Hi and welcome back! In 2019, James MacDonald lost a very comfortable pastor gig at megachurch Harvest Bible Chapel (HBC). The church’s elders fired him for various episodes of misconduct. But he did not go quietly into that good night. Almost immediately, he indicated his intention to slither back to the podium at some other church. Unfortunately for him, various watchdogs have kept close tabs on him — and he still seems to be hunting for a new church. His response to those watchdogs is incredibly telling, too. Today, let me show you how James MacDonald attacked one of his critics, Julie Roys, with the time-honored evangelical tactic of gatekeeping.
(Related posts about gatekeeping: Evangelical Gatekeeping; Gatekeeping Churchless Believers; You’re All Real Christians (OKAY); Matthew 18 and the Bad-Faith Problem; Why Hardcore Christians Hate ‘Build-a-Bear’ Christians. Also, Christians almost always define a TRUE CHRISTIAN™ as someone who 1) believes roughly the same nonsense they do, 2) hasn’t gotten caught yet in any scandals they personally think are serious, and 3) has not deconverted. Weirdly, not one Christian group in history has ever managed to set out an objective, authoritative list of criteria for the title.)
A Quick Overview of Gatekeeping.
When we talk about gatekeeping in Christianity, we refer to that beloved Christian pastime of drawing clear boundaries between themselves and their Christian enemies du jour. It’s a very simple game: they simply draw themselves as TRUE CHRISTIANS™, which makes their enemies fake ones.
Every single time a fervent Christian’s scandal hits the headlines, you may count on gatekeeping Christians to pop up in discussions of it to separate themselves away from that ickie gross fakey-fake Christian who just makes the religion look bad.
Gatekeeping Christians desperately want to convince their audiences that they aren’t like that ickie gross fakey-fake Christian. See, that person has no idea what Christianity’s all about and doesn’t even know Jesus, gyahh, y’all. Don’t lump them in with that person. They’re nothing alike. They don’t compare at all. That person might as well be an atheist or a Wiccan or something. The gatekeepers’ Christianity is 100% foreign to that followed by the scandalous Christian, who has entirely missed the whole point of it.
From the nicest, mildest flavors of the religion to the most toxic, you can spot Christian gatekeepers doing their best to protect their own tribe from any association with these enemies (or to avoid confronting the truth about Christian hypocrisy).
However, gatekeeping can be used for another, far more sinister reason: to punish basically innocent Christians who speak out against or refuse to go along with cruelty and evil. In these cases, it’s a form of shunning and ostracism. In this guise, gatekeeping functions as a way to declare open season on a Christian’s enemies.
Lately, disgraced pastor James MacDonald favors that second function.
James MacDonald and His Earlier Attacks on Julie Roys.
Not long ago, I noticed that James MacDonald is still latched onto evangelical watchdog blogger Julie Roys as his number-one enemy. Man alive, he hates her. He doesn’t even try to hide his sheer dripping venom when he talks about her. And he pulls out the stops to paint her as a fake Christian who just hates him for his sweet, pure Jesus Aura.
I’m sure that his white-flecked hatred has absolutely nothing to do with the fact that she tirelessly reports on his hypocrisy.
Oh yeah, I still remember her post about James MacDonald talking to Mancow Muller, a Christian radio host. James MacDonald told Muller that he wanted to plant child porn on the computer used by the CEO of a Christian news site that had published material unfavorable to him. Yes.
James MacDonald also tried to start a rumor that Roys had engaged in an affair with that site’s editor-in-chief. He described her as “off the rails” and whatnot. I mean, that whole interview is worth reading and listening to. It was shocking behavior to see from a megachurch pastor.
(We’ll examine the breathtaking misogyny of James MacDonald’s attacks tomorrow.)
Thankfully, she did not allow James MacDonald to intimidate her into silence. And his rage at her refusal to shut up has only grown with time.
In a recent entry to his professional “ministry blog,” he’s decided that she’s not even a real Christian at all — and thus, she is fair game for him to attack as savagely as he desires.
James MacDonald and His Latest Attack: A Crude Gatekeeping Attempt.
Of course, James MacDonald has a problem here: Julie Roys counts herself an evangelical. No, I don’t know how she does it either, nor why. I reckon indoctrination is a helluva drug. Whatever her reasons, she is officially a fervent and vocal part of James MacDonald’s flavor of Christianity.
That gives James MacDonald a very powerful weapon to use against her. As an evangelical leader who still enjoys a considerable amount of power within his dominance-addled tribe, he can try to gatekeep her right out of evangelicalism.
Hey, that tactic has worked on all kinds of other evangelicals!
And that’s what he did in the latest entry he wrote for his professional “ministry blog.” Even by evangelical standards, this blog post of his is appalling.
Though he pretends to have taken a merely curious, clinical tack in denouncing her, James MacDonald’s gatekeeping strategy reveals so much about him — and the ingroup he expects to accept his denunciation.
He’s doing nothing less here than trying to get his ingroup to reject her entirely as part of the evangelical tribe. Even in his disgrace, he lashes out as hard as he can.
Anatomy of a Gatekeeping Attempt: Mangled Bible Verses.
I wish Christians were more aware of how gatekeeping operates and what it involves. James MacDonald’s attempt here is just as childish and obvious as it is disgraceful and cruel.
First, he lays down Bible references to attack his enemy. All through the post, he throws out these Bible verse references. He begins with 2 Corinthians 11:3, which he doesn’t actually recite:
In her cunning (2 Corinthians 11:3) and evil manipulation of words to mislead the majority who only read her headlines.
I wonder why he didn’t recite it? Maybe he didn’t because he’s offered an egregious misreading of the verse:
But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.
Yes, he is declaring an avowed, faithful, fervent evangelical to be the literal serpent in the Garden of Eden. The overall context of the verse is Paul writing to warn his followers not to fall for “false apostles,” so if he’s trying to angle for her being one of those, he still fails in the worst way imaginable. Worse, James MacDonald implies here that he himself is just like Paul, warning his own followers not to listen to anything Roys says about him.
He pulls this tactic all through his attack post.
Drawing Lines With Nasty Nicknames and Epithets.
Also, James MacDonald invents cruel, aggressive, nasty nicknames and epithets for Julie Roys. It is a grand-slam display of hate, rage, and aggression. He calls her variations of “Gossip Slut” constantly, along with “JuLiar.” He refers to her fakey-fake tribe of Christians as “evanjellycal.”
I can smell smug evangelical pride in their hand-polished turds from a mile away. These terms reek of it. Dude’s completely proud of his invented nicknames for his enemy.
The fact that he sounds absolutely unhinged and disturbed every time he uses them? That won’t matter. What matters is that he’s getting a bit of his own back with these petty, childish displays.
Authoritarians like James MacDonald cannot stand any show of disobedience from anyone. So he’s lashing out as hard as he can. He feels safe in attacking Julie Roys because he’s pushed her outside of the circle of protection of his tribe. She no longer merits the tribe’s wagon-circling protection. She’s now an enemy of his tribe. She’s not even evangelical, but “evanjellycal.”
Moreover, everyone who listens to Julie Roys or offers her any information about him gets to join her against the wall. He refers to this group as “the lynch mob culture” and derides them as seeking “another leadership scalp.” I’m sure his attempt to co-opt Black Americans’ historic suffering and to warp some Native Americans’ customs will go over well.
Gosh, y’all, won’t anyone think of poor, lynched, scalped widdle James MacDonald?!?
James MacDonald wants his tribe to go on full battle offense against Julie Roys and every single person she draws upon as a source. Ironically, he piously refers to himself as totally loving and all. I wonder if he’s lying to himself, his readers, or both?
In addition to calling Julie Roys, a respected voice in evangelical watchdog blogging, just by her first name, James MacDonald makes frequent paternalistic control-grabs to shift the power dynamics between him and his critic.
He’s using a slightly outdated power-grab strategy here. I haven’t seen Christians pulling this one in a while. Men in particular would refer to women as “honey,” “baby,” “little girl,” and the like. I tangled with one guy who often called his enemies “child,” or “little one.”
As I said, I haven’t seen this tactic in a while. Maybe it faded away because it’s such a painfully obvious way to try to take control of a situation. People who go that route nowadays get mocked, and deservedly so.
However, James MacDonald clearly feels great affection for the tactic still. He also goes all-out to try to paint his enemy as an untrustworthy source — forgetting that she provides receipts for her allegations, and always phrases any accusations carefully. But he piously declares:
In explaining that JuLiar’s sources should be investigated and qualified, I have actually been merciful. I am not threatening to expose anyone – I love those people and pray they have gone on in God’s grace and forgiveness. They just are not credible as critics, and only a #JRgossipslut would repeatedly deceive the public by reporting gossip as fact while clueless in most cases about the credibility of her sources.
It’s a dizzying display of performative piety. And James MacDonald trotted it out just to facilitate a tasteless and baseless attack. He portrays himself as the patient, ever-loving Daddy who knows what’s best for his wayward little girl — in between calling her vicious names and constantly accusing her of all manner of personal and professional impropriety.
At all times, he wants to make crystal-clear that he is a billion levels above her — and she is not worthy to put his name in her mouth, much less to keep writing about his hypocritical antics. He’s trying to overwhelm her with sheer blustering dominance.
Why James MacDonald Tries So Hard to Gatekeep.
Nothing whatsoever in James MacDonald’s post speaks to love, grace, humility, forgiveness, kindness, or even basic human decency. It is, instead, a savage attack with obvious self-serving motivations, one made by a man who seems to have fixated on a watchdog as the source of all his problems.
James MacDonald has a habit of trying his best to brutally destroy anyone he thinks is his enemy. Mancow Muller, for example, used to be besties with him. But when Muller spoke out against him, revealing the interview noted in that Julie Roys post above and calling MacDonald “a con man,” he became an enemy instantly. Muller even feared at one point that MacDonald had hired a “hitman” to kill him.
That’s how people like James MacDonald think. You’re either with them or against them, a best friend forever or the worst enemy anyone ever had. They either love you to the moon and back or want you to make you suffer the worst pains imaginable. Once he gatekeeps you out of his ingroup, you can expect nothing from him but torment.
And that is exactly why he gatekeeps. He can’t fully and adequately attack his enemies if they’re still fully-accepted tribemates. His own tribe would reject that attempt.
So first, he has to push his enemies out of the tribe. That’s what his attack post represents, more than anything else.
NEXT UP: James MacDonald’s calculated misogyny, which reveals his (and his tribe’s) pure hatred of women — especially women they can’t control. See you tomorrow!
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(PS: I’d just like to point out that James MacDonald’s post reveals his behavior when he’s in a public-facing situation. His private behavior must be beyond sickening. Indeed, every allegation I’ve ever seen made against him indicates the presence of a very serious anger problem. And his own writing supports those allegations and then some. I hope he gets help.)