Christian Egalitarians are keen to recognize classism, racism, and sexism and keen to recognize how scripture is distorted on behalf of the powerful. Christian Egalitarians who are familiar with the internal workings at Willow are familiar with the classism, racism, and sexism prevalent at Willow, not only among many of the members, but also among many of the staff, including the arts and production teams and also senior leaders. We are also keen in how scripture is distorted at Willow to benefit the powerful, specifically, the wealthy, white, male.
One historical example of what happens when biblical interpretation is in the hands of the powerful: during the days of slavery in the South, Christian Patriarchalists distorted scripture and taught and practiced slavery as ‘biblical’. Other historical examples of what happens when biblical interpretation is in the hands of the powerful: Christians implemented The Inquisition, Witch Hunts, and Indulgences—all with ‘biblical’ support.
When scriptural interpretation is in the hands of the powerful and scripture is distorted to benefit and defend the evils of the powerful, the obvious results are evil practices justified as ‘biblical’. This essay is about the biblical distortions from Steve Carter, Teaching Pastor at Willow, that benefit the powerful, specifically the wealthy, white, male. First, a few items to put the subject in context.
Respect and Domination are Mutually Exclusive
Bill Hybels, Senior Pastor of Willow, began a new sermon series titled, “Love Everyone, Always.” The first sermon is title, “Respect Everyone, Always,” October 23, 2016. In the sermon, Bill outlined 10 points defining “respect”. As point number four, Bill instructed “don’t interrupt or dominate” in the context of having a conversation with someone. This is the only context Bill used on the subject of “dominate”; Bill only scratched the surface on the subject. At least, he brought up the subject. No doubt, Bill tapped into his egalitarian background by bringing up the subject of domination and presenting it as incongruous with respect.
Egalitarians are clearly aware that respect and domination are mutually exclusive. That’s because domination is the root, the core, of Patriarchy. God instructs us to respect everyone, always. But domination entered the human scene only after the Fall and only as a consequence of the Fall. Before the Fall, God gave dominion to both man and woman over the earth, but not over each other. When Jesus walked the earth, he practiced dominion over nature and over unclean spirits, but never over a human. If God does not practice dominion over humans, God certainly is not going to instruct or command humans to dominate each other. Dominion, or control, of one human(s) over another human(s) is contrary to God’s nature and contrary to his instructions to us. Dominion over humans is part of the fallen nature of humans.
Dominion and Patriarchy are synonymous. The three common forms of domination practiced by patriarchalists are based on 1) gender, 2) race, and 3) class: 1) men over women; 2) in our country, USA, white and white supremacy over ethnic minorities; 3) the rich and influential over the poor and vulnerable. The ethnic component varies from culture to culture; but in patriarchal societies, these are the three common forms of dominion that make up Patriarchy.
In recent years, in the USA, Christian Patriarchalists have been popularizing Dominion Theology in politics. Dominion Theology seeks to establish our nation governed—ruled, dominated, that is—by Christians based on understanding and interpretation of scripture and biblical law. Dominion Theology is based on the belief, by Christian Patriarchalists, that God gave the New World, America, to the European Christian conquerors—an idea similar to Judaic Zionism of God giving the Promised Land to the Israelites. In general, Christian Patriarchalists who adhere to Dominion Theology are supportive of Judaic Zionism in the Middle East. Dominion Theology is highly controversial within Christianity and has many flaws—one of which is ingrained racism. In general, Egalitarians do not adhere to Dominion Theology since it falls under the bigger umbrella of Patriarchy. However, I have come across subgroups among Egalitarians who lean toward Dominion Theology and who are also supportive of Judaic Zionism.
I am not going to critique Dominion Theology here. I mention it to point out its connection to Patriarchy and Christian Patriarchalists as an example of the “domination” that Christian Patriarchalists seek to practice.
Steve Carter and Domination
As I have written numerous times before, Steve Carter teaches and models Patriarchal principles. Even though Willow has been making great effort to instruct Steve in Egalitarian theology, Steve continues to practice and model Patriarchy, on and off-stage. Steve’s form of Patriarchy is common among Christian Patriarchalists, and is it very deceitful and dangerous.
Immediately following Bill’s sermon on “Respect Everyone, Always,” Steve followed up with a post on social media summarizing Bill’s 10 points. Steve makes a notable omission on his summary of the 10 points: Steve omits “dominate” under point number four.
Unintentional omission or a difference of opinion? Steve’s summary is identical to Bill’s summary, except for the obvious omission. Viewed in light of Steve’s other Patriarchal tendencies, Steve’s omission may well have been intentional.
Wealthy, White, Male Domination
During the October 9, 2016 message titled, “Turning Disruption into Reconciliation,” Steve made a compelling case for ‘reconciliation’ under the model of ‘benevolent’ Patriarchy from his interpretation of the story of Jacob and Esau. In short, ‘reconciliation’ between someone who has experienced hurt and loss, such as “racism” or “sexism”, and the perpetrator rests on prayer for the turning of the hearts. Steve compared the examples of “cultural disruptions” of “racism” and “sexism” to the loss that Esau experienced from Jacob’s trickery, and placed “practical” [financial] ‘restitution’ solely on the hands of the perpetrator in the form of “gifts.”
Steve neglected to mention that Jacob and Esau never saw each other again after their beautiful encounter of ‘reconciliation.’ What kind of reconciliation is that if the two never saw each other again? Steve reduced people who have experienced “racism” and “sexism” to people who lash out of anger and bitterness. In past sermons and also off stage, Steve has dismissed people who seek “justice” [for racism and sexism] as people who lash out of “bitterness” and “revenge”. Additionally, Steve undermined the severity of racism and sexism by de-classifying them as injustices and re-classifying them as “cultural disruptions”. The word “injustice” is difficult for Christian Patriarchalists to hear since they view seeking justice as a “political agenda”.
In the message, Steve emphasized prayer as the way to turn the hearts so that ‘reconciliation’ can take place. Steve also mentioned the “gifts” that Jacob gave to Esau during their ‘reconciliatory’ meeting. However, the gifts—given by either generosity or by guilt—were in no way equivalent to restitution. By the way, “financial restitution” was not even mentioned in the message. Something else that Steve neglected to state is that in this country, USA, people who experience racism or sexism have the legal “right” to seek full financial restitution and they don’t have to wait for the turning of the heart of the perpetrator to obtain it, nor is full financial restitution dependent on whatever “gifts” —if any—the perpetrator decides to give. Jesus taught and modeled a gospel of full reconciliation and full [financial] restitution for the lesser party. The Old Testament has examples of full financial restitution as well. For examples, see the concept of Jubilee in the Old Testament, and the story of Philemon and Onesimus and also the Parable of Jesus about the Persistent Widow in the New Testament.
In Steve’s model, the only one who received full restitution was Jacob, the Patriarch who Steve presented as the deceiver and thief who thru trickery obtained the first born rights and blessing and who also received the favor and approval of God. This is not the first time Steve has used a weekend message to elevate the Old Testament model of the system of the Patriarchs. In this message however, Steve presented a ‘biblical’ model of how a deceiver and thief ended up receiving the favor and approval of God. A timely and pertinent message in light of the current presidential election where the Patriarchal Evangelical community is very supportive of a presidential candidate who has faulty character but is supported under the pretext that his is, or can be, someone who has been chosen by God to be president of the United States. Steve with his patriarchal interpretation on Jacob, has given Patriarchal Evangelicals ‘biblical’ support for endorsing a presidential candidate well known as a racist, sexist, and sexual predator. Immediately following Steve’s message, support for the un-mentionable presidential candidate surged rapidly—maybe a coincidence, maybe not. If the degenerate candidate wins the presidency, Steve Carter, via Willow, may have some credit for the win. Unfortunately, Bill Hybels has not spoken up specifically against the degenerate presidential candidate. Thereby, Bill’s silence passively allows Steve’s subversive message to have more power in support of the degenerate presidential candidate.
Steve may have had good intentions to address racism and sexism and reconciliation in the message. But, the way in which Steve structured the subject promoted the ‘benevolent’ model of patriarchy. Comparing racism and sexism to Esau’s state of loss was Steve’s first endorsement of patriarchy, and the comparisons spiraled downward as Steve presented the ‘benevolent’ Patriarchal model where the perpetrator gets to solely decide the ‘reconciliatory’ “gifts.” Putting the ‘reconciliatory’ “gifts” in the hands of the perpetrator is an insult to those experiencing racism and sexism and it undermines the gospel that Jesus modeled which is based on full reconciliation/restitution. Putting the ‘reconciliatory’ “gifts” in the hands of the perpetrator also undermines the laws of our land for full [financial] restitution. In many ways, the laws of our land are closer to scripture’s model of full restitution than are Steve’s model of ‘benevolent’ Patriarchy.
Steve presented the typical ‘benevolent’ Patriarchal model that elevates ‘unity’ or ‘reconciliation’ over justice and full restitution for those who have experienced “racism” or “sexism”. Such distortion of scripture is similar to when Christian Patriarchalists elevate ‘forgiveness’ or ‘unity’ over justice and restitution for rape or domestic violence survivors. Christian reconciliation has no room for racism or sexism. But, instead of addressing injustice, Steve undermines it with his call for a “change of heart”. Such mentality is typical for patriarchalists who enable abuse and impunity and normalize wealthy, white, male dominance. Steve’s exhortation to the powerful to have a “change of heart” and to be ‘benevolent’ is deceptive since it ultimately endorses the wealthy, white, male domination model. Benevolent is obviously better then cruel, but the core problem is domination. Steve does not tackle domination, he upholds it.
Another horrific biblical distortion in Steve’s message is on the subject of contentment. Steve presented Esau as grateful and humble for whatever “gifts” Jacob bestowed upon him and used him as a model to exhort the inferior to do the same. Since Steve compared victims of racism and sexism to Esau, then the victim of racism or sexism should also be thankful and grateful for whatever “gifts” their perpetrators choose to bestow upon them. This is typical patriarchal mentality that tells the inferior to be thankful for whatever scraps the superior choose to bestow upon them and another way in which justice is undermined. Example, “You are complaining about your hourly wage? You should be content that you have a job at all!”
Yet, another horrific biblical distortion in Steve’s message is victim blaming. Steve clearly points out Esau’s role in giving up his own birth rights, thereby Steve blames the victim for his loss. Following up on the comparison between Esau and those who have experienced racism or sexism, the victims themselves are to blame for the racism and sexism they have experienced.
This is not the first time Steve has elevated the wealthy, white, male domination model. In the past, Steve has distorted scripture to condemn the poor who criticize the rich and powerful and has distorted scripture in order to defend the rich and powerful. Steve has condemned ethnic minorities, such as when he condemned the young African-American teen of not being capable of having “convictions of steel” due to his fear of his grave circumstances. Steve has condemned women as faulty and inferior such as his portrayals of Eve and Miriam, portrayals which he later had to correct on stage. Steve does not promote reconciliation between the rich and poor, between men and women, between white and colored. Instead, Steve’s tribalistic and condemning character reinforces hierarchical divisions and elevates the wealthy, white, male domination model. Ironically, Steve promoted such domination model in his message on ‘reconciliation’—misleading and deceptive message, indeed.
There is no point in me approaching Steve on his biblical distortions and promotion of Patriarchal principles. I have tried in the past and only received denials and personal attacks. His most recent responses have been via email. Steve has emailed me and invited me to meet with him as a pretext to get me to stop writing about him. I said no to his invitation to meet and Steve’s true character revealed itself, character in him I had already seen in the past. His passive-aggressive, bullying, dismissive, controlling, arrogant and domineering character quickly surfaced to demand that I stop writing about him and demand that I remove all my posts about him. Steve threw a tantrum via email—as much as a person can throw a tantrum via email. Steve has thrown himself into tantrums against my critiques before; so, I wasn’t surprised to see it via email. I don’t plan to publish his emails, but I do plan to write a post on his email responses and to quote him as a way to point out his immature and bullying character. I would gladly forward Steve’s emails to an Elder or senior leader who has oversight of Steve if he or she makes a request for those emails.
Elders and Senior Leaders
But, I don’t expect such a request, since I have already tried to communicate with the Elders and senior leaders regarding Steve’s faulty character and biblical distortions. In the past attempts, I have received from them excuses and personal attacks as well. When an Elder is nominated at Willow, the church members are invited to present objections. I don’t know how well those who object are received, but when it comes to objecting to Steve Carter, the critics are met with personal attacks. I know. I have been a recipient of those personal attacks.
The Elders at Mark Driscoll’s church defended Mark Driscoll and they did not consider Mark’s arrogant and immature character as a disqualifier for senior leadership, nor did they consider Mark’s biblical distortions as a disqualifier.
On multiple occasions, I have presented the various ways in which Steve has revealed immature and arrogant character and how he has distorted scripture. On some occasions, Willow senior leadership has concurred with my assessments. Yet, Willow has promoted Steve to Teaching Pastor and has him currently in line to be the next Senior Pastor at Willow. Willow has made it clear to me that faulty character and biblical distortions are not disqualifiers for a male Patriarchalist in senior leadership…at Willow Creek Community Church.