by Paul Moomjean
Two huge leaders in the evangelical Christian church scene have been making headlines for either rebelling against their local government or rebelling against the moral codes they set for themselves and others. Recently, John MacArthur of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif. and Jerry Falwell, Jr., the temporarily removed president of Liberty University of Virginia, became national storylines when MacArthur decided to defy Los Angeles County health guidelines and reopened his mega-church to 3,000 people sitting side by side and without masks. Meanwhile, Falwell lived up to his last name, falling from grace after a picture he posted involving him with a woman not his wife, fly down and belly exposed, went viral. Both of these men have tied themselves to President Donald Trump, and both have put a black eye on the church in two radically different ways.
MacArthur has always been a fire-and-brimstone kind of pastor. So when he decided it was time to reopen his house of worship, despite not having the approval from the health department, it brought to question whether MacArthur was being careless, going as far as to laugh at the idea of social distancing and mask wearing. The state sees the church closure as a safety measure. MacArthur sees it as church persecution.
“Pastor John and our unanimous Board of Elders at Grace Community Church are standing firm that church is essential and we are protected in California and the United States to serve our church community and fulfill the commands of Scripture to worship together,” the church said in a statement. “The LA County Board of Supervisors are continuing to try to shut down our church, and we hope to show them our earnestness in our faith and practice in obedience to our Lord, and that we do not have a spirit of rebellion.”
The problem with the above statement is that it contradicts previous statements made by MacArthur, calling the Revolutionary War immoral because the colonists should have obeyed the British government out of Biblical mandate. He often would quote from the New Testament. Romans 13:1-2 states, “Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves.”
So, MacArthur hated the war that brought the Constitution that he now cites as the main reason he should be able to worship inside? Are we following this? No one is being persecuted. People can virtually worship, as they have most of the summer. And this feeling of being singled out only works if you forget nail salons, restaurants and other live entertainment venues are shut down or moved to outdoor capacity only. I guess this is a persecution of capitalism more than church. Yet the church seems to care little about the health of the congregation, instead self-proclaiming their victimhood as a virtue.
Then there is Falwall, one of Trump’s main cohorts, who has found himself at the center of a social media scandal.
The Week summarized it pretty clearly: “Falwell, 58, has been on leave since apologizing for posting (then deleting) a photo of himself with his arm around a woman, both their pants partially unzipped, at a Trailer Park Boys costume party on a 164-foot, six-bedroom yacht owned by NASCAR mogul Rick Hendrick.”
Instead of Falwall taking ownership, he decided instead to blame everyone else, including his pool boy, and then go on to embarrass his wife, by somehow connecting his bad behavior with her bad behavior from eight years ago. He claims the pool boy has been blackmailing him due to an affair he had with his wife.
“While we tried to distance ourselves from him over time, he unfortunately became increasingly angry and aggressive. Eventually, he began threatening to publicly reveal this secret relationship with Becki and to deliberately embarrass my wife, family, and Liberty University unless we agreed to pay him substantial monies,” Falwell wrote.
Considering that the pool boy has nothing to do with his lapse of judgment, all this does is make evangelical Christianity look hypocritical once again.
In these hard times, watching self-proclaimed religious leaders not lead in wisdom is aggravating. It’s only creating more cynicism and less love. They might think they are “men of God,” but they are acting like children before the Lord.