obedience before God will be reckoned in how we dealt with the sins of our own era, not the sins of another. – from a blog post on TGC’s own site (source)

Despite quotes like these, and so many more, John Piper continues to support Doug Wilson.  He has even shared a stage with Wilson, allowing him to present his white Southern nationalist views before declaring that the he believes the good of associating with Wilson outweighs the glaring negatives.

Support for Wilson does not end with Piper however.  In fact, as recently as 2015, Kevin DeYoung has endorsed one of Wilson’s books.  Further, despite the fact that Wilson’s white nationalism is well documented, several of his blog posts remain readily available on the TGC website.

At first, this seems nearly incomprehensible.  However, it begins to make sense when one considers that Tim Keller once stated that the primary criteria for those with whom he associates is a firm commitment to complementarian gender roles. Clearly a willingness to reinforce unchecked patriarchal privilege covers a host detestable views, the subjugation of women clearly trumps any sincere commitment to racial equality.

  1. On July 26,2016, Justin Taylor wrote a piece highlighting the influence of Bob Jones, Sr. on Civil Rights era Evangelicalism. Taylor noted that Jones openly opposed the desegregation of schools and fought long and hard to keep his name sake college free of black students.  Jones even declared that interracial marriages were a violation of basic Christian decency and a biblical sexual ethic.  At every turn, Jones worked to ensure that “they” did not mix with his perceived “us.”

In the infamous Easter address Taylor bases his post upon (“Is Segregation Scriptural”), Jones calls desegregation a “Satanic effort to undermine people’s faith in the Word of God.”  He further insists that “You cannot be superior to another race if your race is in the will of God and the other race is in the will of God (emphasis mine).” As Jones saw it, for any race to go beyond the “bounds of their habitation,” boundaries he considered fixed and immutable by God, then they were outside the will of God.

Further notable is that Bob Jones, Sr. was born in 1883, during the Reconstruction Era.  That means he lived during nearly the entire period between 1877 and 1950 when at least 4000 black persons were lynched in the Jim Crow South.  Yet on April 17, 1960, despite the history of inconceivably violent racism in the South during his lifetime, Jones had the audacity to declare that whites and blacks in the South lived harmoniously, that with the exception of a few “flare ups” they mostly kept the peace.

Despite all this, Taylor unflinchingly claims:

One of the values of carefully reading a document like this is that it prevents us from constructing straw men, which are counterproductive in argumentation and in understanding the past. For example, if you said that Bob Jones claimed that whites are superior to blacks, or that whites and blacks should not fellowship together, or that slavery was biblically permissible—then he would rightly complain that you have misrepresented his words. Or if your definition of racism requires an explicit affirmation of racial superiority or inferiority, and if you think that Bob Jones was a racist, then you would have to show how his words entail such a position even as he explicitly denies it. We never go wrong, and we always strengthen our case, when we accurately represent those without whom we disagree.

Let me be clear, Justin Taylor, influential TGC blogger and Executive Vice President of Book Publishing at Crossway books, claims that there is not sufficient burden of proof to declare Bob Jones, Sr. a white supremacist or racist based on this sermon.  Taylor actually believes that it would require a detailed and careful argument to determine the above quotes count as racist.

Now keep in mind, Crossway books publishes such influential Evangelical leaders as Randy Alcorn, Thabiti Anyabwile, Voddie Baucham, G.K. Beale, Tim Keller, Kevin DeYoung, Don Carson, Millard Erickson, Tony Evans, and Denny Burk.  In addition, they translated and published the ESV Bible, which has become the go to translation for so many Evangelical churches.  Yet, despite their broad influence within Evangelicalism, one of their most powerful and influential executives argues against labeling Bob Jones, Sr. a racist.

These sorts of incidents suggest to me that the problem of racism within the Evangelical church is clearly endemic to the very systems which drive the ship.  In my considered opinion, there is sufficient evidence to suggest racism is endemic to Evangelical ideology and culture.

  1. On August 8, 2016, the article “When God Sends your Daughter a Black Husband” appeared on TGC’s Christian Living blog page. In this article, a white evangelical woman describes the turmoil and trepidation she experienced when she discovered her daughter was dating a black man.  While the intentions of the author were hardly to promote racism, this post none-the-less serves as an excellent demonstration of the depths of white antagonism embedded within American Evangelical Christianity.

There are a great number of troubling comments within this post.  However, three particular comments stand out as deeply problematic.

First, the author claims: “Glenn moved from being a black man to beloved son when I saw his true identity as an image bearer of God…” Here the blackness of her daughter’s husband is entirely erased, he is not “beloved” because of his blackness, but instead in spite of it.  Instead, it is his “true identity” that has led her to love him, an identity which is seemingly juxtaposed against the fact that he is a “black man.”  Whatever the author’s intention here, the language suggests a deep-seated prejudice which the she has not fully addressed.

The problems continue later in the post, as the author warns against being too harsh with racist relatives:

Calling Uncle Fred a bigot because he doesn’t want your daughter in an interracial marriage dehumanizes him and doesn’t help your daughter either. Lovingly bear with others’ fears, concerns, and objections while firmly supporting your daughter and son-in-law. Don’t cut naysayers off if they aren’t undermining the marriage. Pray for them.

This raises a number of disturbing questions:

  • Why is she worried that the word “bigot” might dehumanize poor Uncle Fred?
  • Why does she worry about the effects on her daughter, but entirely ignores the fact that racism utterly dehumanizes her son-in-law?
  • Is Uncle Fred considered a mere “naysayer” here? Don’t racist comments from family members, by their very nature, serve to undermine their marriage?
  • Why should anyone be required to entertain hate-filled rhetoric?
  • Is there really an obligation to “bear with” racism, or instead should firm boundaries be set and maintained for any family wishing to be involved in the lives of the couple and their supporters?

The problems do not end here however.  The author also describes meeting her future son-in-law’s mother shortly before the wedding:

Before the wedding I reached out to Glenn’s mom, Felicia. As we sat and talked about our children, we realized we have similar hopes and dreams for them. As we share a common bond, I’m hopeful Felicia can become a friend.

The author wants parents of white daughters to remember that the mothers of black sons care about their children.  I am confused as to why Felicia’s care for her son was something that needed to be “realized.”  What were the supposed differences between white families and black families the author had assumed?

If she had truly walked in with a great deal of prejudice, and if she is attempting to communicate that she realized that prejudice in the conversation with Felicia, then it is rather odd to use the phrasing “we realized.”  If this post is designed to recognize and address white privilege, why does the author not at least address the ways in which her expectations were rooted in racist preconceptions that proved entirely false?

Further, the entirety of the article reinforces white fragility.  The author sets out to address the apparently “scary” possibility that your white daughter may decide to marry a black man by describing how to “overcome” the blackness that presents such an obstacle.  From start to finish, this article serves to utterly erase and minimize the blackness of Glenn in order to make him palatable to his mother-in-law.  And the advice of the author for other white Evangelical women in her “predicament” is to do the same.

Perhaps the strangest bit of all of this is that no one responsible for editing TGC’s Christian Living blog saw a problem with the wording of the post.  That is to say, the author, Gaye Clark, does not have her own blog on TGC which she edits and maintains herself.  Instead, she is a contributor who is being published on a site with multiple other contributors.  This means that material must be submitted and approved before being published.  It also means that the editorial staff who maintains the Christian Living site of one of the largest Evangelical organizations in the world saw nothing wrong with this.**

In fact, even a member of the TGC council sees nothing inherently racist about this post.  Instead, Danny Akin responded to me on Twitter by declaring the post a beautiful portrayal of interracial marriage in Christ.[4]

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With these examples in mind, it seems that Trump’s racism should present no problem for the Evangelical ethic because, at its heart, Evangelicalism is rooted in racism.[5]

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Misogyny

It is entirely laughable for Wayne Grudem to claim himself possible of diagnosing misogyny.  In fact, Grudem’s commitment to the subjugation of women is so firm he has absolutely no qualms declaring Christ to be eternally, functionally subordinate to (a.k.a. less than) the Father – an argument he uses to “prove” that women are, from God’s design, to be completely submissive to men for eternity.

Grudem is not alone in his misogyny however.  Both the TGC and CBMW, organizations that shamelessly promote Eternal Functional Subordination of the Son, continue to wield massive influence on the Evangelical landscape.

This theological denigration of womanhood permeates Evangelicalism, playing out in praxis as well.

  1. John Piper has claimed that the authority a female cop shows in issuing a traffic citation to a man is unbiblical because it fundamentally undermines his god-given masculine authority.
  2. Mark Driscoll once referred to women as “penis homes.”
  3. Popular Christian author and speaker Emerson Eggerichs claims that women do not have agency in sex, that women must obey their husbands and, if they turn them down for sex, they are leading them into sin.[6]
  4. Doug Wilson says women are complicit in their own rapes.
  5. Philip Ryken persecuted Larycia Hawkins for being a woman of color, driving her out of Wheaton College.
  6. Jason Allen has declared that women in leadership are an affront to the “sanctified testosterone” God intended for church leadership.
  7. CJ Mahaney openly objectifies women, telling them their bodies are sexual objects which render their “brothers in Christ” entirely incapable of basic respect.
  8. Robert F Capon has claimed that the masculine “role” in sex is something which is “done to” a feminine partner. The woman must receive, and the man must give.  Anything else diminishes them as male and female.
  9. Elmbrook Church, an influential evangelical mega-church which officially declares itself egalitarian and hosts the largest annual men’s conference in the world, the No Regrets Conference, has repeatedly allowed Bishop Walter Harvey to speak at their church, even after he declared that women are “incubators” and “utility belts” for their husbands.
  10. Rick Boyer, Sr. sexually assaulted Ashley Easter.
  11. Bill Gothard has sexually harassed and assaulted so many women, he has been labeled the “Bill Cosby” of evangelicalism.

The Evangelical church has consistently sought to define the “feminine” as having meaning only in submission to the “masculine.”  It has objectified the bodies of women, denied them equality, and reduced them to things to be conquered.

It is not particularly surprising, then, that a great number of Evangelicals do not think Donald Trump hates women, despite the fact that he has (to name only a scant few):

The plank in the eye of Evangelicalism is so great, it would seem entirely hypocritical for them to condemn behavior in Trump they refuse to address in their own midst.

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Concluding Thoughts

It is in no way a shock to me that Wayne Grudem has endorsed Donald Trump.  As I have demonstrated above, Trump’s serious ethical failings are also quite prevalent within the Evangelical landscape Grudem and friends have fought so hard to cultivate.  It is a sad indictment of the current Evangelical climate that one can so easily find clear parallels between the ethical failures of Donald Trump and those of prominent Evangelical leaders.

So often in Evangelicalism, the focus is on power and influence, maintaining a façade of unity in order to maintain privilege, while practicing intentional ignorance of serious ethical failings within their ranks.[7]  For this reason, I must agree with Dr. Grudem on one point: there is no absolute axiom within the ethical teachings of Evangelicalism which would suggest to Evangelical voters that supporting Donald Trump’s bid to be next President of the United States is morally wrong.

**Featured image from http://myturntoplay.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/03/IMG_1060-e1394490062161.jpg**

[1] James Dobson, Ben Carson, and Jerry Falwell, Jr. for starters.

[2] I hesitate to use the word affair here.  There was a major imbalance of power, and, while Lewinsky insists the sex acts were consensual, even she acknowledges that Clinton took advantage of her (source).

[3] It should be noted here that Rob Bell’s view of heaven and hell does not, to me, actually represent universalism, at least in the sense many of his critics have claimed.  Greg Boyd has written an excellent point parsing some of Bell’s view here.

[4] For my conversation with Danny Akin on the inherent racism of TCC and CBMW see here and here.

[5] To be clear, I am not suggesting that the only form of Evangelical racism is directed toward the black community.  While this seems to be the most prevalent form of racism for TGC, the reality is there are plenty of other sources of racism as well.  Other prominent examples would include:

[6] For my full body of work on Eggerichs Love and Respect, see here.

[7] See here, here, here, here, and here for a number of prominent examples.

**Addendum**

On August 10, 2016, Gaye Clark asked for her post to be removed from TGC’s site.  I want to recognize that, despite the great deal of criticism she has received, she has made every attempt to engage and listen graciously to those hurt by her post.  As of 11:39 AM, the post remains on TGC’s site.

 **Second Addendum**

TGC has removed the content of the post, but left the link active and provided a video of leaders discussing why the post was controversial.

 I want to be clear about 2 things in the audio. 

1. There is a lot of good conversation about why this post is racist and offensive.

2. They are wrong for attempting to paint this as an isolated incident. As outlined above, this is a serious and ongoing problem and minimizing serves only to ignore the systemic issues of white supremacy inherent to the TGC’s platform.

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17 thoughts on “The Ego and the Evangelical

  1. Of course Doug Wilson wants to save black lives, to him those are future slaves, valuable “property”. That is the only reason he protests their destruction, but he would not bat an eye if those same people were saved from the abortionist’s knife only to go under the slave driver’s whip or to be raped by the white masters. Utter hypocrisy.

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  2. ‘Hypocritical and self-serving’. That was all I needed to read. That, sadly, is the definition of way too many Republicans. Nothing matters but power – not honesty, virtue, or decency. Power is all. Hardly the characteristic of a true Christian.

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    1. Sadly, so much of the Church has become rooted in these power dynamics that most in the world think it is the only true Christianity. Regardless of the genuine differences among believers, the public face of Christianity has been revealed as a poorly constructed facade built upon corruption and hate

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  3. There is much to agree with here, and I am one evangelical who will decidedly not be voting for Mr. Trump. The post covers a wide range of other issues as well – the details of which I’m unfamiliar with, so I can’t comment. One of them I am familiar with is what occurred at Wheaton College surrounding Dr. Larycia Hawkins. I don’t believe it’s honest to depict Philip Ryken in the way you have. To suggest that President Ryken “persecuted Larycia Hawkins for being a woman, driving her out of Wheaton College” is without foundation.
    I can’t find any statement of Dr. Ryken highlighting her gender as the reason for the controversy. Wheaton College is a confessional school, requiring students and staff to annually affirm the doctrinal statement. It’s entirely proper to ask whether Dr. Hawkin’s statements are consistent with a trinitarian view of God, and with the exclusivity of salvation through Jesus alone.
    As Matthew Arildsen pointed out in the Washington Post, (Why Wheaton’s move to fire controversial professor makes sense) “the college’s trustees are the real gatekeepers of what Wheaton decides is within and outside of evangelicalism because Wheaton is responsible to reform-out error from evangelicalism as best it can.”
    Dr. Hawkins surely knew that making her statements would bring controversy. The honorable path would have been for her to resign when she could no longer affirm the doctrinal statement, and find an academic home more in keeping with her views. This, in the end, is what transpired. It’s unfortunate that it played out as it did, but persecution it was certainly not. If this is how you have reported this incident, it does make me question the veracity of the items I have less knowledge of.

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    1. If you read the statement of the faculty exploratory committee, a group of Wheaton professors declared that both gender and race played a role in Ryken’s treatment of Hawkins. This statement has been well documented by several news sources, and outside that committee a number of Wheaton faculty and alumni have stated that her gender played a role.

      I cited my previous work in this piece. I strive to cite either (1) primary sources where available or (2) in the event I have written a definitive post on the topic, I cite my own work. I had previously argued my thesis regarding Hawkins and Ryken. Reading that work is prerequisite to attacking a single sentence based upon it.

      Also, as I have well cited every statement, the burden of evidence is upon whether I have (1) argued my point well and (2) cited sources which support my argument well. My advice is read the sources if you do not possess the baseline to judge the content.

      Below I include the links to my own work on Hawkins. Within I argue that (1) She did nothing which would conflict with the doctrinal statement as worded (an assertion the exploratory committee agrees with) and (2) there is ample evidence to suggest that race and gender played a significant role in this incident.

      I stand by my words and encourage you to explore the sources before throwing out what I’ve said.

      https://natesparks130.com/2015/12/24/larycia-hawkins-and-the-christ-of-god/

      https://natesparks130.com/2015/12/31/larycia-hawkins-further-consideration/

      Peace to you,

      Nate

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      1. I did read the previous posts on the controversy, (which posts of course cannot be considered primary sources) and here is what I have not seen. Where is the primary source wherein Dr. Ryken himself makes the statements that are sexist and discriminatory? If he is personally maligned for his racism and discrimination, one would expect there is hard evidence. On the contrary, repeated statements pointing to theological concerns as the key issue put the burden of proof on those who claim otherwise. The faculty diversity committee may believe they detected discrimination, but given the nature of the process, this is fraught with difficulty. The 9 page memo of the diversity committee was leaked, was the evidence supporting it as well?

        You note: (1) She did nothing which would conflict with the doctrinal statement as worded (an assertion the exploratory committee agrees with). She stated that “I stand in religious solidarity with Muslims because they, like me, a Christian, are people of the book.” Such a statement begs the question, which book? Muslims have the Koran, Christians have the Bible – so they are quite plainly different books. Any confessionally christian school that affirms the uniqueness of the 66 books of the old and new testaments would register just concern over such a statement as Dr. Hawkins made. It is clearly outside the mainstream of christian belief. In other words, the overwhelming evidence is that this was purely a question of theology. It’s odd that if Dr. Hawkin’s was persecuted, she would leave Wheaton with “only good memories.” (http://religionnews.com/2016/02/10/larycia-hawkins-wheaton-college-speak-of-moving-ahead-reconciliation/)

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        1. Since I didn’t say my own post was a primary source, the comment regarding this is a non-sequitur. The original posts cited numerous primary sources.

          Also notable, you presented no solid evidence to counter my arguments. You’re entire argument is:

          Because Ryken referenced theology, there was no bias.
          Because Ryken says he isn’t biased, he isn’t biased.
          The exploratory committee was biased because…reasons (for the record, you presented no actual evidence).

          The problem is, theology and bias are not exclusive. You have argued from a false premise.

          A person saying they are not biased is not evidence they are not. Where a person is accused of bias, their own word is not evidence enough. You are arguing bias must be explicit, cannot be implicit. Again, you argue from a false premise.

          Lastly, you claims regarding the exploratory committee are pure conjecture. You have presented nothing other than your own opinion, and some rather dubious claims, to support the premise that their findings don’t count.

          You have ignored that a number of faculty outside the committee said the bias existed and openly supported Hawkins.

          Hawkins herself stated there was bias. She has never backed off that claim. It is possible to have good memories of a community that supported you while recognizing the bias of an administration which mistreated you. Those are not exclusive categories.

          I’ll be honest, what I hear you saying is that you disagreed with Dr. Hawkins statement. But you clearly misunderstand what “people of the book means” as that is a reference to arguments made my Thomas Aquinas in his interactions with Muslim Scholars. If you disagree, that is your prerogative. But you have not made an argument, you have only made logical errors and presented unsupported conclusions.

          I find it interesting you stated the burden of proof is on others, but when those who examined the evidence came to a conclusion other than yours, you dismissed it outright. This is called confirmation bias.

          You’re argument is deeply flawed and entirely unconvincing.

          I thank you for reading and bid you peace.

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          1. Actually, I said you are dismissing evidence which doesn’t fit the opinion you had already formed. I also said your argument was logically fallacious, base almost entirely in conjecture, and thus bankrupt as a defense of your premise. That isn’t quite the same thing as saying “misreading the evidence.”

            But I don’t see either of us budging. So in that sense, nothing has changed. And I see no point in chasing our tails. I don’t need to convince you I’m right to be secure in my opinion. I have made my argument and I stand by it.

            I respect your personal agency, and recognize disagreement as your prerogative. It is not my place to try to force you to believe as I do. I only write to provoke thought and challenge systems of injustice. If you’re convinced, great. If not, I hope I have at least challenged you to consider why you believe I am wrong.

            And so, with no ill will, and in recognizing that debate isn’t going to solve anything here, I bid you peace in disagreement.

            Again, thanks for the comments. I appreciate your willingness to read and engage. Hope to hear from you more on future posts.

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  4. Outstanding post. I have been saying this ever since Trump first threw his hat in the ring: that he would likely win, because he represents what a majority of Evangelicals actually think. And sure enough, racism and xenophobia turn out to be reasons TO vote for him for many Evangelicals, not reasons he is disqualified.

    Also, you correctly point out that opposition to abortion and gay sex are the only two non-negotiables in Evangelicalism these days.

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  5. Thank you for all the documentation and research that went into this. The conclusion is sad, sad, sad. The go-to response is “not all evangelicals,” but the fact that we have to say it just makes the problem that much more glaring. I have a feeling, though, that evangelical women (who are most of the heels in the pews) just aren’t going to vote for Trump no matter what the white, male evangelical establishment may tell them. And I am certain the rest of the civilized world won’t either! Come Lord Jesus.

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  6. Excellent words Nate. Still reading waiting on my morning coffee. 🙂 Wanted to ask if you had seen the various groups that have claimed there were prophetic words endorsing Trump as God’s choice.

    Having a prophetic anointing myself (whenever God so chooses) I have a real problem with that. The Holy Spirit has a flavor and attitude that these so called prophecies seem to be lacking. Plus it just isn’t God’s way to tell Americans who to vote for. If there were a prophecy about such a man as Trump, it could be a warning that such a man would rise up. But God would never give His blessing on a wicked man.

    There are also some worrisome claims that Trump recently accepted Christ as Savior. But in my opinion he does not display the attitude of one who just accepted Christ.

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  7. I was gobsmacked by the interracial marriage article. Way back in 1968, my dad introduced us kids to his secretary (white) and her husband (black) on a visit to their house in Oakland, CA. Afterwards, mom and dad quizzed us very carefully as to whether we thought there was a problem with interracial marriage. Nope, we’d had a fun day out, got to meet someone our daddy worked with and it wasn’t weird at all.

    And people wonder why I don’t go to church, this article is like a laundry list of the problems in Evangelicaldom which set off my blood pressure…

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Thanks for taking the time to read and engage. I look forward to your feedback, I welcome any criticism. However, as my goal here is mutualy respectful, beneficial conversation, I only ask that we keep civility in mind with our words. Grace and Peace.

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