13 min readHe Who Judges From Afar
The following is a response my dad and I wrote together:
First thing I encountered this morning was a link to Michael Marcavage’s article inhorrifically titled, “Tattoos for Jesus? Group Raises Funds for ‘Church Plant’ by Tattooing Members, Sampling Booze.” I had been wondering when Marcavage, a campaigner for abstinence and critic of Jeff Durbin and Marcus Pittman, would strike. He had contacted me about a week before ReformCon through the website. Something about the request for contact set off red alarm bells so I asked Jeff Durbin about the guy. Turns out he has been a critic for a while and is particularly focused upon any and all references to alcohol. So I asked what he wanted to talk about and it was clear it was all about the “tone” of the conference. Obviously, Apologia is not your run-of-the-mill Reformed Baptist Church or something, so he was particularly sensitive to any references to beer tasting (I detest beer) or anything that doesn’t seem, well, appropriate for Sunday morning (even if it wasn’t happening on a Sunday morning). I had no interest in assisting him in his campaign against Jeff and Marcus, and informed him so. But, I knew, eventually, he’d do something.
So, he did. In an example of what used to be called “yellow journalism” on an incredible level, he wrote the above named article. Based upon what kind of careful and fair research? Marcus Pittman’s Facebook page and the old ReformCon website. That’s it. He literally put the entire article together by stringing together chatter on an FB page, including comments, along with a single offer made for folks at ReformCon to do some beer tasting. And there you have it. No research, no attempt at fairness, nothing. In the process the mess he made of what actually happened at Apologia Studios one night is comical—until it gets picked up by other so-called “Christian media” outlets and, of course, by Hashophet Merachoq (it’s Hebrew. It means “he who judges from afar”).
My daughter, Summer, has written up her thoughts on the issue, which I include below, with a few insertions of my own in italics:
As a member of Apologia Church, I’ve been watching for some time now as those around me have come up with ways to help fund their church plant in Kauai. I have a friend whose 9 year old daughter is making rainbow loom bracelets to sell to try to fund her next trip to Kauai. I’ve gained weight participating (read: purchasing and consuming) in bake sales, cotton candy sales, and dinners, the financial beneficiaries of which are the Apologia Kauai church plant. When I was down for the count with a terrible cold, one friend dropped off bags full of tea and herbs and seasonings she had purchased in bulk. When I asked her how much I could pay her for them, she said, “Nothing. Just donate to the church plant instead.” In fact, I hear that a lot. The members of the church are coming out in droves, giving of their time, talents, and energy and all they ask is that you donate to the church plant in return.
Apologia Church, in concert with the The Reformed Pubcast, came together and put on a conference called ReformCon. The speakers included Dr. Scott Oliphint, my dad, John Samson, Jeff Durbin, and ND Wilson. The conference was three days of Gospel proclamation and a celebration of Reformed Theology.
It was truly humbling watching all the work that went into the conference from behind-the-scenes. I know of so many women, busy moms with full plates, who were absolutely unselfish with their time and talents and whose names will never appear anywhere on a website or a thank-you list. And you know what? They don’t even want their names there. They just wanted to help put on an edifying conference that their guests were going to enjoy and be a part of funding the church plant.
As a way to offer conference goers one more way to fellowship and enjoy each other, there was one meet planned at a local pub. One. I did not attend, but from the pictures and videos I saw posted afterwards, I was sad to have missed out on the fellowship.
I was on Facebook one night when I saw live videos being posted on other church member’s personal pages about what was going on at Apologia Studios. A church member, and his friend, both of whom are tattoo artists, were donating their time to tattoo personal friends and church members who wanted some ink. Their only ask was that the recipients donate money towards one of the upcoming missions to Kauai. This was not an “event”. This was not “our doors are open, come get some ink.” This was one of many instances of those committed to the plant donating their time and their specific talents in order to be involved in the church plant.
Perhaps this is why the reductionary title of an article posted onwas rather bothersome to me: “Tattoos for Jesus? Group Raises Funds for ‘Church Plant’ by Tattooing Members, Sampling Booze”. One hardly needs to go farther than just the title to know that the author knows next to nothing about all that the church is doing to fund their Kauai plant. Reducing the talent and efforts of everyone in the church from small kiddos making bracelets to fund their own plane ticket so they can be missionaries to a far away place, to adults working tirelessly for months to put on a Gospel-proclaiming conference is bad reporting at best and complete slander at worst.
The author of the article says, “a supporter named Thad has the logo for Pirate Christian Radio tattooed on his arm.” Poor Supporter Thad. All he wanted was to get a tattoo of a chi ro, and through a lack of integrity in reporting, he will now be forever labeled as Chris Rosebrough’s biggest fan.
The author (which has now been picked up by, so you know it’s going places) is woefully ignorant of the topic he wrote about, but I’m not entirely sure the goal was honestly representing Apologia’s efforts towards their church plant. It seems, rather, that the goal was highlight and dramatize areas where the author disagrees with Apologia, and paint the church in a certain light.
[Allow me to note that much of what Marcavage included here was silly banter in comment boxes on Facebook—and hence is hardly understandable. The “dirty Trinity” symbol, plainly included to sound scandalous, or as Hash (short for Hashophet!) put it, like “debauchery,” was actually part of the razzing of a guy who got a tricetra in the form of brush strokes, so someone said it looked like the marks made by a glass or bottle on a table. It was so painfully obvious Marcavage was following the worst of the MSM play book in looking for “useful verbiage” to paint a picture—not to speak the truth. Further, there is a reason Thad was getting a chi-rho. I have a chi-rho. My son Joshua is getting a chi-rho. And Thad wanted to get a chi-rho as well. Originally it was a discussion we had over Christmas, that we would all get chi-rhos, since Josh is my son, and Thad is my son-in-law. In fact, I’m fairly sure I had already provided the funds for that chi-rho. The symbol, laughingly identified with Pirate Christian Radio (we are all still chuckling about that one) is an ancient symbol made up of the first two letters of the name of Christ in Greek. It represents His Lordship and sovereignty. Which is probably why Pirate Christian Radio uses it, too. And if someone wants to do the tattoo debate—I’ve covered it many times as an example of properly examining the context of OT law, so you had better be ready with some pretty meaningful research.]
The author goes on to say, “As he reads the comments below the video, Pittman notes that a viewer characterized the activity as the ‘Marilyn Manson-ization of the church.’” This is either a complete misrepresentation or else the author completely misunderstood what Marcus was saying. A Kinist, trolling Pittman’s page, dropped a link to an article by another Kinist, titled “The Marilyn Manson-ization of the church”. This kinist in particular enjoys taunting Apologia, as they absolutely repudiate his racist, heretical beliefs. Marcus was not agreeing with the Kinist, rather laughing his foolishness off.
Unsurprisingly, JD Hall, who wrote his goodbye letter to blogging back in April, took the chance to blog about this. He said in his “Goodbye” letter, “The track record of being right for Pulpit & Pen has been stellar. The track record for being gracious, not so much.” Unfortunately, he proves the former wrong and the latter true. He decided to use source material fromthat doesn’t have its facts straight and used the taunting of a kinist to dramaticize its points, and Hall’s response was nothing close to gracious. Not only did he call the original, hyperbolic, slanderous article “articulate”, he takes the opportunity to say that, “Like their compatriots at the “Reformed Pub,” which is the internet’s cesspool of Calvinist-flavored immaturity and ungodliness, these men are hardly men, but rather boys giggling about intestinal gas and body parts who cloak theology with lasciviousness. These are children who profess a right dividing of Law and Gospel, who season their behavior with latent antinomianism.”
Mmmm. I can feel the graciousness just welling up inside him.
He then turns himself into a schoolyard bully, insinuating that Marcus Pittman thought that those getting the tattoos at the Studio were “cool”, saying that was “probably not something he enjoyed earlier in life.”
Perhaps it is in our speech that the men can truly be separated from the boys. I, for one, do not have to worry about whether or not my pastor is writing such nastiness. No, he’s too busy planting a church in Kauai, taking on the Mormons in a state where it’s exceedingly difficult and dangerous to do so. He’s busy ministering the people in his flock under his care. He’s busy standing outside abortion mills and taking seriously the call to “hold back those stumbling towards the slaughter.” Tell me, JD, how does sitting behind a keyboard and playing schoolyard bully allow you to redefine the definition of a “man”?
My family has only officially been members of Apologia Church for a couple months. We began attending last fall. In that short time, through trials great, Jeff has ministered to us in the only way someone who lauds and loves the Lordship of Christ even in our suffering could. I’ve seen in my own life, and in the lives of others, the effect that his commitment to biblical thinking has had. I live in a church where the sovereignty of God in all things is a great comfort, and I hear it from the pulpit every Sunday. Yet JD characterizes those associated with Apologia as “the man-children engaged in this gutterizing of Calvinist soteriology.” Sir, you couldn’t be further from the truth.
[End of Summer’s comments]
There is much more I would like to say about this situation, and possibly will, though I have thousands of miles to drive over the next few weeks, dialogues with Mormons and Muslims to do, etc. But let me close with a few words to Hashophet. First, your jumping on a Facebook-level researched piece of yellow journalism as if it had been delivered from on high so as to trash Jeff and the rest of the folks at Apologia is just another example of what you have become over the years. Jeff is off in Hawaii doing battle with the Mormons. I spent two hours today doing battle with the Hebrew Israelites, though that will surely only garner me more death threats in the process. And you were spewing Pharisaical tripe based upon ridiculously unfair “journalism” and taking shots at both Jeff and myself in the process. Well done, Hash! Sure hope you were doing something worthwhile today that didn’t involve spewing nastiness in the “Bunker” or working your “sources” digging dirt on your next target/victim.
Second, I love this little line: “The article says that “White declined to speak about his appearance at [their conference].” Simply put…I bet he did.” Yeah, Hash, I’m a real coward when it comes to talking to folks. Or, I just happened to have been blessed to see through someone who was trying to promote their own personal agenda and crusade. Wish I could always do that! Sadly, I can’t, as you have proven.
Let me tell you, Hashophet: I would much rather be associated with Jeff Durbin, an on-fire, committed, loving, going-at-it-from-sunrise-to-midnight pastor who invests himself in his people, puts his money where his mouth is, crazy man than with all the self-righteous Pharisees who are just too perfect to have anything at all to do with anyone who doesn’t look just like them. This guy is sold out, all the way—and I love that. His people are giving up careers and striking out to get this church started, moving their families across an ocean and trying to start businesses so they can minister in a very difficult context. Shame on you for joining in a personal, unfair, prejudiced shot at folks who are doing what they do for the glory of Christ. And all to take a shot at me in the process. Reprehensible. How about taking all that time and energy you have for judging from afar and turning it to getting your folks so excited they will want to up and move and start a church in some far-away, difficult place? It sure would be a better use of your time!
Well, enough for now. A big old storm has developed and is heading my way, so if I want to get this posted, I better do so quickly!