John MacArthur: the new Fred Phelps?


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]

29 thoughts on “John MacArthur: the new Fred Phelps?

  1. I began attending The Church On The Way, Van Nuys, California, in 1972. It’s a large charismatic church in The Valley not far from John MacArthur’s church. I ran into an old acquaintance from my previous church one night at an ice cream shop. I asked her where she was now attending, and she told me Grace Community, and I told her I was now at The Church On The Way. She looked alarmed and walked away without a word. I later learned that John MacArthur was preaching against our church and telling his congregation that we were possessed of the devil. Some years later, I happened to catch a portion of his radio broadcast. He was saying that he just hated this Holy Spirit movement, it was dividing the churches, and was of the devil. I was alarmed. I’m not sure what it means to blaspheme the Holy Spirit, but I fear for his listeners.

  2. When our son came out as gay when he was 13, we decided to love him and accept him. We did this because our son’s sexual orientation is just one part of who he is. He would tell us and quite frankly John MacArthur that he is a teen with normal teen issues and he needs and wants guidance from his parents as well as from responsible adults. My son Nick thinks about his looks and where to go out with his friends and what clubs to join in high school, avoiding drugs and alcohol as well as how to grow in Christ.

    My wife and I look at our son as a very special young man who is thoughtful, considerate, sensitive, kind and wants to do what is right. Shunning our son would do more harm then loving him. We work with our son and are two other kids to be productive and educated adults so they can be a light in such a dark world.

    I would ask John MacArthur if I as a Conservative Christian parent would get Christ’s approval if I kicked my teenage son out of the house for being gay? Would he think that Christ would approve of my son leaving a loving Household where Jesus is worshipped to a world where He is not?

    • 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!

      • regarding = ———– John Macarthur is right. And John Macarthur made the clear distinction between whether the gay person is claiming Jesus as savior or not. If the gay person is claiming Jesus as savior then the hard line needs to be taken according to biblical directives John Macarthur gave in the video. And he made it perfectly clear that if the gay person is not claiming to be a Christian, then the gay person is just behaving like the rest of “unsaved” people and is to be witnessed to, as Christians would do normally.————- John Macarthur is nothing like Phelps. ———I think some people need to watch John MacArthur’s video clip again and listen carefully between the distinction John makes about the gay person claiming Jesus as savior or not.,,,,—————

        • 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.

  3. He has grown to be a hard faced, finger pointing man. Perhaps he always has been and the scales have only just fallen from my eyes 🙂 I am very interested in your footnote and will explore that further, I think it would explain a lot, particularly why men are over represented in this debate.

    • 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. It is taken out of context. He said IF the adult child professes to be a Christian, then you follow church discipline (1Tim 5:20). For the non-professing adult child his advice was different. So it is being used out of context if the statement is being quoted as how you deal with all gay children.
    I would advise you to be very careful in comparing someone like John MacArthur who is very Scriptually sound to somone like Phelps and the Westborrow gang. That comparing orange to apples!
    Also, what is “today’s homosexuality?” It is no different from homosexuality throughout history! There is nothing NEW under the sun, says Solomon in the Bible. So there is nothing new. Sin today is the same as sin yesterday and from the very beginning right back to Adam and Eve in the garden. Sin has always been and will forever be disobedience to God and His Word. God doesn’t sugar-coat anything. We may try to make our sinfulness appear not so sinful, but God’s standards will never change! His Word stands the same yesterday, today, and forever.

    • 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.

    • It think it’s worth at least a few minutes to stop and think that you are admonishing Susan for taking John McArthur’s words out of context, but you don’t seem to realize that the six verses in the Bible that seem to mention gays are also “in context.”

      I’m not trying to be snide here, at all. I’m making a hopeful statement that it might be worth thinking and learning about the context in which the Bible (and these six verses in particular) was written.

      I’ve noticed that many people with a very literal view of the Bible, often the same people who are willing to condemn and judge other believers, seem unwilling to consider that Bible verses have a context, and that context is not 21st century western culture.

      I’m not judging you, Chrissy. But I do think there’s more love in the world, and a lot more love pouring out from Jesus into you and I, than you might be aware of. And I dream that you will feel it break loose and pour through you someday. Because when you feel that, it is the coolest thing. When that happens you no longer need to concern yourself with the sin of others, when that happens you can’t stop yourself from loving everyone with abandon.

      I know we are both loved by God with the same tenderness, even though I am a lesbian. I know you and I will embrace warmly when we are no longer here. And I greatly look forward to it.

  7. This makes me so sad….I took a Seminary class based on his books on Galatians and Ephesians…I always thought he was such an excellent, intelligent theologian. This just breaks my heart. How can someone that studied be so ignorant?

    • 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.

  8. 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.

  9. This view is so un-christ like in so many ways. Did Jesus not dine with the sinners? This seems more like the attitude of the Pharisees to not associate with those whom you do not agree. I do agree that homosexuality or being transgender are not sins since it is just a part of who a person is. Really the ones doing harm are those treating the LGBTQ community like we’re an abomination just out of the fear that comes from not understanding us.

    • 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!

  10. 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.

      • 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. 🙂

  11. I shudder to think that I used to be under his ministry, and how the people of our church revered him so much. We even had the John MacArthur Bible in our house..yikes! So glad to be free of that. As Rachel Held Evans says, “You will note that these voices seem loud, but they are the SAME voices we hear over and over.” I hope a day is coming, sooner than later, when these voices will be silenced, when people like MacArthur (who, by the way, has no problem condoning spousal abuse because of his disdain for women) will become obsolete! Grace to you. Oh, the irony.

    • 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!

  12. “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?”

    I asked my gay daughter this also – and she had some wise but simple words for me. It’s because they can’t fix it. You can help people lose weight, you can help them stop drinking, you can help them stop smoking…but homosexuality is not fixable because it’s the way they are.

    I never thought of it that way before. So, I guess that’s why it’s the favorite sin. :-/

  13. Watched the clip because I just felt (hoped) his statement had been taken out of context. To my horror… nope. He said the exact quote “alienate them, isolate them. don’t have a meal with them.” My heart weeps along with you.

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