This is a guest post from Allen and Elizabeth Sacks. I am providing my little and humble platform
as a means of hosting their story. It is not a fun or easy story to tell. Their storyis about the need for a beloved local church to repent, pride, deception, manipulation, and sin. I know from many long conversations with this Christian family the hurt and turmoil standing upon the Rock of God’s Law/Word has brought about. That is often the cost of faithfulness and I thank Allen and Elizabeth for their selfless vulnerability and their honest testimony. As Allen and Elizabeth will make clear in their story, this is about far more than their own experiences. Their experiences matter and should be soberly listened to, but the sins, attitudes, and idolatrous culture they came into conflict with is much larger than their former local church. For this reason, I publish their story with a heavy heart.
– John Andrew Reasnor
Preface: This article was written weeks, perhaps even a month or more, ago. It is written in love in the hopes that its contents will be convicting to the readers, whether they are involved in this specific controversy or not. This is my story. My family’s story. We sincerely hope that this testimony is not taken as an attack, and we would respond in genuine joy if those who are encouraging and propagating Peter Hammond as a teacher would immediately consider the words of Romans:
“I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught; avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naive.”
We pray that they would cease to support Peter Hammond in preaching a false gospel and honor his prior excommunication for Peter’s own good. We hope for this so that those who are either complicit or negligent are better able to preach the Gospel unhindered by the testimony of Peter Hammond. We would be encouraged and heartened if they would seek to make right the sins of protecting Peter, protecting their own pride, harming our own family, and spiritually harming anyone who they presume to teach while not exercising Godly discernment. We also offer to the interested, transparency. We will entertain requests to see our correspondence with those in leadership and accept rebuke if we have handled this wrongly or are in sin. We are not afraid to be confronted and hope that in the same spirit of love with which this was written, others will speak to us and rebuke us if we have sinned. May God be honored as we seek to expose cherished idols and hidden sin.
“Be killing sin or it will be killing you.”
That is a quote we all know in the context of gluttony, alcoholism, or adultery. In a pietistic sense we smugly hold to this idea, assuming if we excise the obvious, the heinous, we are just fine. But there is a broader application here which the entire Christian Reconstructionist movement has been slowly learning to apply, is still learning to apply, and it has come with wounds and hurts.
Why doesn’t the Christian Reconstructionist movement grow and replicate itself? Why are we still reading and regurgitating Rushdoony, but not progressing past memorization and recitation of ideas? Because we are holding sin close to our bosom and it is killing us. We are remaining static, ever the same, never changing, never growing, showing that at our core we are opposed to our postmillennialist ideas. Instead of seeking to put in the work to change things when it hurts most, we accept the world as it is today. Instead of acting on how it ought to be and establishing justice in line with God’s Word, we merely talk a lot about it. When it hurts our pride or may potentially lessen our numbers, we won’t apply it.
Some of you may be aware of the kinist thread that has long run within Christian Reconstructionist circles. I had a small idea of it but did not meet it head-on for years, assuming it was fair collateral for the learning and relationships I maintained by allowing it to passively carry on far away from me in the ether somewhere. I was not alone in this conscious tolerance. But I assumed my circles, my friends, our little corner of Reconstructionism most certainly wasn’t racist. I thought “surely my church wouldn’t tolerate this.”
I grew up in a home where racism was bad, passe, and harmful. Each disclosure of racism or kinism in Christian Reconstructionism I shook off as being subtly incorrect, a difference in culture, or something I misheard, or maybe the view held by some nebulous reconstructionist who lived far away in a cave somewhere. No one could possibly consciously believe that in 2018. Or so I thought. My husband was the opposite. Having grown up in a family that was openly racist in private, yet more subtle in public, he quietly heard each bit and recognized it for what it was in our own circles. He saw the signs I refused to see. He knew that what was subtle when it was not accepted was overt when power allowed it to be.
But We Aren’t Kinist – Confronting MARS and IRBC
The thread of kinism became brighter and more apparent to my husband and me in a fairly short amount of time. We were aware of John Weaver’s views regarding interracial marriage and as Joel McDurmon released articles dealing with various aspects foundational to the southern heritage views cherished by many, we saw more and more come to the surface. The biggest moment of truth came when McDurmon’s book The Problem of Slavery in Christian America was released. I remember vividly one Sunday as I walked through the hall at Independence Reformed Bible Church (IRBC), our church of four years at the time, hearing conversation after conversation where the book was criticized as rehashing bad feelings long gone. Pledges were made not to read it, because there was no reason to. There was undeniable frustration with anything that might overturn or rebuke Southern heritage sentimentality, right down to the fact that our pastor expressed anger over articles Joel McDurmon had written criticizing prominent Southern heroes’ inconsistency as Christians in supporting and partaking in slavery. Ever curious, I decided then and there to see what was so bad about this book. So I started reading. I was so appalled I had to read it in bursts, section by section, because it was too upsetting to read all at once. My husband and I began to press against the idea that discussing this particular part of history somehow introduced an inordinate amount of guilt, and that here, on this topic, history must be buried, because it upset people and had no possible bearing on today.
Our ideas and exchanges were met with instant rejection and dismissal. About this time, Joel McDurmon made his line in the sand statements, where he exposed both the teaching and actions of John Weaver and Peter Hammond. We were previously only aware of the kinist views held by Weaver, and were now made aware of Hammond’s views, which include public condemnation of interracial marriage as “a sin against Almighty God.” On a social media post by Joel McDurmon, a veritable “line in the sand” regarding this controversy, we publicly committed to not attending the “Future of Christendom Conference” our church was hosting in conjunction with the Mid Atlantic Reformation Society (MARS), to which Peter Hammond was one of the speakers invited.
Things took a sharp and sudden turn when several off-the-cuff discussions occurred on Sunday, March 25. Our pastor and my husband’s employer, who is a MARS board member, overheard an elder’s wife and I discussing and disagreeing about how to respond to it during fellowship time. Both men immediately joined the discussion, which then quickly degenerated into a flurry of shouting and ended with our pastor declaring me to be “talking like a liberal.” I turned around at the close of the discussion to collect myself, only to find the entire Ladies Sunday School class had heard. I was mortified. What followed after church was a cordial and very friendly discussion with our pastor. We left feeling conflicted about both exchanges, but we wanted to believe his assurances to look into the matter. He maintained that Peter Hammond’s public statement calling interracial marriage “a betrayal to Almighty God,” was “a private belief,” but promised to follow up to determine if that was the case. He also apologized for his angry and loud behavior towards me in our prior argument. My husband’s employer also sought to make sure we were not hurt or angry. He has since left the topic alone in my husband’s work environment.
We felt that loyal opposition was called for, and in this case should be gentle and persuasive, trusting the Spirit to convict. What followed was months of back and forth, exchanges in print, before witnesses, and in private where our rebuke was minimized, ignored, and refuted with the most irrational of arguments. Rumors began to be spread about our views, our status regarding the assembly, whether we would stay or go, and things we had allegedly said in public and private.
Responses of The Elders and The Church
We requested a meeting with the elders to discuss this officially. At first they denied our request unless we could show there was new material to discuss. We replied saying yes, Hammond publicly not only defended his statement but also had admitted he taught widely on the mission field in Africa that interracial marriage was a sin. This was indeed a concern when Hammond was not only invited to the conference, but his ministry was regularly financially supported by the entire church.
Our Pastor and elders deemed this all to be no different than a disagreement on the mode of baptism. Hammond’s self-admitted wide and public teaching on the matter, which during a prior discussion was confessed as a serious problem if true, was now suddenly of no concern. The goalposts moved. Our rebukes, and our concerns that this was indeed foundational to how one views and shares the Gospel, and that by definition Hammond was a false teacher, were dismissed out of hand.
This meeting was one of many moments where we saw normally consistent men reduced to dualism, Gnosticism, and incoherent arguments. One such argument fell back on a kinist defense of interracial marriage. During our earlier discussions, our pastor had said he knew kinism to be wrong and that he felt Numbers 12 was a strong case against kinism and a biblical case for interracial marriage. During the later meeting, however, he withdrew that statement, saying to my husband and me “I’m not so sure Numbers 12 is a strong argument against that (kinism) after all.” Another elder admitted that he knew Hammond’s teaching on this matter was contrary to scripture, but he defended Hammond saying, “He preaches the gospel faithfully.” His point, and that of the other elders in the discussion, was that since Hammond’s works were good, his accomplishments outweighed his sin. Even though this was antithetical to all we had heard from the pulpit, that what we believe informs what we do. We walked out of the meeting with our heads spinning. Were these the same men who had discipled us so well over the past 5-6 years?
Our elders had made time to hear our concerns with the intent to dismiss them, not with the intent to be Bereans and align with scripture on the matter. Their bureaucratic duty was fulfilled, but their Christian duty was not. At the conclusion of that official first meeting we were asked, “Do you feel heard?” My husband wisely wouldn’t agree, despite my desire to smooth it over in the moment. We hadn’t been heard. We had been given the floor in private, to get it out of our systems, then summarily silenced with the clear intention that it wouldn’t be discussed again. We could privately choose to act on our conscience, yet in no way should we be allowed to rebuke them or bind their consciences. On many other issues, our elders taught action. On this, the support of a false teacher, they expected quiet pietism so as not to challenge their authority or their conclusions.
Eventually, outright proof of Peter Hammond’s participation in propagating neo-Nazi views surfaced. I messaged one of the organizers of the conference and raised this concern, but her response was not reassuring. In the particular podcast I shared, Hammond spent over an hour participating in what can only be termed neo-Nazi and white nationalist propaganda where he joined the host in confirming the worst of his opinions:
Host: “White people want strong leaders, and they want leaders that do what they say they are going to do.”
Peter Hammond: “Yeah.”
Host: “From what I can see, the only guy that we’ve had in the last hundred years who’s done that has been Adolph Hitler.”
Peter Hammond: “That is why he is the most hated . . . oh . . . he’s the second-most hated person in the world. The person that the Jews hate the most is Jesus Christ. I mean, he gets blasphemed in how many Hollywood films morning, noon, and night. But Adolph Hitler has got to be the second-most hated person in all of history—by the Jews, that is—because their media puts so much effort into fighting Adolph Hitler, and depicting him in a real caricature without any regard to his real accomplishments.”
The conference organizer’s response was to deny Hammond’s association with neo-Nazi ideas and racist rhetoric, and instead, double down on telling me to be quiet and let it go. She also reassured me the board of the Mid-Atlantic Reformation Society (MARS, the church’s ministry through which they host the conference, and which included our church elders also) found no problem with it.
All of our meetings and dialogues concluded with our elders telling us: “We will not kick you out of the church; you can choose to leave.”
Yet those who attended our little assembly made their feelings clear during that time. One man who taught karate for folks from church made it clear to my husband he’d no longer teach him karate if we were to be “a threat” to him at the conference, as he was going to head up security. My husband assured him we would not be attending, as we had made a public commitment not to be there. The man urged him not to mention the subject to him at all, and after this conversation, their relationship cooled.
“You’re Divisive!” Wherein we left IRBC
The conference organizer told us that we shouldn’t even be taking communion with the church, that we were “divisive” and ought to leave the assembly if we would continue to disagree with leadership openly. We took her advice and left, hurt, shocked, and unable to recognize these people with whom we had had true fellowship and communion for years. Who were they?
As a result of telling the elders in private that we were leaving, we lost our fellowship, our homeschool co-op, and our community in one fell swoop. Communication with those in the church immediately became shallow and faded quickly.
The last meeting we requested with the elders to discuss our most recent concern was canceled, on our part, because of the bizarre and dishonest online behavior of our pastor when confronted about Peter Hammond’s excommunication. He had been given proof of Hammond’s excommunication for breaking God’s commands regarding false witness, fraud, etc. Yet, as we had been told all along, from the first meeting where our Pastor informed us he had possession of the documents but had no intention of reviewing them, to the final letter from leadership, they would not accept or review the documents pertaining to that excommunication. Our pastor called it “a kangaroo court.” He claimed bombastically for three consecutive days that such proof did not exist, accusing others of lying about its existence, while simultaneously admitting he not only had access to it, but would not review it.
Because of how erratic, dishonest, and bizarre his behavior had been, we chose instead to send a letter canceling the meeting, explaining our intention to leave IRBC, and our reasons for why.
As the conference approached and passed, we felt the tension in our personal/social relationships with those still at IRBC. Things ran the gamut from being blocked on Facebook, unfriended on social media and all contact halted, to keeping minimal polite contact such as pleasantries at chance meetings in the store. Our unofficial excommunication was complete; nearly all social relationships with anyone in the church came to a close, no matter how deep, or precious they had been. For two months following the conference, former close friendships produced no more than a deafening silence. To this day, ongoing relationships with those still in the church are the exception, not the rule.
We were left holding the pieces. I wondered what had happened, why affection had disintegrated so fast. Why people with whom we had shared every sorrow and triumph, learned many lessons, and saw upwards of 2-3x a week every week, would end such rich friendships so suddenly. It was devastating to our family. Even more so when several people accused us of causing differences for the sake of agitation alone, as if the result was what we wanted and hoped for; not a heartbreaking abandonment of loyal friends seeking to warn against false teaching.
This is The End of The Matter – Fear God and Obey Him
This is why so much of the self-professed Reconstructionist movement has not grown. We ostracize loyal opposition the moment it threatens our secret sins and our hidden idols. One standard is held for beloved celebrities, while another is held for little people who hold to the right and duty of private judgment. In the end, our church would rather functionally excommunicate us, who they had worked with, grown with, and discipled for years, than acknowledge the excommunication of a false teacher from halfway around the world who they’d met half a dozen times, but who they had allowed themselves to come to admire. We still hope and pray for repentance, reconciliation, and Lord willing, restoration.
As Stephen Perks put it so well:
“If any one of the congregants of the churches represented by those who spoke at this conference had done half of what this man has been found guilty of, they would more than likely have been subject to severe church discipline. Yet, the leaders can get away with it, and other leaders will wink at it when it is one of the leaders they approve of, and all that talk and ink spilled about church discipline and the righteous anger manifested against abusers etc. means nothing more than that discipline is what happens when the leaders don’t like what the laity do, but that the discipline they require of the laity has no application to the leaders themselves and their celebrity missionary friends. If this is not an example of the most obscene form of double standards perpetrated by the most Pharisaical kind of old boy network there is I don’t know what could be. It is no better than the way the world behaves.
It is not as if the problem here were about mere opinions or disagreements about doctrine. The man at the centre of this has been excommunicated, and not on trivial matters, but matters pertaining to the law of God. This excommunication is not a disagreement about what he believes; it is a fact, and it requires Christians to take action to avoid him if they are to be obedient to Scripture. On this basis alone he should never have been asked to speak and having been asked Christians should not have attended, since in doing so they have set at nought the excommunication, and effectively said that it does not matter, that because he is believed by some to be a celebrity missionary he does not have to be held accountable to the same moral standards that the rest of us have to abide by. Where is the theonomy in that? There is none. It is the overturning of theonomy, and not in any mere theoretical way, but in the most practical way possible. Furthermore, it is, in effect, to put the church that excommunicated him on trial, in a sort of rolling ad hoc kangaroo court, along with all those whose testimony led to the excommunication, and find them guilty of malicious prosecution, because it is in effect to say that he should never have been excommunicated.”
This is exactly what happened. The “laity” who rebuked the elders for tolerating Peter Hammond in his sin were summarily ostracized. The “laity” who asked questions about his excommunication were summarily ostracized. The elders at IRBC knew and acknowledged the scriptural merit of the rebuke, and yet they choose to be blind to it, so that they can hold an idol on the side. And so for the sake of one man, wise men and women are reduced to blind mockers who threw out everything they’d taught us about truth, and justice. The entire saga would have easily been mended by acknowledging the real problem and confronting his sin instead of manufacturing ours. I wept for months over the strangers they became, and the incredible loss of community we suffered so suddenly over such a tenuous relationship with a Reconstructionist celebrity (of sorts). One rule for them, and another for us.
This was borne out by the men and women who attended the conference itself, or who helped with its execution, knowingly and actively covering up rebuke while promoting the conference. Also, the men who came to speak alongside Hammond knowingly gave tacit approval to his teaching by sharing a stage with him and not rebuking him. These other speakers’ respectable participation encouraged and bolstered the MARS board in their decision, and was no doubt, a part of their justification for carrying on as planned. As our elders said in their last email to us: “In regards to Peter Hammond we are satisfied with our stance and find ourselves in what we consider to be good company.”
This is where sin cherished will take us. If we are not killing sin, it will kill us, and it will kill our service. The world sees; the world watches. Our inconsistency in justice and mercy stands out to an unbelieving world that rejects every aspect of the gospel. It is grievous when an unbelieving world is quicker than Christians to recognize a false gospel. We have poisoned our own work, for we cannot serve two masters. This has been a hard lesson to learn. It has come at a cost. Yet it must be adopted by the Reconstructionist community as a whole. If we cannot excise our idols, take down our high places, and cut down our groves, our idolatry will destroy us and our efforts. This church with whom we had beautiful communion for a time will continue to dwindle in irrelevance and increasingly compromise on truth as their personal sins are nurtured. Their actions in this episode, and the actions of the Reconstructionist community at large that resists growth, rebuke, or the change that comes with not tolerating idolatry is antithetical to the idea that God’s kingdom marches on and detrimental to establishing God’s justice.
If we want things to remain static, and in doing so support ideas and policies based on how the world was and is, and not on how His will be done and how His kingdom come, we’re shooting ourselves in the foot; while we may be doing kingdom work, it is for our kingdom, and not His. This toleration of sin and preservation of the status quo insists that God can not possibly change things and that there is too much sacrifice involved in rebuking wickedness, especially when it comes to our safe spaces, our beloved celebrities, and our sentimentalized ideas of men we idolize both in the past and present.
These men do recognize that by making those sacrifices they would harm their kingdom, their conference, and their vision, and that is where and why it became idolatry. It is not necessarily evident that they themselves idolize racism; it seems they simply did not want to give up what came with the racism/kinism and so they chose to swallow and tolerate it. Those whom we see as celebrities, we aren’t willing to rebuke because of the cost that comes with holding Scripture higher than we hold them, their word, their reputation, and their friendship. They’re not willing to give up unrighteousness, sacrifice a possible friendship, or stand for truth and justice. But this kind of sacrifice is central to the Christian life. So how can clinging to idols be “The Future of Christendom”? No, it will be the death of Christendom.
Today’s kinism would become tomorrow’s hatred of the foreigner and the sojourner, directly contrary to God’s Word on the matter as our nation turns away Christians and the lost from receiving help and hearing the Gospel on our very doorstep. We have much more to lose by holding this particular idol than who can marry whom. The impact of this belief has victims far and wide in expanding circles of harm. As our pastor once so wisely insisted, what we believe informs what we do. We must be willing and able to hear righteous rebuke, even from the little people. We must be willing and able to have our agendas, ideas, affections challenged and even destroyed for Christ. We must be willing to admit that God is true, and every man a liar, and where they err, we must rebuke them in loving loyal opposition, and when rejected, we must depart from them, handing them over to be convicted by the Holy Spirit, or left to their destructive sin.
Our story in this entire controversy matters little, except that it exposes the inconsistency of sin, the poisoning influence of idolatry, and how the world views a church who clutches idols to the side. Since we have left, our testimony has opened up many avenues to give the Gospel to those who had shut their ears to us. Some who had assumed that we were “them”, a part of one of the churches who holds tight to the personal benefits of injustice, and was unwilling to love the “other” because of what it might cost us, are now listening and hearing the Gospel. The world watches. The world listens. Even the world knows idolatry when they see it. They see a church no different than themselves, a gospel sullied by injustice, a truth muddied by the opposite of mercy. And they see a church showing pridefully that walking with the esteemed men and the exciting celebrities is more important than humbly going with God.
But, this should not be so, and it can be different. If we, the Christian Reconstructionist community, including those who have heretofore supported Peter Hammond’s teaching and allowed his false gospel, are willing, we can see Christ’s Kingdom march on and another enemy placed firmly under Christ’s feet. This is why I write this article. The last six months have been so hard, and it comes with many losses and heartbreaks. I would not change any of it. Moving forward to build Christ’s Kingdom is worth the sacrifice and worth the difficulty. We can burn these idols and love God and our neighbor; establishing the kind of beauty that the world will see and marvel. We have the justice they are seeking. They will know us by our love.
– Allen and Elizabeth Sacks
What can begin as a prideful stubbornness in refusing counsel regarding an excommunicated false teacher can lead to other sins. Instead of repentance, Joel Saint remains incorrigible. Further, he has continued lying about this issue. He has had access to the same documents as everyone else for several months, yet he has the audacity to attempt to deceive individuals about the contents of the documents. He has now repeatedly claimed that there is no excommunication document within the same documents that many have reviewed. Not only that, he’s claiming that Peter Hammond has not been excommunicated from CCL.
I do not wish to speak too quickly, so I will offer an alternative reason for Joel Saint speaking this falsehood. It is still a possibility that Joel Saint has not read the documents he is making truth claims about. This would not surprise me. This is, however, little better than knowing the truth and telling a lie. In this case, he has no idea, lies about having read the documents, and tells a falsehood about the documents he is not familiar with. Either way, he is being intentionally deceptive and I call him to repent.
The reaction many have gotten to exposing Peter Hammond’s excommunication and racist views have been little more than claims of “character assassination” and “slander.” This should go without saying, but chanting together “slander, slander, slander” does not prove anything. There are well over a hundred pages outlining these sins and outlining this controversy. Snide dismissals are for children. Further, one cannot assassinate the character of a man who has no character. As Joel Saint says, read the documents for yourself. As has been made plain previously, there are privacy concerns from the excommunicating church so the entirety of the documents are not yet public, but you can easily contact the Church of Christian Liberty and they are happy to release copies to individuals. The following is the excommunication document that Joel Saint claims does not exist.
-John Andrew Reasnor