A post that looks at how the toxic masculine culture at Harvest Bible Chapel has failed. In a belief system where “Act Like Men” was paramount many men chose to stay silent and were not counter-cultural or pushed back against abuse for nearly two decades. Instead you also had females and those outside the system who were pushing back and speaking out. This post looks at how the “Act Like Men” culture at Harvest Bible Chapel ultimately failed.
“Leadership and learning are indispensable to each other.”
John F. Kennedy
“A good objective of leadership is to help those who are doing poorly to do well and to help those who are doing well to do even better.”
Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12 ESV
Promo for the Act Like Men conference
This is another topic that deserves to be analyzed and studied especially in the context of the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal. Evangelicalism often teaches the importance of men in an extreme view. It takes a scandal like Harvest Bible Chapel to really show how warped that teaching is, but before we proceed let’s look at how men are viewed by Neo-Calvinists.
The Hyper Masculine View of Man in the Neo-Calvinist Camp
In the Neo-Calvinist world a hyper view of masculinity is pushed. Its paraded and men in this movement are expected to back and support this extreme view. The other day at Desiring God Greg Morse wrote an article about a new movie called Captain Marvel. You can see the article here. In the article Greg Morse based his criticism on complementarian theology which in itself is problematic. Articles like that from Desiring God are a dime a dozen. They are cranked out in an incredible volume. But in the Neo-Calvinist camp women are ultimately viewed as being possessions of men. That is what male supremacy is all about in this aspect of theology.
Men it is often claimed has failed to step up to the table. They are often feminized and pansies who are futile. Men are described as being weak, not macho and lacking. John Eldredge in his book “Wild at Heart” also played to this theme. What do men do? They hunt, fish, do mixed martial arts, camp, shoot guns, mountain climb, and take risks in the process. Now as I write this I want to be clear that I am not opposed to a sport like hunting. I held a hunting license at one point in California and understand the appeal of the sport. But there exists a danger when something is classified in such a way. This theology has been espoused by John Piper, Mark Dever, Kevin DeYoung, Matt Chandler, Al Mohler and others like them. But in the hyper-masculine view of things men rule their house. They are the head of it. Women submit and often are not allowed in the decision making process. Women are to stay at home, not pursue a career, and be like Mrs Cleaver in Leave it to Beaver. Plus women are also viewed as baby making factories. If you pop out five kids in a year you are doing your job. Mark Driscoll taught that men are to conquer their wife in the bedroom. He once warned about a pussified nation and that women are penis homes. But this hyper masculine view of men was pushed by James MacDonald and the Act Like Men conferences. Watch that video up above as it gives great insight in this aspect of culture. But let’s pick this apart and show how the Harvest Bible Chapel culture is quite toxic and destructive.
Belittling Wives and Ridiculing Them
In the Dean Butters statement one aspect that also stood out with me is how James MacDonald would allegedly ridicule and put down other men’s wives. The blame was passed on to them. Though I am single I just scratched my head and was baffled. What kind of man stands by and allows his wife to be criticized? Or another wife to be criticized? Why would you choose to stay employed by an organization whose leader is mocking and baiting not just your wife but so many others? What makes this especially ironic is that in the Neo-Calvinist culture men are called to protect women. A man is responsible for the safety of his wife. I once knew a guy from a Sovereign Grace church that told me that he was responsible for his wife, her actions, and to oversea her in all functions. So if that is true why would so many men in marriages stand around and let James MacDonald mock and treat them in such a disturbing manner. That is something that I do not understand.
In the Harvest Bible Chapel From the Late 1990’s Until 2018 Where Were the Men?
So here is the situation…you had all these people in Harvest Bible Chapel who subscribed to this belief system that men were supposed to lead. They were to go out protect and guard their families. Guide them as they grew in their masculinity. They told their wife how to live, act and even what career she would choose as a housewife. There was all teaching about a man being responsible. A man steps up and take the reigns. A man is counter cultural. A man rises to the occasion and gives leadership to the community. Inside Harvest Bible Chapel in their Act Like Men conferences this was taught and re-enforced for nearly 20 years.
The question I would like to ask is…what happened? Did the theology and teaching work? When you had excessive financial abuse, emotional abuse, abuse of power and people being hurt did the men who subscribe to the theology step up to the plate? What about all the Harvest Bible Chapel pastors over the past two decades? Men who were on the worship team and worship program? What about all the Elder that existed from the late 1990’s until 2018? Did they rise to the occasion? Did they “Act Like Men” and speak up and challenge James MacDonald or others who enabled the system? Were they counter-cultural to the Harvest Bible Chapel culture?
No…many participated in the system and in the end they did nothing. They didn’t “Act Like Men” at all. They didn’t speak out. They looked the other way. When many had the knowledge and information about what is going on they instead chose to do nothing. You had a couple of exceptions like Jim Engleman and Ryan Mahoney but really that is about it. Yet many people at Harvest Bible Chapel claimed that they were men. Is this an example of cognitive dissonance in the culture of Harvest Bible Chapel? But there are other question to be raised as well.
When Neo-Calvinist Men Fail and Women Stand Up Instead and Are Bold
So in this story of Harvest Bible Chapel you have a situation where all these men into Neo-Calvinist theology about man hood fail. Yet consider the following. During the scandal you had some atheists and those on the outside speaking up. There are some bloggers and those in the media that have done so. But the most impressive in my view is that you had females who rose to the occasion and spoke up when men often did not. One such example I will use who has been loud and vocal and picking apart the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal has been Jessica who uses the handle @ex_harvest. When many men were going along in the system and staying silent Jessica was speaking up and pushing back. Jessica has illustrated that the toxic masculinity that Harvest has pushed for years has failed. It has failed because the men who were supposed to speak up did not, and then there were other people like Jessica who were female who rose to the occasion and by using her voice illustrated how the toxic theology is bankrupt and broken. In my analysis of the Harvest Bible Chapel scandal this is one issue that people are neglecting that they need to raise and discuss. This may be hard for people who still admire individuals like John Piper or Wayne Grudem who push this extreme narrative. Let’s make sure this is discussed as the Harvest implosion continues to take place.