This post originally appeared October 22, 2019 on joshuamcnall.com.
Written by Dr. Josh McNall, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology
One of the biblical descriptions of Satan is that “He is filled with fury, because he knows his time is short” (Rev. 12:12).
I thought of that tendency recently as I watched a viral video of a prominent Christian leader lashing out with glib mockery towards a much-respected female Bible teacher (Beth Moore).
“Go home!” was the only thing he could think to say at the mention of her name.
Since the social media firestorm has long since reached peak levels, I hesitate to add to the growing pile of words and opinions. Still, I do have two brief thoughts.
ON RATCHETING IRRELEVANCE
First, it’s usually foolish (and sometimes sinful) to guess at people’s motives.
I don’t know all the factors that drove this shrill and sexist outburst. But if I had to guess, one factor in many such ungracious soundbites is something I call “ratcheting irrelevance.” And it affects more than just aging preachers.
These days, there is often a correlation between waning influence and the need to “ratchet up” the rhetoric (insults, caricatures, and ALL CAPS TYPING) to avoid the ultimate damnation of a celebrity culture: being forgotten.
“Ratcheting irrelevance” is being filled with fury (or at least sinful snark) because you know your air-time is short. But as with Lucifer, it’s both tragic and tacky, whatever your former status as “light-bearer.”
“These days, there is often a correlation between waning influence and the need to “ratchet up” the rhetoric to avoid the ultimate damnation of a celebrity culture: being forgotten.”
“GO HOME!”—A CALL TO PREACH
Second, a thought about those two memorable words: “Go home!”
I once preached a sermon by this title based on Christ’s usage of the now-infamous phrase with the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5; Luke 8).
But when Jesus says it, the “home” is not a literal household in which one may be barefoot and pregnant—and the command sounds vaguely like a call to preach! (patriarchal gasp):
“Go home to your own people and tell them how much the Lord has done for you, and how he has had mercy on you” (Mark 5:19).
I like this better.
And I’m halfway tempted to say that by accidentally quoting it, the grumpy guy in the video follows Caiaphas in unintentionally “prophesying” (cessationist gasp) in response to another Individual whose preaching ministry has borne great fruit.
Just Keep Preaching
In the end, the move to embrace sinful and mean-spirited rhetoric in the face of feared irrelevance is a danger we must all confront:
- on social media,
- in the public square,
- even in the family mini-van when “WHY IS NO ONE IS LISTENING!!? I SWEAR I’M GONNA DRIVE THIS THING OFF A CLIFF!!!” (Not actually spoken by me this past weekend, but… pretty close).
For Christ-followers, our greatest fear is not irrelevance but unfaithfulness to love God and neighbor as ourselves.
“Ratcheting irrelevance” is a reality.
But so is Christ’s call to “Go!” Just keep preaching, Sister.
“For Christ-followers, our greatest fear is not irrelevance, but unfaithfulness to love God and neighbor as ourselves.”
And for treatments of the topic from some leading Bible scholars, a good starting point is the multi-part series by my former classmate, Nijay Gupta. See also the work of Scot McKnight, Ben Witherington, and Lucy Peppiatt (just to name a few).