A Leadership Lesson Al Mohler Didn’t Learn (Chat Post)

A Leadership Lesson Al Mohler Didn’t Learn (Chat Post) April 5, 2020

Recently, my friend Zeke Piestrup, who made that great documentary about Harold Camping, sent me this link from Al Mohler’s personal blog. Al Mohler, a big huge ol’ name in the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC), wrote ‘a leadership lesson’ that he himself would do well to learn. Today, let me show you how easy it is for a TRUE CHRISTIAN™ to ignore the beam in his own eye while focusing on the speck in someone else’s.

“A Leadership Lesson.”

Al Mohler is, of course, the president of the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He’s also a big huge name in his denomination, the Southern Baptist Convention (SBC). Being as he is a diehard product of the Conservative Resurgence and one of the guys responsible for creating modern fundagelicalism, he has never yet met a fundagelical talking point or culture war that he didn’t love.

So yes. We can always count on Al Mohler to provide the cruelest and most overtly theocratic hot take imaginable on any culture-war topic.

But he also provides us with a 24/7 object lesson in fundagelical projection.

The latest case in point can be found in one of his recent posts, “Why Do Autocratic Rulers Avoid the Camera When the News Is Bad? A Leadership Lesson.”

You can find the whole post archived here. The “leadership lesson” happens in Part III of it.

OMG! COMMUNISTS!

It feels almost quaint to see a fundagelical dampening his drawers over Communism. See, that was the big moral panic they had before the Satanic Panic. It still is a big moral panic for a lot of older fundagelicals, thanks to their utter inability to retire outdated or debunked claims. That old tired moral panic even claims the sensibilities of those younger fundagelicals who try too hard to be mini-mes of their elders.

I still remember all the brouhaha over Communism when I was but a wee lil teen Pentecostal myself. We had luridly-illustrated comic books about heroic TRUE CHRISTIANS™ sneaking into the Soviet Union to evangelize. Preachers railed against the atheism that they thought grew directly out of Communism and spoke in horrified tones about all the ZOMG GENOCIDES brought on by “godless Communism.”

So here we are with Al Mohler wringing his widdle handsies over ZOMG COMMUNISM in Part III of his essay. It’s just so weird to see and to remember just what a big deal Communism was in this guy’s youth.

King Hypocrite.

Of course, this part of his essay comes after two other parts containing his hand-wringing over ZOMG DICTATORSHIP IS COMING TO FREEDOM LAND. Part III is actually fairly short. Basically, he’s upset about quarantine orders. He perceives those orders as being way too dictatorial for a democracy to tolerate.

Gosh, if we had no idea who Mohler is, we might mistake his essay for a genuine note of concern about civil liberties. But he’s been helping his tribe destroy democracy for decades. He’d love for America to become a theocracy ruled by King Him and his cronies. If he’s worried about quarantine orders, then we may rest assured he worries for practical and self-serving reasons. Here are two potential reasons — both guesses on my part, but built upon stuff like this:

  • Churches need people to attend in the flesh to keep donations up. Christians probably don’t donate nearly as much when viewing sermons remotely. Tithes are already in the crapper — only a fraction of Christians bother to donate anything, much less a full 10% or beyond of their income.
  • Churches need to push hard to maintain their flocks’ regular attendance because they’re completely superfluous, if not actively detrimental to people’s lives. Only a small percentage of Christians claim to attend church regularly as it is; the actual attendance rate is likely much lower than the claim. I’ve noticed that if Christians fall out of regular attendance for too long, they rarely resume it. Al Mohler’s tribe lost their ability decades ago to force people to attend church every Sunday, so they must pull out the stops to prevent attendance from collapsing further.

I doubt Al Mohler’s patriotism or love of democracy drives his concerns. I mean, Part IV of his essay is a screed against abortion rights. No, he’s 100% fine with government interference with people’s private lives. It just needs to be interference that fits in with his culture wars.

Okay, So Let’s Look at Evil Communism Now.

Part III of the essay involves “a leadership lesson.” Al Mohler writes about how Xi Jinping, the leader of China’s Communist Party, “rarely came out in the media there in China to indicate bad news. Instead, he came out, when it was supposed to represent a great patriotic achievement or moment.”

Then, Mohler declares that Vladimir Putin does the same thing in “putting other spokespersons for the government out front when the necessity is to convey bad news.”

His takeaway:

A real leader, we should note, real leadership requires taking responsibility for both the good and the bad. [. . .] Reserving to yourself the right to speak only about the good news is actually a sign of not only an absence of leadership, but also the absence of democracy.

Upon reading that, I laughed out loud!

Those ebil commies can’t handle bad news! Not like us virtuous MURRIKINS, AMIRITE?

Why Oh Why Do Fundagelicals’ Useful Idiots Avoid the Camera When the News is Bad?

The very first response that came to my mind involved Donald Trump. Of course. He’s the biggest coward on Earth. He always has been.


The New York Times, “President Trump Walks Out. Over and Over Again.” May 2, 2017.”

On March 9, this unspeakable coward blew my mind by yeeting out of a press conference about the pandemic. Here’s a video of it:


CNBC Television coverage of press conference about COVID-19. Trump runs away around 13:20.

Every time someone needs Trump to at least imitate a real live President, he rushes away. Every time, he acts like a schoolyard bully who just got defied successfully for the first time: he’s enraged and nonplussed that nobody’s impressed with him doing the Presidential equivalent of making a stinky in his gold-plated potty. In the weeks since that March 9th presser, he still can’t manage to behave like a world leader at a time of monumental crisis.

Yep, he’s deffo King Cyrus reincarnated! Yep! Deffo! A real testament to Jesus’ power and might! Blow them shofar horns, y’all!

I remember a lot of jokes years ago about President Dubya avoiding questions and difficult situations. Republicans generally continue that trend. Heck, that’s why millions of us cheered for that “I reclaim my time” meme. Finally, someone was holding these nutjobs accountable for their brazen behavior!

But we don’t need to look to fundagelicalism’s most-prized useful idiots and dancing bears to see Al Mohler’s total lack of self-awareness.

We could, for example, look at the leaders of Al Mohler’s own denomination.

Avoid, Avoid, Avoid!

I still haven’t seen anything meaningful out of J.D. Greear, the president of the SBC, regarding his denomination’s huge sex-abuse scandal. Last week, the Houston Chronicle innocently wondered what the COVID-19 pandemic would mean for that situation.

See, J.D. Greear unexpectedly got handed another year to be the King of Baptist County. The SBC canceled their big jamboree this year. That’s when the SBC would have elected their next president. They must meet in person to do it. They can’t vote remotely or electronically. (In fact, they’ve vehemently rejected any suggestions of change there. People must be physically present “in the room” to have any say in the SBC!)

Presidents only rule for two years. Thus, they’re usually out before they can actually accomplish anything. Typically, they only have time to do some posturing. They create TASK FORCES and other committees, and then another president swoops in to undo everything.

So J.D. Greear could use his extra year to make a real impact.

Or, alternately, he could use that extra year to swan around as the King of Baptist County while he pretends to care about any of the SBC’s problems. That seems exactly like what he’s planning to do, unfortunately. His recent blog entries contain nothing about any of that. Baptist News Global contains nothing either.

In fact, none of the SBC’s leaders seem all too eager to rush into action with all their extra time.

That Total Lack of Self-Awareness Though.

The SBC is such an “autocratic” group that their leaders act exactly as Al Mohler claims Vladimir Putin and Xi Jinping act.

So far, I see a lot of bluster and posturing and crocodile tears out of the SBC regarding the dismal situations they’re in. They face an unprecedented loss of power, credibility, and members, as well as a huge sex-abuse scandal and what appear to be serious financial troubles.

But we have to learn about all of those things on the side and from others — and from reading between the lines of official communications. So far, the SBC acts only to correct a glaring problem when they absolutely must, and when its leaders do decide to get off the potty they do as little as they can possibly manage.

Their goal is to get back to the swanning-about and lording-over that they vastly prefer, and to get back to it all as quickly as they can.

The Winning Team Isn’t Winning Anymore.

Honestly and forthrightly communicating with the public about their problems would reveal how little the SBC is doing about those problems — and how little they care about fixing them. Worse, it’d reveal that they are not Jesus’ favorite winning team anymore.

Nothing alienates an authoritarian’s flocks more than being on a “losing” team. (Bullies lose a lot of their power once one of their victims stands up to them, after all.)

Once an authoritarian group reveals that it’s losing somewhere, their fanbase starts wandering away. They seek out “the winning team.” They give their money to winners, not losers.

That’s likely a big part of why the leaders of China and Russia are behaving like fundagelicals when it comes to communicating bad news. After decades of instilling tribalism into the flocks, none of these leaders can face them with dealbreaking bad news.

I’d sooner expect Al Mohler to give a supportive keynote address at a Ghost concert than for him to see any of those similarities, though.

So I ask: Gee, Al Mohler, why do the SBC’s rulers avoid the cameras when the news is bad?

NEXT UP: Lord Snow Presides! Then: Fundagelicals’ bad math reveals the pandemic narrative they’re trying to weave. See you tomorrow!


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About
Captain Cassidy grew up fervently Catholic, converted to the SBC in her teens, and became a Pentecostal shortly afterward. She even volunteered in church (choir, Sunday School) and married an aspiring preacher! But then--record scratch!--she brought everything to a screeching halt when she deconverted in her mid-20s. That was 25 years ago. Now a comfortable None, she blogs on Roll to Disbelieve about psychology, pop culture, politics, relationships, cats, gaming, and more--and where they all intersect with religion. And she still can't carry a note in a bucket. You can read more about the author here.

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