• The religious op-eds run by small-town Bible-belt newspapers are a genre unto themselves. They tend to be vaguely “inspirational” in a Guidepost-y way — gentle, affirming, uplifting. I like this one by Gregory Samford in the (Galveston, Texas) Daily News.
Samford employs the expected tone, and he uses one of the stock tropes of the format — the hagiographic sketch of a beloved hymn-writer. But then he ever-so-gently slips in this bit: “Historically speaking, the evangelical church understands it wasn’t a willing participant in the obliteration of slavery or the segregation-style Jim Crow laws.” And suddenly we’re not in Guideposts anymore.
What I like most there is the recognition that this is something evangelicals understand. They deny it — as they must to preserve their self-concept as the Defenders of Morality. But the fierceness of that denial is evidence that, yes, deep down, they understand that this is true and even also that they understand, at least a little bit, the implications of that.
• Your regular reminder that televangelist Rick Wiles, senior pastor of Flowing Streams Church in Vero Beach, Florida, is a raging antisemite. This isn’t subtle or nuanced or ambiguous in any way. He routinely says Third-Reich-y garbage like “The American people are oppressed by Jewish tyrants.” And he has a large audience of mainstream white evangelicals.
Jansen is one of those self-proclaimed Charisma-orbit “prophets” who spent most of 2020 insisting that God had told him the Former Guy was gong to be re-elected in a landslide. Jansen then spent the first four months “prophesying” that TFG would be reinstated as president by the military before the end of April and then, remarkably, spent the early part of May insisting that all this had happened just as he prophesied, even though it very clearly never did.
None of this extravagantly false prophecy seemed to reduce Jansen’s support from his church — Global Fire Ministries International of Murfreesboro, Tenn. But then, abruptly, he was out — not due to his absurd “prophecies” and his taking the Lord’s name in vain, but due to what the church vaguely describes as “unscriptural and unbiblical behavior” and “a pattern of making poor moral choices, and bad coping mechanisms.” That sounds like church-y euphemisms for sex and drugs, particularly since his soon-to-be-ex-wife, Jan Jansen, added that “Jeff recently made an intentional decision to leave his wife and family to pursue his own desires.”
This isn’t a “prophecy,” just a prediction, but I’m betting Jan’s going to make her cheating husband suffer for a few months before letting him crawl back for a reunion and redemption tour. That’ll let them reinvent their “ministry” now that the MAGA-prophecy well has run dry.
Jeff Jansen’s rise-and-fall story is such a familiar one for cable-TV “prophet-evangelists,” that it barely registers as tragedy. It almost seems like there are only two categories of televangelist: Those who have imploded in sexual and financial scandals, and those who haven’t yet gotten caught.
That’s what makes the long career of Ernest Angley so remarkable. Over many decades as a pastor and a notorious right-wing televangelist, Angley got caught a lot. He repeatedly got busted — spectacularly, dead-to-rights — for exploiting church volunteers financially and for abusing church members sexually. But he was never fired or defrocked or forced to resign in disgrace. His mega-church thrived and the offering plates overflowed, and Angley lived a consequence-free life of luxury until his death last week at age 99.
• True-crime documentary guy James Buddy Day understands the most important thing we need to remember about the Satanic Panic: It never ended.
What’s interesting about the satanic panic now, is that you’re basically seeing it again with QAnon. The QAnon story is the Satanic Panic, the idea that there are secret Satanic people doing things to children that are hidden amongst us. … And that literally was the story line for what happened with Satanic Panic in the 1980s.
• This is interesting: “Saddleback ordains 3 women, leading to another Mother’s Day dust-up over women pastors.” Rick Warren’s Saddleback church is one of the largest in the Southern Baptist Convention, which has officially barred the ordination of women ever since the “conservative resurgence”/coup that turned it into a denomination 30-some years ago.
The RNS piece, necessarily, turns to the SBC’s archbishop, Al Mohler for his reaction. He’s displeased, full of pious faux-lamentation, and vaguely threatening — as usual. The weird part, though is the way RNS describes Mohler as merely someone who “served on the committee that revised the statement of faith” governing the now-denomination. That’s like describing Fidel Castro as someone who participated in the working group that made alterations to the Batista administration.
• The title to this post comes from the Hold Steady’s “Cattle and the Creeping Things,” which is also a phrase I used today to dunk on one of the Mohlerettes on Twitter.