This is a guest post by Matt Boedy down in Georgia. Matt is interested in the evangelical Christian culture wars and is on a watch list for Charlie Kirk. Kirk is a controversial member of James MacDonald’s Harvest Bible Chapel.
“When you go to work, you are a Christian at your workplace. You’re not a broadcaster who happens to be Christian. You’re a Christian.”
“The beauty of the Internet is that anybody can be a broadcaster now.”
Open my eyes that I may see wonderful things in your law.
Psalm 119:18 NIV
This writer is working on another post about the issues inside James MacDonald’s Harvest Bible Chapel in Chicago. Matt Boedy, who is a college professor down in Georgia, approached me and asked if he could publish a story about Charlie Kirk who has a history with James MacDonald’s controversial church network. This is Boedy’s post about controversial commentator Charlie Kirk. Matt is interested in rhetoric and the evangelical culture wars, in the same way that John Fea who is based at Messiah College outside Harrisburg, Pennsylvania also writes about evangelical Christians and politics. John Fea who has written op-eds for the Washington Post, Chicago Tribune and other news sources is considered the source to go to by the media in discussing evangelicals and politics. John Fea published a book about the 2016 election that Mark Noll has endorsed and supported by Mark Noll. You can read my review of that book in, “The Wondering Eagle Book Review: Fear, Lust for Power and 81%. A Look at John Fea’s “Believe Me – The Evangelical Road to Donald Trump.” Getting back to Matt Boedy, Matt is on a watch list for Charlie Kirk and fact checks him regularly. Matt published his story about his experience in an Evangelical Free Church and Acts 29’s Riverside Community Church at Columbia, South Carolina a couple of years back. If you want to read more about Matt you can do so in, “Matt Boedy on James Walden’s Alleged Ethical Violations: The Overall Perspective on the Evangelical Free Church of America” and “Disturbing Allegations of Spiritual Abuse at James Walden’s Acts 29 Riverside Community Church in Columbia, South Carolina.” So having explained Matt I will turn over the remainder of the post to him.
James MacDonald, head of Harvest Bible Chapel, who once was on President Trump’s evangelical advisory council, has an interesting relationship with Trump supporter and conservative commentator, Charlie Kirk, founder and director of Turning Point USA.
Kirk is from the Chicago area, graduated from Wheeling High School in Wheeling, a northwest suburb. His current home address is also nearby. And Kirk is a part (Kirk calls himself a “proud member”) of Harvest Chapel. Kirk also gave the 2018 commencement speech to Harvest Christian Academy where he says he goes to the Rolling Meadows Harvest campus.
Kirk has been somewhat tight-lipped about his version of Christianity, though he does promote evangelical Christianity a lot. For more on that, read my analysis of the relationship between Kirk’s faith and politics.
But on MacDonald and Kirk, Kirk has “liked” on his YouTube two James MacDonald sermons. Kirk also has quoted MacDonald (without citation) on Twitter.
Kirk also was promoted as part of Harvest Chapel’s 30th anniversary events. Kirk was asked to give his “faith testimony” on a weekend service.
Kirk sat down with Chapel’s executive pastor Luke MacDonald, son of James, to record that testimony and James MacDonald posted it to his YouTube page in August 2018.
The younger MacDonald told Kirk that his strong political beliefs and strong “spiritual faith” don’t “seem to be in conflict.” Kirk then describes the gospel as a “gospel of liberation” and adds he won’t “tell anyone else how to live their life.”
MacDonald then asks Kirk how we can talk about politics from a less combative tone and stance. Kirk then suggests that we should come from “a position of love and understanding and empathy.” Kirk then says he never shouts people down, use pejoratives, or accuse.
If you have seen any video of Kirk on campus or on Fox News, you know his last statement is false. It also is clear he doesn’t “love” or empathize with the “Left,” or the “sinister Left” as Kirk calls it.
Kirk then suggests he is not advocating for one political party, but for “ideas and morals and values that we as Christians care about.” This part is true, to a point. But to suggest his issues are the only issues “we are Christians” care about is false.
Finally, Kirk tells the story of how he got to Harvest. He says he grew Presbyterian but “drifted away” and then heard about Harvest seemingly during his high school and young adult years (he is 25 years old) around 2008-2012. Kirk said James MacDonald as preacher “resonated” with him because of the pastor’s “life is suffering” mantra.
This certainly has spiritual application but also has clear effects on Kirk’s political ideology, as he portrays conservatives as victims. It is ironic that his associate, Candace Owens, the communications director for Turning Point, prides herself on her “victor, not victim” mentality, and yet also echoes Kirk on victim status for conservatives.
In that 2018 commencement speech, Kirk speaks on trials, particularly the trial for him of not being accepted to West Point, something in other platforms he blamed on affirmative action. Here, he said it was God’s blessing because it gave him the opportunity to start Turning Point.
He then suggests that such an accomplishment would not have happened without the “amazing teaching” of Harvest Chapel. He quotes James MacDonald (see also here) in that speech when Kirk says “when you choose to sin, you choose to suffer.” He also cites MacDonald’s “gospel in four words” and “two words.”
Kirk then suggests a “historic collision” between “darkness and light” is coming and his generation will have to “handle” some things that “were prophesied.” Specifically he references the tribulations of the ‘world’ “coming for” Christians first.
What might Kirk be referring to? Harvest teaches “the glorious, visible, personal, premillennial return of the Lord Jesus Christ.” In premillennialism, Jesus reigns over earth for a thousand years. Historical premillennialism places “the return of Christ just before the millennium and just after a time of great apostasy and tribulation.” But “dispensational premillennialism (the majority premillennial view) holds that there will be a future, literal thousand year reign of Jesus Christ upon the earth following “a seven-year period of intense tribulation” for Christians.
Each premillennial doctrine suggests Christians will be persecuted before Christ returns. Kirk is suggesting this will happen in the lifetime of those high school graduates he was speaking to. Kirk has also talked about the war between Left and Right in similar dramatic words.