Christian Persecution

Excommunicated Spinoza, 1907 painting by Samuel Hirszenberg

Pastor Alistair Begg has been on the receiving end of a total shit-storm that descended and proceeded to grind him down, crush him, and then purge him.


He is a traditional Conservative Christian pastor that recently advised his radio listeners that it was OK to attend a transgender wedding. When other conservative christians became aware of this shocking “crime”, it triggered considerable pushback. What happened to him was his punishment for the Christian “crime” of not being sufficiently bigoted enough.

So yes, this is not a posting about the persecution of Christians by others, but instead is about the persecuting these “loving tolerant” folks do to each other when they discover that one of the “redeemed” has not been sufficiently obnoxious and intolerant enough.

I’ll soon tell you more about what happened to Pastor Begg, but first, before we go there, let’s mull over what goes on inside some Christian micro-cultures so that you can appreciate why stuff like this happens.

Religious Micro-cultures

We all live in a society that comes with specific expectations regarding what is acceptable behaviour and what is not. Break from the norms and you will potentially face the consequence of being shunned. In a similar manner, religious micro-cultures tend to operate with their own distinct unwritten rules; break those and you are out, but play by the rules and you will be embraced, welcomed, and made to feel part of the team.

Did I say unwritten rules, well not always, sometimes they can indeed be very explicit.

Back in the days when I was religious a group of us travelled to another town to help a church run a tent crusade. I was advised that they were a bit different, but not much more than that. Upon arrival I was astonished to discover that pinned up on the notice board of the entrance to the church were “instructions”. As I carefully scrutinised them, I was amazed to discover that what I was reading were explicit instructions that dictated to both the men and also the women of the church how they should be dressed.

What would happen if somebody did not conform?

Nobody would be turned away, but rather obviously if you were a member, you could soon expect a visit from the pastor to “pray with you”.

Putting aside such weird “written rules”, most churches are micro-cultures that have distinct sets of unwritten rules. If you do not conform, then you are a visitor and tolerated. It is only when you conform that you can then blend in and belong.

As an example, in the church that I was part of an unwritten rule was that you did not have a TV. Nobody ever said, “No TV‘, it simply existed as an expectation. I remember one new guy was telling another “brother”, that he was moving into his new apartment and was looking for a decent TV. Looks were exchanged behind his back, but nobody said “don’t do that”. Instead one guy simply suggested that God would keep him so busy he would most probably not need a TV.

Side Note: Yea, I lived a few years like that and as a result it created some fascinating gaps in my knowledge of the wider world. I ended up being totally ignorant concerning some major news events. And yes, I use the term “church” in a rather interesting way here. It is only later looking back that I can truly appreciate that it was a manipulative cult that maintained control by keeping you busy busy busy and also isolated from the wider world. I truly do kick myself for being sucked into it.

It also came packaged with a sexual abuse scandal that was swept under the carpet until a judge legally bound the pastor to reveal what had been going on. When it all came out I could only wonder “How did I not see what was happening here, how could I have been so blind?

The power of the micro-cultural conditioning was this – the general view that prevailed was, “Yea, that Sunday school teacher who abused the kids was a bad guy, and so he is no longer one of us, but we are all still bound together inside our castle behind these protective walls of belief and it keeps us safe from the big bad cold unwashed world outside filled with demons and other scary things”.

In reality, we were totally oblivious to the truth that outside the sun was shining, but inside it really was a cold dark miserable place that offered everything and delivered nothing except perhaps a sense of belonging along with the illusion of being special and one of the chosen.

Step out of line and “friends” would grow cold, so this psychological manipulative form of punishment was an effective means of handling such “crimes”. It basically nurtures a culture where there is an almost constant pressure to conform and stick to the prevailing party line.

Are all churches like this?

Gosh no, but there really are way too many that are, especially within fundamentalist circles.

My happy ending involves escaping from all this, but that’s a story for another day.

What Happened to Alistair Begg?

So let’s now explore the “hideous crime” that has been committed by Alistair Begg.

Pastor Begg is a classic Conservative Christian, the old school type. He was actually born in Scotland hence when he speaks he has a very distinctive Scottish accent. Since 1983 he has been a pastor of Cleveland’s Parkside Church. In addition to that role he has also been the voice of the “Truth For Life” broadcasts which are basically his sermons. These went out daily to stations across North America via 1,800 radio outlets.

Since I already opened with it then you know what is coming up, so let me make this next bit crystal clear – the church that he is pastor of is very distinctly homophobic. Written into their constitution towards the end of Appendix A is a section on Gender, Marriage, and Sexuality. It’s the usual stuff and can be rendered down to … “the bible says” … therefore being homophobic bigots is just fine.

However … well yes, here it comes.

It actually happened during one of his “Truth For Life” broadcasts last September and nobody actually noticed until some right-wing bigot listened and then decided that he was not being obnoxious enough, so flagged it up and that led the a huge shit-storm being stirred up.

So let’s first go to the alpha source. Pastor Begg is being interviewed about his book, “The Christian Manifesto“, and is asked by the interviewer Bob Lepine …“How do you hope people will be different after they have read this book?”. He responds by talking about having compassion for others like this …

…you and I know that we field questions all the time that go along the lines of “My grandson is about to be married to a transgender person, and I don’t know what to do about this, and I’m calling to ask you to tell me what to do”—which is a huge responsibility.

And in a conversation like that just a few days ago—and people may not like this answer—but I asked the grandmother, “Does your grandson understand your belief in Jesus?”


“Does your grandson understand that your belief in Jesus makes it such that you can’t countenance in any affirming way the choices that he has made in life?”


I said, “Well then, okay. As long as he knows that, then I suggest that you do go to the ceremony. And I suggest that you buy them a gift.”

“Oh,” she said, “what?” She was caught off guard.

I said, “Well, here’s the thing: your love for them may catch them off guard, but your absence will simply reinforce the fact that they said, ‘These people are what I always thought: judgmental, critical, unprepared to countenance anything.’”

To be clear, his guidance was this. You can still be a judgemental prick, just don’t say it out loud so that you can hopefully fool them into thinking you actually accept them and you just might then be able to build enough of a relationship that enables you to get them to also become judgemental pricks just like you.

It’s a rather blatant bit of Machiavellianism, a thought experiment in the context of book interview that suggests pretending to accept might give you a strategic advantage and enable you to gain leverage.

Sticking the Knife in

The “crime” was not the deeply dubious ethics of being deviously manipulative but rather that it is just not a bigoted enough stance. However, at the time last September it passed un-noticed. What changed is that a right-wing Evangelical website called the “Evangelical Dark Web” decided to run with this story on Jan 17 …

From there others then picked it up and so it went viral. For example …

What exactly is the “Evangelical Dark Web”?

They are the self-appointed Evangelical police whose mission is to expose what they deem to be Evangelical “crimes” and punish all those that they deem to be too liberal. Well-known Evangelical “sinners” on their punishment list includes these stories they have published …

… and so Alistair Begg is now being targeted by them.

What happened next?

Once his “crime” was out and public, the punishment proceeded.

The “Evangelical Dark Web” site reported how it all played out via a series of subsequent articles …

The pile on continued …

What should we make of all this?

This tweet nicely sums it all up rather well …

Basically be a raging bigot, don’t think critically, and you will be fine. However, if you dare to stray from that, then the mob, who apparently hate cancel culture, will proceed to cancel you.

It might indeed be tempting to feel some sympathy for Pastor Begg, but no, just press pause on that thought. Remember that he is just as bigoted as they are. The only misalignment here is that he simply suggested being a tad nicer about it in order to fool the “sinners” into thinking that they are not obnoxious anti-social arseholes devoid of all empathy.

In other words, Bigoted Christians have ostracized a bigoted Christian for being insufficiently bigoted. This truly does reveal that there really is no hate that is as deep and vast as “Christian love”.

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