John MacArthur: the new Fred Phelps?

John MacArthur: the new Fred Phelps? June 16, 2014


Shun your gay child? Don’t even have a meal with them? This is not the heart of God – but it is the heart of people like John MacArthur – or maybe the lack of heart.

People just don’t know how hateful they are.

It was easy to look at Fred Phelps’ Westboro Baptist Church and say that they were ‘extreme’ and that they didn’t represent mainstream Christianity. But what about someone like John MacArthur? Is he the new Fred Phelps?

Here is John MacArthur’s advice if you have a gay child: Alienate them. Separate them. Isolate them. Refuse to have a meal with them. Turn them over to satan.

The vitriol toward LGBTQ has been inculcated in the culture so successfully, we have no idea we have it.

Yeah, like my mother-in-law’s house that was permeated with cigarette smoke. I could smell it as I opened her door, but she couldn’t smell it sitting in her recliner, smoking!

Maybe this is even more dangerous than someone like Fred Phelps — because of how ‘righteous’ it appears on the surface. Less yelling. No inflammatory signs. But it is deadly. It is not loving like Jesus loved. Period. No matter how you present it.

There’s been a flurry of clueless, religious men spouting opinions about how to deal with your gay child — men who do not have a gay child. The more escalated the battle, the more dug-in these people become. It would be mildly amusing if it weren’t for the parents who will be led astray, thinking they are doing what God wants them to do, and who will implement this hostile, anti-Christ advice — devastating their precious children.

If the church cannot recognize the stench of their disgust with LGBTQ people, how will they ever be able to dismantle it?

I talked last week about my relative who has no room at all in her theology for LGBTQ people as is, or for others embracing them as is. She doesn’t really know LGBTQ people, not their story. Which makes her ideas about it as silly as marriage or parenting counsel from a single non-parent.

Let me show you this societal disgust and hypocrisy and blindness by way of a story. 🙂

After my relative and I had exhausted the LGBTQ conversation, and agreed to disagree, we sat around chatting about everything else in our lives and families. She began to tell of her friend, “Jeannie,” who was trying to get a particularly athletic job in another country.

The company’s board has rules about weight limits, etc, for reasons of health and culture. In the country where she wanted to go, she would be an oddity for being obese. People would stare at her, and touch her, and she could not effectively live and work there. But if she lost some weight and got healthier, she could get the job. Well, Jeannie didn’t want to do that. So she went to this country on her own. All the things happened that had been predicted. She could not work there and had to come home.

That was the story.

Okay, here’s the part that troubles me. My relative is regaling us of this story, in her delightful, animated way, and you can see that she loves this friend of hers! She only wants what’s best for her, and sure, Jeannie probably has some gluttony issues (maybe?), but that didn’t come into the story. She was just Jeannie. A friend.

Does my relative think the Bible’s admonition against gluttony does not apply to Jeannie? No! But it has no visible impact on her love for, and acceptance of Jeannie and no impact on their relationship.

And that’s the part where I get a little teary.

Because for my relative, sexual orientation is a dealbreaker.

It has become an issue between her and me, because I love, affirm and accept my daughter — and I have become an advocate for her and the entire LGBTQ community — an advocate for love and human rights. And it has become an issue between her and my daughter.

It has broken the relationship.

Her tender, fond retelling of her friend’s ill-fated story (CAUSED by her gluttony) is full of love and compassion and life and joy! AS IT SHOULD BE! Jeannie’s gluttony (or not) is not my relative’s business! My quick google search yielded 100 verses about gluttony! ONE HUNDRED. There are none about today’s homosexuality… and SIX that people think apply to it.

Yet, my relative could find it in her heart to speak of this friend with love and affinity, and not a single mention of her gluttony. I totally affirm this view of Jeannie’s issue, by the way.

But why can’t my relative — and others — do this with the LGBTQ issue? Regardless of their theology about it, why can’t they simply love warmly and genuinely?

My heart weeps.

She doesn’t see it. She doesn’t hear it.

John MacArthur’s organization is called Grace To You. Do his words sounds like grace at all? It is not even a shadow of how Jesus interacted with anyone who was oppressed, or hurting, or wounded.

This mindset, this deadly thinking has permeated the evangelical Christian church, and people don’t even realize it. Studies show that homophobia, like racism, permeates the culture*.

Shaking hands with the one black person in a white congregation does not prove someone is not racist. And NOT holding up offensive signs saying that God hates gays does not prove someone is not homophobic.

People must face this honestly in quiet moments between them and God — as the Spirit speaks to their hearts. I heartily pray that they will.

I heartily pray that we all will.

“When looking at the traits associated with masculinity in the US, the researchers identified the following: winning, emotional control, risk-taking, violence, dominance, playboy, self-reliance, primacy of work, power over women, disdain for homosexuality, and pursuit of status. Understanding these lists and what they mean is critically important to understanding shame…” says Brene Brown. “For men, there’s a cultural message that promotes homophobic cruelty. If you want to be masculine in our culture, it’s not enough to be straight – you must also show an outward disgust for the gay community.” [Link]

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  • Beautiful insight. Thank you for sharing it.

  • And grace to you, Karen! Yes, it’s ironic what has happened to the concept of grace. Sigh. Those same voices over and over are fear-based behavior modification and sin-management. They are driven by fear of stepping outside the line, as if that is God’s interest, instead of grasping this enormous and infinite “agape” love that is Jesus and is God. Whew! Missing a gigantic boat here!

  • Appreciated the comparison to gluttony. Yes, MacArthur’s brand of grace is less than Jesus taught. He and most other big-name evangelical leaders I’m familiar with teach a “grace” that is, uh, well… conditional. Further, this message of conditional grace appears not universal, but culturally specific. Those in positions held accountable to “lead” seem to be locked into feeding such a machine where majority support is required on the “non-essentials” to meet payroll and pay utilities. How convenient. How tragic. What is a noun that represents “conditional grace?” We need one. Ah… slavery.

  • Hey Tami. Yes, indeed. You’ve said a mouthful there, more than I can answer in a short quip. 😛 But I could write a couple of posts on that! Thanks for your insight. Sigh.

  • It is ironic, I never found the Fred Phelps of the world very threatening. Annoying, yes. Hurtful, yes. But a true threat, no. Mainly because of the extremism he and his ilk represent. In addition Mr. Phelps had few true “followers”, most of whom are family. But when you put a main stream, evangelical pastor in a suit, who calmly persuades with great articulation, under the guise of love, concern and grace … you have a wolf in sheep clothing … and that is very dangerous. Not only because of what he says or preaches, but because so many people are too LAZY to research and search the scriptures themselves. Of course he is 100% responsible for what he teaches and how he leads … but so many Christians today are nothing more than lemmings running full steam ahead … with no thought to the direction they are running or the collateral damage they are leaving behind. It is time Christians began to hold their leaders accountable and become accountable themselves for what they believe. People act as if when they die and stand before the judgment seat of Christ the excuse “my momma told me so”, “my pastor told me so”, “my denomination told me so” is going to be sufficient. The really sad part is it will NOT be enough … so they will have hurt humans by not having a spiritual backbone in this life … and risk the next life because they took someone’s word for how to act and who to love.

  • You are right, clairepie. The fear comes from the unknown. And I so seer hess responses as being like the Pharisees. I can’t understand why we’re not MOST afraid of being like the Pharisees, given how Jesus always undercut them. Thanks!


    Ha! Welcome. Apologies for the brick on Monday, but it is what it is. I look forward to seeing your take on it, definitely. Blows my mind to watch churches that once aspired to be all about relationships/organism slide instead into the religion/organization the protects and promotes legalism. Insidious. “A Grand Delusion” by STYX comes to mind.

  • Oh no, I love to get things to unpack — it just takes time! And, yeah, churches do get caught up in religion/organization because it’s human nature. We like things we can make happen, see clearly, put our weight on, and not have to worry will be in some way unpredictable. But how can God fit all that? How can we figure God out to the point that we know what’s coming? Jesus simply calls us to follow — leave the rest to God. Anything less is surely human-made. 🙂

  • I don’t know, Debbie. But Jesus either came to “straighten us out” — we know he didn’t, or wouldn’t he have been so please with those wonderful “obeyers,” the Pharisees? Or he came to give us life — a completely different orientation. (No pun intended!) Well he SAID he came to give us life. He NEVER said he came to teach us to obey better. Even the most studied teachers, if their goal is behavior-modification, they’re off-track. It’s either about the tree of knowledge, or it’s about the tree of LIFE.

  • Chrissy, I appreciate your desire for absolutes here. But 1 Timothy was written in a context, not written as the new Leviticus. The one example we have of this actually happening is when the religious leaders bring an adulterous woman out to the public square to be stoned, and Jesus won’t let them do it. We have to tread with great caution when we use public shaming or public correction to change people’s behavior. Jesus makes it very clear that He is well able to manage his own sheep and we do not need to be taking on other’s sins. Is every single person brought up for every single sin? No! Clearly that is totally unwieldy. Is MacArthur brought up front for harshly judging God’s servants (Romans 14:4)? Meanwhile, this is being told to parents whose son tells them he’s gay, and he hasn’t even done anything yet. Do you see what a slippery slope this becomes in 1.2 seconds? This is a clear sin TO YOU, but not to many others, based on scholarly exegesis. Every time the religious leaders brought something to them that was iron-clad, black & white, Jesus unraveled it. The same is true here. You are right to say sin is the same yesterday and in the garden, disobedience to God’s word. And Jesus very clearly said not to judge, not to w correct other people’s issues. I’m pretty sure he meant it! We have plenty of our own stuff to deal with. Far be it from me to disobey Jesus by playing judge and marching people in front of the church. If you take Jesus seriously in his many warnings, it should be far from you too.

  • Hi Chrissy – My heart resonates with yours. If only it were that simple, life would be peaches-n-cream! But alas, the older I get and the longer I follow Christ, the bigger God gets — bigger than all the books in the world… and MacArthur’s notes… could ever contain! I have MacArthur’s Study Bible and have immense respect for him as a Bible scholar. However, he teaches and interprets through a few very culturally specific lenses on various non-essentials w/which his own colleagues in various other streams of Protestantism respectfully disagree. And that’s fine. I believe it’s healthy to acknowledge and think through the subtleties of all the various streams of faith; all churches/teachers do not agree. For example, MacArthur is dispensational in his eschatology… a system of interpreting “end-time” theology that has great bearing on how we behave, how we treat others, now. Then you have the exegetical challenges of non-essentials that brings needless debate in areas where grace and peace should reign supreme. Reminds me of Peter’s nightmares of what to eat or not eat, to which Jesus replied, “Really? You think it’s all about what you do or don’t do? Don’t you know my perfect love trumps all? I died to give it to you. I know your heart. Now relax. Go enjoy your life. Love me, love others well. Simply stick close to me, listen for my voice, follow me and show the world what’s really so ‘good’ about the Good News!” Of course, this is only my paraphrase, my prayerful grasp of Christ’s heart on this matter after 50 years of study. I’m sure MacArthur and others might respectfully disagree. And that’s okay.

  • Samantha

    Wow, so he encourages tearing families apart and pushing kids straight to Satin? Making them, kids, afraid to talk about their feelings, emotions, and attractions that they are having. He doesn’t even encourage the conversation to happen. So sad. A medical professional would disagree with him and discourage this due to the damage that can be done.Truth

    It is in certain churches and certain areas in which we live that there is tunnel, ignorant thinking. 🙁

    They are the lost souls. They don’t get it yet. We should pray for them.

    ” We are to win hearts and minds for Jesus based on showing LOVE, not judgment.” ” We are to open our arms with love and bring all the lost souls in, if they are lost, and show them love and allow them to form their relationship with God. Period. How is their relationship to begin or become stronger if they cannot even feel welcome in their family and/or a church family?

    I am still wondering who gets to sit in the pews, become a member of a certain church, and hear the word of God? Isn’t it supposed to be every one, as in, all man kind?

    Comes back to building a relationship with God, not a religion.

    There are churches out there that accept and believe LGBT people are born that way and will definitely have the conversation, go there!!!! They have the conversations and are up to par with science, the current times, and the Bible. Just walk away from the others.

  • MacArthur’s whole dialogue is based on his single belief that it is impossible to be gay and Christian. Those that agree with him and refuse to study the word for themselves will follow him, support him and “amen” him loudly. His limited view will continue to put God in a box and dilute Christ sacrifice, death and resurrection. In essence he is saying Jesus is not enough. Sadly, many will believe him and feel despair was a result.

  • Indeed. If they don’t have the aroma of Christ — the love, joy, kindness — why do we think they represent Christ? MacArthur much more closely resembles the Pharisees. That right there should tell the tale. Thank you, Lynette.

  • Thank you, Samantha. You can find an affirming church by going to and

  • Yes, Nate, I think that is exactly what MacArthur is saying — not only that Jesus would approve of removing Nick from your loving home but that he would require it. Not to put words in his mouth, but that’s exactly what he means. He’s saying to remove that person on that issue, period. Doesn’t matter about other factors, your home, etc. The more we unpack MacArthur’s recommendation, the more we see that it’s very much like Phelps and not at all like Christ. Imagine handing Nick over to MacArthur to parent? I shudder to think of it!

  • Alarming indeed. Why does John McCarter fear the Holy Spirit movement? Because the Holy Spirit does not defer to John MacArthur. Wow.

  • So basically, we come to Christ by grace. But we stay in Christ’s good graces by behavior. I see. Didn’t work when the Pharisees tried to pull that. Jesus never chose works. It doesn’t fly, Matt. I don’t care how it’s worded.