John MacArthur's Ignorance and Privilege

In my last blog post, I wrote a little bit about how John MacArthur’s comments in a certain audio recording stung. I did not want to get too off-track from the main point, so I said that I would “maybe” write another blog post, but here I am actually writing one! The comments to which I am specifically referring are as follows:

A couple weeks after that, there was a panel discussion of the Southern Baptist leaders who said, there should never be another translation committee without a Latino, an African American, and a woman on it. [heavy emphasis here] Translation of the Bible? How about somebody who knows Greek and Hebrew?

Here’s the recording from where I transcribed his words, so you can listen. The comments begin around the 5:00 mark, but the recording is only around 7 minutes long, so you may want to listen to all of it for context:

Not many people who got outraged at MacArthur’s comments during the first half, listened to the second half of that audio recording, as Rozella Haydée White points out. I almost fell into that category, until I was hearing things about it, and decided to use the recording as an illustration for my blog post. I couldn’t use a recording I hadn’t listened to in its entirety, so I listened again, and finished it. Whew.

Please don’t misunderstand me: what MacArthur said about Beth Moore was definitely uncalled for, but Beth Moore will be fine, and not least because her and MacArthur’s views on women and the church are more similar than different. She even tweeted out this morning:

MacArthur’s comments were unsurprising to me, because I was very familiar with John MacArthur’s gender theology and his audience. At a one point in time, I might have been in that audience. As I mentioned in my last post, I was a student at The Master’s College (now University). The culture at The Master’s College was the same as it was in Grace Community Church, where the session in the recording was held. There is a range of patriarchal views there. I was required to read The Excellent Wife for a marriage and family class (please Google this if you want to know, because I’m not linking a book like that here), if that helps you picture the environment.

MacArthur’s comments were also unsurprising to me because of his history of patriarchal, neglectful leadership: A Thread on John MacArthur and Women.

That being said, what MacArthur said about Moore is not necessarily the problem, in my mind, and not just because MacArthur and Moore likely hold the same views as far as gender roles in the church. Even if he did not mean that Latinx folks, or Black folks, or women should not be in translation committees, the implication was there. And the implication was picked up by the audience, who laughed after he said something inferring that, a) those folks cannot learn Greek or Hebrew, and that b) those folks shouldn’t be on translation committees.

Why did his comment sting so much? Well, as I started to explain in my last post, I am a woman who went to The Master’s College, and majored in Greek and Hebrew, for crying out loud. I’m also Latina (yes, I’m white-passing). So MacArthur’s comments meant that he couldn’t care less if someone like me was on a translation committee, regardless of my qualifications. As I wrote previously, MacArthur has passed along this message: marginalized voices do not matter.

MacArthur’s comments aren’t without precedent, and if you had been paying attention in the past, you’d know he is far from being a white ally. In his own words, just last year, he wrote:

“I thought the evangelical church was living out true unity in Christ without regard for race. That has certainly been my experience in every church I’ve ever been part of, and it’s also what I have seen in the wider evangelical world. I don’t know of any authentically evangelical church where people would be excluded or even disrespected because of their ethnicity or skin color.”

“…without regard for race” is shouting a harmful colorblindness, which, as a person of privilege, is very easy to hold onto. He’s saying here that racial discrimination, and by extension, white supremacy (which he even acknowledges as a sin!), doesn’t matter enough to be fighting for civil rights. In fact, here’s what the executive director at Grace to You says concerning MacArthur’s participation in the Civil Rights movement, which confirms my reading:

We can get even more specific. It has been well-documented that MacArthur has made disparaging comments about the Latin American community. Here’s what he said at a conference called Por su causa:

“We all understand that people in the Hispanic world know about Jesus Christ […] but they don’t know Christ. They don’t know the gospel of grace. And they don’t know the full revelation of Scripture.”

As Jules Martínez explains, this is a common colonialist notion that reveals the mindset of many Christians in the USA who are unfamiliar with the history of the Latin American church. That is, if it isn’t white and English speaking, it isn’t legitimate. With this comment, it appears that MacArthur is no different.

Not only has MacArthur shown his white supremacist cards here, but in this blog post by a Black TMS (The Master’s Seminary) graduate, he details his experience as one of erasure. Terrence Jones writes, “In the entire TMS curriculum, which is 98 credit hours and approximately between 100 – 150 required books to read, not one book is written by a person of African heritage.”

And, in the blog post following, he discusses another way in which TMS had (has?) forgotten about their Black students:

“When I was a student, the seminary boasted of having a 90% placement rate. This meant that within 6 months of graduating a student could expect to find a staff position within a church/ministry somewhere or enroll in another degree program. What wasn’t discussed with African American students was that we were a part of the 10% that could not be placed in a ministry position. I put my head together with faculty and admissions staff members to figure out the numbers. We determined that by the time I graduated in 2011 the school had only facilitated the placement of approximately 3 African American students in 25 years. According to people connected to TMS since 2011, not much has changed.”

You might be thinking to yourself now, “Okay, Sabrina. If John MacArthur has such a history of belittling people of color, maybe his comments shouldn’t have stung so much. You knew what was coming!” Perhaps I should have been more prepared, but this time, it was more personal.

MacArthur was speaking directly to me, and to many, many other women, people of color, and other marginalized groups, including LGBTQ, who have studied theology, the scriptures, Hebrew, and Greek: “Your contributions are not wanted, because you are not a white [cis-het]male. We do not acknowledge you as a fully participating human being.” And those words, my friends, deal death, not life. They will hurt as long as I hear them. Because MacArthur’s comments deal a death blow of misogyny and white supremacy (patriarchy!), it is my responsibility, as a privileged individual, to use my privilege in speaking out against it, and so here I am, a TMU alumna, using my words. May God have mercy.

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