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John MacArthur, Beth Moore and Word Association (In More Than Two Words)

This past week, I was shown a video of John MacArthur, a pastor for half a century and

author of The MacArthur Study Bible, responding to what appears to be a past time

tradition of “word association” which is in fact a free fall into middle school gossip

against Christian influencers and teachers. The “word” (hear name) offered for this year

was “Beth Moore.” The twisted irony is that this conference was entitled the Truth

Matters Conference. However, we hear them mock the concept in title and function by

tearing down Beth Moore, an inductive Bible study guru, and life changer for many of

us, who share her story of overcoming sexual abuse, suicidal depression and addiction.

She is compared to a TV jewelry salesperson and is later condemned for making the

reality of God personal to her journey so that she could assist the rest of us in ours. What

a bitch, right? MacArthur’s first response to this gossip mongering nosedive “When I

say, “’Beth Moore’ What is your first word?” to which MacArthur says, “Go Home.” For a

sharp guy, that’s two words. And when the facilitator said, “That’s two words.”

MacArthur glibly says, “Literalist!”

But you’ll see that as we walk through this immature and damaging event of what gets

said next, I sort of have to pluck the low hanging fruit and retort, “literalist.” But then

again, the low hanging fruit is sort of everywhere as you will see, and it’s just too easy to

stop there.

For the sake of his family, his work, as a sister of compassion (I try), I inwardly begged

MacArthur to leave his dark “Go Home,” but I was even more startled by what came

next. He went on to say that really no one, but him and some dudes, who are like him,

should ever really have the influence, the rights with all things church. He goes on to

suggest that we need to watch out for the heresy that comes when women and people of

color think they can involve themselves in the interpretation of the Bible.

And there’s more. My jaw dropped, as I was slurping up tears of grief and

embarrassment, when he noted that the #metoo movement was insidiously elbowing its

way into the rationale of church and God’s purpose in the Bible. Huh? Have you met

anything at all related to any version of God? What has happened? Stop talking. You’re

so embarrassing. And if that’s not bad enough, he mentioned that the “deviousness” of

feminism was that it only sought to move women to the head of things. . .like politics

and religious institutions. Feminism fought for our vote, medical care and equal pay,

but, to them, feminism is spoken of with hatred when they mention how women want

the power over things like decision making and influence.

This rhetoric supports superiority and worst of all, it’s legitimized in the same manner

Hitler did it—in the name of protecting “truth,” the “country;” and now, in this case, in

the name of the inerrancy of Scripture and worst of all in the purpose of God in history,

in the church, and in the hope and function of 50% of our planet.  

It’s curious to me that church leaders like this have not insisted on head coverings (a

suggestion of Paul to Timothy), but there is ongoing preference and emphasis that

women are not endorsed as leaders beyond Sunday school and the PTO? Perhaps head

coverings are unattractive to men, but since the authority of women scares them that

concern stays. Emphasizing one concept over the other has only one motive: women

must not win. Not that women need to win, but women can’t enter the contest because,

well, what if they win?

Just as guilty as the evil tribunal-style glib “word association,” are the chortling men in

the audience who are complicit by acts of omission. Not one of them stood up and railed

against the reality of how damaging this is to the kingdom, to the suffering and saving

act of Jesus, and to the sister, who is an anointed co-heir. But their expiration date

quickly approaches.

Should it come as any surprise that the World Health Organization report in 2013 noted

that 1 in 3 women experience interpersonal physical and or sexual violence in their

lifetime—globally? There is no doubt in my mind that this statistic is at

best—conservative, because in my 25 years of professional clinical social work roles,

most (at least 80%) of the teens and women I have treated have never reported their

suffering to an agency, a medical professional, to anyone keeping record.

Tell me where Jesus protected scriptural inerrancy over inclusion, forgiveness and

empowerment? And as Episcopal priest Cynthia Bourgeault notes, Jesus’ harsh words

are reserved entirely for those whose certainty about their religious rectitude causes

them to condemn others. She goes on to say, that in light of Jesus’ compassionate

presence, people are set free to live their lives in strength and hope, regardless of

whether they be considered outcasts by those in the “religious know.” (Adapted by

Richard Rohr, for the Daily Meditation, October 22 nd , 2019 on behalf of the Center for

Action and Contemplation, from “Cynthia Bourgeault on Homosexuality in the Bible,”

How power is perceived as something to wield against dignity rather than for dignity

will never really be clear to me. It creates poverty, war, oppression. It’s expensive.

Sexual crimes cost more than all other crimes combined. As Sarah Bessey wrote,

“making a shift toward a theology of care, of health and joy, of shamelessness, of

inclusion and of love, while also actively working to dismantle patriarchy from our

understanding of those things, will be active necessary work for us all. There will be

overcorrections and missteps as we do that work, but even that is necessary as we carve

out a path of wholeness.” (Relevant Magazine, issue 100, July-August, 2019)

My passion is to lose now to gain later and to make sure I am on the redeeming side of

history with my work for those who are overcoming oppression and trauma and so that I

can raise my sons to see all humans as equally worthy of choice and control. It is my

high honor to grow into my true self with my beautiful LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters, with my Asian,

African American, Latino, Jewish, Hindu and Buddhist inspirations—all of whom are

my comrades and generous givers. It has saved my life to walk with my sisters who have

seen my suffering under stigma and shame and stayed anyway. I will walk with all of

them to grow our meaning and dignity. We will forge through the lies with truth and

reminders of our design and Designer, who—through the person of Christ—says, “You

are worth every effort.”

I’m an Enneagram 8 with a social instinct so I need to be true to my nature and urge us

onward so here’s my charge:

Make every effort to decline being sidelined, silenced and subjugated. Decide to the be the change and watch others follow, while the insecure whisper behind their hands. I have personally lost family, friends, a marriage, some clients, an nearly all connections

made the first 25 years of my life. Some might say I have forfeited a convenient life of

going along to get along. I can tell you that the first round of the shock of rejection (from

each of these categories) hurts like a mother effer. But mercy is new every morning, so

there’s the rain, the miracle of growth after the winter of grave loss. Some of you are

reading this and saying, I can’t. I can’t be bothered. I will have no way to keep my family and friends. I say at what cost? And are they the right family and friends, when they want you small, scared, drained and harmed?

It is a personal war of belief, then a social one.

Be detailed about the reality, don’t skip anything that your smart system notices—whether it’s being interrupted, cut off from the promotion, talked down to by your friend, condescended by your brother, forgotten by those you trusted to be constant, gaslighted by your spouse, your pastor. It all matters. I urge you to bravely push away the plate that asks you to sigh and say, “It’s not worth it.” We are—men and women—worth it, and it offends the never-ending mercy of God to suggest otherwise. We literally offend God and the image of God within us not to account for and question all the movements of wrong. As Jen Hatmaker astutely says, “power is kept intact by people who don’t question it.”

Men, learn to self-correct and correct the men who harm others in the name of power-

scarcity and their unfinished business. Men have healed me as they confront coaches

who say to our boys on the field to “stop playing like a girl. . .you look like your sister out

there.” Men heal me as they see my overcoming and gently put their head on my

shoulder and say, “I’m so sorry, mama. I wish I could’ve fought for you” Or as they read

my book, and say, I’m sorry your dad did that to you. It takes my breath away. It

restores me. The capacity for caregiving and healing by men is gigantic. “Husband” is

derived from the old English word husbandry, which means caretaker and is more

literally referred to the caretaker of the gardens—watering, shielding, pruning, weeding,

tending in diligence and strength. Men thrive in sharing the load, leaning into the

strength of others. We women and the people of a thousand races, creeds and sexual

orientations are here to be a part of your strength, and you are here to be a part of ours.

We can cut through the albatross of fear and the expensive ruin of such thinking, as

presented by MacArthur and others chortling along—and believe in the work of God in

each human. Enriched human capital leads to ongoing and never-ending gain. This is

simply less expensive at every level.

And now my confrontation (this is super E8 of me).

The “truth” conference slamming Beth Moore and women in general devalues the

resurrection and the defeat of evil, and it turns you—our brothers who are hailed as

truth-tellers at a truth conference—into a trivial loss. I urge you to offer a public apology

for darkening the world and discuss the work of healing that lies ahead for you, along

with the ways you plan to make this right. Otherwise, all your effort will be like chaff

floating in the wind. You will be remembered for your damage, your insecurity and your

dehydrated thinking. You will be perceived as abusers of the image of God in others. My

sons, listening to your “Beth Moore Go Home Event” (as they call it), will forge a path

that never involves you because this group think made them cry with embarrassment for

you and all the men in attendance.

This is the fairest warning I know to give.

“Gentleness and humility are enormous human strengths awaiting discovery by mankind.” -Israel Stuhl

My favorite quote by a man who survived the Holocaust is by Israel Stuhl, who says,

“Gentleness and humility are enormous human strengths awaiting discovery by

mankind.” The work of my hands and the hope that keeps me in the ring is that we

welcome and become such things.

Big love to you all.

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Mary Ellen’s statement, “How power is perceived as something to wield against dignity rather than for dignity will never really be clear to me,” sums it all up. Is this not at the core of the issue? She goes on to write, “It creates poverty, war, oppression. It’s expensive.” I would add trauma and death to that as well. Death of spirit, mind and soul. Trauma that is carried in secret for a lifetime which will eat at the soul until the person does not recognize himself/herself. Death of spirit is rooted in misogyny, racism, abuse, gossip and hate. The #metoo movement stems from this. Just imagine if men used their physical strength, intellect, compassion or position of power t…


Laurie Christensen
Laurie Christensen
Oct 31, 2019

Mary Ellen, I couldn’t agree with you more. I am sickened and grieved by his words. How could a supposed man of God speak in those ways? He has done great harm to the Kingdom and I pray that he will repent and apologize publicly under the weight of the conviction of the Holy Spirit.

Thank you Beth Moore & you Mary Ellen for your work helping those of us who have been victimized and oppressed. You are a Godsend! I pray God’s blessings and protection over you. Keep speaking the truth in love. The only “going home” I plan on doing is when I go to heaven and meet my Savior and Redeemer face to face in Heaven!



This is an important blog for all Christians to read...because it speaks truth like a flower in a field of weeds. Thank you Mary Ellen!!!! I was one of those who “went along to get along.” It is not what Jesus calls us to...He wants so much more from us. It is important to draw the distinction between who Jesus was harsh with (Pharisees) and with whom he was kind and gentle. John McArthur used his power for something attempt destroy the ministry of an effective soldier in Christ’s army. Shame on John McArthur. There will be consequences for his cruelty...either in this life or the next. Bravo Mary Ellen for speaking out against what attempts to impede reac…


I urge you to bravely push away the plate that asks you to sigh and say, “It’s not worth it.”Thank you for you challenging and thoughtful post. I have been so offended and sickened by MacArthur's choices that I didn't want to give it the time of day. But as you so lovingly challenged, the fight to defend against what is wrong and damaging is always worth it. You are leading the way for healing and justice and truth. Keep speaking loudly and bravely, Mare.


Oct 26, 2019

Mary Ellen you are an extraordinary gift that God has blessed us with. I love that you shared your thoughts and truth on this subject that is so damaging to the progress we have made in history. The healing potential this has is magnificent. Women are so strong and wise. My prayer is that men and women wake up and realize their potential and become all that God designed them to be. Have you ever tried to see every person you interact with through the eyes of God? Seeing who God sees in them and all that he made them to be. Man kind was created to love one another and lift one another closer to the kingdom and not…

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