America’s anti-God media conglomerate has a serious vendetta against genuine people of faith. It manifests itself every time they seize full tilt on some out-of-the-ordinary church scandal, parading it for the world to see, all the while ignoring multitudinous accounts of the positive efforts true believers are involved in. The media makes certain we all are intimately acquainted with the bad examples of Christianity. The good ones are conveniently overlooked.

This has, as of late, become a relevant cultural topic as major studios, FX (in partnership with Vanity Fair) and Prime Video, are releasing coinciding TV series exposing two major brands in Christian culture: Hillsong Church and the Duggar family.

Many people of faith may be baffled at these stories (and the media’s infatuation with them). How are we to respond?

First, we must recognize that we do not have to—and, indeed, should not—defend the disgraced subjects of the media’s condemnation. These professing Christians failed horrifically (more on that in a moment), shaming the name of Jesus Christ in the process. Of course, God is merciful even to the worst of sinners, but that does not mean we must turn a blind eye to the charlatans who exploit the Gospel for profit and live double lives.

That being said, we also must combat the media’s sly implication that
all Christians are like this. Such a claim is patently false. True Christianity looks nothing like this at all.

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The first of the two docuseries, The Secrets of Hillsong, centers around Carl Lentz, Hillsong NYC’s former “celebrity pastor.”

Hailed by pop culture as America’s vogue preacher, Lentz was celebrated for his mainstream impact on Justin Beiber (whom he famously baptized in NBA star Tyson Chandler’s bathtub), Selena Gomez, Vanessa Hudgens, Drake, JAY-Z, Lil Wayne, Chris Pratt, Austin Butler, Kevin Durant, and Kendall and Kylie Jenner. It’s safe to say that at the height of his career, rubbing elbows with Lentz was fashionable
for celebrities. He reportedly charged up to $40,000 to “preach” at events. Under his leadership, Hillsong NYC’s local church boasted thousands of weekly attendees.

But Carl Lentz’s fall from grace was just around the corner. 

In 2020, the married “rockstar preacher” was fired for “moral failings”: a prolonged extramarital affair.

“He loves me and I love him,” his paramour informed tabloids after Lentz was fired. “It was a love relationship that wasn’t planned. It wasn’t just a fling or just a sexual relationship. I wasn’t there for just sex, we both found comfort and a deep, special connection with each other.”

Additionally, Leona Kimes, the Lentz family nanny and wife of fellow NYC pastor, Josh Kimes, accused her pastor of “manipulation, control, bullying, abuse of power, and sexual abuse.”

“While he never had intercourse with me and never kissed me, I was physically violated by his unwanted and repeated sexual touching of my intimate areas. I froze,” she wrote. “Every time, I froze.”

Unfortunately for Hillsong, not only had they lost their megastar, but the bad publicity would soon infest the entire organization.

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Less than two years after Lentz was fired, Brian Houston, the megachurch’s founder, resigned after an internal investigation found that he had behaved “inappropriately toward two women.” To make matters worse, Houston was dogged by accusations of concealing his pedophilic father’s predatory behavior. In addition, he was charged with drink-driving.  

Remember, this is a church we’re talking about.

In the series about the Duggars of TLC’s “19 Kids and Counting” fame, “Shiny Happy People: Duggar Family Secrets,” similar sex scandals were uncovered within the conservative homeschool family. The show touches on Josh Duggar’s ill-famed arrest for possession of child pornography and the family’s association with the disgraced Bill Gothard, who stepped down from ministry after being accused of sexual harassment by more than 30 women

These scandals are shocking, disgusting, and unequivocally evil. The fact that such abuses were perpetrated in the name of Christianity only makes them worse. We must understand, however, that these gross moral failures rest squarely on the shoulders of imperfect men. By no means do they reflect on true Christianity or its God.

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In the case of Carl Letnz, for example, his ministry was problematic before his fall from grace. He was an unqualified entertainer. His message had no substance (and was often unbiblical). The red flags were everywhere. We might not have seen the true depth of his depravity, but sincere Christ-followers knew he was not serious about God.

The point is: in a world where “faith” is a multibillion-dollar enterprise, grifters will no doubt find ways to turn their particular strain of the “Gospel” into Ponzi schemes and self-centric endeavors. The media will use this unfortunate reality to say that we need less God, less church. But to the contrary, it proves that we need more of Him. It proves we need to do church God’s way.

At the time of Carl Letnz’s firing, Savannah Gutherie asked Brian Houston a pertinent question. Especially in today’s culture, it warrants being asked of all churches.

“Do you ever think about what Jesus would have felt like sitting in Hillsong Church?”

Although Houston answered, “I think He would like it,” serious people of faith aren’t so sure.

The media in America is doing everything it can to discredit Christianity, and unfortunately, many in the so-called “church” have given them more than ample fodder. That being the case, we must learn to discern between the true sheep of God’s pasture and the wolves in sheep’s clothing. There’s a huge difference. Don’t let the media blur that line.

Jakob Fay is a staff writer for the Convention of States Project, a project of Citizens for Self-Governance.