An independent film that appears to attack Southern Baptist Convention seminaries as part of the liberalization of American Christianity will be shown this weekend at Mid-America Baptist Theological Seminary in Memphis.
The screening of Enemies Within: The Church is being promoted on social media by the Conservative Baptist Network, a group of SBC pastors who have called for a second “conservative resurgence” to rescue the SBC from perceived liberalism. Whether or not the screening is an officially approved campus event is not clear; publicity identifies the campus as the location of the 10 a.m. screening on Saturday, but the event does not appear on the seminary’s online calendar.
A trailer for the film is filled with ominous music and dire warnings about the state of the church in America today and how it is being taken over by liberalism. Among one of the prominent images in the trailer is the campus of Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth, Texas, accompanied by narration that warns: “American churches today are where universities were 10 years ago, pretty heavily Marxist, they’re not quite there yet but they are well on the way. Many of the seminaries and Bible colleges are definitely already there.”
Juxtaposing the well-known visual of Southwestern Seminary’s campus with such incendiary narration did not go down well with SBC leaders and apologists on social media. They immediately questioned why Mid-America Seminary — not an official SBC school but closely aligned with the most conservative side of SBC life — would allow such accusations to be hurled on its campus.
“Mid-America’s decision to host an event sponsored by a network of libelous Southern Baptist malcontents exposes the kind of ministry model the school is setting for its students,” said Ben Cole, a Texas layman who blogs under the name The Baptist Blogger. “Conservative Southern Baptists have long been willing to join hands with Mid-America, believing the Memphis-based school to be a friendly ally in our mission to train the next generation of church leaders and missionaries.
“The school’s decision to host an event this week that slanders our seminaries through outright lies, purposeful misrepresentations and politicized fear mongering threatens that decades-long institutional fraternity. This style of national socialist propaganda should be rejected by every Bible-believing Southern Baptist. If the school persists in its determination to host this event, Mid-America should be given the same exhibit space allocation at our annual meetings as we would give to the Ku Klux Klan, the Watchtower Society, or to Louis Farrakhan.”
On Wednesday, Nov. 17, Southwestern Seminary President Adam Greenway issued a public appeal to Mid-America President Michael Spradlin to cancel the screening. Spradlin serves on the council of the Conservative Baptist Network, which is promoting the film.
The film’s trailer is filled with alarming narration, exemplified by these excerpts:
- “What happened to the church, to the living, powerful transformative nation-shaking Christianity? What they’re trying to do is completely demolish Western civilization and then to rebuild it in a just society.”
- “I think the problem today in our culture is many of our words have been coopted and stolen and dumbed down and reversed. Social justice is sold as something that it isn’t. Critical Race Theory is sold as something that it isn’t.”
- “When you preach victimization, it always leads to vengeance and violence, us against them, me against you, I want my pound of flesh.” Then follows an image of a Black man preaching about the mistreatment of Blacks by white people.
- “Pastors are being brainwashed.”
- “That message that they’re going out and taking the world is not you need to repent of your sin and receive Christ. Instead the message that you actually have is they are under the weight of racism or sexism or homophobia and then we need to unify them together.”
- “The future damage of what we’re doing now is just going to be enormous.”
- “The entire fabric of family, personal wealth, private property, all those things are out the door and everything is the state. They believe the state is God.”
- “There’s going to be inequality alright, and it’s going to be totalitarian Marxist justice.”
While the Conservative Baptist Network — which has strong ties to fired Southwestern Seminary President Paige Patterson — is promoting the film, its creators do not appear to be Southern Baptists. The relationship between Mid-America Seminary and Southwestern sought to get a donor’s $5 million pledge to Southwestern redirected to the Pattersons’ private foundation using Mid-America as a meeting place, with the apparent help of Mid-America staff.
The key figures behind the film have reputations of their own as conspiracy theorists and evangelical Republican activists.
Cary Gordon is listed as producer, writer and narrator. He is pastor of Cornerstone World Outreach in Sioux City, Iowa, and author of a book titled A Storm, A Message, A Bottle, that calls for all government to be subject to God’s “natural law.” Several years ago, he created a successful campaign to recall three Iowa Supreme Court justices because they had voted to legalize same-sex marriage. He also has been a COVID denier and has said government was “grossly overreacting” to the pandemic, that national reaction to COVID-19 has been “stupid” and “mass hysteria.” He also has been accused of posting racist comments on social media and jokes aimed at making fun of Chinese people.
Trevor Loudon is listed as producer. He is the author of a 2011 book titled Barack Obama and the Enemies Within, as well as The Enemies Within: Communists, Socialists and Progressives in the U.S. Congress. The Obama book is billed as “a history about those who advise, mentor and operate behind the throne of the 44th president of the United States, Barack Obama. From early childhood to the present day the president chose to keep his personal life a secret. Those who surround him fall into a wide category of radicals, Marxists, communists and Americans who have joined together in a coordinated effort to overthrow capitalism and the Republic of the United States of America.”
Judd Saul is listed as director. He previously directed and produced other conspiracy-laden films, including America Under Siege: Antifa; America Under Siege: Soviet Islam; America Under Siege: Civil War; The Enemies Within; and Unfair: Exposing the IRS. He is founder of a group called Cedar Valley Patriots for Christ.
Curtis Bowers is listed as a producer. He previously wrote and directed two conspiracy-themed films, Agenda: Grinding America Down, and Agenda: Masters of Deceit.
An IndieGoGo website created in 2019 shows the group raised $10,000 toward a $300,000 goal to create the film.
The site offers this description of the film: “There has been a hostile postmodern takeover within conservative Christianity. Postmodernism includes agendas commonly known by the terms social justice, intersectionality, Critical Race Theory, and Neo-Marxism. This film will expose those who are selling out the church to postmodernism — and the money behind it.”
A news release announcing the film’s Nov. 2 premier in Sioux City mirrors a key talking point of the QAnon conspiracy theories by claiming “the Marxist billionaire, George Soros, saw an opportunity to co-opt the mighty and dominating societal powers of American Christianity … and used it for his own communist agenda in the United States. We show in our film how he succeeded by basically financing any Christian heretic willing to preach the false gospel of social justice, promote Critical Race Theory and declare war against white privilege.”