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“Newsweek” and “Christian Post” Criticize Christian Leaders As “Woke” and “Progressive”

Two online outlets, both controlled by controversial South Korean Christian leader David Jang, have taken aim at Christian leaders they claim are “woke.”

In a series of editorials and opinionated news articles, The Christian Post and Newsweek claim the “woke” movement has overtaken Christian pulpits, churches, denominations, publications, and colleges, and its leaders include Phil Vischer, Russell Moore, Ed Stetzer, and David Platt, all of whom Newsweek called “progressive Christians.”  A similar article in the Christian Post included Beth Moore on the list.

It’s not clear what qualifies someone as “woke,” though loyalty to Donald Trump – or a lack thereof — seemed to matter more than theological distinctives.  Emails obtained by MinistryWatch indicate that Newsweek asked these five leaders their views on California gubernatorial candidate Larry Elder.  Elder is a Black libertarian who hosts a conservative radio show for the Salem Media Group and appears regularly on Fox News.  He is also seen as a front-runner in next month’s recall election in California.  The failure to respond, or to support Elder, apparently contributed to them being labeled as “woke.”

Aside from his celebrity status as a talk show host, Elder is not an obvious choice for Christians.  He doesn’t claim to be a Christian and lives unmarried with his girlfriend.  He has never held public office and has declined to debate his fellow Republican candidates. He has refused to release his tax returns and has been required to correct his financial disclosure statements.  

Also, the network he works for, Salem Media Group, has in recent years veered away from its earlier commitment to Christian programming, in favor of conservative and populist programming.  It owns Townhall.com, whose political editor, Guy Benson, is in a same-sex marriage with Adam Wise.  It recently purchased Regnery Books, which leans more toward conservative than Christian book publishing.  

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But supporting Elder has become a crucial test of faith, according to an editorial in The Christian Post entitled: “California recall: Calling the Christian Left’s bluff on racial equity.” 

If Christians don’t support Elder, they’re admitting they are hypocrites and “political activists once again using African Americans as pawns to advance their liberal agenda.”  The editorial doesn’t refer to any Christian teaching or tradition, or explain why Christians living outside California must weigh in on that state’s recall.  Nor did the editorial mention any of the 45 other candidates in the recall race or explain why Christians must rally around Elder.

The pro-Elder editorial appeared in The Christian Post on Sunday, Aug. 8.  By Monday, Aug. 9, Newsweek reporter Carly Mayberry was busy turning the pro-Elder editorial into a pro-Elder article for Newsweek, copy-and-pasting language from the editorial into her email to Stetzer, Moore, Moore, Vischer, and Platt, people she described as “figures known as progressive Christians.” One of the recipients sent MinistryWatch a screenshot of Mayberry’s email:

The story addresses why more Christian leaders aren’t speaking out to support Larry Elder, especially those progressive Christian leaders because it is a perfect chance to demonstrate the sincerity of their faith and truth support for oppressed people groups…where are these “conscious Christians” who boasts of being awake to inequality and racial inequity.

On Aug. 11, Newsweek posted Mayberry’s article. It, too, echoes the original Christian Post editorial:

So why then aren’t leaders from the Christian Left—the “conscious Christians” as they’re dubbed, known for their support of Black Lives Matter, criticism of white patriarchal dominance, and a desire for those historically persecuted to succeed— voicing support for “the Sage of South Central” as Elder has come to be known? That’s the question some of his supporters are raising—those who say it’s the moment of truth for the Christian Left.

This sharing of content between Jang-controlled Newsweek and the Christian Post is not surprising to media watchers.

The Washington Post sold Newsweek for one dollar to an investor in 2010, who sold it to Jang-related IBT Media in 2013.  Since then, Newsweek has been the subject of unflattering profiles in the New Republic (“Newsweek and the Rise of the Zombie Magazine: How a decaying legacy magazine is being used to launder right-wing ideas and conspiracy theories”), the Columbia Journalism Review (“Dropshipping journalism: No one working at Newsweek can tell me why it still exists”), and Slate (“How Newsweek Collapsed”).

Veteran reporters left or have been fired, replaced by writers who work for minimum wage and receive bonus payments for generating clicks. 

As MinistryWatch has previously reported, executives of The Christian Post and Newsweek, all of them disciples of Jang, have admitted to fraud, money laundering, illegally using foreign students as unpaid more-than-full-time employees and inflating circulation numbers to rip off advertisers.

Today, it’s difficult to distinguish opinion pieces from supposed news reporting:

Televangelist Jim Bakker: Democrats Will Kill Trump if Impeachment Fails

Is There Anything Actually Wrong With ‘Christian Nationalism?’

‘Roseanne’ Wasn’t Canceled Because Of Racism

‘Woke’ Christians Are Eroding Trump’s Base, Dividing the Evangelical Church

The “woke” headline above is from a Newsweek “news” article by reporter Paul Bond published a month before the 2020 Presidential election. In his 3,200-word article Bond gives an expanded list of those Newsweek considers woke, starting with Phil Vischer, the creator of “VeggieTales.”

Another favorite target is the Southern Baptist Convention, which as MinistryWatch and others reported, declined to sell its Glorieta camp and conference center in New Mexico to Jang’s group after studying his unusual theology and global goals.

Other woke folk include:

  • Christian colleges: “Almost every Christian college is marching in solidarity with BLM, which is neo-Marxist and atheist. How do you do that and claim to be an orthodox Christian university?”
  • Christian publications: “most…have taken a sharp left turn.”
  • Chick-fil-A CEO Dan Cathy, who “has weighed in on white privilege.”
  • “Some say Barna (Group) itself has gone woke” because it is “launching a slew of tools to get Christians to discuss race.”

Another Bond article published after the Jan. 6 Capitol attack, Christians in Crosshairs After Capitol Riot, argued that Christians, including pastors who attended rallies near the Capitol that day, are the real victims.  They are “in hiding, are in the crosshairs after riots at the Capitol featured imagery of crosses and mentions of Jesus and God.”

Steve Rabey

Steve Rabey is a veteran author and journalist who has published more than 50 books and 2,000 articles about religion, spirituality, and culture. He was an instructor at Fuller and Denver seminaries and the U.S. Air Force Academy. He and his wife Lois live in Colorado.