Thinking Out Loud

March 12, 2022

Some Evangelicals Never Thought They’d Be Under the Mircoscope

In May of 2011, I posted the following picture in an article titled, “Christians Everywhere, Meet Your Spokesmen.”

For the record, that’s Harold Camping, Terry Jones and Fred Phelps

The point that day had more to do with men in gray suits. Others would quickly want to add Pat Robertson or Jack Van Impe. Non-Reformers aren’t too impressed with John Piper, either.

In 2018, I wrote that “as each of these exits the world stage, as we all will do, it seems disappointing when new ones step up to replace them. Some don’t really fit the suit — and these are invariably males — but the effect is the same. Others are so young, but are already on a clear trajectory for crazy uncle status… Others are so called “watchdogs” like the self-righteous, Pharisaical Chris Rosbrough. Others, like Ed Stetzer enjoy a measure of acceptability within a large denomination such that people miss how totally obnoxious and self-absorbed they truly are.

I went on to mention John MacArthur sidekick Phil Johnson, and “the snarky, sarcastic, caustic, infantile attitudes of the guys on the Happy Rant Podcast.” And I didn’t forget J.D. Hall.

Fast forward to 2022, and Robertson is in semi-retirement, and many wish MacArthur would follow suit. But Piper still pops in and out of our Twitter feed, directly or indirectly.

Alongside this we have this interesting phenomenon where books like Jesus and John Wayne by Kristen Kobes DuMez, and The Making of Biblical Womanhood by Beth Allison Barr are part of everyday conversations by rank and file church parishioners, at the same time as church abuse survivor stories find a greater audience and are received as having greater credibility.

It was in reference to the two above-mentioned books that I read something online that I wish I could provide the reference for; but I need to forge ahead and repeat it here as best I can. The gist of was that many Evangelical church leaders never dreamed that their actions would be the object of academic and scholarly study. To say it differently, they never considered that things they did one or more decades ago would be placed under the microscope and closely examined by so many for so long.

Regardless of how they viewed their actions, church historians and sociologists and journalists are now casting their gaze back over years and years of trends in Evangelical thought and saying, ‘Here is what was actually happening.’ Yes, they have the benefit of hindsight, but that is exactly a key aspect to the historical method.

There’s a news radio station in a nearby city that had a tag line, “Read it tomorrow, see it tonight, hear about it now.” The reference was to sourcing our news through newspapers, television news, and radio. Going the other direction on the spectrum, we find the weekly news magazines like Time, the year-in-review publications, and finally, at the farthest end, the history books.

Many of the things that Evangelical leaders have said and done were probably, in their own minds, things which would be on the minds of people today, tonight and tomorrow. And no longer. Politicians have known for years how people tend to forget. But the radio station tag line might reached back to “Consider it next week,” and ultimately, “Analyze it in ten to twenty years.”

Which is where we find ourselves. The men in suits — maybe not just the ones in the picture above, but the ones in the books I mentioned (and many other books) — did not realize they were shaping a greater movement (or sub-movement) within the Church and the true nature of the legacy they were leaving.

To some extent, many of us went along with it. We bought the Focus on the Family resources and found them helpful in raising our children, never considering the possibility that the jury, which seemed to be out for a long time, might return a different verdict on the impacts of purity balls and homeschooling in general. We adored the charismatic nature and speaking ability of pastors like James MacDonald and bought our tickets never realizing where the ride was taking us, and him. We bought the Left Behind books and watched the movies without a thought that the pre-tribulation rapture doctrine is absolutely nowhere to be found in Christian writing prior to 1870, because we found great comfort in an eschatology that gets us the heck out of here.

But the time for reflection and analysis is here.

…Don’t beat yourself up over any peripheral involvement you may have had with days of Evangelical zeal. Don’t imagine yourself going back to tell your 30-years-younger self something, because that version of you would not have understood what you were saying. Or recognized you as you.

At the same time though, realize that one thing did, as the proverb says, lead to another, and if you can still reflect on those ‘glory days’ fondly, without any regrets, then you have missed out on the blessing of being a thinking Christian, of being self-aware of where you stand (as we all do) at the intersection of faith and culture.

 

July 11, 2011

Perry Noble Lays Down The Law

NewSpring Church pastor Perry Noble has declared that he’s had enough of people arriving to church late, criticizing the music, etc.  They also have a rule that if you have to leave the auditorium during the message you cannot re-enter.  And kids under 12 are not allowed in the service at all.  A little over-the-top authoritarian?  Here’s what FBC Jax Watchdog had to say:

It ain’t easy being a member these days at NewSpring Church pastored by Perry Noble – the rules, the regulations, the sheep beatings, the curses.

According to Perry Noble, you “officially suck as a human being” if you express to Perry that you are purposely late to church because you like his preaching but don’t care for the music style.

NewSpring members need to be careful that their church doesn’t begin to fall into the category of a cult. Cults often begin by having a very demanding, charismatic leader, they will require conformity with rigid extra-biblical rules, they will devalue outsiders and non-conformists, and they will suppress dissent.

You see all four of these beginning to emerge at NewSpring. Not saying they are a cult, but when the charismatic leader starts telling people that :

  • – they can’t come back into the auditorium after the sermon starts even if they leave to tend to a child or go to the bathroom;
  • – that you suck as a human being if you disagree with the pastor over music styles;
  • – you are not allowed to designate how your donations are spent;
  • – you must give 10% of your income to the church un-designated or God will curse you;
  • – parents cannot bring children younger than 12 years of age into the church services;
  • – you must show up to church on time or you can’t get into the church service;

…then you better begin to get concerned.

So I decided to check out the sermon video for myself.  Perry makes some good points.  People have become apathetic about arriving to church on time, while they would never think to be late for work, or a sports match.  And some people seem to have no problem about the people they are distracting when they sit near the front, need to leave, and then return.  As for the issue of kids, I agree with Perry that his sermons tend toward PG-13 content.

But some of it was very disturbing to listen to.  Is something else going on here?  Where is grace in all this?  Why give up an entire Sunday sermon to an apologetic for the church’s rules and regulations?  Let’s return to the FBC Jax Watchdog blog:

Lest you think that I’m overstating things by bringing up the word “cult” – don’t forget what happened to a critic of Perry Noble’s at the hands of staff members a few years back that is the subject of an on-going lawsuit. You see from the “you suck as a human being” quote how those who even mildly express dissent are devalued by the pastor. I would say it is this kind of rhetoric from the pastor towards dissenters that breeds the actions taken by a staff member against the Noble critic back in 2008 and 2009.

Perry Noble even tells the parents that if they don’t conform to the “authority” of the church leaders, they will breed rebelliousness in the hearts of their children . No, actually subjecting one’s self to non-biblical requirements for the pleasure of the pastor might teach your kids that they must endure spiritual abuse at the hands of an over-bearing preacher.

This is classic sheep beating. A pastor is to be the picture of humility and servant-hood for the people he shepherds, but instead Perry Noble is a stand-up comedian who makes jokes about troublesome church members, denigrates Christians who disagree with him, and lays down extra-biblical rules that are burdensome on people.Unfortunately in Perry Noble and other mega pastor superstars these days, we have professional religious men who have turned Christianity from its essence: the release of sinful men and women from the burden of having to try to please God with their works and their alms through simple faith in Christ – into a strict religious system that demands conformity to religious practices, tells people how they must think and what rules they must obey to be pleasing to God and their priest, and uses tactics of guilt and shame in the process. And, oh by the way, they get filthy rich while doing it.

I’m pretty sure that if Jesus were here, he would warn the people of NewSpring about the arrogant Perry Noble and his professional religious men and describe them as he did the Pharisees:

“They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.” (Mat 23:4)

Blog at WordPress.com.