This Wasn’t Right

Yesterday I heard that KTMW – TV20 had cancelled Shawn McCraney’s show, “Heart of the Matter.” This is an unfortunate turn of events since Shawn McCraney said absolutely nothing that merits that kind of response. Now, I have no idea what the real motivations were for canceling Shawn’s show. But, if they are, as I suspect, an example of Evangelical “blackballing” I want to say that it’s wrong.

I want to share a few things, and I know by doing so I run the risk of angering some. The nice thing about being me is that I have a thick skin and don’t care much about making people angry. First, I want to share the gracious response for Shawn McCraney as it was posted on the Heart of the Matter web page:

Dear Fans, Friends, (and even all you enemies out there) -

On Tuesday night, January 1st 2013, we announced on our television program Heart of the Matter that after seven years of passionately “going after” Mormonism with relentless and factual tenacity we were going to use 2013 to shine a light on our own house – namely, on American Evangelical Christianity. Five days later we received written notice from the owners and management of KTMW TV20 that they were officially severing all ties with Alathea Ministries and this decision was non-negotiable.

We wish to extend to the owners and management of KTMW TV20 our deepest gratitude for allowing us to use their facilities over the years in our attempt at bringing all who would hear to the truth of the gospel of Jesus Christ. The Lord has blessed these efforts abundantly and they never would have occurred without the constant support from KTMW TV-20.

We invite any and all who have questions, concerns, or objections to this decision to refrain from responding to this event in the flesh but to instead pray – for TV-20′s continued success, for the LDS, for the Body, and for Alathea Ministries. God almighty has been, is, and will forever be in charge. To this we are convinced.

If you should desire to experience church stripped of most of the modern evangelical cultural trappings plaguing the Body today we invite any and all to visit us on any given Sunday at the University of Utah.

God bless you, one and all. And thank you for your prayers and support over the years.

Shawn McCraney
Alathea Ministries

This is a response to a difficult situation that is both gracious and encouraging. Shawn doesn’t express any ill-will towards the station or anyone else. This is an exemplary response to an apparent over-reaction. And, now to explain why I believe this is an over-reaction and a probable example of blackballing of the worst sort. On January 4th I was forwarded a message by a dear friend who asked my opinion on a set of two email messages bearing the curious subject line “Shawn McCraney’s last days?” The message was originally sent to a number of pastors in Utah and contained the following, including an original message from an apparent employee of TV20 linking to a YouTube video representing a sped up excerpt of Shawn’s announcement of his 2013 focus:

Ok, pastors, here’s a sped up version of Shawn McCraney’s program of last Tuesday night (New Year’s Day eve) where he discusses his plans to denounce evangelical Christianity with the same vengeance as he has done against Mormonism for the last eight years. You can watch this sped up version that does not have the phone calls included in about 15 minutes. This attack against the Body of Christ in Utah must not be allowed to take place, this is divisive and wrong. I believe this is something we could all agree on, the unity of the Body of Christ is worth standing up for!

Feel free to pass on your concerns to channel 20 and Denny Ermel (they actually need to hear from Utah Pastors) if you are concerned about Shawn’s new agenda.

Thanks,

Greg

Hi Everyone,

FYI, TV 20 sent me this link to Shawn’s last show. It’s “sped up” which allows you to watch the entire show in 15 minutes! Interesting 2013 focus for Shawn! ;-)

==========

Hi Bill, here you go…

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u4LnxHnhgVc&feature=youtu.be

Sean O’Brien

KTMW TV20

===========

This message is entirely inappropriate because Shawn said absolutely nothing. He laid out his intent to criticize his own camp (Evangelicalism) regarding excesses that he believes need to be addressed. Was his tone combative, of course. That’s how Shawn works on Heart of the Matter. It’s not an approach that I find appealing to imbibe, but it’s what he is known for. And, it is what others have supported as he went after Mormonism. But, as soon as Shawn decided to criticize the problems within Evangelicalism it was described as an “attack against the Body of Christ.” I want to be very clear: Evangelicalism is NOT the Body of Christ. Evangelicalism is an inter-denominational movement made up of people who may or may not be part of the Body of Christ, individually. Evangelicalism is NOT the Church.

The failure of Greg Johnson, of Standing Together Utah, to understand that distinction is the heart of the current problem. The failure of those who took Greg’s advice and chose to “pass on [their] concerns to channel 20″ to also see this fundamental error is at the heart of the current problem. What we see is an example of Evangelicals wielding power in a worldly way, suppressing and silencing a critic, before any real criticism has been made. This is the behavior of a coward and a bully. Again, I want to be very clear: Evangelicalism in Utah has now shown itself to be both cowardly and bullying towards someone they had treated as one of their own.

What Shawn McCraney said in his January 1st show did not constitute an “attack against the Body of Christ,” nor was it “divisive and wrong.” Shawn didn’t say anything of substance, and thanks to the over-reaction of TV20 and those who encouraged their action, Shawn has been wrongly silenced. Shawn did not attack “the unity of the Body of Christ.” Shawn expressed an opinion that there were problems in American Evangelical Christianity that needed to be addressed, and that he was going to use his television show as a platform to try and address them. That is a worthy endeavor. An endeavor I had concerns about. But, I was willing to wait until Shawn actually spoke and made plain his concerns, rather than acting on a knee-jerk reaction and seeking the silencing of the messenger.

As a follow-up to Shawn’s cancellation I was forwarded another message by another friend in the ministry, also sent by Greg Johnson:

Pastors, just an fyi (if you don’t already know), channel 20 hand delivered Shawn his termination letter today, Heart of the Matter and Shawn McCraney are done at the station.

Not sure what the fallout will be from his supporters (some of which attend your churches), but I wanted you to be properly informed before things went public on Tuesday.

In all seriousness, this is a sad ending for Shawn. He is a passionate man and he runs hard after God, but his approach has gotten the best of him and his platform has been removed. I’m sure he will try to continue, but without TV, he is very limited.

I hope he responds to some of you that have attempted to reach out to him personally, but in the mean time remember to say a prayer for Shawn and ask that the Lord help him respond appropriately.

One last thing, say a prayer for Ch. 20 itself as this decision will not come without some backlash. Perhaps this is an important time to reach out to Denny and the station with support and encouragement. Send them an e-mail, consider helping them make up the financial lost they will take by canceling Shawn’s show (he paid them $400 an episode), for doing the right thing and canceling him. If you end up sending them $25 or $50 a month let everyone know so that we can see how the Lord might meet the needs of the station. By the way, they would love to film a commercial for any interested church and air it throughout the week, so by supporting them you will be blessed too.

Anyone interested in filming a 30 to 60 second commercial, just let me know and we’ll arrange it.

With a hopeful heart for the future of Ch. 20,

Greg

This message strikes me as a bit disingenuous as it expresses sadness over the cancellation of Shawn’s program, after this same author encouraged pastors to call the station and “pass on [their] concerns.” Those pastors, and possibly others did was was asked and “Shawn’s last days” came about, just as the subject of the original message portended. Shawn’s last days on TV20 were ushered in at the encouragement of this man who now expresses that “this is a sad ending for Shawn.” A sad ending for whom? Clearly it is a sad day for Shawn and his ministry; to be silenced before you can even speak can’t be a good thing to endure. But, it is exactly the sort of ending that Greg Johnson and others sought. For them, this should be a good day and a pleasurable ending.

This is evidence that Evangelicalism is sick and in need of some healthy introspection. There are practices that pervade many Evangelical churches that are unbiblical and unhealthy. Shawn McCraney isn’t the first to seek to address them; nor will he be the last. David Platt has spoken extensively on this subject, as has John Piper, and others. Shawn McCraney though was silenced because it was easy to do so, and that simply wasn’t right. Shame on Utah Evangelicals for not being willing to hear hard words that may have been good for the unity and health of the body. Now, we may never know what good could have come. This wasn’t right!



UPDATE: 2013-01-09

I will be posting a follow-up by Friday that will include a letter Shawn McCraney sent to TV20′s station manager alongside an official statement from the station.


UPDATE: 2013-01-10

A staff person at the station has told me that the official statement will not be ready until tomorrow. Depending on when the statement is made available, I may not have it and the other materials I’ve received ready to post tomorrow.

Also, I’ve had one particular complaint about the tone and conclusions of this post that lead me to want to make something clear, if it wasn’t already: this is an opinion piece. I’m not a journalist, I’m just a guy with a blog. I stated at the outset that I did not have any information at the time of writing about the internal reasons for TV20 canceling Shawn’s programming. I drew conclusions based on materials given to me and stated my opinions. As opinions, everything I’ve stated may be subject to correction based on additional information being made available. At this time I stand by my belief that the station over-reacted and that Greg Johnson helped to drive that over-reaction. Should the station’s official statement reveal new information, my opinion is subject to change. Along with that I believe that portions of the letter than Shawn McCraney apparently sent to the station’s owner may have also fueled the over-reaction, and plan to address that along with dealing with whatever the station decides to officially say about the matter.


UPDATE: 2013-01-11

I’ve now published the letter Shawn sent to the station, along with their official response. You can read all the updates here.

22 thoughts on “This Wasn’t Right

  1. “I’m sure he will try to continue, but without TV, he is very limited.”
    “(he paid them $400 an episode)”

    He was paying to be distributed on a TV channel, but somehow his ministry will suffer without such distribution? In the age of the Internet? :P

    • I’m hopeful that Shawn will be able to deal with the issues he was planning to address via the power of the Internet. I think some of what he was planning to address needs to be heard by Evangelicals in Utah.

    • I confessed in my third sentence: “Now, I have no idea what the real motivations were for canceling Shawn’s show. But, if they are, as I suspect, an example of Evangelical “blackballing” I want to say that it’s wrong.”

      I then cite relevant evidence to support my suspicion. Considering there was correspondence between staff at TV20 and Greg Johnson, who has his own show on TV20, expressing concern over the content of Shawn’s show I think it reasonable to believe that the concern was what Shawn might say in upcoming shows. But, Shawn was not allowed to say anything substantive. He was booted off the air before saying anything offensive or divisive. So, while there may be other factors involved in this; the evidence I’ve seen and cited seem to make things look pretty straightforward.

  2. What is so interesting here, besides the fact that they combined against him so fast, is that Shawn was so shocked when he finally got a chance to see what these churches are like.

    No wonder he didn’t understand my question, which I put to him (as well as Jason Wallace, if I remember correctly) several time: How can Israel be gathered to the Christian standard, if it no longer exists? If the “body” tried to gather Israel, it would be a disaster.

    This leads to Pastor Wallace’s favorite topic: Dispensationalism. I would have dearly loved to hear Shawn address it.

    Too bad!

  3. If TV20 had a problem with critiquing the evangelical church then they wouldn’t be airing programs like Wretched and Word Pictures. Shawn had some great points, but the Bible gives instructions on how this should be done. On the air, Shawn mentioned “bull shit-ake mushroom garbage” that local churchs were “frikkin shows, what the hell is going on!” and pastors feeding “their own damn egos”, etc. I can’t imagine Platt or Piper talking like that.
    Now you can say that’s nothing, but I say Gal 6:1, Eph 4:29, Col 3:8, and Col 4:6. When the Bible is clear, that behavior just can’t be winked at. From that perspective alone, I can totally understand the owners (and any Christian for that matter) doing and voicing what they think is right and biblical in this situation.
    With that language in mind and your admittance that Shawn is combative, its interesting that you give the public letter on his website the benefit of the doubt while calling a private email from Greg Johnson disingenuous.
    But God is sovereign, both over this decision and in what way he will call back any wayward evangelical sheep.

    • My criticism of Greg’s second email as seeming “disingenuous” is because the stated sentiment is contrary to what Greg asked recipients of his first email to go out and do. He expresses sadness over the fruits of what he asked for, that seems disingenuous. Also, I accept Shawn’s public statement at face value because I have no reason to do otherwise; just as I have no reason to not take Greg’s emails seriously and try to reconcile them one with another.

      Also, Greg’s email was far from “private,” having been shared with dozens of Utah pastors.

      Regarding Shawn’s language, in light of the cited biblical verses, I am not seeking to defend how he spoke. But, I would counter that strong speech is not always worthy of condemnation: In Galatians 5:12 Paul encourages those troubling the Galatians to cut off their own testicles. In 1 Kings 18:27, Ezekiel mocks the prophets of Baal by asking whether their god is going to the bathroom. In Isaiah 64:6, our good deeds are likened to used menstrual rags. And, Ezekiel 23 describes whoring in rather descriptive language. So, context is king when it comes to the use of language and I’d imagine occasional frustration over real problems in the church could be a valid reason to set aside cultural biases and use language that some might deem offensive in order to make a point.

      I’d look to the perspective of Mark Driscoll who has dealt with this subject head-on and even admitted his own excesses. Also, I have become privy to some additional material that, presently, reinforces my willingness to defend Shawn McCraney, despite the stated fact that I’m not a fan of his style of presentation. He was silenced before having the opportunity to speak and what I have available to me makes it seem clear that his intended subject was the cause of his silencing, not his relatively tame forays into provocative speech that would hardly make the biblical prophets blush. Besides, if his language was a problem: couldn’t asking for an on-air apology have settled that?

      • Greg asked the recipients to “pass on your concerns”, which given the situation is far from nefarious. Those pastors are all members of his parachurch organization. If ‘private’ can be defined as ‘not intended for the public’, then that was private. Not that I’m faulting you for outing it or anything.
        Yes context is king. The context of all the verses I quoted were prescriptive, the context of yours were all descriptive. I know where I’d choose to err. Another prescriptive passage relevant for someone who ignores scripture while admonishing others with scripture involves a speck and plank.
        Are you privy to the details that seven years ago Shawn was invited by the station to have a program about Mormonism but now decided to change the focus of the program without a single word to the station before taking it to the air? Or that for the past 2 years he has been on a conditional reprieve from a previous attempted cancellation for his on-air behavior?
        If Shawn’s intentions were to criticize American evangelicalism, then again, TV20′s other programs show they’re not against that. If Shawn wanted to criticize specific local churches (which he did say he was going to use specific examples on the program), then as per Matthew, he needs to go to them directly, not to the air.
        And considering that divisiveness and contention are two of the biggest Mormon criticisms of Christians, it may not have been the wisest witness decision to air dirty laundry with dirty language right in front of them.

        • Considering Greg couched his request in the context of accusing Shawn of being “divisive and wrong” and of “attack[ing] … the Body of Christ in Utah” and that it “must not be allowed to take place,” I fail to see how his intentions fail to be crystal clear. He was aiming to silence Shawn by some means.

          Additionally I know at least two recipients of Greg’s messages that are not members of his para-church organization, so you are factually wrong on that count.

          Descriptive texts serve as examples for us. Jesus, Paul and the Prophets all use strong language in practical ways to address false teachers and harmful practices. If the context of the use of strong language is edifying, then it is acceptable by even prescriptive standards. Sometimes believers need to be challenged and doing so with strong language is no less edifying, when done in context. Edification does not imply that the words used evoke only friendly and receptive feelings. So, I will stand by my assertion that the use of strong language can be appropriate and right, even in light of prescriptive instructions. Such an approach does more to harmonize the prescriptive and descriptive texts of scripture in a useful and applicable way, ignoring neither.

          I have been given a letter that Shawn sent to the station manager detailing why he was changing the focus and outlining how he planned to address it over the course of the year. In that letter he committed to not singling out any church or individual. At the moment I am waiting to hear back on an email I have sent to the station asking them to verify that they did receive this letter and asking if they’d like me to post their rationale for canceling Shawn’s program alongside it. What I’m interested in is that a private campaign was launched to silence Shawn McCraney because he was going after something that made people uncomfortable.

          • Sure, harsh language can be edifying and useful. I wouldn’t credit many people with the wisdom and grace of the prophets, Jesus, or Paul to be able to use it how they did though. But when it comes to shouting swear words, it gets a little fuzzy as to whether or not its edifying. Obviously, TV20 doesn’t think so. Other pastors don’t think so. Christianity is not a democracy, but maybe the convictions of all those Christians should spark a good, hard, biblical look at Shawn’s plan, informed by his well-documented history of histrionics. Not to mention that Shawn isn’t exactly a paragon of orthodoxy to be emulated. I checked a little on your blog and find it interesting that you’re not concerned that Shawn singled out Calvinism as a man-made imposition on the true church.

            • Having gone back and listened to Shawn’s last show I don’t find his use of “freakin,” “damn,” or “hell” offensive in context; then again, I’m pretty difficult to offend. His expression of frustration over what he witnessed and experienced can hardly be faulted on its own though. And you’ll have to give me a time code since I didn’t hear him use “bullshit” at all. And, there is absolutely no evidence at this point that anyone was going after Shawn for his use of language. In fact Greg never mentions it at all; his problem with Shawn was quite clear. I have reached out to the station for a comment and hope they’ll respond with some of their own perspective before I post the additional material I’ve received.

              And, I’ve been more than upfront about not being a fan of Shawn. I even stated in my earlier post on his decision to go after Evangelicalism that “I don’t think Shawn has the knowledge, experience or wisdom to really deal with this issue well.” So, I’m hardly apt to give Shawn a pass. I’m familiar with his disdain for Calvinism and I chalk that up to the same thing that afflicts many Southern Baptists, he’s not nearly familiar enough with what Calvinism even is. He’s accustomed to arguing against a caricature. What I’ve heard from him on the subject are common straw-man arguments, and that’s weak tea. Besides, I’ve never been a regular watcher of his program. So, up until now he’s done nothing to garner my attention.

              • The bull shitake mushroom comment took place in the program before that youtube video cuts in. It was in reference to religious institutions that he questioned when he was younger.
                Perhaps the language issue explains why Greg described Shawn was doing it with ‘vengeance’. This is also significant when Greg says “his APPROACH has gotten the best of him”, implying that the content was not the primary issue. But I can’t speak for Greg.
                But by now maybe you can consider that the owners of TV20 actually did make their decision based on what they really thought was the right thing to do, regardless of some fearful cabal of pastors who for the most part have no involvement with the station. There’s certainly enough issues here that could legitimately warrant a Christian to do just that, and there’s probably lots more that isn’t public.

                • We’ll see if the station is willing to make a statement concerning the matter. Considering everything I have in front of me the choice of content, not language or manner of presentation, seems to be the clear issue for both Greg and the station.

                • They bagged him because of “shitake mushrooms”?? Get real, man. Greg Johnson’s motives are clear:

                  “This attack against the Body of Christ in Utah must not be allowed to take place, this is divisive and wrong. I believe this is something we could all agree on, the unity of the Body of Christ is worth standing up for!”

                  Johnson does not want the precious Christian culture exposed for what it is: a money-making machine of the worst kind–one operating in the name of God.

                  • After re-reading my comment, I apologize for the assumption about Greg and his concerns about money. I will say this, however, I do not believe Johnson took into consideration much of what Shawn was saying, if his take-away was that this would be an “attack on the Body of Christ.” From what Shawn was clearly protesting, his angst is with Christian Culture making its home in the heart of a believer’s faith in Christ alone.

                    The problem, he stated, is that LDS are coming out of one cult and into another type–one that couches “Christian fluff” (styles of worship,right-wing politics, Christian Rock, topical sermons, building funds, t-shirts, bumper stickers, etc.) in what it means to have “faith in Christ.” These cultural “norms” are not our faith, but are subtly eased upon new believers as part of their Christian identity, making it difficult to tease apart the culture from the faith. Subsequently, the Body is left with inch deep, and mile wide Christians.

                    Followers of Christ are becoming slaves to culture and conformity–trapped in seeker-friendly churches, which do not serve to build the believer; rather, to win the lost. This winning of the lost should be done by evangelists, not by pastors. A pastor’s job is to feed the flock. If he is spending his time doing the former, who is doing the latter? That, sadly, has been left up to the individual believer–he is told to “feed himself.”

                    Shameful.

  4. I believe the real reason was that Shawn stood against Mitt Romney and his Mormonism, most of the Pastors in Utah do not stand up against the LDS church, but act like they are just different type of christian. Shawn was one of the only one to take that stand, and the pastors where looking for a way to get ride of him.

    • I don’t know that there is any evidence to support that belief. Everything that I have received indicates that there were some who were afraid of what Shawn might say about Evangelicalism; but instead of reserving judgement until an actual transgression took place, an effort was made to stop Shawn from addressing the subject altogether.

  5. LoL, TV20 replaces Heart of the Matter with a special John Ankerman anti-Mormon show. Really ironic how quickly the guns were swung back around.

  6. It’s pretty amazing that Shawn wants to shine some light on Evangelical Christianity and TV 20 pulls the show. Aren’t they also Christians? It’s really quite embarassing, doesn’t this just prove Shawn’s point all the more. We are living in a time where Corruption and Compromise are the norm, this is sad and wrong. Also, in my opinion, there was a person (Greg Johnson)who also has show at TV that was against Shawn. So ya, blackballing is the word to assign what happened to Shawn.

  7. What is absolutely incredulous is that Shawn McCraney IS the victim of a witch hunt, orchestrated by someone who claims to be a brother in the same faith. Does it really matter if Shawn, or any other Christian says “hell”, or “freakin” on the air? Does Shawn’s choice of words change his heart? Shawn’s heart IS for God! His heart IS for Christ and for seeing people, especially Mormons, come to a loving relationship with God, through Jesus Christ, God’s one and only son. That’s it, nothing else. Now, with regard to Shawn being a Christian and his plans to “denounce evangelical Christianity”, Greg Johnson was 100% correct. Shawn was going to denounce evangelical Christianity…because there is NOT supposed to be “evangelical Christianity”! If one has confessed their sins with their mouth, repented and given their lives to Jesus Christ, they are saved and they are Christians, NOT “evangelical Christians”. Please show me where, in the Bible, that anyone refers to a believer as an “evangelical Christian”. No one can because that moniker does not exist in the Bible, it only exists in today’s world of modern Christianity, concocked as a way of describing other pieces of the Christian church so that churches can be “seeker friendly” and play cool music. The message of Jesus Christ and him crucified has been completely watered down with copius amount of luke warm water in an effort to grow church attendance and sell Christian CDs. This is what Shawn was going to, and should denounce. The fact that Greg Johnson and his minions reacted so callously, selfishly and self-righteously only lends credit to what Shawn was going to, and still will expose. Greg’s self-serving and self-promoting ways demand a medium such a TV and support from as many people as possible because Greg’s ways are NOT God’s ways. If Greg actually acted/lived like the Bible defines the life of a Christian, Shawn McCraney’s, or anyone’s denouncing of the Christian faith wouldn’t even be a blip on the radar, because as Acts 5:39 states, “but if it is of God, you will not be able to overthrow them. you might even be found opposing God! So, they took his advice”…whether or not Shawn McCraney succeeds is not up to Greg Johnson, it is up to God and I, for one, am praying that Shawn will get his chance to expose what he feels is wrong with today’s Christian church so that we all can look deep inside to see what we can do to serve others with the Love of God, and to not serve ourselves.

  8. A sad but true fact is that I have watched more “Christian” television than anyone in the history of planet earth. I know, it’s really sad. Of the countless programs out there in the name of He who sits on the throne, I personally have never seen a more relevant outreach tv ministry. However, if anyone thinks this witch hunt is anything other than a clear cut case of self preservation and keeping the status quo, you have not either watched enough of HOTM TV and/or you do not understand the impact alathea ministries has had on not only Mormons, but Christians and non-believers all over the world. The world…..from a lame little studio, with a minimal budget and countless bad hair days. I wonder how many of these Utah pastors understand they have impeded a great work and are secretly regretting piling on Shawn McCranney and Alathea. If not now, soon…. soon.

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