Elmbrook Church in the Milwaukee suburb of Brookfield made The Washington Post this past week. After the Christianity Today editorial calling for Donald Trump to resign the Post went to Elmbrook Church to ask attenders what they thought of the editorial. The responses were varied but they highlighted the issues today with Evangelical Christianity. In the fact that people don’t come forward and criticize Trump’s mocking the disabled or the boasting of sexual assault, well it is another illustration of why religion can be corrupt. After all if those who claim to follow Jesus, and be a new creation or born again can’t communicate the basics of their faith then why do places like Elmbrook exist?
“The test of one’s decency is how much of a fight one can put up after one has stopped caring, and after one has found out that one can never please the people they wanted to please.”
“Human decency is not derived from religion. It precedes it.”
“When the norm is decency, other virtues can thrive: integrity, honesty, compassion, kindness, and trust. “
28 Then Jesus said, “Come to me, all of you who are weary and carry heavy burdens, and I will give you rest.
Matthew 11:28 NLT
The other day I read The Washington Post which I subscribe to and saw my former church Elmbrook in the newspaper. The last time I wrote about Elmbrook was when Jason Webb resigned. You can read those articles in, “Preserving Jason Webb’s and Gary Gregg’s Email to the Elmbrook Congregation Announcing Jason’s Resignation as Senior Pastor“ , “How Elmbrook Church Should Respond to a Painful Situation in a Way that Helps the Brookfield Megachurch, Jason Webb’s Family and the Greater Milwaukee Area” and “An Open Letter to Jason Webb (Former Senior Pastor of Elmbrook Church)” When I first read this Washington Post article about Elmbrook Church I was angry over what I read. Then I thought about it over the next few days and re-read it a couple of times and processed it. There were issues with the article that still bothered me and I have to be honest, left me deeply disappointed. That said there is another article that I have to write about that came from The Boston Globe that looked at evangelicals in Wisconsin and I was horrified about what l read. But let’s look at the Washington Post article and then I will do some commentary on what was written.
The Washington Post Writes About Elmbrook Church and the Christianity Today Editorial
On December 22, 2019 The Washington Post wrote about the Christianity Today editorial where Mark Galli called for Donald Trump to be removed from office. The Washington Post went to Elmbrook to ask for evangelicals responses to that piece. The editorial caused a firestorm both in American politics and evangelical culture. I wrote about the editorial and what it meant to those who were in the 17 to 18% of those evangelicals who disagreed with Donald Trump. I wrote about it and in the process wrote about how evangelicals’ embrace of politics destroyed and fractured some former friendships and relationships with people I knew from Milwaukee, and yes that included Elmbrook Church. Though I also discuss the behavior of my former Milwaukee Metro Campus Crusade for Christ director and my former pastor’s family from Wooded Hills Bible Church at Colgate, Wisconsin. You can read about that in, “A Needed and Courageous Editorial at Christianity Today and What It Means to Those Who are in the 17 to 18%“ You can read the article in the following post that captured and preserved the article in, “Preserving The Washington Post Article by Amy Wang That Discussed Elmbrook Church in Milwaukee and the Christianity Today Editorial.”
The Washington Post no doubt went to Wisconsin because evangelicals are Trump’s strongest supporters and that state is going to play a major role in the 2020 election. That is why they went to Wisconsin and not Pennsylvania or Michigan. Plus Elmbrook is the biggest church in Wisconsin. The article got a mix of responses. One individual Rob Muldrow from New Jersey explained his staunch support for Trump and explained how Christianity Today is a leftist organization. He also said that Trump didn’t do anything immoral and called the charges false. God is the one who put Donald Trump in power. The Post article moved on to Paul Berg a 57 year old male who said he heard of the editorial but took it with a “grain of salt.” He canceled his subscription not for partisan reasons but because he stopped subscribing to publications years ago. When the Washington Post offered to provide him the editorial and get his thoughts he refused to read it. He then went on and said that Trump hasn’t done anything that others haven’t done. The Post article then talked about how they were hearing that evangelicals didn’t discuss it publicly many were discussing it in private.
Rob Muldrow’s Comments About Christianity Today and Some Analysis
First let’s look at what Rob Muldrow said to the Washington Post.
“That publication has been starting to go wayward for 25 years,” said Rob Muldrow, 54, a long-haul truck driver and devout Christian from New Jersey who stops by Elmbrook when he is in the area. The magazine, he said, bad been infected by the same “social justice movement” that’s infiltrating churches to try to change their culture.
“If you build the church with a bunch of nonbelievers, you’re going to have nonbelievers influencing the church,” he said.
Muldrow noted his parents canceled their Christianity Today subscription decades ago. In his hours-long drives across the country, he mostly listens to conservative religious radio stations, which is how he heard the piece.
Presented with a printed copy of the Christianity Today editorial Sunday, Muldrow scanned it and paused at the headline: “Trump Should Be Removed From Office.”
“They’re not presenting both sides so that you could come to your own independent conclusion,” he said, shaking his head. “They’re telling you what to think. And so that’s not ‘Christianity today.’ That’s not. It’s been hijacked.”
Galli acknowledged in the editorial that for years the magazine had reserved judgment on Trump. He also nodded at the political “wins” — the defense of Christianity, the conservative federal judges and Supreme Court nominees — that evangelical Christians may have seen under Trump. No more.
“To use an old cliche, it’s time to call a spade a spade,” the editorial stated, “to say that no matter how many hands we win in this political poker game, we are playing with a stacked deck of gross immorality and ethical incompetence.”
Muldrow called the charges of immorality “false.”
“The people chose Trump. And our electoral college, which they keep wanting to get rid of, elected Trump,” Muldrow said. “It is God that raises someone into power for His own purposes. And it is God, in His own divine wisdom, that takes an individual out of power for his own purposes.”
There are a growing number of Evangelical Christians who treat Evangelical Christianity as a political party. Jesus suffered and died for a Supreme Court seat in my backyard of Washington, D.C. Individuals in this stripe embrace Christian Nationalism. Because of the comments that Rob Muldrow makes I would put him in this category. Faith isn’t about God its about political power, and faith is a means to obtain political power. Muldrow reveals that alternative information is where he gets his “facts” by what he says. The fact that he would rule out Christianity Today and imply that it is a leftist publication tells me that he hasn’t read it recently. They are far from that category in many ways. And to describe it as leftist implies that faith is political. If your faith fits nicely into one political party with no struggle or questions asked then I would suggest that your faith is wrong and built on the wrong foundation. And that is true for both sides of the fence. When Rich says conservative Christian radio is what he listens to I would love to know what stations and personalities he is listening. That could tell us a lot. Muldrow has not studied the issues and is reading material that is telling him what to think. Many who engage in Christian Nationalism often engage in projecting. Does Richard know that Christianity Today once did an editorial supporting the impeachment of Bill Clinton for sexual immorality? Or that it said it was good that Richard Nixon resigned? Richard lacks the facts and is deeply indoctrinated. I would take a wager that he chose to brainwash himself by living in an echo chamber. When he says the morality charges are false how can he say that especially when Trump carried on affairs with porn stars? After all Stormy Daniels who according to the Intelligencer acted in close to 275 pornographic films to include the Da Vagina Code and Revenge of the Dildos. Trump carried on an affair with Stormy Daniels. Because of that affair Daniels had stated that she can describe what Donald Trump’s penis looks like. So Muldrow is going to ignore the facts from situations like that? And the idea that God placed Trump in power reveals Muldrow’s ignorance. God does not have a covenant with the United States and God doesn’t put people in power. People do either be being active in government or inactive and/or staying silent and allowing authoritarian regimes to grow. Richard Muldrow is not a person involved in Elmbrook so that has to be remembered to, as he is someone who just travels a lot and spends a lot of time on the road. Richard is most likely not involved in Bible studies or any other ministries as well. But Richard helps illustrate why this stripe of Evangelical Christianity is a sick faith system.
Paul Berg’s Comments and Some Analysis
Then there is Paul Berg’s comment’s which deserve some analysis as well. Paul according to the Washington Post is involved in Elmbrook and calls it his church home. Let’s look at what Paul says.
Another longtime Elmbrook worshiper, Paul Berg, said he had heard about the editorial. But he also hadn’t read it.
“I just read some things [about it] online. And of course you take it with a grain of salt,” said Berg, 57. He acknowledged he was surprised that Christianity Today would come out so strongly against Trump. As a former subscriber, he was very familiar with the magazine: In the early to mid-90s, the church used to copy articles from the magazine to use for Sunday school discussions.
But Berg, who has lived in Brookfield for decades and attended Elmbrook Church since 1989, said he no longer subscribes to Christianity Today, though it had little to do with the magazine. “I don’t subscribe to anything anymore,” he said.
When presented with a copy of the editorial, Berg politely said he wasn’t interested in reading it.
“I personally don’t see he’s doing anything that others who are accusing him haven’t,” he said of Trump.
What is disappointing about this is that Paul represents another form of Evangelical Christianity that I encounter all too frequently. Indifference, apathy and laziness. There are many evangelicals who never take the time to learn their faith and the issues even affecting it. I remember in Washington, D.C. how someone commented to me once how they didn’t care about Calvinism or other issues, and they went to church because their friends were going there. That captures the reason why many evangelicals go to church. Its not to worship God its to tap into long holding psychological need, a place to belong and community. Religion can exploit that human need. I say this because when he was presented a copy of the editorial he chose not to read it. When presented with an opportunity to learn he actively chose not to. That is a shame and represents Evangelical Christianity well. Many choose to be ignorant and embrace cognitive dissonance instead of learning for themselves. After all in the 8th chapter of John , Jesus says that if you are his disciples you shall know the truth and the truth shall set you free. That means being committed to the truth. When Paul had an opportunity to pursue truth, the facts of the situation and more he walked away from it. I thought the role of the Christian is to pursue truth and that will lead to growing your relationship with Jesus. I guess I must be mistaken.
The Access Hollywood tape where Trump boasts of grabbing women by their pussy.
“I personally don’t see he’s doing anything that others who are accusing him haven’t” Berg’s Disturbing Comment Illustrates Why Elmbrook is Not a Safe Place for Sexual Assault Victims
But the item that is most disturbing that weighed on me heavily these past several days is that last line by Paul Berg. Paul goes on to state, “I personally don’t see he’s (Trump) doing anything that others who are accusing him haven’t.” So let’s look at what Paul Berg states. Donald Trump is doing things that others who have accused him haven’t done also. Stop and think about that for a minute. That is quite the sin leveling statement. You take the issues at hand and then say that others have done the same thing so its nothing in the end. Its also so broad because Christianity Today editorial also mentions Trump’s behavior and how lost he is. To those from Elmbrook Church reading this let me ask you a question. How many of you have friends in the Brookfield, New Berlin, Wauwatosa, West Allis, Elm Grove, Waukesha, and Pewaukee areas who have boasted of rape? They have boasted of grabbing someone’s genitals. I played a lot of football in my life and been in a lot of locker rooms and haven’t not heard like that being described. I did hear someone boast of the size of their penis in a high school looker room. Then you add the other issues such as Trump mocking someone who is handicapped. What would happen if someone went into Elmbrook’s handicap ministry and start to mock someone with a handicap? They started to imitate someone stuttering. Or they mocked someone with down syndrome or more. Would Elmbrook take that kindly or would the person be told to leave? Getting back to what Paul Berg said think about others who have accused Trump and haven’t done the same thing? How many of you know someone who imitated or who bullied or mocked someone who is handicapped or disabled?
Elmbrook as a church has had a lot of sexual sandals and child abuse. I got involved in Elmbrook in 2001 or so after the Daniel Varga situation. Daniel Varga is the former youth minister who sexually abused 10 teenagers before fleeing to Wisconsin Dells and committing suicide in a motel room. That situation at Elmbrook is what taught me why Evangelical Christianity struggles with child sex abuse. There have been differing scandals over the years. But then you have Paul Berg who engages in sin leveling and who minimizes Donald Trumps’ behavior. Is Berg’s behavior a result of one’s involvement in evangelical culture? You dismiss and minimize because of patriarchy? Think of what that kind of minimizing means for those who have been victims of sexual assault. Why would a person that has been molested or raped walk through the doors of Elmbrook and go to church there? If all sin is going to be leveled because others have done it think of how traumatic that will be to those inside Elmbrook who have dealt with the issue of sexual assault in their lifetime? That is why Elmbrook is not a safe place for people to call home or to attend. If the behavior of someone who boasts of rape, and who bullies the vulnerable of society is going to be minimized by saying “they have all done that.” Then Elmbrook is not a safe place for people to be.
My Disappointment with Elmbrook Confirms My Journey Away From Evangelical Christianity
This blog has been a disappointment in many ways. Chief among them is seeing how corrupt some of the churches I once called home actually are. In the end I have written about nearly every church I once called home. Corruption, sexual abuse, predators being put in teaching positions, covering up crimes and more have revealed to me why Evangelical Christianity is deeply corrupt and can not be redeemed or restored. This time I am writing about a church I once called home. And again I find myself writing of my disappointment with it. What bothers me? Well even though Midwest Culture prevents people from speaking out I am dismayed that more from Elmbrook haven’t spoken out and called a spade a spade. After all many people at Elmbrook would claim to be New Creations, Born Again and following the Lord. The fact that someone didn’t tell The Washington Post that Trump’s behavior of mocking the disabled or boasting of sexual assault is wrong is deeply troubling. Up until recently I thought in society and evangelical culture that issues like rape, how you treat the disabled were common ground and that we all would agree that is something you just do not do. But in the Post article it was not reported where an Elmbrook worshipper said they were sick and troubled by Trump’s behavior and their love and following Jesus’s teaching calls on them to reject that behavior. So what has happened? Is that part of the perks of being in one of the wealthiest areas of Wisconsin? Brookfield? Or is that due to the staff at Elmbrook failing to teach others basics? Have pastors at Elmbrook such as Lee Heyward, Tom Tunnicliff, Andrea Hopgood and others have failed to teach people properly? That is the question that stands. If Christians don’t know that topics like rape and sexual abuse or bullying the vulnerable are wrong then why does places like Elmbrook exist? Why have ministries dedicated to helping the handicapped and disabled or victims of sexual abuse when the church can’t communicate the basics the community at large and beyond? What disappoints me is that this even has to be said. How can you be a part of a theology system that teaches the last shall be first and the first shall be last, or to take care of the least of these and then as a church fail to teach others the foundation and basics. In this area Elmbrook has failed. And as my journey away from Evangelical Christianity continues as I reject faith I see yet another reminder of its problems and corruption. Over a thousand miles away from my adopted home state of Wisconsin and this is how I have to read about my former church. Its disappointing to say the least. Its disappointing that I once thought highly of Elmbrook Church.