Today we’re going to take a brief segue before we plunge into the murky world of Christian prognostication to check out a story that features all the aspects of fundagelicalism that we’ve come to know around here: blatant hypocrisy, illicit sex, and a denouement that is by turns horrifying and baffling. But there’s more going on here than just standard-issue Christian hypocrisy. This story is part of the overarching narrative about exactly why Christianity is failing.
Everyone, Meet Jermaine Simmons.
Jermaine Simmons is the pastor of Jacob Chapel Baptist Church. Since this charismatic young pastor had arrived in 2005, the Washington Post reports, he’d added 4000 members to the church and 27 ministries that focused on homeless people and youth.
He’s also written a book called I Need a Man that is about “Godly manhood” and how Christian men can both be a mentor to younger men and be mentored themselves by older men. His author blurb (expanded on his church’s pastor page) says that “he is a proud husband, and the father of one son.”
Jacob Chapel’s very slick website informs us that their church is “Bible-based, Christ-Centered, Holy Spirit-Led, and Mission Bound” (unlike all the other Christian fundagelical churches on the planet, I suppose) and declares that its mission is “equipping the saints for the work of the Kingdom.”
The “work of the Kingdom” sure has changed since I was a Christian, is all I’ve got to say there.
So in short, Mr. Simmons is a rising star in fundagelical circles.
Or at least, he was. Maybe.
The Worst Timing on Earth.
Mr. Simmons, like a great many men in his end of Christianity, has a really tough time with fidelity and self-control. He’d been chatting up a female parishioner of his for a few years now, and she invited him to her apartment one day last month to discuss a new business they were thinking of going into. The business, the police report carefully notes, would have involved “providing less fortunate kids with clothes and shoes.”
Now, Mr. Simmons himself is married, as noted. And so was this female parishioner of his. She and her husband were, according to Christian Post at least, both members of his church (which seems plausible in light of events that follow). But her husband was not home that day, and neither were their kids.
At some point the Christians’ discussion turned from their business affair to a rather more fleshly sort. They adjourned to the bedroom of the woman’s eldest daughter and proceeded to make adulterous sexytimes there.
But trouble was brewing.
The woman’s six-year-old son was sick at school, and his school’s administrator was trying–and failing–to get in touch with his mother to come get him. Unable to reach her, the school finally turned to the boy’s father–her husband.
Now, this husband wasn’t an idiot. He had had his suspicions for a while about his wife and the handsome pastor of their growing church. So when he heard that his son’s school hadn’t been able to reach his wife, who really should have been reachable, he got concerned. After picking up his son, he headed straight home with the boy.
When he got home, he discovered his wife and the pastor frolicking naked in his daughter’s bed in flagrante delicto.
And from there things got a little, well, hasty.
A Sadly Predictable Outcome.
We don’t normally expect anything but hypocrisy out of Christians. We’re so used to it that it doesn’t even qualify anymore as “News of the Weird.” But even so, this was just wacky. And scary.
With his son right there in the apartment, the husband lost it.
He charged into his own bedroom to fetch his handgun while screaming that he was going to kill the pastor.
When Mr. Simmons heard that, he bolted naked from the apartment before ever coming face to face with the husband or the gun. Stark naked, he ran outside and hid behind a fence.
The husband brought the gun to the daughter’s bedroom while ranting about how he wanted to shoot the pastor–and his wife too for, well, cheating on him. His wife, meanwhile, pleaded with him not to shoot anyone in front of their young son. Gun in hand, her husband pushed her out of the way to go find the pastor.
Oh, and he took Mr. Simmons’ clothes with him, as well as the boy. The wife called the cops, who arrived to untangle everything.
In the end, they found Mr. Simmons hiding stark naked behind that fence. A fellow parishioner talked some sanity back into the husband, who returned the pastor’s clothes and personal effects to his wife. The husband insisted to the police that he’d never actually intended to hurt anyone (he’d just gotten a handgun, brandished it in view of his wife, threatened to kill her and her lover, and then went chasing after her lover but hadn’t actually wanted to hurt anyone… wait, what?). Nobody was actually hurt–just traumatized beyond belief.
This sounds like one of the scariest things I can possibly imagine for anyone to go through.
This Must Be That “Christian Love” Stuff We Keep Hearing About.This woman’s husband was deeply immersed in Christianity–in both his home and his town of Tallahassee, Florida, which is, needless to say, dominated by the religion. He was at least close enough to Jacob Chapel’s church culture to be aware of the suspicious behavior between the pastor and his wife, and close enough to other parishioners to be on fairly close terms with some of them.
And her pastor was, of course, a true-blue fundagelical who’d literally just published a book about how to be a TRUE CHRISTIAN™ man and who regularly trumpeted the importance of ideals like honesty, fidelity, and courage, which I suppose he sees as manly ideals. (May your first ideal be a masculine ideal… Sorry, 80s movies are on my mind and it’s Neil’s fault.)
Needless to say, the married lady herself was also a Christian and a longtime member of Mr. Simmons’ church.
Not one single bit of that kept her and her pastor from pursuing an affair, nor her husband from terrorizing and threatening her and the pastor.
At no point did anybody say “Hey, let’s talk about this like adults.” Instead, the husband’s first response was to go get his gun and threaten the lovers with death.
At no point did anybody say “Hey, it’s totally wrong to mess around on people we’ve promised sexual fidelity toward.” Instead, the woman told police that she and the pastor had been “establishing a relationship” for the last few months.
Reading the dry police reports, one gets a sense of palpable horror in the afternoon’s events. Violence, threats, guns, illicit sex, and a six-year-old boy who will very probably remember for the rest of his life the day his father pulled a gun out and threatened to kill his mother over her affair with the family’s pastor.
Those are some very, very interesting fruits.
Oh But That Doesn’t Matter, Y’all.
Immediately, the Christian marketing machine spun into gear to protect the important person in this whole drama: the pastor.
The events happened on a Tuesday, January 17th. Social media was pretty quiet, with just one vague instruction on the 18th on their Twitter feed: “PRAY.”
That following Sunday, the 22nd, Mr. Simmons released a sermon in which he explained, “I’m hurting because I’ve hurt you.” (Because obviously, what matters here is that we know how the adulterous guy feels, and also obviously, he hurt his congregation even though his actions didn’t involve them.) He continued, “It hurts me that you have to defend my actions. You cannot defend sin.”
And he got wild applause.
Part of me wonders if the conjob in him felt a little thrill of excitement when he realized that his congregation was totally on his side still.
The next week, his church posted on YouTube an undated sermon that was about not letting the turkeys wear one down. (It may well be the following Sunday’s sermon, given the date of 1/29.) In it, Mr. Simmons preaches about how Christianity is a “free will choice” and all, but “where ‘God’ draws the line is when Pharaoh takes it upon himself . . . to set up a system that forces the people of ‘God’ to build an idolatrous kingdom.”
I’d have really thought that his god might draw the line at hypocritical pastors who boff married ladies in their congregations. But that’s just me.
He also whined about people “that’s gotta tear down your reputation, throw dirt on your name, and throw salt in your game–not because you’re doing anything wrong, but because they’re so small they gotta keep their foot on you in order for them to feel like somebody.”
No word on people that criticize him and reassess their opinion of his reputation because of stuff he totally did wrong.
The church’s official comment is that they are “still prayerful about the situation.”
I’ve heard not one word about the lady who got threatened with death from her gun-wielding husband, nor the child who witnessed the incident. But we have heard lots from the important person here, who is again–don’t forget, don’t ever forget–the pastor.
He’s declared that he absolutely won’t be stepping down because “God” has already forgiven him, and that gosh, if he leaves the ministry, then he’ll be disobeying his god, who he says told him to be the minister of this church. He was sinful before the events of January 17th, he says, and he’s sinful now, and gosh, all sins are just as bad as any other sins, so nobody’s allowed to give him side-eye over one particular sin just because it’s really really dramatic.
And he ended that declaration by saying that he didn’t have “the energy for that [being sorry, I think] right now. But I have to be clear that ‘God’ is pushing us forward.” If it sounds surreal to you, then you just don’t speak fluent enough Christianese. He means, in essence, that he’s decided that everyone needs to shut up about it now or else be considered sinful by him for dwelling on some silly detail like how he got caught naked in bed screwing a married woman.
I’ve Just Gotta Ask.
What the hell does it even take to drum a fundagelical minister out of his post?
Why is it that all of these sordid stories keep coming out of Christianity? One comment over at Obnoxious Television indicates that this pastor’s dad had an affair with a deacon’s daughter, which I can very easily believe even though I couldn’t find confirmation of it. We hear stuff like that and just wearily expect it to be true by now.
Why does this religion seem so singularly incapable of producing followers who actually behave like moral, ethical people?
Christians wring their little grabby hands over how evil nasty divisive libruls keep uncovering and talking about stories about Christian hypocrisy, but their concern focuses on making their critics shut up. It never seems to center around not giving their critics anything to talk about.
It isn’t hard to see why they go the direction they do in addressing criticism and the exposure of their hypocrisy.
That’s why we will keep uncovering and talking about these stories. Until Christians can come to grips with their religion’s inability to deliver followers who actually behave like loving, joyful, peaceful, forbearing, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled people, their religion is going to keep failing.
And it couldn’t happen fast enough.