Joe Paterno was an iconic figure, loved by college football and the community where he lived. Unfortunately, his career and reputation were tarnished by accusations that Paterno had protected his assistant coach, Jerry Sandusky, who for decades molested children. While the Paterno family and his supporters deny the coach knew what was happening, the mere allegations of his involvement were enough to cause swift action.
Now, something similar is happening in America’s evangelical circles with prominent leader John MacArthur but there is no swift reaction. MacArthur is known as a kind of evangelical godfather who wields power and influence many want to benefit from. Because of that, other pastors and leaders appear afraid to speak out about accusations levied against him, which include documented charges of covering up sexual abuse and child molestation cases and publicly shaming a woman in his church who left a physically abusive husband, as documented by Christian journalist Julie Roys.
For example, Albert Alegrete seemed to be the model Sunday school teacher within MacArthur’s Grace Community Church. Although Alegrete had confessed to a church leader that he was a child molester, MacArthur withheld the information for two years until the police started looking for Alegrete. The man was eventually convicted and sentenced to 44 years for molesting five children and kidnapping a sixth child, who only got away from Alegrete because she jumped out of his car.
Or consider the case of Eileen Gray, who had told leaders at MacArthur’s church her husband was physically abusive to her and their children. Rather than counseling her to leave the abusive spouse, leaders at Grace subjected her to what she called “spiritually abusive counseling,” and then during a Sunday evening Communion service, MacArthur told the congregation Eileen Gray should be shunned by the congregation for leaving her husband and defying the counsel of the church. “Treat her as an unbeliever,” he said. “For all we know, she may be.”
These revelations have been met with deafening silence from prominent evangelical leaders who join MacArthur on stages and platforms around the country and benefit from his blessing. Why are they comfortable hanging out with MacArthur and accepting this behavior? This is the same group of people whose theological tent doesn’t seem big enough for people who are political rivals or who identify within the LGBTQ community.
But with MacArthur, there seems to be acceptance and even tolerance for his actions.
Recently, I had dinner with my friend BJ Thompson, who noted that many evangelicals have adjusted their eyes to seeing only sins and issues they can commonly agree on. For example, Critical Race Theory is evil, the LGBTQ community has an agenda for their children, and they want to overturn access to abortion. But when MacArthur’s actions came to light, these evangelicals seem to adjust their eyes to his alleged wrongs. Ironically, adjusting the eyes is a unique ability that even certain snakes are able to do.
“But when MacArthur’s actions came to light, these evangelicals seem to adjust their eyes to his alleged wrongs.”
Have evangelical leaders, who sit in meetings and appear in conferences with MacArthur, adjusted their eyes to accommodate him?
Currently, MacArthur is on the platform of the largest praise and worship gathering sponsored by Keith Getty, one of the most successful contemporary hymn writers. Also on the platform are top-tier evangelical leaders, including megachurch pastors, seminary professors, top Christian entertainers and publishing executives. Why have they chosen to continue sharing the platform with someone who not only failed to report sexual abuse but has covered up the actions of abusers and child molesters in Grace Community Church and shunned a woman for fleeing an abusive husband?
In the New Testament book of Hebrews, the author tells believers to fix their eyes on Jesus. Where are the evangelical influencers, many of whom have become fixated more on book and podcast downloads than on Jesus? Where are those who would call on MacArthur to repent of covering up and harboring child molesters?
As I type this piece, I can hear my daughter in the background singing the new praise songs she recently learned. Are the evangelical leaders who appear alongside MacArthur at conferences more concerned about the honorarium check they will receive than protecting kids like my daughter? Have they not spoken out because they may not want to rock the boat and lose their footing within MacArthur’s influence?
“Have they not spoken out because they may not want to rock the boat and lose their footing within MacArthur’s influence?”
Jesus taught us the importance of protecting children. Child abuse is evil, and we should abhor anyone who harms a little one. Those who share a platform with MacArthur should take the teachings of Jesus seriously and hold MacArthur accountable for his lack of transparency and openness about these issues, for his lack of decency and character.
When investigators discovered the coverups at Penn State, they also learned that the people who knew about Jerry Sandusky’s sins knew he was wrong. However, fear and a lack of courage kept them from speaking out. I believe this is the reason why so many influential evangelical leaders stay in line with MacArthur’s march.
My prayer is that these evangelical influencers will remove the idol statue of John MacArthur from their lives.
Maina Mwaura is a freelance writer and communications consultant who lives in the metro Atlanta area. A native of Orlando, Fla., he earned a bachelor of science degree in communications from Liberty University and a master of divinity degree from New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary.
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