The Gospel Coalition has long been an outlet for progressivism whether it be theological liberalism or political activism. And The Gospel Coalition has long been criticized by conservative Christians who reject the notion that only leftists are allowed to be vocal about their convictions while conservatives need to just “endure patiently.”
One of the most misused passages in Scripture is found in Psalm 105:15 and also in 1 Chronicles 16:22, “Touch not my anointed ones, do my prophets no harm!” And while a recent article in The Gospel Coalition titled Stop Throwing Pastors Under the Bus doesn’t quote that verse directly, it certainly has a “touch not my anointed” mood about it. The crux of the article, written by Brett McCracken, is that Christians online are spending too much time criticizing their own pastors without calling them by name, but instead, using the generic term “pastors.”
McCracken starts off the article with:
I’ve noticed an increasingly prevalent genre of online evangelical Christian commentary in which pastors are shamed because they’re insufficiently vocal about this or that outrage or not militant enough in the culture war. Increasingly, it seems, there’s a lot of social media mileage in throwing pastors under the bus.
The formula is familiar: a Highly Online Christian takes to social media to put generic “pastors” on blast by unfavorably comparing them to secular thought leaders or politicians who are supposedly more courageous truth tellers.
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First off, McCracken elevates himself above the “online evangelical Christian[s]” that he chides in this article for doing the very thing that he’s criticizing them for. In other words, it’s okay for McCracken to go online at The Gospel Coalition to call out the generic “online evangelical Christian” because, well, he’s The Gospel Coalition. He’s above the rest. To be clear, The Gospel Coalition exists for the sole purpose of putting “generic” people on blast for what the authors deem contrary to their personal vision of what their version of Christianity should look like. And, in principle, there’s nothing wrong with that except that, like in McCracken’s article, it takes a “holier than thou” approach, refuses to deal with the actual issues, and just turns around to throw others under the bus while gaslighting them into thinking that they’re the problem by criticizing “pastors.”
McCracken argues that it’s a “straw man” to “make blanket accusations in cyberspace” against the collective pastorate for refusing to speak out in “culture wars” because, well, not all pastors are actually guilty of what you’re accusing them of. And, of course not all are. But McCracken’s gripe here is actually a straw man itself because nobody is actually accusing all individual pastors of anything. But, collectively, there is a growing trend among church leaders to refrain from speaking about controversial issues and it certainly appears to be out of fear. Using McCracken’s logic that Christians criticizing “generic” pastors online is a straw man would make his criticism of the generic “online Evangelical Christian” just as much of a straw man.
Much pastor bashing on social media doesn’t jibe with realities on the ground. From what I’ve seen, most pastors are aware and concerned about the pressing social and cultural issues of our day. Most of them are seeking resources to be equipped to address timely topics from the pulpit and in pastoral conversations (“transgenderism” is one of the most-searched-for phrases on The Gospel Coalition’s website).
See, here’s the problem. Besides the fact that The Gospel Coalition has a perverted unbiblical position on “transgenderism”—i.e. calling Rachel Levine a “transgender woman” and platforming people who say that Jesus “knows what it’s like to grapple with sexuality”—transgenderism is actually a relatively easy topic. However, pastors who get their information about transgenderism from The Gospel Coalition are simply setting themselves up for criticism because The Gospel Coalition encourages either silence or unbiblical affirmation of these sins.
It should be interesting to note that the author of this TGC article, Brett McCracken, at the end of 2021, released his best and favorite films of 2021 list. While there were some benign films that were relatively clean, his top 20 featured several that were rated ‘R’ for language, violence, and frequently for scenes of sex and nudity. Then he released his top 20 TV shows and unsurprisingly, they were also full of sex and nudity, including graphic scenes of homosexuality. When we pointed this out on the TGC Arts and Culture Facebook page, they deleted the posts. Not once. Or twice, but on three different occasions. He also argues that watching these kinds of films helps him worship God better and makes him more effective at Evangelism. But, we’re not supposed to be critical of that.
Yet, he continues:
From my observations, most pastors today are too busy to be hyperaware of the social media discourse about hot topics because they’re actually dealing with the hot topics in real-life, specific situations. They’re busy counseling parents in their congregation whose child thinks he or she is trans, or they’re preparing sermons on Genesis 1 that lay the theological groundwork for resisting transgenderism’s claims.
Well, I can say that from my observations, pastors are too busy online complaining about the latest sports game, blaming white people for all the social ills of minority communities, defending apostate women preachers, blaming John MacArthur for mass shootings, doing podcasts urging Christians to use “preferred pronouns,” and they even have time to stage marches with Black Lives Matter and ANTIFA and plaster it all over social media. If all these pastors have time for all of this, is it really a stretch to think that speaking out against pro-abortion or pro-LGBTQ sentiment creeping into the Church is out of their realm of responsibility?
Brett’s piece is nothing but a slam against conservatism. I certainly don’t think that it is the duty of every single pastor to speak to every single issue on social media. But certainly, if they have time to push leftist talking points they get from CNN or MSNBC, then we certainly have the right to criticize them for their silence on actual issues that affect the Church.