Calls are mounting for evangelical publication The Gospel Coalition to address a piece that called Kyle Rittenhouse an “armed mass shooter,” like the Charleston church shooter.
On Friday afternoon, Kyle Rittenhouse — an eighteen-year-old who killed two men and injured a third while defending himself during a riot in Kenosha, Wisconsin — was cleared of multiple murder charges. Since the August 2020 incident, left-leaning journalists, politicians, and celebrities have used the Rittenhouse case as evidence that the United States and its institutions are irreparably and systemically racist.
Among these voices was The Gospel Coalition — which, before the onset of COVID-19, the death of George Floyd, and the most recent presidential election, largely had a reputation for upholding conservative theological convictions grounded in the Reformed tradition. Amid the tumult of 2020, however, The Gospel Coalition accelerated its surrender to “wokeness” — more regularly publishing content that borrows progressive terminology like “systemic racism” and “microaggression.”
In this context, K. Edward Copeland — a council member of The Gospel Coalition and an Illinois-based pastor — published an article called “Why I Hate August” that joined the Left in arguing that Rittenhouse benefited from an implicit form of privilege:
Kyle Rittenhouse killed people in the middle of the street (on camera and in front of witnesses) and then, smoking rifle at his side, casually strolled past law enforcement. He didn’t run away. He didn’t hide. He showed no fear. He assumed there was something about his person that would allow him to approach law enforcement with a visible semi-automatic weapon that had just taken lives — and live to tell about it. More than a few witnesses pointed out that he had just shot several people. Yet he was able to leave the scene and the state.
Copeland placed Rittenhouse in the same category as the Charleston church shooter — a white supremacist who murdered nine African American churchgoers during a 2015 service in Charleston, South Carolina:
When armed mass shooters (Kyle Rittenhouse, [Charleston church shooter], etc.) are apprehended without incident, and unarmed black people are killed out of fear that they might be armed, we have a more insidious problem than “a few bad apples.” This thing is cultural, pervasive, and abominable.
Per Daily Wire policy, the Charleston church shooter will not be named, and quotes containing his name have been altered to read: [Charleston church shooter].
Despite Rittenhouse’s acquittal, Copeland’s assertion has neither been removed nor addressed by The Gospel Coalition.
Though The Gospel Coalition was, unfortunately, not the only Christian publication to negatively characterize Rittenhouse, others have retracted their statements. Mere Orthodoxy recently added an editor’s note to its November 2020 piece entitled “Death Does Not Come For The Deserving,” apologizing for using words like “murderer” and “criminality” to describe Rittenhouse and his actions.
But there has been no similar action from The Gospel Coalition, despite several calls to repentance from many Reformed and evangelical theologians, ministers, and writers.
“The Kyle Rittenhouse trial is a shocking and depressing example of injustice. It’s especially saddening that Christian organizations like the Gospel Coalition joined the mob and falsely labeled Rittenhouse a ‘mass shooter like [the Charleston church shooter],’” commented blogger Samuel Sey. “It’s shameful.”
“This article by @TGC is one of the reasons why evangelicals have remained divided by social justice. This article ignores the law & villainizes an innocent man by promoting the CRT / BLM talking points,” added G3 Ministries director Josh Buice, calling The Gospel Coalition’s actions “irresponsible” and “anti-gospel.”
As described by Grace Bible Theological Seminary provost Owen Strachan in a recent interview with The Daily Wire’s Megan Basham, many evangelicals “tragically are being taken captive by an ideology that has nothing to do with Scripture.”
“Pastors who formerly had a reputation for staunch Reformed doctrine that defied the world and made many disciples now are giving lukewarm lectures based in godless sociology texts,” he argued. “It is an absolute abdication of biblical conviction.”
Instead, pastors should proclaim “the uniting gospel of Jesus Christ that brings people together from every background, every skin color, every ethnicity, and proclaims that they are presently one family, by virtue of the death of Christ, and saving faith given us by God.”
“What we are now taught today,” explained Strachan, “is that white people have more sin to confess than they thought they did. They may have thought they had become Christians, and are free now from condemnation. But instead, because of this newfound structural guilt, white people who have been Christians for years and have individually committed no sin of racism are still condemned. Not personally, but structurally. They are not free in Christ, as they once believed.”