John MacArthur, popular author and pastor of Grace Community Church in Sun Valley, Calif., made the news on Monday with a viral selfie he took with his dog Smoochie. As of today, the image has been shared across social networks with more than two million viewers.
MacArthur, a disciplined and passionate preacher, is known for his firm stance on using social media only for “messages that honor Christ, exalt His Word and direct people to profitable tools for spiritual growth.” That statement by MacArthur spurred backlash from some leaders who believe the jovial selfie MacArthur took on his balcony over the weekend with his beloved cocker spaniel was in violation of his own guidelines for social media.
“It’s a double-standard,” said Pastor Rich Bradley of Groverton Baptist Church in Pea Hill, Mich. “His stance on social media has always been crystal-clear, and it just seems hypocritical to send out a selfie on the Internet like that. I have two lizards and a ferret, and I’d love to post selfies with them, but I’d feel like a sell-out. Would those pictures be fun? Yes. Would thousands of people enjoy them? Of course. But would they be exalting to God?” Bradley says.
In a public Facebook status, John Piper posted this message in reference to the MacArthur selfie: “I don’t see what the big deal is—he has a cute dog.”
MacArthur released a statement this morning about the controversy that said, “I’m sorry for those who thought I was hypocritical by posting a selfie with Smoochie. However, to me, this photo is exalting to God. My dog has brought me great joy—as part of God’s creation—and companionship through God’s grace. But since the overwhelming majority does not see it that way, I have decided to take the image down.”
MacArthur’s statement goes on: “The one thing I regret from this is the pain and emotional stress on Smoochie.”
MacArthur would not respond directly to us, but one of his staff members assured us that he will take down the selfie as soon as he finds the “delete” key on Instagram.