Yesterday afternoon, I received a message in an ongoing group text with some friends of mine back in eastern Montana. The message contained a link to an article published in the Sidney Herald, the newspaper of the town we lived in before we moved to Colorado last September.
In this piece by Amy Efta titled ‘Christian Controversy,’ an old acquaintance of mine was front and center once again. Pastor Jordan Hall, who goes by JD Hall in his sensationalist internet outlet Pulpit and Pen, had spoken at a recent community meeting called by Richland County Republicans to propose declaring the county a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary.
And there, in a reference to “One Christian blogger,” I found myself quoted. A line from my November 2017 blog post, On The Ejection of Pastor Jordan Hall From a Dickinson Church was reproduced.
In the quote, I referred to Jordan as a bully; he was someone who took overt, visible pleasure in making others uncomfortable; I also said he used bold assertions of just causes as a pretext for attacking people.
In reading the rest of the Sidney Herald article, it became apparent that Ms. Efta does not support Richland County becoming a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary. What’s more, she is also Pro Choice.
And because JD Hall was the chosen spokesperson for this particular cause, Ms. Efta spent a good deal of her article going after him before sprinkling in dismissals of the Pro Life and gun rights positions as if his association with them proves their lack of merit.
In light of this, as well as other developments since I published that first piece, I feel it necessary to write a follow-up to dispel any potential misunderstanding. Allow me to make certain earlier allusions clearer now.
Disgrace To You
Before I get into generalities, first let me address my personal experience.
After I published my article about JD Hall on this blog back in 2017, I received feedback from locals.
Some of the feedback was positive. Good for me for standing up to that guy. One of the elders of the church I was serving as a deacon at back then thanked me; he added that JD Hall was “a loose cannon,” and he had worried for years that someone was going to get hurt.
On the other hand, a former leader in JD Hall’s church called me up to tell me I had been too generous. Hall was a glory-seeker angry with God for not having made him famous yet; Jordan’s stunt at the Dickinson church was just another desperate attempt to grab headlines for himself. Hall was more a minister of Satan than of God, he said.
Then I received a private message from JD Hall himself. He insulted me and my blog. He remarked dismissively that my writing was not very widely read and that I could think or feel whatever I wanted to.
But Jordan also accused me and the former members and leaders of his church with whom I’m friends of lying and gossiping about him. Lying and gossip were sins, he told me. And so he demanded I retract a couple of lines in particular or else he would “Matthew 18” me.
By this threat, Jordan meant he would bring along a couple of witnesses to confront me. He wanted to know where I attended church and who my pastor, elders, and deacons were. He’d contact them if I didn’t submit to his demands.
Dead Men and Celebrity Preachers
Calmly, I told Jordan I’d happily retract whatever I’d said that was untrue. If he could disprove any of the assertions I’d made, I’d get right on that.
The bit Jordan had particularly objected to was where I had said:
“Jordan Hall submits himself to no one except distant celebrity pastors and long-dead theologians. He surrounds himself with sycophants. This he does so you cannot disagree with or rebuke him.”
That was a lie, he told me.
To this I challenged him. Who had opposed, rebuked, or provided him accountability for anything whatsoever successfully? He had only to provide me with a name and contact information.
I knew several former leaders at Fellowship who had been “church disciplined” out of the congregation for disagreeing with JD Hall’s harsh manner of speaking and behaving; the remaining members were told to have nothing more to do with the outcasts or their families forthwith.
But was there anyone who had corrected Jordan that he had not subsequently declared anathema and a heritic? I’d happily speak with them and correct my statement if they could tell me about it.
Yet Jordan and I both knew the character of the leaders in his church, past and present, and that I was telling the truth. And I wasn’t bluffing, but he was.
I told Jordan he wasn’t going to “Matthew 18” me; he was just a spiritual bully trying to twist the Scriptures to manipulate and intimidate me into giving him what he wanted, as is his habit.
The Opposite of Edification
In the Apostle Paul’s first letter to Corinth, we are taught about spiritual gifts. Our attitude as Christians must not be that we don’t need one another; we and our gift are not more important than our brothers just because they may be gifted differently than we are.
On the contrary, Paul explains that God does not give all the gifts to any one person partly to prevent such bad attitudes as these from taking root.
Moreover, God wants all of the various members of the body with their diverse gifting to come together in humility, reverence, common purpose, and mutual service, interacting in a genuinely loving way.
It is a beautiful truth that God bestows spiritual gifts to Christians for the purpose of edifying the body of Christ. Edification means we are to build one another up. And in so doing, we build up Christ’s Church as a whole, and this glorifies God.
Indeed, Christ said to his disciples that the world would know they were his disciples because they loved one another.
But something is broken in a man’s view of God, himself, and others when he hates rather than loves his brothers. So also when he uses his supposed spiritual gifts to relentlessly tear others down – even to the point of driving some to nervous breakdowns, depression, and suicide; so also when he routinely self-aggrandizes and promotes his own ego and cult of personality at others’ expense.
In such cases, it is not only fair to surmise a man is not using his gifts as God intended; it is needful to wonder whether he is actually of his father the Devil.
As it is written, “What communion has light with darkness?”
And also, “If anyone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar.”
Wolves Dressed As Sheep
Ever-present, thinly veiled malice is not a hallmark of Christ’s followers. On the contrary, it is a sign of a wolf in sheep’s clothing.
Indeed, Jesus warned us:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?
So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
Never before JD Hall had I encountered attendees, members, or leaders of a church – past or present – afraid for their physical safety or that of their family after conflict with a pastor. Yet I have heard such concerns more than once with regards to Jordan and his church.
And it’s not difficult to sympathize with that fear. The ever-present contempt is obvious.
Yet such is the nature of the intimidation that people are afraid to confront or oppose Jordan, to hold him accountable for his treatment of the truth and of people. Whatever Jordan’s personal spiritual alignment, that dynamic is certainly of the Devil.
“By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.”
JD Hall’s public support for causes I care deeply about is so self-absorbedly off-putting and unnecessarily abrasive; it undermines them.
Take the case of Richland County, Montana potentially declaring itself a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary. I am personally in favor of the proposal itself.
For that matter, I just moved my family to Weld County, Colorado this past September. The fact that Weld County is a 2nd Amendment Sanctuary is one of the reasons we wanted to live here.
However, the potential failure of the measure in Richland County because of Jordan arguing for it frustrates and saddens me. What’s more, the idea that the Pro-Life agenda might be set back by JD Hall’s advocacy due to his abusive manner of speaking and treating others is intolerable.
To the Richland County Republicans who have chosen Hall to be their spokesperson – I implore reconsideration on three points. Namely, you are:
- Undermining these causes by putting this man at your fore.
- Hurting your own reputation and credibility by associating with him.
- Empowering a man who should not be in any kind of leadership, but who moreover needs to take himself in hand before he presumes to grandstand and lecture others on their inferior moral and spiritual condition.
In case that’s not clear enough, I’ll put it in simpler language. Don’t feed the troll.
Never Hall Republican
Here I need to address a point which occurred to me in writing this article.
I remember my negative reaction when I heard several years ago that JD Hall was running for Montana House District 35. I had to ask myself a question: What differentiated my attitude toward Jordan from that of many Never-Trump Republicans toward President Trump?
Never Trump Republicans argued during the primary and election that Trump was a man of low character and bad manners. His election would damage the conservative cause for generations to come.
Trump had been married how many times? He was on the cover of Playboy! Had he been completely honest in his business dealings? He was so uncouth and rude!
Yet I voted for Donald Trump during the 2016 election. Moreover, I intend to vote for his re-election in 2020.
That being the case, how can I vote for and support Donald Trump while castigating JD Hall? Jordan is a pastor, for crying out loud!
But that’s just it. That is the crux of the matter.
JD Hall claims authority in the civic and political realm by touting his supposed spiritual bona fides. And his supporters look at his bold platform at Fellowship Baptist Church in Sidney, Montana; they read his articles on Pulpit & Pen. And they conclude such things prove his courage and quality. But they don’t.
JD Hall’s Christianity is just an excuse to bully people; the church just so happens to occupy a dimension in which he thinks he can get away with it.
As bad or worse, Jordan’s involvement in the political realm brings both the gospel and conservatism into disrepute; it also takes all the air out of the room for worthier others who might otherwise be heard.
Satan Quoted Scripture
I find myself recalling in the gospels when, after being baptized by John, Jesus went into the wilderness by himself. And while in the desert, Satan appeared to Jesus.
If you think about it, Satan didn’t tempt Jesus only with food and water and security and glory – though he did tempt him with all those things. Satan also quoted Scripture to Jesus to make his case for why Jesus should submit to Satan to pursue his ends.
It’s remarkable that Jesus, fasting for 40-days, lonesome and exposed all the while to the daytime heat and nighttime cold of the desert, persevered; Jesus resisted the Devil.
Yet we would do well to learn a lesson about the way Satan likes to tempt God’s people into falling in line with his purposes.
Satan quotes Scripture. Therefore, it does not necessarily follow that the boldest, most knowledgeable Bible scholar is the holiest, most admirable, best possible moral guide.
Yet my concern is that this is the very trap too many misguided, well-intentioned Christians and conservatives have fallen into with JD Hall.
And as I said in my November 2017 piece, we must take great care in the wake of such men to not throw babies out with bathwater once we get wise to the game. That, I think, is the Devil’s real angle here: to make good things sound bad by corrupting them.
If Christians and conservatives start self-censoring their contributions of salt and light in eastern Montana and across the country in any measure because JD Hall has brought their positions into disrepute, then the Devil has gotten his way to that extent.
Yet it falls to people like you and me to ensure such a thing does not happen.
Resist the Devil.