Two years before he divorced his wife of 21 years and married his secretary, pastor Greg Locke rose to internet fame through a Facebook video decrying the morality of Target restroom policies that allowed people to use the restroom they felt expressed their correct gender.
He said in the video, “You have lost your ever-lovin’ mind. Are you kidding me? Your political correctness has caused you to do something extraordinarily stupid.”
According to Locke: “What you are targeting are perverts, pedophiles, people that are going to harm our children … . I’ve never been that stupid … . That has to be one of the most ridiculous moves I’ve ever heard of in my life. … At the end of the day, they’re being ignorantly, ignorantly naive.”
Over the next five years, Locke amassed more than 2.2 million followers on Facebook. He brands himself as the “outspoken pastor that is unashamed of the gospel of Jesus, who refuses to bow to the politically correct idols of our culture.”
But what if Locke were held to the same standard he became famous for articulating against Target? Could his own words reveal what was actually true about him?
‘I’ve never been that stupid’
While Locke claims to have “never been that stupid” compared to his perception of Target’s restroom policies, his history doesn’t convey mindfulness. He has been arrested six times and placed on probation five times.
He converted to evangelical Christianity in 1992. Then he went on to receive a bachelor’s degree in biblical studies from Ambassador Baptist College in 1998 and a master’s degree in revival history from the Baptist School of New England in 2000. Both schools are independent fundamentalist Baptist institutions that are KJV-only, complementarian, dispensationalist, science-denying, and affirming of eternal conscious torment.
After spending 10 years as a Baptist evangelist, Locke started Global Vision Baptist Church in Mt. Juliet, Tenn. The congregation later was renamed Global Vision Bible Church.
One month after churches began to close services due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Locke launched Locke Media, where his website featuring American flags proclaims that “revival is here!” and calls on America to “open up the churches!”
His website also advertises his book, This Means War, in which he styles himself as a “social media firebrand” who claims that the world is “ripe for revival and ready for war.”
‘They’re being ignorantly, ignorantly naïve’
While Locke claims that Target was “ignorantly, ignorantly naive,” his statements about President Trump’s election and COVID-19 conspiracies suggest he could be the one lacking awareness.
As soon as it became clear that Joe Biden was going to win the presidency, Locke immediately started tweeting, “We do not concede to tyrants, liars, and dictators that openly and knowingly steal elections” as well as, “And just like that, COVID was cured.”
He proclaimed to his millions of followers that Biden “will never be president,” that, “Trump will remain president,” and that people who believe the election was fair “are as crooked as a barrel of fishhooks.”
He held strong with his conviction that many people, including Biden, were about to be imprisoned and that he was “100% sure” Trump would remain in office.
As the Jan. 6 certification of the election was drawing near, his rhetoric picked up. During one event at a government building, he yelled: “This is a revival of patriotism like the world has never seen! And we’ve got to push back and stand up, church! We can’t be cowards.”
He retweeted an advertisement for the “March for Trump” that would be held in Washington D.C., on Jan. 6, an ad that said, “The calvary is coming, Mr. President!” Then he added: “It’ll be epic!”
Soon, his tweets became more aggressive, including: “We must fight,” “This means war,” “Prepare yourself Patriots, things are about to get crazy real,” and, “This will be an event of epic proportions.”
As his frustrations grew over churches not meeting in-person for worship, he threatened to use violence against the government, saying: “We have a 1st Amendment right to worship. If that’s impeded upon, we will invoke our 2nd Amendment right and meet you at the door.”
When the insurrection attempt at the Capitol was just two days away, Locke tweeted, “If you don’t have convictions worth dying for, you’ve never learned what living is,” and, “Rise up!”
On the eve of the insurrection, Locke tweeted from Washington D.C., “God is about to sweep through this place like a mighty flood.” For his final tweet before the Capitol was ransacked, he said, “God is about to dethrone some wicked people that have been in power. Very soon Twitter will be trending the unthinkable. Remember this tweet. God will not be mocked.”
Two days before Biden’s inauguration was to be held on Jan. 20, Locke continued proclaiming that Trump would remain as president. Then in the months after Biden’s inauguration, Locke threw his support behind the My Pillow Guy, who has been notoriously repeating conspiracies about Trump being reinstated this month.
Regarding COVID, Locke bragged about “celebrating multiple Thanksgiving meals with lots of people at every gathering.” He also boasted of having, “800+ people at church this morning. No masks, no temperature checks, no social distancing and no apology.”
He said, “One day they will drop the ’S’ in mask and add an ‘R’,” insinuating that wearing masks were preparing Americans for the pre-tribulationalist conspiracy theories about the “mark of the beast” in the book of Revelation.
Then last week, he publicly denied the existence of the highly contagious Delta variant of COVID and threatened his church, “If you start showing up (with) all these masks and all this nonsense, I will ask you to leave … . I am not playing these Democrat games up in this church.”
And then as the controversy grew regarding his threat to his congregation, he tweeted, “This evil vaccine will cause remarkably more deaths and problems than the virus itself.”
Apparently, he believes significantly more than 613,000 people will die from the vaccines in the United States alone.
‘Your political correctness has caused you to do something extraordinarily stupid’
Locke’s disdain toward what he labels “political correctness” is a response quite common among conservative evangelicals. And while there definitely can be a fundamentalist posture by some on the left, what is labeled as “political correctness” is actually kindness.
Why is it so offensive to speak kindly about LGBTQ people?
Why shouldn’t we be discouraged from using abusive language toward the marginalized?
Why can’t we take practical steps to make the lives of oppressed people more comfortable without being labeled as politically correct?
Why must we instead threaten church members who want to love their neighbors by wearing a mask?
‘It’s about control’
For Locke, like many other conservative evangelicals, the fear ultimately comes down to a loss of control.
Locke believes that “America did not birth the church but the church did birth America.” From his perspective, this is a good thing.
Those on the underside of power would see this differently. In the documentary Postcards from Babylon, Lisa Sharon Harper said, “I don’t think that the church has integrity to speak any good news at all until the church actually understands the reality that it is living and has crafted bad news in public policy. It has established theological foundations for oppression that have lived throughout the times and only changed shape over the generations but has not been repented of.”
Brian Zahnd echoed Harper’s concerns, saying, “America’s original sin is white supremacy with the primary manifestations of stolen land and slave labor all for the sake of the economy.”
What’s at stake is power
As a white, conservative, complementarian Christian male who is a pastor, Locke stands to lose a lot of power if his theology and politics are questioned. As a pastor, Locke is in charge of a church that has no elders, no deacons and no congregational votes.
And while many conservative evangelicals would strongly disagree with him on that level of unchecked power, they still agree with him that men are divinely entitled to be in charge. In most of their churches, the vast majority of these men are white. And while they may disagree with Locke’s rhetoric, they fundamentally agree with him on the theological definitions of authority and retributive justice that have shaped our nation into the white Babylon it is today.
In other words, Locke may be a caricature of evangelicalism. But conservative evangelicals still agree with him about what is wrong with America and about what ultimate justice will be. Therefore, they cannot simply distance themselves from his antics when they share his theological roots.
This white supremacist, male-dominated hierarchy is what gave birth to America. So when powerful men like Locke get asked to put on a simple mask, they expose their idolizing of power by tweeting, “They hate those they can’t control,” “They hate that they can’t control us,” and “Masks don’t work. It’s about control.”
Locke even explained his church’s name change from Global Vision Baptist to Global Vision Bible Church by saying that the independent fundamentalist Baptist movement “has become nothing more than a mini controlling denomination.” In other words, as he likes to say, “It’s about control.”
People like Locke tend to project their own problems onto others through their words. While he claims he’s “never been that stupid,” his history would suggest otherwise. When he says, “they’re being ignorantly, ignorantly naive,” his promotion of conspiracy theories surrounding Trump and COVID-19 reveals his own ignorance. When he claims that people’s political correctness causes them to do “something extraordinarily stupid,” he is the one who refuses to be kind and to partake in the spreading of a virus that has killed more than 4.2 million of his neighbors.
Perhaps it’s men like Locke who hate those they can’t control. That would explain much of his words toward LGBTQ people and others white men have systematically oppressed.
It’s time for men like Greg Locke to lose the control they so desperately fear losing and give peace and love a chance. We’ve given retributive white male power enough time.
Rick Pidcock currently serves as a Clemons Fellow with BNG. He recently completed a master of arts degree in worship from Northern Seminary. He is a stay-at-home father of five kids and produces music under the artist name Provoke Wonder.
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