Open Letter to Pastor Jack Graham
Below I have included a slightly modified version of the letter I sent to Pastor Jack Graham of Prestonwood Baptist Church in March 2017. I am very appreciative of the very gracious response I received from Executive Pastor Mike Buster and of his offer to meet with me about these issues. I have not yet found a chance to meet with him, and this is my fault, but I still thought it necessary to share this letter at this time because I think it has increasing relevance for the conservative evangelical church as a whole. The subject matter of this letter constitutes only one incident that is a part of a much broader issue. The evangelical reaction to recent events and evangelicals’ overall attitude toward politics threatens to weaken the potential that evangelicals have for furthering the name, message, love, and person of Jesus Christ. Especially from the outside perspective, evangelicals have seemed to treat Democrats and “liberals” as the enemy of the church and (quite frankly) of God Himself, and even implicitly continuing with this attitude will utterly derail the many good things evangelicals want to do.
Dear Pastor Graham,
Hello! My name is Jacob Buttry, and I am a member of Prestonwood and alumnus of Prestonwood Christian Academy (’16). I attend college in Fort Worth, and though I have committed to a different church in the Fort Worth area, I have continued to attend Prestonwood when I am at home.
This includes this Sunday March 19, when you spoke about Psalm 84. I have long respected you for your biblical insight when it comes to dissecting biblical truth, and I certainly thought that this weekend you continued this theme with your message. However, I personally was disturbed by the preceding interview with Todd Starnes. To cut right to the chase: if I had been a guest who was not solidly politically conservative or who had voted for Hillary Clinton in the presidential election, I would have left during the interview and not heard your message or the story of the Gospel, and I likely would never have returned to Prestonwood (and possibly not to another church). I believe that it is important for Christians to be politically involved, and I believe that there are some political positions that a biblical worldview ought to influence, but I also feel that the majority of political positions are not necessarily biblical or unbiblical on either the conservative or liberal side. Many issues in economic policy, foreign affairs, and domestic policy have biblical arguments on both sides or are largely based on personal opinion or view of government—topics that are not central to our Christian worldview. Thus, I felt that the interview’s derogatory comments against liberals and “snowflakes” served as a major and unnecessary force that pushed people away from the welcoming environment of Prestonwood and the saving truth of the Gospel. One of my favorite things about Prestonwood is that it is founded on the purpose of placing the loving story of the Gospel at the center of everything we do, but I felt that this interview distracted from the Gospel and only served to disunify on points that are not essential to the Christian worldview.
I understand that a large constituency of our church is politically conservative, and I understand that you and many others in our church decided to vote for President Trump last November, but though this perspective reflects the majority of our church membership, it does not reflect all of it, and it certainly does not reflect the political point of view of many of the people we are trying to love in our area. For this reason, I simply wanted to respectfully ask you to consider steering away from presenting Prestonwood and Christianity itself as closed off to diverse political beliefs. Starnes’s comments about Hillary Clinton made me feel unwelcome as someone who felt, after prayer and consideration of my biblical values, that Clinton was my best vote for president. And though I respect and understand that you reached a different conclusion based on your prayerful and biblical consideration, I certainly felt unwelcome and antagonized (to the point where I nearly walked out), even as a member of Prestonwood for over 18 years.
In summary, for a church that claims to be welcoming and loving to all, we certainly acted unwelcomingly to those with differing political beliefs on that Sunday. And though I appreciated your comments about loving others, I felt that the interview with Starnes only reflected that in word and not in deed. If I were a guest that had not been politically conservative (whether I had been moderate, liberal, or even conservative yet sympathetic toward liberal views/politicians), I would have felt as though I were the enemy of Prestonwood and of Christianity as a whole. The interview implied that liberals are the enemy of the church, and that is simply not true—there are many political liberals who serve God in amazing ways and simply have diversity of opinion when it comes to governmental policy. Though some issues, such as those dealing with the value of human life, ought to be influenced by a biblical worldview, I respectfully ask you to refrain from implying that the conservative camp is the position of the church as a whole because this inhibits the spreading of the love of the Gospel in our community. I say all of this because I respect you as a pastor and because I have seen the potential of Prestonwood to lovingly reach the community around us in the name of Christ, and I want us to be able to do this in the best way possible.
In Christ’s love, Jacob Buttry
(For your reference, here is the interview with Starnes: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGNpOHyKSPQ)