Our Pledge To You


My reply to a pastor who criticized my writing about “church mess”

John W. Fountain writes often about the church. | Sun-Times file photo

Dear Pastor: Thank you for your thoughtful note. It was indeed my pleasure and honor to address the men at your church’s event.

Thank you for your apology. But with all due respect, my dear brother, it doesn’t feel much like an apology.

You apologize for me “feeling” that you were “raking me over the coals.” But not for the offense itself. It would be akin to me stepping on someone’s feet and later apologizing for them “feeling” like I was “crushing their toes.” Not for stepping on their feet.


For the record, I used “raked me over the coals” to characterize for readers without getting into the specifics — something we often do as writers short on space.

I did not misunderstand you that day. I heard you loud and clear. As we conversed, you questioned my journalistic and professional integrity and character in saying that you “understand (paraphrasing here) that the Sun-Times pays me, so you have to say what they tell you to say.”

That, sir, I find patently offensive. It is akin to me saying: “You don’t preach the unadulterated Gospel or hard-to-swallow sermons that might offend members for fear that some might withhold their tithes, or leave the church.”

I found the nature of our conversation itself, moments before I was to speak, oddly out of place. I liken it to my family inviting you to fellowship and dine in our home. Then upon your arrival, I promptly share with you, before and while we eat, the issues I have with your sermons and approach.

I would certainly understand if you simply got up and walked out.

Regarding your concern over the “balance” or lack thereof in my writings about the church, let me reiterate that balance is not requisite for commentary. Thoughtfulness, accuracy, truth, fairness, excellence, voice and sincerity in heart are among the marks of a good columnist. They are standards that I embrace. And never am I more careful or impassioned than when I write about the church.

As I said, I’ve been a professional writer for more than 30 years now and literally have penned thousands of pages — more than 400 columns alone for the Sun-Times over the past eight-plus years; four books; and countless stories as a journalist.

In order to fairly assess my sense of balance, perspective and breadth, shouldn’t someone at least read a reasonable sampling of my work? You stated that you had not read even 10 of my Sun-Times columns — not 10 out of more than 400.

Is that fair?

Regarding “why some pastors get angry with your writings…”

I honestly couldn’t care less.

Not anymore than any pastor or preacher worth their salt should care about the animus or attitudes of those they preach to.

You write, “I refuse to view you as the enemy.”

Wow. How could I be the “enemy”?

I am not judge. Not jury. Not a pastor. I am a writer. And of all the things I have written about the church — including the acknowledgement of good and faithful men and women — I challenge anyone to tell me any part that is untrue.

In fact, it is worse than what I’ve written: the sexual abuses and pedophilia; the theft, misappropriation and pyramid schemes; the devouring of God’s people in plain sight of “good” men who say nothing because they are more wed to tradition and religious hierarchy than to God.

Please know, dear brother, that I know that we are not each other’s enemies. We have but one common enemy — one who seeks to steal, kill and destroy.

Love you, man. Peace.

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Reach John Fountain at Author@johnwfountain.com