Cancel Pastor Chris Hodges: Incident and Outrage

Cancel Pastor Chris Hodges

This is an exclusive article on why the Church of the Highlands kicked out of some public schools they were renting, but such a cancel culture is the wrong answer.

Stetzer serves as dean at Wheaton College, publishes materials for church leaders through Mission Group, and directs the Billy Graham Center there. 

The Editorial Team updated this article, which will continue to be revised when new information becomes available.

At other moments, I felt as though I awoke in the Frankenstein chapter, where the townspeople take up pitchforks and torches to pursue the monster. 

It would appear that the pastor of Alabama’s largest church, Church of the Highlands, is the target of an assault today.

Turning Point USA’s conservative leader, Charlie Kirk, was the initial spark. A vocal Trump supporter, Kirk has been embroiled in several high-profile scandals in recent years. 

Like many other social media stars, Kirk appears adept at eliciting equal admiration and ridicule from his followers. A savvy social media user, he is.

Recently, Kirk has been a vocal supporter of the view that, while racism is wrong, accusations of systematic racism are false or overstated.

Many Americans, including many who call themselves evangelicals, may see themselves in Kirk’s position.

I’ve gone to great lengths to explain why I think Kirk (and his supporters) are wrong in my writings, protests, and public speeches.

Cancel Pastor Chris Hodges Incident and Outrage

To see what is a better way forward, watch the video we released this morning on behalf of the National Association of Evangelicals. Or, to put it another way, I beg to differ and have made my disagreement known.

The time is now for us to face the pervasive racism in our country. Chris Hodges, the pastor of Church of the Highlands in Birmingham, was swiftly drawn into this dispute after he liked several of Kirk’s social media posts (details here). 

Hodges learned an important lesson about the destructive potential of social media when he found himself amid a firestorm, much as the Epistle of James forewarned about the tongue setting trees on fire. A mob is forming with pitchforks and torches supporting him and his church.

Cancel Pastor Chris Hodges: What Happened?

True, Chris Hodges backed Trump when I did not. In addition, under his leadership, his church grew to become the most ethnically and racially diverse in all of Alabama, actively serving the needs of the state’s most vulnerable citizens. 

He and the congregation he pastors have helped the needy, visited the ill, worked as tutors, and done much more. 

Church of the Highlands has provided hundreds of meals, manufactured masks, organised blood drives, and provided online support to other churches during the pandemic.

Social media Posts He Liked

It’s worth mentioning that even after expulsion, the church intends to continue providing financial assistance to the educational system and encouraging others to do the same.

The church was not getting the schools for free from the school board; it was paying rent. 

The congregation contributes to the local school district through property taxes and rent.

Church of the Highlands has recently lost funding from the Birmingham Housing Authority and the Birmingham Board of Education, which Chris supported with his likes on social media.

However, the school district and the housing authority have no interest in receiving the funds or providing the service.

Cancel Pastor Chris Hodges’s Culture’s Ascendance

Even if Hodges was wrong, I worry that individuals may start using social media as a weapon. 

It’s important for Christians to feel outraged about injustice and hatred, but as I wrote in Christians in the Age of Outrage, the internet can make us terrible, angry stewards.

This modern trend has been labelled the “cancel culture.” 

President Obama added his two cents at a summit last year, saying it is simple but ultimately ineffectual in bringing about long-term change. 

He criticised the strategy of ‘cancelling’ someone as a response, saying, “That’s not activism. That won’t lead to any changes happening. 

You’ll unlikely get very far if your only strategy is criticising others. That’s simple enough.

The term “cancel culture” is shorthand for the widespread habit of abandoning famous figures who have said or done anything inappropriate. 

The Birmingham education system and the Birmingham housing authority both recently did this.

Here, the cancel culture says, “We’re not taking your cash, tweet like. We also refuse to have you serve in any of our communities. 

Get the hell out because we welcome everyone.

One possible solution is to step back and examine the bigger picture of a given individual or group. We’ve all said or done something that should be discussed or confronted. 

That is a proven fact. But is public shame and, in this case, the breaking of links that have benefited so many people necessary in every case?

This church has a heart for service and a track record of community leadership. To make matters worse, as of this writing, “The Housing Authority of Birmingham Division voted on Monday to no longer allow church volunteers and clinic workers to do work at public housing communities.”

They want to stop the church’s outreach to the impoverished because they disagree with the pastor’s Facebook preferences.

What is the Learning from Cancel Pastor Chris Hodges?

We can “cancel culture” and thereby go against popular opinion.

Christians have a unique chance to grow together in ways that show the world that our common faith in Christ transcends our cultural and ethnic backgrounds.

His Outrage In These words:

In Outrage, I argued that Christians should put down their pitchforks and instead pick up a towel in response to injustice. Without exception or expectation, Jesus bathed the feet of his followers as an example for us to follow (John 13:1-17). 

This example of perfect service reflected the humility with which Jesus came to earth (Philippians 2:1-11). Following this example, Jesus had his followers wash each other’s feet. 

Towel people understand that Jesus calls us to serve others with humility and love in all our relationships. Having meaningful conversations online may be more crucial than ever before.

Many African-American brothers and sisters who have painstakingly hosted webinars, written articles, and responded to social media posts exemplify this attitude.

I’m impressed by their perseverance in the face of overwhelming temptation to give up and abandon the fight for the sake of the Kingdom. 

Despite exhaustion, they persevere. Listening to fellow Christians and drawing upon the depth of their theological heritage teaches us valuable lessons about our own faith as Christians.

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