Influential MAGAchurch Pastor John MacArthur Judges MLK, Jr. as ‘Not a Christian at All’

John MacArthur, an influential right-wing megachurch pastor and author, told an audience at his church last week that Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. was “not a Christian at all.” MacArthur described the pastor and civil rights icon as “a nonbeliever who misrepresented everything about Christ and the gospel.”

MacArthur, considered one of the most influential evangelical preachers in modern times, has been under fire in recent years for having “repeatedly shamed or ignored victims of abuse while protecting their abusers.” He has a history of preaching what Baptist News has called “cringe-worthy” things about race and slavery. He made his most recent appalling comments during Black History Month while he was criticizing a now-defunct evangelical pastors conference for having honored King several years ago, which MacArthur described as evidence of “the impact of the woke movement.” Video of MacArthur’s comments was posted on social media by a Christian podcaster and reported by other Christian outlets.

King, a Baptist minister and co-founder of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference, drew on his faith to inspire and mobilize Americans to overcome the system of Jim Crow segregation and win passage of federal voting rights and civil rights legislation. In 2012, TIME magazine called him one of the 20 most influential Americans of all time.

MacArthur, who heads Grace Community Church in southern California, has long mixed his preaching with right-wing politics. In 2018, MacArthur led an effort that rallied thousands of conservative evangelicals to denounce the pursuit of social justice as a threat to the gospel, and criticized churches that address racism as a social justice issue. That same year, MacArthur’s Master’s Seminary was placed on probation by an accrediting agency, which cited a climate of fear, intimidation, and bullying among faculty and staff.

In 2020, MacArthur declared that “any real” Christian would vote to reelect Donald Trump as president. MacArthur’s church was represented by Trump campaign lawyer Jenna Ellis in his legal battle against public health restrictions on church gatherings during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic. Later that year, he joined the Family Research Council’s Tony Perkins, Christian nationalist pastor Jack Hibbs, and others in promoting COVID denialism.

The following year, MacArthur flatly declared his opposition to religious freedom. “I don’t even support religious freedom,” he said in a 2021 sermon. “Religious freedom is what sends people to hell. To say I support religious freedom is to say I support idolatry. It’s to say I support lies, I support hell, I support the kingdom of darkness.” He added, “No Christian with half a brain would say, ‘We support religious freedom.’ We support the truth.” MacArthur doubled down on that position in a “State of the Church” address a few weeks later, arguing that evangelicals should stop working in collaboration with non-Christian groups to support religious freedom, likening such as efforts as “alliances with Satan.”

MacArthur’s right-wing politics predate the MAGA era. In 2012, he declared that the Democratic Party had become “the anti-God party” and said the election of President Barack Obama was “a judgment from God” over abortion and homosexuality. He has called gay-affirming Christian denominations “Satan’s church.”

Christian investigative journalist Julie Roys, who has covered MacArthur for years, noted in late 2022 that her site’s exposés of MacArthur dominated the list of its top ten stories that year. At the top of the list was a story about MacArthur publicly shaming and excommunicating a woman who refused church elders’ demands to return to her abusive husband; that husband was later, Roys reported, sentenced to “21 years to life in a California prison” for “aggravated child molestation, corporal injury to a child, and child abuse.”


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