Obama, social media

Social media pastors cast stones on Obama’s faith

January 22, 2013

As millions watched President Obama take a public oath of office, popular mega church pastors sought to cast some social media stones on our president’s faith.

Mark Driscoll, pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, set off a social media firestorm with this tweet:

That message was retweeted over 3,000 times and favored over 1,000 times on Twitter.

Now, I think it is just great that Driscoll prayer for our president. Thank you, Mark. However, what is extremely troubling and ugly is that Driscoll has no understanding of Obama’s faith. Our president has publicly and privately shared his faith. Not only was he a long time member of a church in Chicago but has shared about his personal relationship with Jesus Christ over the course of his adult life.

In the beginning of 2012, Obama gave the keynote speech at the National Prayer Breakfast. Obama said,

“For me, as a Christian, it also coincides with Jesus’s teaching that ‘for unto whom much is given, much shall be required… I know that far too many neighbors in our country have been hurt and treated unfairly over the last few years, and I believe in God’s command to ‘love thy neighbor as thyself.

The facts are overwhelming despite Mark Driscoll’s ignorance. The president is on record proclaiming his faith and belief in Jesus Christ.  Obama has spoken at length about praying and reading a personal Christian devotional everyday.  In addition, our president regularly praying and meets with Christian pastors for spiritual advice.

In 2011, Obama responded to the questioning of his faith at the National Prayer Breakfast:

My Christian faith, then, has been a sustaining force for me over these last few years, all the more so when Michelle and I hear our faith questioned from time to time. We are reminded that ultimately what matters is not what other people say about us, but whether we’re being true to our conscience and true to our God. Seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you, as well… As I travel across the country, folks often ask me, what is it that I pray for? And like most of you, my prayers sometimes are general: Lord, give me the strength to meet the challenges of my office.

Still, other mega church pastors have commended Obama’s faith on inauguration day. John Piper, a popular mega church pastor and author, tweeted:

I don’t agree with 100% of President Obama’s stances on political issues but that doesn’t mean I need to publicly bash his belief in Christ. This type of Christian stoning is ugly. It in no way furthers the Kingdom of God. It is easy to lob stones across social media and never face the person who you defame. On social media it is just too easy to be snarky, rude, or just plain uncouth. Anyone who is in Christ needs to resist the temptation to hurl a stone at another on social media.

Driscoll and Piper have very successful ministries that have brought thousands to Christ. I commend them for that. They reach the unchurched.

However, is it possible to live a life of ministry without bringing down others who’s Christian beliefs don’t match up with ours? Yes! I may not be particularly pleased with an organization’s or church’s stance on an issue or two but I can still support the fruit of their work.

We Christians must strive to end the questioning of another’s faith in Christ. God is the ultimate arbitrator of who is and is not a follower of Christ. Let’s put down the stones. As Jesus said, “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.”

Facebook Comments


  • Bethany Suckrow January 22, 2013 at 11:22 am

    Thanks for writing this, Alan. I think it is good to call them out on their bad behavior, especially as one pastor to another.

    However, and I’m not accusing you of this, I’m just sharing something that has convicted me recently, I really wish that we would all just stop paying attention to Driscoll and Piper. Their behavior on social media (and from their pulpits, because I really don’t like a lot of their theology in general) reminds me of that part in the Dark Knight when Alfred explains to Bruce that “some people just want to watch the world burn.” I’m far enough into the Christian blogosphere to realize that Piper and Driscoll make idiotic, anti-gospel, judgmental, asinine statements like this roughly once a week. They tweet something ridiculous, and let bloggers and tweeters go up in arms over it without ever acknowledging the criticism or opening it for healthy discussion. I can only assume that they do it for attention and to piss people off. The thing is, that means that by getting upset over it and tweeting at them/blogging about it, we’re giving them what they want. People wind up taking shots at one another, and everyone says something stupid and everyone looks dumb, not just Piper and Driscoll. It is an enormous waste of energy, time, talent and platform to do this.

    I want to ignore them and be the living example of real Christian love that Driscoll and Piper have forgotten how to be. I don’t think I can do that and run around, stamping out their fires every day. I want to be the Living Water to the thirsty.

    • Alan Rudnick January 22, 2013 at 12:01 pm

      Bethany, very true on attention towards Driscoll and Piper. I hope I can respond with restraint and thoughtfulness. I strive to respond and not “react”.

      • Bethany Suckrow January 22, 2013 at 3:04 pm

        I think you did a great job, far greater than several other people that exploded yesterday and today. I’m just wondering if I’m the only one that feels like this whole relationship between Piper and Driscoll and social media has turned into a theological burn-fest.

    • John_P617 January 22, 2013 at 1:02 pm

      This isn’t post judgmental? Are you not passing your judgment on Driscoll and Piper? You don’t agree with them though, so that’s ok… right? Jesus calls us to love one another and to rebuke evil. There is a difference between judgment and rebuke. You are not judging someone by referring to the Word of God. That being said you must first correct your own sin before speaking to someone else about theirs.

      Not to defend Driscoll or Piper, but which statements have they made that were anti-gospel? If it’s roughly once a week, they shouldn’t be hard to find.

      • Alan Rudnick January 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm

        John, I don’t feel I’m being judgmental. In order to be judgmental I would have to identify a behavior in and person and pronounce that that person is awful. I merely pointed out that the behavior is not agreeable to Christian ministry.

        • John_P617 January 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm

          I was actually directing that comment at Bethany’s post. But, I agree with what you just said about judgment. I don’t necessarily agree with their behavior not being agreeable to Christian ministry, but that’s another topic entirely.

      • Bethany Suckrow January 22, 2013 at 2:59 pm

        I’m sorry if my comment came across as judgmental; that is not my intention. I don’t think that Piper and Driscoll are awful people, and I don’t completely disagree with their theology on every issue. I also would never take it upon myself to declare them unbelievers, no matter how much I disagree with them. Driscoll and Piper don’t seem to share my belief that it is not our place as humans to judge one another’s salvation status; only God can do that. The Bible has made this clear, and that is why I find their remarks antigospel. Their message, which is that they know that Obama isn’t a Christian even though he has professed Christ publicly several times, conflicts directly with Jesus’.

        Like Alan, my underlying message, if not communicated clearly, is that their words often communicate hatred and disregard for people. Another great example was Driscoll’s tweet last week about bloggers pontificating versus Jesus, who “got things done.” The obvious take away from that tweet was that bloggers don’t do anything important for the Kingdom of God, which is categorically untrue. The blogosphere erupted in frustration to his tweet, which proves the second half of my point – if you were paying attention – that the Christian blogosphere keeps giving platform and attention to Driscoll when they shouldn’t.

        You and I can agree to disagree that their behavior isn’t conducive to Christian ministry, but my apologies if you misunderstood my original comment.

        • John_P617 January 22, 2013 at 3:27 pm

          I didn’t misunderstand, Bethany. “They tweet something ridiculous, and
          let bloggers and tweeters go up in arms over it without ever
          acknowledging the criticism or opening it for healthy discussion. I can
          only assume that they do it for attention and to piss people off. The thing is, that means that by getting upset over it and tweeting at them/blogging about it, we’re giving them what they want. People wind up taking shots at one another, and everyone says something stupid and everyone looks dumb, not just Piper and Driscoll.” As where it may not have been your intent, you successfully passed judgement on both of them. You’ve made assumptions towards what their intentions are, have accused them of looking “dumb” and saying something stupid. Titus 3 2 to speak evil of no one, to be peaceable, gentle, showing all humility to all men.

          Please don’t get me wrong. I’m in no way condemning you here. Just
          reasoning out the Word with another believer.

          Isaiah 1:18 “Come now, and let us reason together,”
          Says the Lord,
          “Though your sins are like scarlet,
          They shall be as white as snow;
          Though they are red like crimson,
          They shall be as wool.

          • Bethany Suckrow January 22, 2013 at 3:43 pm

            I will admit that my word choice was itself vitriolic, subverting my own point. Thank you for calling me out on that.

  • Someone January 22, 2013 at 11:48 am

    I see what you’re saying. It’s just really hard to believe anyone who believes in abortion could be a Christ-follower. Maybe I’m totally off for thinking that; it’s just how I feel today, with the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade weighing heavy on my heart.

    • Alan Rudnick January 22, 2013 at 12:02 pm

      Is it possible to engage someone on the topic of abortion without questioning their belief in Jesus Christ?

  • Tim Ghali January 22, 2013 at 12:47 pm

    Thanks Alan. I don’t follow Driscoll on Twitter (or in any other way really) but still saw his words through a handful of RT’s and it is concerning. I hear what Bethany is saying and there is wisdom in drawing too much attention to it but for me the concern is that such judgmental and divisive words get RT’d by 3000 people and who knows how many people see that.
    I am fortunate to be a pastor who still has non-believing friends (sometimes it feels like too many and I wonder about that but that’s another story). I also talk to a number of people who are barely hanging on in their faith and among the many reasons, is that they want no part of this mentality.
    Over and over I try to appeal to some and articulate that beautiful things are happening in the church too but some feel they can’t get past not just the judgmentalism of the Driscolls and Pipers but also the many who love them. Some would rather disassociate.
    All that to say, yes, we don’t give them too much attention, we do need to channel our efforts to the work of the Kingdom but some times we need to rebuke and refute the judgmental nonsense that comes from some people who in some way, represent the church.

    • Alan Rudnick January 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm

      Agreed. However, at some point dishonesty needs to be addressed. It’s intellectually dishonest to paint Obama as someone who doesn’t believe in God, as Driscoll did.

  • Joe Rainone January 22, 2013 at 1:14 pm

    James chapter 2 verse 14 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? verse 20 Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless?

    In a time when our culture hangs onto abortion, homosexuality rights and total wickedness Is also a time when we need spiritual leaders who stand up for truth. just maybe these 2 people of God take Romans 1 Verses 24 to 32 seriously.

    24 Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves, 25 because they exchanged the truth about God for a lie and worshiped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed forever! Amen.

    26 For this reason God gave them up to dishonorable passions. For their women exchanged natural relations for those that are contrary to nature; 27 and the men likewise gave up natural relations with women and were consumed with passion for one another, men committing shameless acts with men and receiving in themselves the due penalty for their error.

    28 And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done. 29 They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, 30 slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, 31 foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless. 32 Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

    Abortion is murder, there is no doubt in this matter, and those who give approval to those who practice it are just as guilty as those who commit the sin. We hear about woman’s rights and gay rights, who should have more rights the creation or the creator? Where is Obama’s evidence of faith in allowing homosexual marriage and abortion under his administration? In many many instances he has doubted the Bible as God’s word and has refused to live up to it’s laws. I agree with Piper and Driscoll, Where is the evidence of the President’s faith because it certainly does not cling to any of the promises or word of God.

    • Bethany Suckrow January 22, 2013 at 3:45 pm

      Where is the evidence of your faith when you sin? When I sin? When Alan sins? That doesn’t make Obama an unbeliever; it makes him human. Nothing will separate us from the love of Christ if we claim Him as our Savior.

      • Joe Rainone January 22, 2013 at 10:07 pm

        The evidence of faith when I sin is lacking, however when I repent from my sin and acknowledge that what I did was sin, my faith shows up in believing God’s word that what i did was sin. The question of works is never doing the work but the motive why you do it. There has to be a statement coming from within yourself acknowledging God’s word as Truth for if you don’t then you are still in your sin and faith is surely not evident. The issue is many do not understand what Faith is. It is a Gift from God that allows a person to see their sin by believing in the promises and word of God and trusting in What God says. Adam sinned because he listen to his wife and not God. Abraham is justified because he listen to God and not man. Yes I sin, and I sin on a consistent basis. My faith is not perfect, but the fact that I recognize it is sin against God’s word and my desire to repent and grow closer to Christ’s likeness shows my faith. But when someone looks at God’s word and believes his opinion or the opinion of the culture is correct and that Holy Scripture is wrong, then this shows no Faith in God at all.

        • John_P617 January 22, 2013 at 10:49 pm

          Well stated, Joe.

        • Bethany Suckrow January 23, 2013 at 8:04 am

          I understand what you’re trying to say, and I don’t entirely disagree with you. But it seems like you’re implying that your faith always immediately convicts you of any wrongdoing, and that because Obama believes differently than you, then his faith must not be convicting him of his sin and his faith is inauthentic. Both parts of that are incredibly presumptuous. My point, in my original comment, and in my previous comment to you – and this is Alan’s ultimate point as well! – is that it is not our place to determine another person’s salvation. It is not our place to say that he does not believe in Jesus. Obama is a public figure, but comments like Driscoll’s completely ignore the grace that we should bestow him and one another as humans. What Driscoll is doing isn’t accountability to our leaders, it’s taking shots at him and parading his own self-righteousness. The holier-than-thou attitude is why people don’t like Christians to begin with. We need to stop pontificating about each other’s faith. There is no grace in that.

  • michael j. kimpan January 23, 2013 at 1:34 am

    thanks for this post. added my thoughts on driscoll’s comments and saun king’s twitter response as well :: http://www.mjkimpan.com/no-purpose/.

  • Video Blog: Mark Driscoll, Obama, & Comments - AlanRudnick.org January 24, 2013 at 8:42 am

    […] Mark Driscoll/social media pastors post generated a huge response. Thanks to Rachel Held Evans and Kate Shellnut over at Christianity […]

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