The Al-Qaeda/Emergent Church Connection – Seriously?


I could go on and on, with stuttering sarcasm, pretending articles like Frank Pastore’s “Why Al-Qaeda Supports the Emergent Church” are just really clever satire, fit for the pages of The Onion or Lark News. But that wouldn’t be true. The truth is Pastore is a popular Christian radio announcer in Los Angeles, winner of the National Religious Broadcasters “Talk Show of the Year” award in 2006. So this is no joke.

But who would believe this stuff? It’s half-baffling to think that anyone would, because it’s so over-the-top. But I was reminded recently when a sincere co-worker shared at staff devotions about “the evils of postmodernism” and read excerpts from The Truth War by John MacArthur. We had a good discussion about it later, and he told me that he’s actually reading MacArthur’s book and D.A. Carson’s Conversing with the Emerging Church because he’s interested in learning more about the emerging church. He plans to pass along this information to his pastor so that his church can be better prepared to face the threat of the emerging church. (gulp)

What is this perceived “threat” anyway? Pastore accuses emerging missional Christians (and sympathizers) of committing the sin of relativism (mostly) and other heresies as well. But I think the real threat is articulated in his comments about the growing number of “churchless”/”post-church” Christians in the U.S. (a trend touted by George Barna’s Revolution book and other sources). Pastore writes, “If those in the emergent ‘we’re-a-missional-not-an-institutional’ church had their way, American church buildings would be just like European church buildings—empty.”

The irony is that most American church buildings already sit empty 90% of the time, and emerging missional Christians are actually some of the leading voices talking about and advocating ways to open up these spaces to make a greater contribution in their communities—with the goal of making a deeper impact in people’s lives. (Just listen to Reggie McNeal for a minute to get a dozen or so ideas for how you can do this at your church!)

But Pastore’s most volatile and inflammatory statement (and the crux of his whole article) is this: “The emergent church is an ally in the war against radical Islam—al Qaeda’s ally. Not in the sense they are supplying bullets and bombs to Osama, of course, but in the sense they are weakening our conviction to fight.”

Did you catch that? Conviction to fight. Sounds to me like Pastore is advocating an imperialistic form of Christianity that would take control (of this country and the world, if it could) by force. Does this sound familiar? It’s the exact same thing he’s afraid of in radical Islam. He wants to “fight fire with fire,” I suppose, and he’s afraid of the emerging church because we’re taking a third way out of that whole mess (and there’s a lot of us on this train outta Dodge). But that’s the sad and incredible irony in Pastore’s whole disturbing diatribe: Emerging Christians are actually the ones who might-could engage in productive dialogue with emerging Muslims and get them to the table with emerging Jews to discuss a way forward, toward possibly creating a lasting peace*.

I’m sorry, but I don’t believe the “Bible-believing patriots,” as Pastore calls them (a.k.a. “conservative, evangelical Christians” in his equation), are ever going to be able to bring about peace by the sword. As Derek Webb sings: “Peace by way of war is like purity by way of fornication. It’s like telling someone murder is wrong, and then showing them by way of execution” (“My Enemies Are Men Like Me,” from the Mockingbird album).

*By “peace,” I’m not talking about some ecumenical utopia. The peace we are all seeking is shalom, the kingdom of God, and that’s what we’re seeking to be “on about” in the emerging missional church. But we’re not “on a crusade,” and we’re sorry that we can’t agree to join yours. I pray that Pastore (and MacArthur and all those that read/listen to them) will be able to understand that—because it’s the truth.

“‘Not by might nor by power, but by my Spirit,’ says the LORD Almighty.” —Zechariah 4:6

UPDATE: If you’re tempted to dismiss my critique of Pastore’s article (which I would totally understand), please read these comments from Reformed blogger Justin Taylor and Christianity Today‘s Ted Olsen. Thank you, Justin and Ted, for speaking up!



Posted on 07-25-2007


  1. Todd Wold says:

    July 25th, 2007 at 9:00 pm

    Just a hearty amen, brother Steve. That’s all I can say right now without losing my cool.

  2. Happenings « Musings of a Postmodern Negro says:

    July 25th, 2007 at 10:37 pm

    […] The Al-Qaeda/Emergent Church Connection – Seriously? […]

  3. dave says:

    July 26th, 2007 at 12:08 am

    What Pastore wrote is so ridiculously off base that I don’t know if it’s even worth trying to respond to it. My head is spinning at the notion of actually trying to take the time to refute him on a point-by-point basis.

    But if you really want to be disturbed, go read the comments on his article from all his followers. It must be comforting to be an ultraconservative Republican who is so convinced they are right about everything because they think God is also an ultraconservative Republican. God hates abortion, but is perfectly fine with leaders who lie, war, poverty, corporate and personal greed, and torture. And He only cares about genocide if it’s taking place in a country with oil.

    [deep breath]. Yeah, I’m just dismissing Pastore as a crackpot and moving on.

  4. Fred says:

    July 26th, 2007 at 2:59 pm

    I linked to your article on my xanga and also on myspace. This guy is fried.

  5. Derek says:

    August 6th, 2007 at 11:06 pm

    Great article.

    I wish Frank Pastore would site his sources when he pretends to communicate Christianity. I mean, idioms such as “they will raise your taxes,” “support our troops,” “that’s socialism,” and “those liberals” should not replace the bible as the source for Christian ethics?

    Here are some verses I think would support Mr. Pastore’s position…

    The Gospel of Chaney 5:9 blessed is the warmongers, for they shall be called Patriots.

    Rove 12:2 Do not conform any longer to Christian principles, but be transformed by only watching Fox news. Then you will be able to support and regurgitate what Bush’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will…

    I miss Duffy and Company….

  6. Steve Knight- Man of Glory responds to an article on Emergent and Al-Queda « Confessions of a TreeHouse Monastic says:

    August 11th, 2007 at 9:52 am

    […] August 11, 2007 at 2:52 pm · Filed under Emergent, Mission, Ecclesiology, Theology, War, Life, Politics, Religion Read this here. […]

  7. john says:

    September 19th, 2007 at 6:26 pm

    I see no difference in a church sitting 90% empty and being filled with the nonsense the emergent church is throwing out. Let me correct. People are better off not in church than being exposed to what the emergent church is throwing out.

  8. Steve K. says:

    September 19th, 2007 at 6:55 pm


    Thanks for commenting. You are entitled to your opinion, of course. I’m just wondering why you would feel this way. Will you please elaborate?

    Steve K.

  9. Blair says:

    September 25th, 2007 at 4:04 pm

    I’m currently reading “The Truth War” by John MacArthur. I have to admit that he makes a lot of valid arguments against the Emergent Church movement.

    Of course, I think of you often while reading it. I’ll happily let you borrow it after I’m done.

    That’s assuming, of course, that I’ll still feel comfortable fraternizing with an emergent church rabble-rouser…..

    Peace, Love, Shalom, Salam Alaikum and all that….
    Your incredibly humble and opinionated pal.

  10. Jim says:

    September 30th, 2007 at 10:49 am

    I posted this to my myspace as well with a link and credit here.

    There is a war brewing in the church, a war of status quo, indifference, power and prosperity versus the truth of the gospel, the truth of our mission and purpose.

    There is too much hatred when we are taught to love, too much judgement when we are taught to not judge, too many blind eyes turned to the poor and to injustice when Jesus said to not turn a blind eye. So many that are respected “experts” lead teach things contrary to the word of Christ, and live lives contrary to their own teachings. I hope, and I pray, they seek God and consider a path that is Christ centered and begin to walk with humility, grace and mercy as our Lord did, and so many of us seek to do.

    I cannot support what is contrary to what my Savior taught. Nothing any man says replaces what Jesus said. I will follow Him. No other.

  11. Emergent Terrorism « Emerging Menno says:

    January 11th, 2008 at 3:31 am

    […] Steve Knight’s lack of “sputtering sarcasm.” Mark VanSteenwyck is reminded of Anabaptism Jordan Cooper  calls it stupid, but gets some weird ananymous trolling in the comments. […]

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