In a Twitter thread Thursday, Michael Clary, lead pastor of Christ the King Church in Cincinnati, Ohio, shared that at one point in his life, he felt comfortable ridiculing a certain type of evangelical Christian: those who had a “country religion.”
“There once was a certain kind of evangelical Christian I felt free to make fun of,” said Clary. “I was pastoring a fast growing church in an urban environment, and a spirit of elitism had infected us. No one would correct me on it because they made fun of them too.”
He continued, “The people we felt free to mock were conservative, uneducated, backwoods fundies who still read the KJV [King James Version]. They lacked the theological sophistication and cultural insight I had acquired while doing campus ministry and studying at seminary.”
There once was a certain kind of evangelical Christian I felt free to make fun of. I was pastoring a fast growing church in an urban environment, and a spirit of elitism had infected us. No one would correct me on it because they made fun of them too.
— Michael Clary (@dmichaelclary) December 15, 2022
A Certain Kind of Evangelical Christian
Clary explained that these people he thought less of were actually people in the community where he was raised. “I came from the hills of [West Virginia],” he said. “Appalachian, born and bred. I knew these people well because I grew up around them.”
After he went to seminary, traveled the country, and gained experience in the world, Clary came to think he was more enlightened than the folks at home. “I was a successful church planter in an urban cultural context in Cincinnati,” he said. “My sending organization flew me around the country to share my success stories and train younger planters in the ‘way it’s done.’” The result was that Clary felt he had “moved on. I was better than them. I was more learned and cultured. I had ‘seen the world’ and they hadn’t.”
“I would not have admitted this at the time,” the pastor continued, “but deep down, I felt superior to my hometown people and their country religion. My ministry ‘success’ was at least partly driven by a desire to separate myself from them and prove that ‘I’m not one of those fundie Christians.’”
However, Clary came to see this way of thinking as prideful and foolish. “It began to dawn on me,” he said. “I was standing on the shoulders of giants.” As an example, he mentioned his grandfather, who “was one of those country preachers. [He] provided for his family by working a physically demanding job in a steel mill his whole life. His family was poor, but he did what needed to be done.”
Clary said that his grandfather did not read well, having only been educated through the 6th grade, but that he used the KJV Bible to learn how to spell. Clary’s grandfather also had a habit of listening to the Bible on audio cassette every day during his commute to work.