Last week, President Donald Trump accidentally tweeted an insult intended for an ABC News journalist to a Baptist pastor in Kentucky, and now the minister is using the unexpected attention to share the Gospel.
Trump unintentionally tagged Jonathan Carl, pastor of South Fork Baptist Church in Hodgenville, instead of ABC News reporter Jonathan Karl in a tweet about a “phony hurricane report.” The president inadvertently called Carl a “lightweight reporter” instead of directing his name-calling at Karl, his intended target.
At first, Carl told Faithwire over the phone, he just laughed off the errant tweet. But as the reality sank in — and the barrage of mean-spirited tweets filled his notifications box — the small-town preacher’s perspective began to change.
“The gravity of it all just sunk in,” Carl said. “There’s sadness. Whether the president or the press or among the people, there’s just a lot of hatred out there — a lot of darkness. The Bible talks about ‘out of the heart, the mouth speaks,’ and so it just makes you concerned when you hear the pattern of negativity in anybody.”
Bullying rhetoric — whether from Trump, his devout followers, or those religiously opposed to him — is evidence “the heart’s not in a good place,” the pastor added.
On Monday, several days after Trump posted the offending tweet, which has since been deleted and reissued, Carl published an open letter to the president, a note peppered with advice as well a warning that many “feel wounded and hurt by the shrapnel and side-effects of your ongoing Twitter attacks.”
Carl made several references in his letter to former President Abraham Lincoln, whose birthplace the pastor drives by nearly every day on his way to church. In the age of social media, Carl felt it appropriate to share Lincoln’s suggestion that it might be healthier to hold our tongues rather than express our every fleeting thought, as the current president is wont to do.
“I am rather inclined to silence,” Lincoln said in 1861, “and whether that be wise or not, it is at least more unusual nowadays to find a man who can hold his tongue than to find one who cannot.”
The Kentucky preacher was intrigued by the fact this is hardly a new issue. Even in Lincoln’s day, people were struggling to hold back words better left unsaid. Social media, though, has created the potential for those affronting words to be even more impactful.
With that in mind, Carl is reminded of James 1:19, which states, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.”
“It’s a good reminder for all of us,” he said. “We’re all gonna mess up, and when we do, be quick to say we’re sorry, and then, when we get the next chance, to choose kindness instead of anger.”
Though he has made a few suggestions for Trump, mainly regarding his rhetoric and occasional hubris, Carl was eager to admit the job of the president isn’t an easy one.
So while he said he’d gladly thank Trump for the difficult position he’s occupying, if he had the chance to talk to the president face-to-face, Carl said he would “share the hope of Christ” with the Republican leader.
“We have a really good God and it’s never too late to experience God’s change in your life,” Carl said, “specifically with his conversation about being humble, choosing kindness, apologizing, and being careful with your words.”
“I’m praying for him,” he added. “And I love him. Jesus loves him.”