So About that James MacDonald-Ed Stetzer Bribery Car…
I should’ve written about this days ago, or had someone on my staff write about it, but I’ve been busy with the new webcast set-up (it looks awesome, by the way) and preparing our church’s disaster trailer to haul off to do its thing this flood season. Thankfully, Julie Roys was on it, who is – by the way – one of two women I never want mad at me (the other is Janet Mefferd). I admire them both; they are tenacious.
As you know, I’ve had a bit of an axe to grind with Ed Stetzer since the days of #The15 when – as an executive at Lifeway – he was given lots of advance notice that Alex Malarkey’s book, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven, was false and yet he chose to keep it on the shelves. Even after we released email correspondence demonstrating that Stetzer was asked to pull it by the family, he sided with mammon, chided the messenger, and continued to sell it. When we broke the story worldwide, Stetzer and Lifeway lied and claimed they never knew it was false.
And you know me…once I grind an axe it’s hard to stop grinding.
So unless you’ve been under a rock (or only read Christian media that has a vested interest in keeping celebrity scandals under wraps), you know that James MacDonald’s empire collapsed and his pyramid-scheme of a kingdom has buried him in a pile of bad press. This is, in effect, due to the reporting of Julie Roys and another blog, The Elephant’s Debt.
But what caught my attention the other day is when Dee at the Wartburg Watch posted an article about Ed Stetzer receiving a ‘free’ car from MacDonald, which was apparently not free at all to MacDonald’s church, which is tens of millions of dollars in debt.
Days after previously reporting that Stetzer had allegedly received a car from MacDonald (and his church), Stetzer went on to reluctantly admit it.
That a megachurch pastor would lavish gifts upon his Evangelical Intelligentsia celebrity friends is hardly a scandal, as it happens all the time. It’s just part of the good old boys’ club that greases the wheels that make the evangelical machine go ’round.
When I put pressure upon Stetzer during #the15, he called my friend Phil Johnson, several of my more prominent blogger friends, and even spoke on the phone with one of my family members with whom he had a loose acquaintance, to try to get me and “minions” to back off. Stetzer didn’t want resolution, he just wanted the scandal to go away and thought he could make it go away by the sheer power of his charisma. Making scandals disappear is something these people do.
However, what is a scandal is that Stetzer is a contributing editor of Christianity Today, the de facto publication of the Evangelical Industrial Complex that serves as the spearhead of the liberalization of American Christianity and the gutter through which the sewer that most evangelical scandal flows.
Mark Galli, editor in chief for Christianity Today, told me that Stetzer was willing to meet with Galli and me to discuss the issue. Galli added that he did not want to discourage me from reporting on the gift to Stetzer, but said he didn’t see a story there. I insisted that any meeting with Stetzer be on the record, and Galli emailed Monday, saying Stetzer was “not comfortable meeting on the record.”
The scandal here is that Christianity Today provided suppressing cover for MacDonald during his scandals and seemed to be the last major Christian publication to be willing to (reluctantly) cover his collapse. In fact, Christianity Today played a role in trying to do damage control and public relations (I know no better term to describe it), trying to negotiate between MacDonald and those he was suing for exposing him. Furthermore, Christianity Today published MacDonald’s article on why it’s Biblical to sue other Christians, which almost everybody at the time thought was really weird (and wrong) to say the least, especially given its timing.
As Roys notes, “According to the Society of Professional Journalists’ (SPJ) Code of Ethics, journalists should “avoid conflicts of interest, real or perceived.” They should “refuse gifts, favors, fees, free travel and special treatment . . . that may compromise integrity or impartiality, or may damage credibility.”
Christianity Today tried to claim to Roys that just because Stetzer is a managing editor of the publication, it doesn’t mean he works for them, because he’s a writer on his own sub-blog and not a “journalist.”
I just want to point out that people writing for Christianity Today are not necessarily journalists (only according to Christianity Today), but “bloggers” like Julie Roys clearly are journalists. Score one for “bloggers.”
However, Roys pointed out that Christianity Today pays the Billy Graham Center – which employs Stetzer – a monthly fee for letting them use Stetzer’s ‘services.’ The money, no doubt, is used to compensate Stetzer.
Here are the established facts so far:
- Ed Stetzer works for Christianity Today and is hugely influential at the publication.
- The publication was in the hip-pocket of James MacDonald after nearly everyone else had abandoned him due to his own unrepentant misdeeds.
- Ed Stetzer was given a car by James MacDonald, along with a bunch of cash and other things that Roys documents in her reporting.
The whole crooked machine needs to be brought down. And Stetzer is a huge, huge part of the crooked machine.
A Christian leader, according to 1 Timothy 3:3, should not be “greedy for filthy lucre.”
A guy who will sell books by a quadriplegic teenager who was begging him to stop because the story with his name attached was false – and chose to keep selling it anyway – is the kind of guy who would happily take a car and 15 thousand in cash to provide PR and bury scandals in the press.
[Publisher’s Note: My favorite part about Dee’s article was Joe Thorn doing his darndest to defend Stetzer to the Wartburg Watch. Lol. – JD Hall]